Malicious Deception

As an architect who deals with the ADA on a daily basis and who understands its importance, this kind of fraudulent charlatan (or even stronger words) behavior grinds my gears. It’s stingy and spiteful malice that misrepresents and harms.  Read the whole thread and be forearmed (and don’t take nor fall for any of this crap):

Voices in Unison

Maybe it’s the environmental regulations that are being abandoned.  Maybe it’s the armed thugs who barged their way into an active legislature without being, at the very least, surrounded by SWAT if not arrested and hauled away.  Especially given that unarmed marginalized groups have largely suffered much worse while protesting peacefully, often while on their own land.  Maybe it’s that large corporations received huge sums of relief while small businesses continue to be shut out in the cold.  Maybe its that those same corporations have been blithely rewarding their shareholders and CEOs with record profit payouts while paying their employees poorly and, most certainly, not building a reserve to bridge this exact kind of downturn.  Maybe it’s that the tippy-top earners have seen their wealth grow by 200+ billion in the past few months while 36+ million people are suddenly unemployed and waiting for relief that may never come.  Maybe it’s the states that are purposefully ending their emergency orders in order to prevent people from collecting unemployment.  Maybe it’s the companies who call their employees ‘heroes’ but then turn around and refuse to pay them a living wage or to even give them proper protection.  Maybe it’s that trillions continue to be spent on military adventurism yet they resisted tooth and nail to spend anything to help the homefront.  Maybe it’s that there has been more domestic deaths now than there were in some of those wars (or things that started wars).

And maybe it’s just the general ineptitude, narcissistic nepotism, and the absconding of responsibility while claiming all the glory.  May you would just like leaders to be competent, thoughtful, and to, well, actually lead.

Maybe it is any of those things, and more, that have you, on some days, wanting to flip a table.  Yeah.  I feel you.  I’m there too.  This crisis has not only exacerbated the f-ed up parts of our system(s), but even more so has made them eminently visible.  It’s enough to sap one’s feeling of agency and the will to do right in the world.

But there is a salve.  While there are many conversations to be had to change the narratives we hold around these issues, it is equally and more worth remembering that these are and are held in place by systems, and specifically they are systems shaped and driven by policy.  And policy can be changed.  We have a kind of superpower we sometimes forget, and it is called the ballot box.   But, like everything else, it is only power if we use it.

If you live in the USA, please check out this YouTube channel aptly named:  How to Vote in Every State 2020.

And know that it may not be easy.  From closing polling places to misleading mailers to gerrymandered districts to limits on absentee ballots to onerous and unnecessary ID laws to dark money groups to all sorts of things, there are many forces trying to limit our voices.  And that doesn’t even count the day to day difficulty of managing work and childcare and everything else that renders our time a precious commodity, and adds to the strain of going to one of those limited voting spots and actually casting a ballot.  Democracy is being limited (and to be clear this is primarily and especially being done by right wing interests and legislators) because the less that we speak, and the less that we can speak, the easier it is for them to hold onto power.

Which is why it is important to start planning now.  Doing the work to register now so you can find what’s needed before the deadline comes.  Making plans with friends, family, co-workers now to ensure things will be covered that day such that and will you have a much higher chance to reach the poll to cast your ballot.  And maybe even to prepare some backup plans.

All so that we can get out there and get legislators and executives – nationally, stateside, and locally (All are important!  Most of what affects us on a day to day basis happens at the local level!) – to alter policy and set up the systems that work for the most good for the most people, moving the needle towards a more just, verdant, healthy, and equitable future.

Odd Nostalgia

I miss flame wars.  (Weird thing to say, I know, bear with me…)

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard that term, or seen it used in any fashion to describe something happening online.  So long, in fact, that I wonder if I need to define it because there may be some reading this who are not familiar with the term at all:  A lengthy exchange of angry or abusive messages between users of an online forum or other discussion area.(src)

But wait, you say, that definition doesn’t sound unfamiliar.  Not at all in fact.  That kind of thing happens – well, it happens all the time.

Exactly.  That’s just it.

I don’t miss flame wars per se, and I certainly don’t miss the animosity and the vitriol, I miss the fact that they used to be rare enough, confined enough, and specific enough that they had their own term to differentiate them from the more ‘normal’ online interactions.

There were certain topics that were known to be flamebait.  Or occasionally a thread may strangely devolve into a flaming pile, full of hyperbole, personal attacks, and back and forth screaming.  But they were outliers.  Today, it seems that just about everything can, and often does, devolve to that level.  It’s so ubiquitous that we’ve lost the need for any specific name for it.  It’s just “the comment section.”  Or “Twitter.”  Or “Tuesday.”  Post you don’t like a certain kind of cake?  Look out…

So that’s really what I miss (while fully acknowledging all the rose coloured glasses effect that goes along with nostalgia):  A time when flame wars were flame wars, and there was still a greater chance than not for good faith discussions.  Discussions that might well become quite heated, but nonetheless remained squarely in that realm.

 

* To give an example, there’s this one online forum for D&D that I occasionally frequent… my usual thing is to read the first page or two to get a sense of the discussion, then jump to the last few pages to see what consensus seems to be forming.  Or, at least, that’s what I envision.  Instead, those last few pages have typically become five random posters hurling barbs and insults back and forth ad nauseum.  Most unfortunate.

Wonder Wednesday

Here’s a wonderful take on the Exquisite Corpse art exercise, done through dance!

I love the wordplay in the title too, taking a twist to the french to return aliveness to the name.  Very cool!

(Exquisite Corpse is a group art piece where one person begins a piece of art, and exposes but a sliver to the next artist who adds to it, who then also covers up most of their work for the next artist to add to it in turn.  Want more?  The Art Assignment has a great video about it that — as you might guess from the name — includes an assignment for you to take on:

Give it a try!)

 

Architecture Monday

Like petals unfurling, this cancer support centre pinwheels and juts outwards from its central core to create an assembly of sculptural forms.  Nestled between old and new, it creates its own rhythm that befits its special role in the caregiving continuum.

Besides the curvy shapes, it is the manipulation of brick that first catches the eye, with its plays of protrusion, triangular inlays, and segments of strikingly white brick.  The brick also speaks to the original art nouveau-style buildings bordering the site, tying the two together in its playful manner.  The building also sports a couple of leaf-shaped gardens, festooned with equally-leaf-like metal trellises.

Inside, the complex and interlocking geometries continue in the vertical direction as well.  Light filled and with views out towards the surrounding gardens, the vibrant rooms are abuzz.  Rooms and levels interconnect, heightening the sense of support and community.  Grounded with plenty of wood and soft materials, it’s exciting while remaining affirming and without going too far to become flippant.

Splendid work.  A lovely space during difficult times, it sets aside any gloom to provide respite and verve.

The Kálida Sant Pau Centre by Miralles Tagliabue EMBT

Philosophy Tuesday

Einstein is reported to have been very much enamoured with compound interest.  While it is unlikely that he – despite the memes floating around – ever proffered any highly quotable declaration on the subject, compound interest is quite a potent thing.  When the growth of something builds upon its previous growth, which then builds further upon that growth in turn, the results pile on real fast.

So it goes not only in the world of finance and savings accounts but also when it comes to all realms of self-cultivation, and in several ways.  For starters, as we develop our mindfulness and work to create clearings from old (and usually unintended) patterns, views, and straightjacketed ways of being, it becomes easier to do more of the same.  With less crud in the way we move more quickly, discover insights more quickly, and develop ourselves more quickly, further compounding our skills in mindfulness and in the arts of living and being in the world.

Even greater are the specific, measurable, as lived results that, as we create those clearings and unleash our agency, power, freedom, self-expression, and peace of mind, naturally show up in our lives.  All those things that we want build up on themselves, creating a compounding train of ever greater results and ever more of what we want.  And when something goes awry – for that is inevitable – we’ve got both the mental/spiritual clarity as well as a nice foundation upon which to remain mindful and thus able to deal with it with proper equanimity and while never denying our humanity.

And humanity is the pinnacle of this compounding greatness.  For just as easily as we can see how the positives in our lives can and do compound, we can easily recognize, get present to, and be willing to confront that negatives can also do the same.  A bad break here can all to readily lead to further bad breaks and downward spirals.  It may have happened in our lives, it may be happening now, but even more than that, it can happen to any of us.  And with that realization we can forestall our judgement about ourselves and, especially, about others.  When we see people down on their luck or struggling or acting out of sorts, who knows what paths were compounded from years ago?  Who knows their starting place?  Who knows what compounded itself downward?  And the same goes in the other direction too.  A single break or a position of privilege quickly pushes these two realms apart.  Neither our nor any one else’s position on the economic/social/etc ladder is ever a pure reflection of either morality or worthiness.

With this in mind we get to synthesize and compound all of the above, taking agency and working on self-cultivation to build ourselves and our lives (and the lives of those around us) while never losing sight that chance and happenstance is never far away, influencing outcomes and ready to put a thumb on the scale.

When we look at our designs for ourselves and the world and when we look at what we want to create and leave behind, we can ask “what do I want to compound?” and go from there.

Philosophy Tuesday

At the yell of “Go!” we pulled the Trojan Horse beyond the gates of Troy.

Ok, natch, it wasn’t the actual Trojan horse, nor were we anywhere near Troy.  We were standing on dusty ground at Burning Man, but there was a horse, and a big one at that.  Five stories tall, made of wood and nails and paint and weighing in at some 40,000 lbs.  It was something.  And we were about to pull it.  Hundreds of us, spread out over six ropes affixed to its base, with me an orange robed figure melding within the crowd.

In my mind, I knew how this was going to go:  we would begin pulling, the horse might rock a bit, then it would begin moving, slowly at first, gradually picking up steam as we struggled and pulled with all our might against its weight and the wheels sinking into the sandy playa.  I readied myself.  The signal was given.  I gripped the rope and… Just walked.  Like nothing was there.  I looked back – had something gone wrong?  Nope.  The horse was following us, as easily as a toy being pulled on a string.  What?

Turns out when you have hundreds of people, the load divides out to be individually a pretty small number.  As soon as we pulled the horse leapt forward with no hesitation and no ramp up in speed.  We were generating thousands upon thousands of pounds of force.  Collectively, we were mighty.

Ain’t that the truth?  In that moment it certainly became viscerally clear for me in a way that it hadn’t been before.  Our greatest strength as a species is our capacity for collaboration.  When we (whether willingly or unwittingly) align our actions, we produce immense results.

Again, ain’t that the truth?  We can see it all around us.  In so many ways.  And inside of that, the phrase and the thought of “what I do doesn’t matter or won’t make a difference” immediately loses its air of veracity.  Because it’s almost never just a single “I” that’s acting there.  It is countless “I”s acting in inadvertent unison, producing an equally inadvertently outsized result.  And this goes for many things, be it voting, or stewardship, or ‘norms’, or how we respond to challenges and adversities, and on and on all the way down to include how we treat each other when we go to the store.

“It’s just me” is often an illusion.  It’s a thousand me’s, a thousand us’, a collective of “I”s that together, through action or inaction can wreck and cause harm, but with a little intention and engagement can also move mountains.

(And giant horses too.)

photo source by Scott London