“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who are alive.”
“The French love of debate and their belief that people should be actively engaged in ideas and issues means that they expect others not to shy away from expressing and defending their opinions. French business people expect others to disagree and argue with them.” from the book, Doing Business Internationally
I remember once in the Loire I was trying to purchase a ticket for a museum. The clerk began to argue with me that there was only 25 minutes left until closing and I couldn’t possible see anything so there was no reason to purchase a ticket, despite the fact that the museum was open and she could sell a ticket to me. We argued back and forth pretty intensely for five minutes – me saying I could see enough and that it was my money to spend and she arguing what a waste of money and experience it would be.
But then came that moment – the moment that all french arguments have – where we just stopped. She sold me my ticket and, in a sincere, pleasant way, told me to enjoy myself. And I thanked her and wished her a good night. There was no lingering affect on either us from the fierce disagreement we just had.
There has been many times I’ve sat at a dinner table with french friends and argued passionately about something – politics, philosophy, why someone wears blue or the necessity of cats. It can often get intense but just as quickly as a debate comes on, with a sip of wine, everyone is back to being friends and agreeable because the point of discussion is not always to persuade or win but just to experience and enjoy the passion of debate.
Perhaps it’s because I’m half french that I find the interesting and irrelevant – perhaps especially irrelevant – debates the best and often the most crucial to an enjoyably lived life.
Two rowdy boys, about 4 and 7, came in with their father and the biggest most hyper great Dane. These two boys were terrorizing the hospital cat, they were egging on their own dog, they were getting into all the brochures and flicking them all over the office.
The youngest boy came over to me, and looked at Jack.
“It’s OK,” I said, “You can pet him. His name is Jack. What’s yours?”
He told me his name and began to pat Jack really softly – so much softer than I thought he would (and so much gentler than he had his own dog). Jack rolled over onto his back.
“He loves belly rubs,” I said and so very gently the little boy began to rub his belly while talking to him. After a few minutes, Jack moved his face towards the little boy to lick him.
“He loves to give kisses” I said. And then the little boy looked at me and said, “Does he like to get them?”
That question took me off guard and made me smile. Here was this rowdy kid, destroying the cat, the floors, the shelves and probably his own fathers patience but he was thoughtful – it wasn’t just about getting for him, he wanted to know about giving, too.
“He loves getting kisses” I said. And the little boy put his hands on Jacks side and began to softly give him little kisses.
We left shortly after. I, with the reminder to not judge, and Jack with a lot of kisses.
“For three years straight, I’ve been burning the candle at both ends, and as of last December, I just didn’t have anything left. I’ve been so aggressive about living life to the fullest and being plugged into everything, but now I’ve ripped the plug out of the wall and put it on the floor for a while. I’m thinking about the same things as when I was 15, about spirituality and who I am, who I want to be. It’s cocoon, pupa, larva, and fuck, I’m reborn!”
“Courage is a hard thing to figure. You can have courage based on a dumb idea or a mistake, but you are not supposed to question adults or your coach or your teacher. Because they make the rules. Maybe they know the best or maybe they don’t. It all depends on who you come and where they come from.
That’s why courage is tricky – should you always do what others tell you to do? Sometimes you might not even know why you do something.
I mean any fool can have courage. But honour, that’s the real reason you do something or you don’t. Its who you are and maybe who you want to be. If you die trying for something important then you have both honour and courage and that’s pretty good.
I think that’s what the writer was saying, that you should hope for courage and try for honour and maybe even pray that the people telling you what to do have some too”
Friend: Do you ever edit your emails?
Me: No – I type exactly as I’m thinking it & then just hit send. Why?
Friend: Sometimes editing isn’t so bad. I mean, the good part is it really feels like you’re talking to me, the bad part is you write stuff like, “and the challenging part of that is wait.. my dog is barfing and …whoah. wait. no. he’s good. ok so the challenging part… omg seriously dog?”
On NPR today I heard the story about a “John Doe” who was walking around Seattle and couldn’t remember his identity but could remember bits of his very fascinating life. The Seattle Times ran a story on him today as 12:03AM and by 5:30AM someone in China had written to say they knew who the man was – Edward Lighthart.
Mr. Lighthart has lived around the world, speaks three languages, was married and ran businesses so my first reaction upon hearing him identified was “won’t his friends and family be so happy to have found him?”
Yet, during the NPR interview with the Seattle Times writer, I learned that maybe that’s an old fashioned thought. For the end of the interview concluded with the writer saying, “Somewhere there is an apartment and a computer waiting for Mr. Lighthart.”
A computer? Really?
It saddened me greatly to hear this comment but then I thought, it’s probably true. Life is now so often disconnected from real human contact; we think we’re more connected but really, we’re just more plugged in. We can hide behind text messages, emails, twitters and updates which is supposed to mean we care but really, it doesn’t. It doesn’t make us more responsible to our neighbours, our friends, our family. It allows us to identify missing people quickly but not to act quickly in helping them out.
It was strange to me that this story, that I heard 12 hours after his identity was revealed, was told with him having no papers, ID, friends or family coming to claim him or help him. All he had was an apartment and a computer somewhere, we think.
At a certain part in your life. Probably when too much of it has gone by. You will open your eyes and see yourself for who you are. Especially for everything that made you so different from all the awful normals. And you will say to yourself, “But I am this person.” And in that statement, that correction, there will be a kind of love.
Miss Dodger, Phoebe in Wonderland
This morning I was walking my dog and just a few feet in front of me was a little blond girl, maybe four or five, who was walking very slowly. And in between walking very slowly she’d stop at every single flower, lean in, inhale and then walk to the next. In Santa Monica, CA, this could take awhile as there are flowers and tended gardens everywhere.
And apparently it was as the father, who obviously trying to get somewhere, was further ahead of her pushing her baby brother in a stroller, called out to her, “Honey, you don’t have to smell every flower”
To which she replied in all earnestness, “Oh, but Daddy, I do!”
At this point, the father sighed that sigh of ‘I tried’ and just waited at the corner while he daughter greeted and smelled every flower in that block. And since I was walking my dog who was the same size as her and excited by her little bouncy movements, I stopped moving and just stood with Jack as we watched her do what she needed to do.
And somehow, even though all the grown ups had to get somewhere, even though this would probably make us late, and it was something we maybe didn’t comprehend, it ended up being one of the best walks ever as I think we all saw new things. And I know I learned something: that yellow flower #4 on the left is called “Rebecca”.
Although I can’t pull off a “s’up” or wear baggy trousers round my bum, I am, in fact, old school.
Old school geek and social networker, that is.
Until the age of 8 (or 1982) I spent most of my time outdoors, playing with legos, drawing, creating forts and reading. But then a friend of the family who was an engineer got a Commodore 64 and while the parents talked politics after dinner, I sat and hacked away at that thing. In 1984 my school bought a couple of Apple II computers, one of which I ended up hogging for hours on end and staying after school so that I could code and code to make that little turtle move around and make pretty things.
After a couple of years of pestering my parents for a computer, “a compu-what?” my father took me to some office supply warehouse where a man began to talk to my father about what he had in stock. My father stopped the man, pointed to me and said, “You need to talk to her.” The salesman looked at me; the littlest, blondest girl in the biggest dress you ever saw wanted to talk floppy drives, memory and modem speed. I was so incredibly proud when I put in an order for some hacked together PC-clone. A month later we picked it up and I began coding games and small programs in DOS Basic between going to school, building forts in the forrest and putting dresses on Barbies.
In 1986 I discovered local BBS (bulletin board systems) in which you’d use your modem (at the time, 300 baud) to connect to another modem that hosted a site so you could talk to people. This was pre-world wide web days. Most of the people I talked to were guys who were outcasts because they were geeks. It wasn’t yet cool or lucrative. In fact, one tended to be rather quiet about owning a computer or worse yet, being a modemmer! Yet these geeks taught me a lot about computers and coding and, since they were local, about connecting the virtual world to a real one. I started arranging local meet-ups for us from playing sports on the weekend to attending special events. I didn’t think being online had to be separate from the real world.
Over the next few years I kept progressing with coding and modem speed (oh, a 1200 baud modem! A 2400 baud modem! Oh my, not a 9600 baud modem!!). In the early nineties something new was being pioneered; it was when a central computer would hook up to another computer somewhere else in the world. No longer did you have to settle for local geeks – you could go international! I began making friends in New Zealand, in the Caymans, in Italy and I learned the true meaning of “social networking.”
Around 1992 I stopped using a computer all together when I began my travels and it wasn’t until 1995 when I visited a friend in Vancouver did I see where the world of computers and modems had gone too. There was now Windows 95 to make computing easy and hardrives that held more space than those floppies ever could. Computers were becoming more mainstream yet the web still had a ways to go. There was, however, a new development in connecting – IRC Chat. And I hopped on there from time to time, chatting with family and old friends and meeting new ones. I really liked this idea and decided to build a quick and permanent way for people to know me and connect.
So in 1995, using my friend’s computer, I put up my very first web page (seen above). I used Netscape Navigator and hosted it on their site. I put things up that were important – photos, about me, a diary to keep people updated and an email link. Because the web was relatively new I didn’t understand how people could find me (I thought you had to tell them the web site address) and that it could go to anyone in the world with a modem. I thought just my few close friends would read it. Little did I know. Continue Reading…