Saturday, February 28, 2009

Imagine me and you, I do...

I took Jada for a walk today.

As soon as I'm up in the morning she starts to get excited. She jumps around and wags her tail, and can hardly contain herself once she sees me going for my shoes. She's a good dog. She will calm herself enough to sit while I put the leash on, and walks very well, without excessive pulling.

Like most days, once we get to the meadow, Jada goes off leash. And what happens next is what prompted this blog entry. Once off leash, in the meadow, she's a different dog. She is suddenly transformed. She saunters in the tall grass with a confidence that I don't see anywhere else. She jumps and bounds through brush, and occasionally she points. When we are on the trail, it's not uncommon for her to rustle out pheasants and turkeys. She is both primitive and focused at the same time.

Today as I watched this transformation in Jada, I thought of my son at an earlier stage. I remembered my now surly teenager, playing outside as a preschooler, running across the yard with a stick in his hand. And I could see it in his face, that the stick captured his imagination. It held endless possibilities. He had a tool, and could imagine himself in a new way because of it.

Then I began to think of how many times and ways we re-imagine ourselves. When we dress for the day, who do we become? Does a single item or accessory capture our imagination and transform us for the day? And what about long term transformations? Do these simply become layers upon layers that make up who we are?

So I asked myself, how many ways have I imagined myself, and to what did I transform? I've been a musician, an artist, a wife, a soldier, a mother, a student, a politico, a writer and an innovator. Each one of these identities contributed to the next, and it can seemingly go on forever. This I think is what Shakespeare meant when he wrote,

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,

(As You Like It, Act II, Sc VII)

I have a theory that we are our truest selves around the age of ten. When ever I experience a difficult individual, I always imagine them at that age on the playground. Which kid were they? Were they the kid that intimidated others by being bossy? Or, were they constantly overcompensating to mask insecurity? Some people, you can tell that they were the kids who moved easily between groups. And others, just as they do in adulthood, thrived on cliques.

After a jaunt in the meadow and through the forest, Jada and I came back to the street, where she obediently sat while I reattached her leash. And, as we went from grass to sidewalk, this whirl of thoughts ceased. Back in a world of houses, yards and streets I thought of all the things I would have to do today and wondered what will capture my imagination next.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Share what you covet

In a Daily Beast article this morning, Noreena Hertz wrote,

"While it is true that over the past few decades there has been a growing obsession with material worth, this may be more a case of nurture than nature. Anthropological studies show that societies that have less share more, while recent work in behavioral economics has confirmed that benevolence is not alien to human nature. So while under Gucci Capitalism there was a tendency to bowl alone, it might just not be the case that we are essentially individualistic.

More likely is that we are entering an age of pulling together, as was the case during the Great Depression and the Blitz, and that this will be one of this era’s key defining characteristics."

I have a confession to make. I have secretly been hoping that the economy would fail for this very reason. For years I have been personally offended by the celebration of wealth at others expense. I've been equally disgusted by the rampant materialism that seemed to have taken hold of our culture. For some time it has seemed that the primary thread that connects us as a culture is our consumerism, our desire to covet, and have. The problem with this, as I see it, is that if we are gratifying ourselves with the acquisition of things, where does it end? When do we have enough? And, do the things we buy for gratification really gratify us long term? I think not.

I admit, I'm guilty of such gratification. I have a shoe and bag habit, albeit comfortable shoes and second hand bags, it's a habit just the same. And I admit, that the more I acquire, the less I give. I start to become very attached to my things. It's the ugly underbelly of relative success.

What Hertz writes about sharing is true. I've seen it at Burning Man where sharing becomes infectious. Once you are out there, you're limited to whatever food, water and supplies that you've brought. If you're like me, you go uber-prepared, ready to share the many extra things that were packed. Last year, we shared, powdered drink mix, aloe vera, lotion, an extra moo-moo, a bike inner tube, lots of bacon and cereal and of course cocktails. It's good to be reminded of this on a yearly basis.

Even in my current travels I try to share, but recently I was reminded I do not share enough. It happened Friday, on the ferry when I struck up a brief conversation with a fellow New Yorker reader. We talked about how we had both let our subscriptions run out. He had just bought the most recent issue at full cover price, which we both agreed is absurd. At the end of the ferry ride, upon our arrival to the home dock, he handed his issue to me. "Here," he said. "I've read it." I was both grateful and shamed because I seldom share my New Yorkers. They are something I covet. But here was someone who understood why I covet them so much, willing to share, without provocation. It's a reminder and a lesson that offering what we have to each other is far more gratifying than covetting for one's self. I think it will be something to really work on this year.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Working for my job...

Three weeks into the new job has left me quite satisfied. I’m satisfied to spend approximately 10 hours each week motoring back and forth across the San Pablo, Richmond and San Francisco Bay on the ferry. I’m satisfied to say that I’ve learned how to traverse across the City using public transit. And I’m satisfied to feel as though I do all this traveling in order to do my work as opposed to a job. A very wise friend told me once that there is a difference between one’s job and one’s work. A job is something you do to make a living. Work is what you do for life. It’s a seldom privilege to meet both objectives in one’s occupation.

Going to the City every day is still quite exciting. Metropolitan areas have always fascinated me. There’s a rhythm to urban space that is infectious. It’s both fast and intense. There’s always a lot going on, people walking places, deliveries being made, and eye candy on every block. This is especially true in the city that I work in. There’s never a lack of something to look at. I could spend days just examining the architecture. And then there are the random exhibits of expression. These come in many incarnations: sidewalk stencil art, political messages inwindows, stickers on bicycles, graffiti, and of course fashion. I’ve begun taking pictures on my cell phone of things that catch my interest. After time I believe these shots will begin to tell a story that my words never could.

Well, it’s 5:59PM on Friday, ad as I write this the sky is turning a dusky purple and refinery lights can be seen reflecting off of the silvery water. And as the ferry slows, and turns into the channel where we will dock, I look forward to another grueling week of work, and hope that the satisfaction I feel on this Friday will be a frequent occurrence. Or at least, I hope I remember to come back and read these words when they aren’t.