Thursday, June 29, 2006

What am I thinking?

If the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a blog of a thousand thoughts begins with a single post. But it's heck of a lot easier to figure out which step comes first than which thought.

Well, I'll begin at the beginning. Or at least, a beginning. And at the bottom I'll answer the (easy?) trivia question: who are those folks in the profile photo?

I've wanted for years to participate in some active way (beyond simply sending checks, which my wife and I do) in making a better world. I've worked with Christmas in April, Habitat for Humanity and fed the homeless as part of our church program. Those are fine, and yet I wanted other ways to be involved.

I wanted something different in two ways:
  1. Scope of impact
  2. Lifestyle-based participation

Scope of Impact

By "scope of impact" I mean that my wish would be to move from a one-on-one or one-on-few kind of impact to a one-on-many or many-on-many. Along the lines of "teach to fish" rather than "provide with fish". I think this preference is part of my "system" perspective. (Systems aren't necessarily high tech: e.g. a bucket brigade.) I'm fascinated by systems that work, or mostly work. I like to make systems or tweak them to make them more effective. And so when I look at various problems in our world, I think about the systemic gaps that either foster the problems, or that create obstacles to solving the problems.

Lifestyle-based Participation

This lifestyle idea comes from the thought that the indirect effects of day-in, day-out activities may be larger scale than the direct effects of a one-day-a-year project. I see lifestyle-based participation as twofold: unintentional and intentional. First, I'm aware that my lifestyle has all sorts of unintentional and potentially undesired side effects, and I would like to understand what impacts I'm contributing to and potentially modify my lifestyle to change my impact. Second, I believe that I could have a fair bit of positive impact by consciously incorporating certain lifestyle changes...if I just knew what they were.

And that's how things got started. I spent a fair bit of time searching for opportunities and practical guidelines on how to align my behavior with my values, but didn't find what I was looking for. I found a lot of news-oriented sites, and several with editorial content, and quite a few that are interested in donations. But I did not find the expected collection of clearinghouses of info on how to support positive change through different behavior.

Maybe my imagination is getting the better of me? Perhaps the opportunities I had in mind really don't exist? Well, I'm convinced they do. And, by finding an internet information gap (the lack of clearinghouses), I indirectly found one of those opportunities I was seeking.

So that's where I came from. Less about me in the future, and more about the ideas. The "less about me, more about the ideas" angle is also behind the profile photo.

For the curious, the people in the images are: Mahatma Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel and the Dalai Lama, along with the anonymous tank stopper at Tiananmen Square. Most of the people are involved in human rights, which is not the only focus for this blog. I chose them because they worked (and in some cases continue to work) for systemic changes, and because the faces are recognizable (I hope). The Tiananmen man is particularly attractive because of his anonymity. Presumably he has a name, but I don't know it. He was able to make some impact without notoriety, at least prior to the famous photo. And that's the spirit I'm drawn to.

Maybe the photo will evolve. Up next, development economists and Bono? Suggestions welcome.


Blogger Celine said...

Hello Curt. I'm going backwards through your blog with making comments, LOL. But I am excited about your passion for wanting to make a change in two very clear overall ways, being scope of impact and lifestyle.

I am very interested also in systems theory, yet I see all efforts to make things better at a very high level, that is, I have faith that things are improving for the better in the "divine system".

Sometimes I get frustrated and feel that I am alone in my mission, but the more "time" that passes, the more "settled" I am becoming. People like Morgs says "peace begins with me". I try to espouse that on my own website, and am learning that to trust one self is so important. I have struggled to overcome my fears, expectations and shadows, and now I believe in myself strongly and I know this is helping me to see the "light".

Your conviction of a more just world and your intelligence and fresh approach to things gives me a boost. Active participation and involvement in other wikis, discussion boards, blogs, and personally face to face, are so important in connecting and finding practical answers. Answers can come from so many sources, if we are alert to them, e.g. I saw a documentary about "footprints" on television recently, being the environmental footprint or how much energy and resources each household takes up. An idea arising from this could be for a wiki or whatever with practical actions to link to a website of an organisation that calculates footprints (or better still have someone offer the expertise free) - so we can see how much energy we take up. A lasting impression from the documentary was that a cat in an affluent country has the same footprint as a small African household in a not affluent area. This tells you that the well to do households take the lion's share of the environmental footprint.

I think, that unless one has got an excellent memory, one has to write down one's resources, ideas and plans, in order to activate or use them, and to relate them together, and follow-up, etc.

You are right, the journey starts with a single step, and I am glad that many of us are on the same path as you.

3:43 AM  

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