Time to be Fearless

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I went for a Canada Day walk through Wascana Park today, with Marc Maron’s interview with Neil Young in my ears.  If I was going to ignore the cover bands playing in the park, I figured I should at least listen to a Canadian interview.

They were talking about love and art.  Neil said the key was to be fearless.  If you’re fearless, you open yourself up to real love.  You can’t make art, or make love work, if you’re hiding.

I turned 50 two days ago and this morning I caught myself, once again, worrying about everything.  Money, time, and the lack of both.  Fear of being rejected or worse yet, ignored.  Yet again, being afraid to write and to work and to live.

Enough!  I’m 50 years old for crying out loud!  What, am I going to be afraid till I’m 60?  70?

If not now, then when?

Photo Credit:  Wikimedia Commons

 

Orlando

I should be getting used to it by now; it seems like there’s at least one mass shooting in the US every month. You just process one and then there’s another. But the shooting on the weekend in Orlando struck closer to home than usual.

My kids are young adults; they go to night clubs all the time. And my daughter is part of the LGBT community. I woke up Sunday morning and realized they’re a potential target for someone’s ignorant, pathetic hate.

She’s got a trip planned to LA next week. I’m scared to have her go. Even though there’s seemingly a lot of people there who are armed to the hilt for ‘protection’, it doesn’t give me comfort.

And honestly, the crazy nonsense I’ve been reading online over the past few days has me worried that there’s no ‘normal’ any more down south. Hell, I’m sticking to stamp collecting forums and I still see more hate, ignorance and paranoid fear than I can stomach.

All of us are just floating through space, you know? Just trying to make sense of this crazy messed up thing called “life.” And when I read some of the reactions to the latest disaster I realize I’m no closer to figuring it out.

I don’t know what’s worse: the sick hatred that’s behind these crimes or the fear and ignorance that fuels the flames. All I know is that the story is getting really old.

I can’t remember a time in my life when we weren’t encouraged to hate another group, be it national, religious, racial or sexual. Can you?

What Are You Up To?


Saturday Farmer’s Market, Estremoz, Portugal

Cindy and I walked down to the Farmer’s Market today. It was fun to see the vendors again and catch up on things. It’s been two years since I baked for the Market but lots of people still want to see our bread there.

There was lots of interest in our trip and what we saw. There was even more interest in what we were doing next. Sadly, I think my response was a poor one.

I have this habit of telling people I need to figure something out, because I can’t be “unemployed” for much longer. But that’s the wrong answer.

  • I’m already talking to several places in town about starting or improving their bread production
  • There are people signed up to The Baker’s Bench who are ready for another baking course
  • I’m running into people on the street who say they enjoy our travel blog and want me to keep writing

So whether I say it or not, I’m already a baker, a teacher and a writer. And I’m doing all those things. I just didn’t get paid today.

It’s too easy to describe ourselves only in terms of what we do for money. That’s a trap. There’s a lot more going on in all of us.

What’s Your Medium?

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I recently watched “Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview” on Netflix (also on YouTube here.) It’s a complete interview from 1995 when Jobs was running Next, before he came back to Apple, launched the iPod and iPhone and basically ruled the world.

The interview was a real trip down memory lane for me because I remember the PBS show “Triumph of the Nerds” (on which they showed excerpts of the interview) very well.  I loved that show; I may still have the much watched VHS tape I made of the series and the book on which it was based somewhere in the basement. Although the host didn’t know it, the show was about me, my life in high school, University and my first career as a programmer at SaskTel.

But I was really taken aback listening to him now, some 20 years and a lifetime later.  Steve Jobs’ ideals and vision resonate with me now even more than they did in 1995.

The best bit for me had nothing to do with technology.  At the very end of the interview, Jobs was asked if he was a Hippie or a Nerd.  After declaring for the Hippies, he defined what that meant to him.

[Hippies see that] There’s something beyond what you see every day. There’s something going on here in life that’s more than what you see.  More than a job and a career and a family and two cars in the garage…

…It’s the same thing that causes people to be poets instead of bankers.  I think that’s a wonderful thing.  And I think that same spirit can be put into products.  And when you give that [the product] to people they can feel it.

…So, I don’t think the best people who I’ve worked with, worked with computers for the sake of working with computers.  They worked with computers because they are the medium that is best capable for transmitting some feeling that you have and you want to share with other people.

It’s a weird feeling hearing that now because I started out using computers with exactly that feeling.  Lately I use flour and water and bread as the medium.  But the goal is the same: to build something awesome and share that spirit with other people.

Since I no longer have my bakery, I need to find something else to do. But I’m after more than just a job; I need a different way to share that spirit.  It might be with bread, or with words, or even with technology again.

I’ve tried explaining this to prospective employers or partners but I’ve been scraping around the edges.  That segment in the video helped me find the centre again.

What’s your medium?  What glimmer of awesomeness are you sharing with other people?

A Tale of Two Bridges

Funky drawbridge, Rotterdam
Funky drawbridge, Rotterdam

During our recent cycling trip through Holland I was repeatedly struck by the beauty of what we would call the ‘infrastructure’ of the place. The street signs, the light posts, but especially the bridges.

In a country with as many canals as roads, you’re going to have a lot of bridges. I was surprised to see that many of them had unique and beautiful designs. They were functional works of art. And many of them had the builder or designer prominently displayed right on the bridge.

I can imagine the effort that went into designing these bridges. The design competition and the decision process to install this bridge here, and this different design three blocks over.  It would’ve added to the cost, but added something remarkable into the landscape.

Nameplate on a drawbridge, on the main road somewhere between Utrecht and Amsterdam

There’s a new footbridge near my home in Saskatchewan too. It connects the high school with a park and, beyond, a small library on the way to the city centre. The old bridge, no more than 60 years old but, alas, made of wood, must have been deemed unsafe in this modern age.

There is no art to my new bridge. It’s exactly the same as the other new footbridges that cross Wascana Creek. It’s made from galvanized steel (same as the recent grey/silver light posts) and pressure treated lumber. It may not be beautiful but it’s likely the cheapest way to cross the creek on foot. There’s no name on the bridge, or any of the other bridges crossing the creek, identifying the designer or the builder.

No doubt the decision to build the bridge in my town was based solely on cost. What design can give me the most bridges for the least money? Can we use existing ‘off the shelf’ components? Which installation crew is the cheapest? Then ask those questions in a blind bidding process and pick the cheapest option.

It won’t create anything lasting, or beautiful. It won’t make my heart sing every time I walk to the library. The galvanized steel handrail won’t feel good when I hold it. But hey, at least the builder was chosen through an objective and fair process. And Our Tax Dollars were used ‘responsibly.’

I find that sad.  And a missed opportunity.

There are a hundred opportunities every year to add art and beauty and good design to the world we live in. To choose the beautiful and interesting as well as the functional. To move people with our public spaces.

It’s time to add beauty to the conversation.