Archives for May 2009

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Seasons

Autumn LeavesCold crispness in the air,
autumn colours in the trees.
I can feel the seasons passing
like a river through my soul,
etching ever deeper
the valleys of experience
and meaning.

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Lessons from Squirrels

Here are two great little ‘squirrel movies’, each with a message. :)

What persistence! This wee squirrel is a lovely reminder not to give up but keep trying until we reach our goals. And it’s also a reminder not to scorn a helping hand when one is offered!

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow’. (Mary Anne Radmacher)

The second video was made as a commercial for EDS, an IT company.  It’s very amusing, but also reminds us that big is not always necessarily the best. The small and nimble can be just as powerful.

Or, as Anita Roddick of The Body Shop once said:

If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.

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Perspective & Reality

Inspired by some amazing 3-D street art by Karl Mueller, I’ve been reflecting on perspective and the nature of reality.

Folk in both the scenes below appear to be in danger of plunging to their deaths in a deep crevasse.

Karl Mueller The Great Crevasse

(Click for larger image)

Karl Mueller - The Crevasse

(Click for larger image)

But it’s all an illusion, based on the perspective from which we’re viewing the scene. From where they’re standing, they know they are on solid ground.

Karl Mueller, who created the art work above said ‘I wanted to play with positives and negatives to encourage people to think twice about everything they see.’

Similarly, many of the shadows we see in our lives are of our own making. We take what we think is a dangerous risk, only to find the leap hasn’t been so great and we’re landing safely after all.

Or we experience things that, at the time, are deeply painful and we’d give anything to be somewhere else. It’s only later, standing in a different place and viewing them from a different perspective, that we can see the gifts those experiences have given us.

One of the assumptions made in Appreciative Inquiry is that ‘Reality is created in the moment and there are multiple realities.’

Whether we see a  particular situation as a problem, an opportunity, a disaster or a gift depends on where we’re standing and how we look at it.

The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective.

(Al Neuharth)

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Cosmic Jokers

Today I’ve been reflecting on the seemingly capricious nature of life.

On Friday Chris, my business partner, and I were jubilant about the fact we’d been engaged that morning for an exciting new project, which we know will be both challenging and fun to complete.

Then that afternoon an impending cold worsened, and I spent the weekend mostly in bed feeling like death warmed up – aching, snuffling fit to burst, coughing and losing my voice. So Friday’s jubilation went the way of all flesh – replaced by a dose of bodily misery.

Much better today, with that dreadful lurgy receding into the past in its turn, I’m smiling to myself at the way the Universe keeps reminding us life is a ever a journey of hills and valleys, highs and lows.

Ok, so neither the high nor the low I experienced in the last few days could in any way be described as an extreme example of its kind. But the rapid shift from one to the other and back again has definitely revealed the Cosmic Trickster at work once more.

This is an archetypal figure that has many names and guises across different cultures and mythologies.

Cosmic JokerFor example there’s the Norse god, Loki – shape shifter and trickster extraordinaire. Or Prometheus, who tricked Zeus and the other gods into allowing humans the best part of animals killed for sacrifice and stole fire from the gods on Olympus for people to use. There’s Maui from Polynesia who also stole fire from the gods to give to humans.

Then there’s Bamapana, a god of the Yolngu indigenous people from Arnhem Land in Australia, who delighted in causing disruption and discord. Or Eshu, god of chaos and trickery from Yoruba mythology in West Africa. And maybe The Joker in the Batman story can also be seen as another, more modern equivalent.

When we mere mortals are sitting comfortably atop one of life’s highs, the Cosmic Joker laughs at our complacency. “So you think you’ve got your stuff together, do you? You think you’ve got life sorted? Well try this one out for size!”

Then, when we’re struggling in one of life’s lows, he usually laughs again at our discomfiture before throwing another upward loop our way.

So how do we best cope with his quirkiness, his cruelty and his beneficence? Let go. Allow ourselves simply to ride life’s journey without clinging too desperately to the good times or fighting too hard against the bad.

Either way, whatever we try, there’s likely to be another shift just around the corner that will try to pitch us off balance again. Whether it’s for good or bad, up hill or down dale, ‘this too will pass’.

It’s all part of that disastrous, delightful, damnable and delicious paradox we call life.

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Stink Bombs

A wonderful evening spent with old friends recently, in which we talked about many things ‘from cabbages to kings’. One of my friends, John, is a primary teacher and shared this wonderful story.

He was sitting in the staff room with colleagues one day, when suddenly two Grade 6 girls ran, giggling, past the open window and flung two ‘stink bombs’ into the room.

Stink BombAs the stink permeated the staff room, teachers gasped and reacted with disgust and horror. John was the first to leap to his feet and race to the playground, where he caught up with the two miscreants.

The other teachers were obviously waiting to hear John give the girls a good ticking off, and no doubt smiled and nodded with approval as he began sternly, “Really girls! I am VERY disappointed in both of you! …”

But I imagine the expression on many faces changed as he continued, “I noticed both those stink bombs were bought from a shop!  That means you didn’t learn anything about what makes a stink bomb work, did you? In MY day, we made our own – we had to learn what to use and all about the sulphur that made them stink …. ”

Even as I laughed at this story, I also recognised some of those things that make John and others like him exceptional teachers. An appreciation of the ridiculous, a wonderful sense of humour and a passion for encouraging learning even when – and perhaps particularly when – children are ‘pushing the envelope’ or misbehaving.

So I wanted to share the story, with John’s permission, as a salute to him and all the other teachers who make learning – and life – so much fun for kids!