Donating Your Birthday for Clean Water

photo1Tomorrow is my birthday, and instead of gifts, I’m hoping to raise $100 for clean water.

In 2012, I went on a hike into the mountains near Lake Natron in Tanzania and half-way in, my group’s water filter broke. We hiked to a village’s water source and were filling up our bottles when we noticed a dead rat floating in the water. Nobody had much choice but to boil/treat that water or risk severe dehydration. In talking with a new friend J.T. about the work he did for a water organization, remembering the time and effort during that trip to get clean water, remembering the example of a blog post by Seth Godin, combined with reading A Long Walk To Water, made me realize this birthday was a good one to donate to clean water. So, if you were thinking of getting me a gift, please instead donate whatever you’d like. I just donated $10. And if you want to donate your own birthday, you can do that here.

Click here to donate to help me reach $100 for my birthday. Thanks for reading!

How’s Your Heart Doing Today?

I hope that no matter whether your heart is aching, or joyful, you take the time to feel it and know that it’s okay to feel it because you are a human being.

In this culture, one of the first questions we ask each other is, “So, what do you do?” Yet, the heart is what really connects us. Certainly the heart and what you do are linked. However your heart is in this moment, it’s okay, let it be that way.

If you care about doing your job well, that’s a good sign. Remember that you may still do good work even when your heart is aching (although it might feel much easier when you’re joyful).

Respect. By showing dignity and respect for yourself, you respect and credit other people within the same profession by association. I hope that whatever occupation you are in at this moment — be it a custodian, a student, a waiter, a farmer, a fisherman, a musician, a carpenter, a CEO, or whatever helps put food on your table — you cultivate respect for yourself.

If you are a teacher or an artist, it is especially important to respect yourself. Teachers and artists are not usually as highly paid as doctors and lawyers, but they perform two extremely important roles in our society: to train the next generation and to help us see the world in new ways.

(January 5, 2016 revision: Actually, it seems that I missed the point. No matter what you do, it seems that self-respect is what enables and allows full respect for others — their time, their right to happiness, their full development as a human being. So, no matter what you do, self-respect is especially important. You are a person, too. How would you have others treat themselves? And be sure to see Maria Popova’s article on love.)

Sometimes, your self-esteem takes a blow. It can happen unexpectedly. A breakup, a social humiliation, an unfair comparison, an insult, a misunderstanding. What can you do? Take a walk or do something with or for a friend. Throw your shoulders back, stand up tall, take responsibility for your actions and decisions. By having dignity and self-respect, we engage with and lift up those around us in mutual respect. Also, you may not realize how many people you are linked to and who look up to you.

Take care of yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your heart is important. Talking face to face with a friend is important. As you grow in habits of respect for yourself, your own needs for leisure time and connection, you naturally grow in respect and care for others. Also, never forget to dance, and realize what a speck you are in the grand scheme of things, and that it’s okay to shake your body and be absurd and laugh about it, too. Remember we are human beings, not human doings (Claros).

Thanks Omid Safi for the inspiration with the wonderful article, “The Disease of Being Busy.”

James Gurney: A Visionary and Inventive Artist

I’m sorry for the delay in posting this week. I’ll see to it that the next posts are on Friday as planned.

One of my favorite books as a child was Dinotopia by James Gurney. I love the alphabet that the dinosaurs created using footprints. I love the intricate pictures of the machines. I love seeing human beings riding pterodactyls through the sky. I love that Gurney played with biomimicry (before it became a buzzword), tree houses, flight, language, romance, adventure, an island, and dinosaurs all within the same series.

Perhaps one of the aspects that appeals to me from the books is that human beings and dinosaurs seem to be working mutualistically with each other, and with their environment. Together, they create beautiful and sustainable cities, like this one.

Part of the trouble for western countries is the seductive ease of using fossil fuels and disposable products, in spite of the hidden toll it’s taking. Global warming aside, hydrocarbons and other compounds get into the water and muck up our fish and shellfish. Oysters and scallops and clams were once a national treasure. Now there are few places in the U.S. where you can get an abundant amount of shellfish that are safe to eat right away. It takes a concerted effort to decide the trajectory of our cities now and into the future, and how our cities and towns mesh with the environment.

How can we live in such a way that we are conscious of what we take out, and what we put back in?

Look at the lights above your head. Look at your computer screen. Where does the electricity come from? Where do the minerals and the parts come from? What is the factory like where the pieces are assembled? In too many factories, the workers suffer poor health from breathing stale air, doing repetitive work for long hours that leaves the mind and body aching. Everyone benefits from range of motion. People can’t live truly rich lives when they don’t have access to fresh food, fresh air, or wild places like mountains, streams, rivers, lakes, the ocean, plains, or forests.

I’m not advocated for ditching technology. We can do great things with it, and connect, and make change happen.

Can we do better? We can advocate for better working conditions, and we can better respect the products by remembering where the parts come from. Which minerals? Which mine? Which forest? We should also keep in mind where the products go when we’re done with them, and how well the local landfills can, or can’t, keep them separate from the farms, schools, houses, and conservation areas nearby. Yes, we can do better.