Deconstruction and Construction

Sent this one to MEDIUM TODAY

Workplace diary

NOISE

collage2On June 27

I work from home — that is, I do stuff that is work even though it is voluntary and done for love rather than money. I was awakened that morning by the sound of something falling nearby with loud plops. A look out the apartment window revealed a large yellow tube leading from the fifth floor of the building next door to a large red dumpster. What was falling through it was a mix of drywall and now unnecessary debris from the company’s former executive suite. Its head office had recently vacated, the building had been sold; and rumour has it that it is to be converted to a condo.

The noise wasn’t so oppressive — but watching the lone worker on the ground moving waste matter around was a contrast to my ieisurely start and enjoyment of my morning coffee. We seldom get so up close and personal to the variety of work that is part of the modern world. Sitting in front of screens and reading about CEO annual increases of millions doesn’t quite jibe with this man’s day — living among modern waste in more ways than one.

DECONSTRUCTION

On July 4

The plops continue. We are now on the fourth large container and the contents have changed from plaster and insulation to metal strips. For six days four or five men have laboured and it will be interesting to see whether the entire fifth floor has been completed. Clouds of dust from falling plaster have given way to cleaner debris — for which I am thankful. At least I can leave windows on my side of the building open rather than watch the dresser beside the window become covered with white dust.

No one else in the apartment building seems much interested in this deconstruction phenomena — but I received word this morning that my next door neighbour next door is reading my blog posts about this. It used to be that people actually talked about local happenings in person rather than reading about them online. C’est la vie. But what about the participants in this deconstruction? Do they have time to ponder the meaning of life in the process?

CONSTRUCTION!

On July 18

I shared the news of deconstruction with two grandsons who were visiting for the weekend. “Don’t be surprised if you are awakened with a big bang in the morning”, I commented. But they hardly skipped a beat as they constructed new buildings of their own while playing Minecraft online on the Ipad and PC for several hours — just surfacing once to ask for a new Skin Editor. As an old style grandmother who thought kids should go outside, I called for a break. We tried a walk in the park and a Frisbee toss, but the heat soon drove us to the ice cream store and a very hot walk home.

Taking a cue from Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist, I encouraged the kids to go Analog for a while, giving each a large sheet of paper and encouraging them to use the whole page by fill it with anything they liked, using a variety of my art supplies. The older one started on a really good drawing of a dinosaur. The younger tried his own version, seemed dissatisfied with it and retreated to return shortly to show me his own version of how to complete the use of the entire page.

On August 1

REFLECTION

It’s now been more than a month of daily deconstruction. My life has changed. I go to bed much earlier to avoid being awakened by a daily dumpster crash outside my window at 6:45 am. Four full dumpsters leave most days. During these comings and goings I have filed reports for one of my volunteer organizations, prepared agendas and chaired meetings, planned a fall campaign, worked on a wonderful community day where we hoped to draw 100 and got 200, designed a quick website for a project that is just about to happen, — in other words, dumped a whole bunch of activities into my own calendar dumpster. But I have also realized that all this busyness has replaced some of the other things that I actually intended to do this summer — like writing. And I haven’t added the time spent in feckless pursuits like online crosswords, or surfing Facebook to find the odd interesting thing that wasn’t cat related.

Dumpsters, when it comes right down to it, are just containers. They are kind of like my Gmail inbox which I have trained myself to keep quite lean and to clear out as often as possible. The easiest thing to do is to transfer everything read to specific folders and one of my volunteer ones has over a thousand threads of items that are basically dumped. In counting I note that I have 23 active folders full of suchconversations. Most of these can head for deconstruction.

But returning to thinking about deconstruction/construction — the best things of the month have reallycome from going analog — hanging out with family, friends, and colleagues, reading books rather than reading stuff online, trying new recipes, sitting and just thinking — and even watching dumpsters. The huge orange box next door will disappear eventually — and probably be replaced by daily deliveries of stuff for reconstruction — just like my Gmail Inbox. The big challenge will be sorting what comes in and becoming less distracted by stuff that deserves throwing out from the get-go.

 

Real Republishing

See What You Think (2)When a colleague introduced me to Smashwords – she republished her husband’s excellent book book that originally came out in 1990 – I couldn’t resist doing the same with one  of mine that came out in 2006 – though a manual dates almost immediately, unlike the well written history of a Toronto landmark.

My book was written to help those interested in real life applications for mindmapping software – using the software program, VisiMap, as listed in the menu above.  The ideas in it apply to any software or hand drawn maps in this now broad software class.  So if you would like a free copy you can access it here.

Republishing

I wrote an article earlier last year for an Anglican monthly – it’s good when someone else finds something useful to them and even better when he asks to republish.  Best of all if the original was desgined to start people thinking – to know that it is actually happening.

You can read my original on his site here.

Light

candleFor most of my life I have been an inveterate self-help reader – expecting resources from the not-for-profit or the churchy world to provide the answers to my recurring shortcomings.  This isn’t totally bad but it gets complicated when I try to integrate about a dozen of the gimmicky solutions.

Most of the resources have lots in common.  The churchy world ones are often simpler and better – but they come with a lot of baggage that doesn’t make them useful in more secular settings.  So to talk about them without seeming totally arrogant is a challenge.

But here is a small one.  Silence is necessary.  Just shutting up simply allows the quantity of stuff in our minds to come to the fore.  One way to tamp it down a little is to focus on something – and a small candle helps.

This one is more than 10 years old and came from a visit with my late husband to beautiful Butchart Gardens in Victoria BC. Lighting it, looking at it and just sitting for a half hour is one way to try to move into the silence.

Salvation through Cleaning

The morning’s Globe and Mail offers some strange advice in its business section this morning.  “Clean Home, Clear Corporate Minds”  shows how far an MBA can take you from the real world and it makes me so glad I never thought of pursuing one. The article starts with the experience of a business executive who takes a break from her regular duties to travel to Montreal from San Fransciso to scrub floors, wipe desktops – and horror of horrors, clean toilets. This experience produces an “aha” moment of oneness with the universe and sends her back to Califormia productive and raring to go.

Well duh.  Had she ever thought of doing cleaning at home? Probably not.  Of course working for Zenith Cleaning as a volunteer meant she had to don a uniform and actually enter a restaurant wearing it. (I wondered if the uniform involved denim and whether she had exchanged it for her own jeans costing $200 and up. – but maybe not)  The experience of wondering if people would reject her on the basis of how she looked made her feel humble and suddenly there was an epiphany. Cleaning was a way to mindfulness.

The company founder and CEO agrees that “cleaning is as much a spiritual service as a physical act” – and has created a side business ” inviting executives to come to Montreal and work alongside his professional cleaning crews” and join them as “pilgrims”..  I guess the feckless executives could save their companies money by doing the same tasks on their own turf – but apparently they need training in using unnamed cleaning tools – (sponges? dustcloths?) – as well as operating vacuums and mops.  Sounds as though these guys and gals don’t get home much to watch the hired help – or perhaps spouses.

The article goes on to note that promoting mindfulness in the workplace is not limited to Zenith Cleaning but is also followed by Google, Apple, Deutsche Bank and General Mills – who “bring in speakers, including Buddhist monks”  – though the purpose is to improve productivity as much as relieving stress or quieting minds.  Meditation and yoga are also encouraged. An associate professor of strategy and leadership at McGill’s business school notes that people are looking for “deeper purpose beyond profit in their lives and their work”. Spirituality without religion rules. Zenith Cleaning’s founder notes that he had a conversion.  “I think I would be in investment banking and doing something very normal –

Stop right there.  Investment banking isn’t something very normal at all. If that’s what he learned at the business school that invites him back every year to speak, he’s been badly served by the thousands of dollars he’s spent on his own education. That kind of world view is one of the things that makes us so completely messed up.

But it’s telling that all this language – purpose, pilgrims, caring, meditation, humilty, spiritual awakening – have all been co-opted from the world of religions – along with the favorite business buzz-word, “mission”.   We are confusing two worlds that are pretty much opposed. Did the business schools ever think of inviting anyone from the faith tradtion that formed the basis of capitalism at its inception?  The space they are trying to fill shows the world of post Christendom does have needs that are not being met in a very effective way.

but it’s also a pretty firm indictment of communities of faith in their inabiity to compete with the religion of business with their new dogma  apostles and disciples. No one even thought of asking them.  I spent the past weekend with Phyllis Tickle – a self-described “uppity woman” who travels the world with some interesting insights as to where Christendom in particular is headed. She says it’s in the middle of one of its every five hundred year rummage sales and no one is quite sure where it will land. It may be down but its history shows this pattern of coming back changed but not out.   Nevertheless, religions – and Christendom in particular –  better speed up their determination to recapture the ownership of some of this language and thinking by owning it with more insights than we are seeing from the business schools.

 

Creating the future we want

This article says it all.  I was there in August 2014 and saw it first hand.  Rather than moaning about jobs going offshore, some people are doing something about it – and helping not only the people but the area they live in.  Read all about Per Scolas here.

Terrorism here and there

I am struck this morning by two New York Times headlines in the daily news feed which I read every day. Scrolling down, I read “2 Die, Including Gunman in Shootout in Washington State High School” and “Two California Officers are Killed in Rampage“.  Five needless deaths. Much higher up in the list of news items is speculation about the motivation of the Canadian terrorist who invaded our House of Parliament this week. One needless death, three injured – and one probably necessary death there.  But what makes it different is to label it as TERRORISM.

I’ve lived in the US and love the country – but we Canadians really are somewhat different. My day of the Canadian shooting started as usual.  I had the radio on and was driving in the car when it happened this past Wednesday.  It was too early for breaking news.  I went to a morning meeting, went out to lunch with a friend, and had a short meeting with a team I am involved with.  I drove back home without the radio on, and then decided to hop on the subway to the Apple Store in one of Toronto’s biggest shopping malls to see if they had Iphone6  in stock.  I’d acquired a hearing enhancement device and the controller can be an Iphone – how cool is that! The Apple Store already had a long line-up for the limited number of the phones arriving daily – but the helpful guy at the door suggested the store on the ground floor might have one if I went with a payment plan.  Since I was going that route, and they had one phone left,  I was all set.

The process took about an hour while they tried to up-sell me on several things I didn’t want or need. I finally left to catch the subway just before evening rush hour.  I came home, checked a few emails and answered some, did a little bit of monkeying with my phone to set up voicemail and checked out a couple of the new features.  By then it was nearly 6:00 pm, so I poured a glass of wine and sat down to watch BBC America on PBS.  This was when I learned of the events in my capital city.

I have to confess that I switched immediately to a Canadian network and got caught up. The story is tragic.  It is still not clear whether the perpetrator was a terrorist sent by others or someone whose mind was deeply muddled by a mixture of dreadful ideology, isolation and misdirected anger. Like all countries we have such individuals but so far we are not all perpetually frightened. It’s comforting to have political leaders who hug each other the next day before getting back to partisan positions – but they get back to work. The headlines of the daily paper and the articles show degrees of media obsession as always we but tolerate it and get one with our lives.The news was out but no one felt they need to comment – I doubt that all the people I met were as unconnected with the news as I was.  We accept both that the world has changed – and that it hasn’t.  One of my sons and I were locked in Tower of London for a few hours in the ’70s days of Irish terrorism- but everyone remained calm.  We once lived across from a high school when a crazed teen came and killed another student.  We’ve lived through the FLQ crisis. We’ve lived through Sars.  People got killed – people got sick – people died – but not everybody did.

We live in a beautful and free world that can turn perilous. Millions don’t and live in real peril all the time.  The challenge for us is to live in both worlds without giving way to perpetual fear and hysteria.