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Moving money

I had a meeting with our financial advisor today.

This is a rare thing — once a year, at best.

As I drove today for this visit, it was with a question in mind: how do we invest ethically?

This year, Kendra and I took the steps to move away from RBC, to have our money at our local credit union, Valley First. Partly it was to not get charged fees. But the big motivation was to keep our money local, and be part of a membership-based cooperative finance movement where our finances become part of bettering the local economy. (I may have been heavily influence by the lovely films and promotional materials from my friends who work in the credit union space, like this one you’ve seen: Some Choices Matter.)

This week, we finally completed the last step: moving over our mortgage from RBC. It had come to its five-year renewal term, and we took that window and got it moved over. Paperwork, meetings, notaries, signing things, meeting with all four of our kids in a small credit union office: and we got it done.

So what about our investments? It’s not a lot. It’s two RRSPs, two TFSAs, and and RESP. But still, it’s working while we’re not looking, and contributing to something. What is it working on?

In truth, I’m not sure if I agree with investing in the stock market, the more I think about it. It means I’m a shareholder, and I am letting my money put pressure on organizations to be motivated for short-term gain. I am voting with my wallet to ask companies to be scouting for profit opportunities, instead of maximizing for well-being, staying local, held accountable to my own values and ethics.

I asked my financial advisor what he thought: “It’s just capitalism,” he said. “Just the nature of human greed.”

That might be the case, today. But what is the vision of tomorrow we can help create?

Today, my financial advisor can’t point to any local, ethical funds to invest in. He says that the attempts at ethical funds have been low performers.

I say, it may mean we have to find, create and share some alternatives the begin to model new ways of co-creating a shared future.

I know in many ways, I am quite late to the game here.

I think of the Domain7 documentary my teammate Trevor directed, A New Economy. You can watch it on Netflix. It’s all about emerging movements of cooperative organizations.

I was learning this month about ESOPs: employee-share ownership programs. The chance for employees to invest in the companies they actually work for.

I found this the work of Jaclyn Saorsail, who is exploring a concept called Coism. I watched only part of her YouTube lecture, flipped through her Prezi presentation, and I’m seeing themes here that hint that there are new models possible for organizing ourselves.

I want to be part of things like that.

I want to be part of a community that is ready to try new ways of working, cooperatively. For maximizing human well-being.

Why not?

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Proposing a Global Jubilee

So I’ve been thinking for a few years about the idea of a Global Jubilee. A radical sabbatical.

The idea is: everything and everybody takes a well-coordinated break from all work-related activities. For a whole year.

All non-essential activities cease. Manufacturing, shipping, transportation, retail, design, engineering, entertainment, you name it; it all ceases. 

In this year of ceasing activities, our fields and industries and individuals get to lie fallow. A global breath. The international shipping lanes no longer generate noise and waste. Planes stop flying. We stay home, with our family and friends; we walk, we connect, we rest. A chance to pay back debts, share with each other, and rest from our busy activity.  People return to spend time with their families, to co-create, re-create, pro-create.

We plan for it over the course of the next — pick your timeframe. A decade from now? Should we pick 2030 as our year? Or earlier: 2025?

Anyway, there’s much to be done. We’ll have to build up our savings, our food reserves. We’ll have to get better at taking care of each other, sharing resources, connecting with our neighbours. We’ll have to ensure we have plans and ways to get ready for the planet’s first Global Jubilee.

We’ll tell stories about it for generations to come.

“What did you do during the Jubilee year?”

Can you imagine? How on earth would we achieve that? If you’re a planner or a schemer or coordinator, we’ll definitely need your help. If you’re seeing holes in this idea, great; you’re probably gifted at seeing dangers and risks. Can you write them down to help us plan? Perhaps you’re thinking it’s not possible. It would be lovely if you could use that gift of realistic sight to help us catch what we’re missing. All gifts, all talents, all cynicism and joy will be needed in order to power this endeavour. Spread the word, and see you in 2025!

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Vision paralysis

“Where are we?

These grounds are the ancestral home of the Syilx people.

Just down the road from where we are gathered, was the site of a Japanese internment camp during the second world war.

The waters that run down from these mountains are part of a watershed that eventually joins the Pacific Ocean.

A hiking trail you can take from here, called the Pacific Crest Trail, will take you all the way to the bottom of America, to San Diego.

Though we might feel like we are isolated in a lodge in the woods, from where we stand, we are connected to history. Stories that include suffering and strength. From where we stand, we are connected to an entire ocean. From where we stand, we are connected to the entire world.”

I am giving opening remarks to our medium-size team at a lodge in Manning Park in 2016. It is our team’s first offsite, and it is also the launch of our newly-minted vision statement: To help create a more empathetic and connected world.

In that same lodge, I will babble excitedly to a teammate about the power we have to change the world. Her earnest eyes can’t help but glaze over, and she says, “I’d love to know what books you’re reading, because these thoughts and ideas are not what I’ve been following, and I can see you care about them”

(The books were Gene Sharp’s From Dictatorship to Democracy, Micah White’s The End of Protest, and This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein)

During that offsite, an illness descended on many of our group. I felt it creeping up on me as I drove down in my rented car from the mountain.

I barely made it to the city that night. A colleague kindly let me stay at their place for a couple hours, but I had commitments to keep the next day, and had to move on.

The first meeting the next day was with my coach. In a small room I tried to keep illness at bay as I answered her questions. I clutched my head and swayed silent as I grappled with the force of what she was asking.

“I feel such an energy from you now,” she said.

“I can’t put it into words yet,” I said.

I wanted to express what was true and happening inside me, but the strange mix of illness and inspiration made it hard to communicate.

That night, I was signed up to lead a session in a restaurant basement about facilitation. As I attempted to motivate people to work differently together in their workplaces, I was barely holding it together, working through fever sweats to finish this public speaking gig.

The next day, I drove home in that same rental car; a four hour drive over mountain passes. I had to pull over, forced to sleep from the pressure of sickness.

By the time I made it home, I had nothing left. I collapsed on a mattress in the guest bedroom and stayed there for days. I had no appetite, and my wife, who was pregnant and at the time and taking care of our other 2 kids, had already been holding down the fort while I travelled. She didn’t expect to keep having to do so for a sick husband upon my return.

From that position, side-lying on the twin mattress in February of 2016, in the fog of neverending sleep-wake cycle, I had an image appear in my head: it was of a toppled statue of Donald Trump. (At this time, Trump had not yet even won the primaries.) It lay face-to-face with me on the floor. The grinning bronze face was giving me the thumbs up. And in that same instant, this came to me:

“This” will get exactly as bad as you think. The only way to topple this will be through grassroots participation. 

What occurred to me was the idea of a global jubilee. A radical sabbatical. A chance for global coordinated action to refrain from work, and to take care of each other. A year off from work during which all production, manufacturing, shipping ceases.

I’ve recovered from the sickness, but I still haven’t recovered from that vision. I still have no idea what to do with it.

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Letter to her future kids

There were so many wake-ups last night. Rosie, for example. Five times? And the day, it starts by 6 am. Kendra takes the bulk of night interruptions, so I take the early shift in the morning. I’ll zombie around the kitchen making breakfasts, while Kendra catches up on any extra sleep in the minutes that might be available before the school train departs.

When Kendra joined us this morning, she said, “I wrote our kids an email.”

(Yes, our kids have their own email addresses. They don’t know about them yet, but we have them for when they’re needed for sign-ups — and for now, mostly so we can send them letters they’ll receive once their email-aged.)

She passed her phone to me to read.

“My kids. As I write this, Addie is 8, Ben is 6, Theo is 3, and Rosie is 1.5.

You guys are a delight!!
Your dad and I get tired, it’s true.
But I wish you knew how often (after you’re in bed!) that your dad and I look and each other and with wonder declare: “Our kids are so cool!”

We love you guys.
We like you guys!

Addie: You love people. You have always been kind and open, and even though you love sports and games, you care more that people aren’t hurt or left out. It’s a beautiful trait for a beautiful girl.

Ben: You are so independent and an initiator! You have so many ideas, and you move right away to get it done! This will serve you well in life: not just the creative ideas, but the energy to complete them.

Theo: You have a magnetic personality. Your desire to perform and your rhythm and gift for music is truly incredible. You could dance all day long and people would stare at your coordinated moves and your beautiful smile.

Rosie: You’re small, but so determined!!! You will climb that cushion mountain, you will dance your heart out with your siblings, and will make the Duplo fit together!

I cannot wait to see what lies ahead for each of you, and yet I cherish these moments when you’re all still relatively small, and we all fit in the living room and nightly dance parties are a thing we can all enjoy together. This is precious time.
You are precious. And loved.
Love, mom.”

*

After getting woken up a billion times in one night, there are many ways Kendra could respond to the world. She could stumble downstairs like a zombie, like I do. She could mumble silent curse words at the kids (“mother’s efforts” is my go-to). Or, she could spend time reflecting on what makes her family amazing, and take the minutes to encourage them with an email that won’t be read for another decade.

I passed the phone back to Kendra with a couple tears blinking in my eyes.

As they say, “Shut up, I’m not crying. You’re crying.”

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Pulling over the bus

The reason I wrote the bus driver quandary is because I think my own pull-over-the-bus moment might be emerging.

I’ve been receiving conversations and input lately that are inviting me to participate in a conversation I’m not sure how to have, and yet it’s one that could have a potentially positive impact. It’s also one that could potentially jostle some passengers.

I think of how I’m equipped to lead: I know the toolset of co-creation and facilitation, creating safe spaces for dialogue and discussion. I’m a communicator and a clear speaker. I can play a role here that helps.

And yet what occurs for me is: fear. I used to be a passenger on this bus, before I was the driver. What the other passengers told me is that stopping the bus for situations like this was a recipe for disaster. It might crash.

And yet, I’m working hard to revisit and challenge old narratives. It’s time for new stories. Stories that value listening, hearing, seeing with new eyes. Living out love. Not living from fear. Stories of compassion. Drawing wider circles. I want to choose that.

I wonder if I can.

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Wider circles

Some of the communities I’ve been part of have been active forces for wonder and beauty and justice in this world. I think of where I worked after university, a non-profit whose mission has been to work on the root causes of poverty, homeless and addiction.

I’ve also been part of communities whose impact I question. Where I see people who have been brought together, and accidentally reinforced that they are right, at the exclusion of others. Or who have cultivated a sense of fear about What Else Is Out There, and focused on amplifying What’s In The Room.

It’s weird how that happens. We experience a sense of connection with others, not having an understanding of who is not there, and what voices we’re not hearing. We simply see the people in front of me. And so we create stories to help us relish who’s here, and preserve it.

I replay memories of summer camp — a glorious horde of enthusiastic, like-minded kids — and it gives me a sense of identity. Core memories are formed and stored here. I value it for what it taught me. And yet:

Actively and intentionally, a fear was grown in me. A fear of the other.

The other is The World.
The World is Secular.
The Secular World is not to be trusted.
They are the Lost.

I can’t even type these sentences without a sense of grossness and apology. I’m sorry I ever thought that. There is no Secular World. There is only the world we all share. There are no Lost people, “just lonely people” — and that’s all of us.

A community that tells itself the story that it alone is right and others are not — or worse, that others are dangerous — is an abusive community. It creates enemies. While it’s fine and good to have criteria for membership, it cannot come at the expense of others.

We are together in this, all of us.

To my dismay, that might that even communities who draw lines like that — even they, those people, those doing the othering — must not be seen as enemies. They must be included, encouraged, invited, to hear the stories of those they have othered. They must encounter the voices and stories of those they haven’t heard — and we, to hear theirs. They must be included. For all of us are one.

“He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In!”
― Edwin Markham

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The bus driver quandary

A long-haul bus was driving south on the highway when a man on the opposite side of the road caught the bus driver’s attention: he was waving his arms wildly, bleeding from his leg, showing signs of having just escaped a bad car wreck or even a wild animal attack. The driver had only a split second to make a choice. Should he stop to help the man, or keep driving?

Time seemed to freeze as the driver’s eyes glanced behind him at his dozing, chatting passengers, and outside again at the man. The decision criteria rattled through his mind like a flip through an old rolodex:

The day’s route timings would be all off if he stopped. Passengers would miss their scheduled stops. A bleeding, injured man on the bus would turn the whole bus into an impromptu ER. The speed at which he’d need to apply the brakes might jostle passengers. Perhaps another vehicle might stop. How injured was the man? If he didn’t stop, would the man die?

What if the man turned out not to be injured, but simply intoxicated, using poor judgement? What if the passengers grew angry with the driver, or worse, violent? Would the driver lose his job if he made the choice to stop? Would anybody notice if he didn’t stop?

He reviewed the code. It was plain as day. Passengers see it when they board the bus. This bus doesn’t pick up passengers at non-marked stops. All passengers must pay fare before boarding. He’d have to explain why he felt it important to override this obvious rule. If he stops, does he also need to encourage the bus company to revise the code?

Through his rear-view mirror, he saw on his his passenger notice the man outside, then jab a finger at the window in surprise, and glance forward to catch the driver’s eye. The eyes said: are you going to do something?

The driver: ________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________

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Happily after ever

“Why do princess movies always end in happily ever after?” Addie exclaimed, eyes rolling with the credits of Beauty and the Beast.

We’ve done an intentional job in our house skewering princess culture — maybe too intentional? — and the result is a viewership that notices anytime damsels are portrayed as helpless, princes are married without relationship, and life as portrayed as too happy.

I wasn’t buying it tonight, though.

Normally I’d be right there with Addie, but I saw something different. Not only was Belle clearly amazing (self-sacrificial, well-read, independent, brave, resilient), but: As the Beast transformed into a human, and the glum landscape returned to vibrant artistry, the household objects returned to their human form, I felt a sense of wonder. It wasn’t me dropping my jaw or shedding a tear, but it was definitely me going, “No, no, this is good, keep it going. I get it.”

The cynic in me has dismissed “happily ever after” as a false promise, because we’ve seen Real Life. We know that marriages are beginnings, that real life has grief and contours, suffering and loneliness, and we endeavour to show scars and share stories be real with each other. We’re past Happily Ever After. We want Authentic Even Now.

I’m usually there.

On this viewing, though, I realized Happily Ever After isn’t a promise or a suggestion for a linear next-step state. A happily ever after vision is giving us a taste of what’s possible outside of the timeframe of the daily expectations. It’s priming our imagination to sense that beyond the world’s mundane and predictable housekeeping, there is another world unfolding.

“Another world is not just possible,” says the poet Arundhati Roy. “She is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

We’re stuck in the Ever. The reality we occupy, with its leftovers from ancestors’ choices and its storylines that box us in, this is the Ever.  It’s the whenever. The unconscious participation in time immemorial. Ever was it thus.

But after that, should we ever choose to awake, might we work together towards a new vision? One where we believe abundance is possible? A collaboration outside time and space where redemption and renewal is a possibility? Is there not a sliver of hope for this trans-material change, beyond the day-to-day?

What might it look like?

It might look like what I saw unfolding onscreen.

After that Ever, there might be a Happily, making it a <title of post>, not just another cliche, false-promise, eye-rolling Happily Ever After.

A girl can dream.

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New rule

I popped downstairs after my work day, stepping off a thoughtful call with a colleague, and a great podcast recording slot before that. My head full of notions and ideas, I was —

RAAAAAAAAAGHHHHHR

It was like a train-on-fire screamed past me at the bottom of the stairs. A backdraft of family energy like a dragon’s mouth.

Whoa. I stepped back. I recalculated the situation. This was a group of people who have been struggling through the post-school chaos for the past hour: writhing with the pain of starving bellies, crushed under the weight of homework, heckled by the pressure of sibling rivarly, moaning with tiredness, frenetic with energy, a bubbling, whistling tea-kettle ready to boil over.

New rule: all employment across BC and Canada ceases at 2:30 pm to allow the maximum number of grown-ups possible to be on duty for when school-age children end their school day. The zone is 3-5 pm work is explicitly banned. The amount of need and struggle is simply too abundant to allow any family to go unassisted.

kthxbye

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Can you be more than one thing?

“Can you be more than one thing?” asked Benjamin.

“What do you mean?” I asked. His three other siblings were finally asleep, and the two of us were snuggling in my bed.

“I mean, like, an astronaut, but also a singer, and also…”

“Oh, yes!” I exclaimed. “There’s a Canadian astronaut who was also a singer, and also he wrote a book for grown-ups, and also a book for kids, and now he does lots of speaking and teaching, and he used to fly planes.”

“I know who that is,” he said. “Chris Hayfield.” (Super close, I thought. “Yes, Chris Hadfield!” I couldn’t help but correct.)

“Or,” I said. “Think of mommy. She’s a mom, slash physiotherapist, slash chicken farmer, slash baker, slash sewer, slash future volunteer fire-fighter…”

I paused, remembering this was a Benjamin question. “Is there more than one thing you are wanting to do?”

“Yes, I want to be a singer, slash writer, slash artist…”

“What type of artist?” I asked.

“Like a painting artist,” he said.

“Like an illustrator?”

“Yeah.”

“I can think of a few people who are all three of those!” I told him of Colin Meloy of the Decemberists, a singer, a writer of grown-up books, an illustrator as well (I think).

I was proud of myself for my exhaustive exploration of career prospects and inspiring icons. Slightly exhausted, too, as storytelling and engagement at bedtime takes a tank-empty push of energy to connect well with the kiddos.

It was time to carry him off to bed, before moving on to the things ahead of me: finishing cleaning up from dinner, cleaning up cat litter in the garage, moving on to my daily writing work, connecting with Kendra over chips and wine and reality TV, putting the things of the day behind us. We had cared for sick kids, I had spent time at work, and had a lunch meeting connected with my role as board chair.

I guess that makes me a father/husband/cat-person/board-chair/facilitator/writer.

During my lunch meeting today, we had explored some themes that I had shared previously in my humble heresy post. The idea that the stories of the past are only meant to ignite a path forward for the future. That existence isn’t meant to be a constant historical analysis of those who have gone before, but a moving ahead into the unexplored future.

We fixate on other figures and find ourselves falling short. We focus on the past and forget about our role in the future. We take a lifetime to believe, eventually, maybe, that we can even be one thing: our own first names, worthily — nevermind the slash.

Is it true that you can be more than one thing?

I have an idea of how I want to answer this, but it might not land.

Look at you.

You are a product of the universe. You are the flowering, mushrooming, blossoming product of the world itself. It’s you, in your fullness, that is the design. You are perfect as-is, and it is from this stance that you have the opportunity to recognize your gift and step into practice.

You’re a natural. A product of the universe. A prodigy. A wunderkind. The One. And no matter what opportunities are afforded you, what risks you are able to take, what talents you are able to cultivate, you are already you, slash beauty itself, slash the universe. 

If I said this answer to Benjamin, would it bestow this belief? If I said it to you, would it register as a meaningful invitation? If I said it out loud to myself, would I believe it — truly absorb it? Would I allow it to strengthen me in the face of shame, take my gaze off the past, look ahead to a future where there are untold struggles ahead, impossible fights to fight, mundane daily love to give, cat litter to change, slaves to liberate, dishes to wash? I don’t know. I can try. I’ll say it again.

Can you be more than one thing?

You are already everything.