Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Three-dimensionality -- part one of three

The extent of your consciousness is limited only by your ability to love, and to embrace with your love, the space around you, and all it contains.

Napoleon Bonaparte

My love affair with three dimensions really started when one day I was browsing in Crown Books, in Santa Monica, and Shelley pointed out to me Robert Sabuda’s brilliant pop-up book, The Wizard of Oz. I opened it up and my jaw dropped. I bought it immediately for $16.95 before the bookshop discovered it had made a mistake. I was certain that the book really cost over $100, as such were the amazing details.

I resolved to be become an expert on paper engineering. I still have that resolve. What a delight it is to create a three-dimensional moving work of art from just a few pieces of folded paper. I have made various attempts at origami, but that for me is more of a mental process. Pop-ups are a total giddy delight.

Since then, Shelley and I have purchased all manner of pop-up books. The latest we acquired was by Robert Sabuda’s partner, Matthew Reinhart. His pop-up book, The Jungle Book has brought lots of giggles to our home and is our most prized book. Matthew really seems to have advanced the art. I hope you can see from the pictures below how the tiger leaps off the page. What you can’t see is how the claws menacingly unfurl as the page is slowly opened.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Adrenaline Collapse

It is Wise not to rush about.


When I first started dating Shelley I was awed by her constant up energy. She called herself hypo-manic—having only the up side of the manic-depressive cycle. I reveled in her continued state of happiness.

When we moved in together, I did notice certain things that I found unusual. For example, she would procrastinate on getting jobs done. I would start to get agitated as the deadline loomed, however, as if playing a game of Chicken, Shelley was stressed but unmoved. Then, when she couldn’t stand it any longer she would kick into gear working 24 hours, then 48 hours, then 72 hours without sleep and often without food and water (sometimes there was more than one project), until finally completing the project and with minutes to go, making the presentation in time (successful of course). This was followed by collapse, recovery, and then a repeat of the cycle.

Then, one day, there was no recovery. I returned home from a 6 week trip to China and Australia to find her lying on the floor, a position she had been in for most of the time I was away. Medical tests gave us a shock. Their prognosis was likely lupus. Lupus is an auto-immune disease. It is when a person’s immune system, instead of defending them, starts attacking them. Why a person would attack themselves will have to wait for another blog entry, but the point I wanted to make here was that although adrenaline worked for Shelley for a number of years, it was unsustainable over the long run.

Shelley can still work all night and feel that she has accomplished something, but then it takes a week to recover during which nothing is done, followed by a month of discouragement and low energy. We may be addicted to oil, but our culture is definitely addicted to adrenaline. It’s no accident that Starbucks is everywhere. But there is another way, one that Shelley has begun to embrace since I started this blog—small acts done consistently.

It’s humbling to think that Aesop had this all wired 2600 years ago in the telling of his fable of the race between the tortoise and the hare. If you have forgotten who won, here is a clue; it wasn’t the hare.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Getting Things Done

Banish the word struggle from your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

Hopi Elder

Shelley doesn’t believe me, but I used to be a procrastinator par excellence. That’s before I learned how to break things down. I was taking a two-day workshop on Getting Things Done by David Allen. (I have known David for over 30 years and he has written a bestselling book by the same name). Despite David’s clear and enormously entertaining presentation my head was spinning at all the things I now had to do to get my head clear. I was getting a little spaced out on his lecturette on project management. Somehow my ears tuned to his last words of the lecture, and the workshop, “Even a project for a journey to Mars begins with, ‘Call Fred.’”

The light came on. I wasn’t a great manager or a whiz with technology but knew how to “call Fred.” It then seemed that every few weeks I would read a great article explaining how to break things down into manageable amounts and if it is still unmanageable break it down even further. Even learning Tai Chi Chuan my Internal Boxing instructor, Bob Engel, a former special education teacher, was meticulous about breaking things down for me so I could grasp the moves. Overwhelm ceased. It was all a matter of breaking things down.

That led to Life Design Principle # 5 which states:

There is a simple next step to everything, and
that simple step can always be taken in a relaxed way

Whenever I am taken by a feeling of overwhelm, resistance, a voice telling me it can’t be done, or procrastination, I go over the principle in my head, sometimes several times, sit still with what needs to be done until I get the simple next step, and then do it—in an as relaxed way as I can.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Small Acts

The flaw with words is that they always make us feel enlightened, but when we turn around to face the world they always fail us and we wind up facing the world as we always have, without enlightenment. For this reason, a warrior seeks to act rather than talk, and to this effect, he gets a new description of the world--a new description where talking is not that important, and where new acts have new reflections.

Don Juan in Carlos Casteneda's Tales of Power

For however long I can remember I have found solace in philosophy and day-dreaming. I have long struggled with the idea that one has to "do" something. Believe me, I would much rather make it up in my head. And I did--and enjoyed it. Only recently have I found that I had been imprisoning myself. I had limited my options.

It dawned on me one day that I lived in a world of action, of doing. That everything I perceive with my senses is in constant movement and change. Things weren't getting done in my head, which was becoming more and more like cotton wool, despite the wonderful stories I had made up. And so I found that a small, purposeful act, one in the direction I wanted to go, (for example, it could be Halfland), opened up new options and, as Casteneda says, "new reflections." And I broke out of my prison. Sometimes it is just a minute or 5 minutes that opens doors and possibilities. After all, our life here is just one single moment after the next.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


In James Joyce's Ulysses published in 1922, Odysseus the hero of Homer's great classic The Odyssey is recast as Leopold Bloom, an aging salesman. As Matt Blanchard describes in the book The Intellectual Devotional:

Though Bloom seems unassuming and ordinary, he emerges as a heroic figure, displaying compassion, forgiveness, and generosity toward everyone in the odd cast of characters he meets. In his mundane and often unnoticed deeds, he practices an everyday heroism that is perhaps the only heroism possible in the modern world.

I am interested in the everyday heroic acts that are found in the ordinariness of life. Shelley was a hero this weekend. She took a microscopic step in the direction of Halfland. The significance was not in the distance but in the direction.