Inappropriate Self-Disclosure

When you live or work in what amounts to a small-town setting, how do you get away from your past? How do you outlive your blunders? I have been muddling through the consequences of my own blunder of inappropriateness some months back; doubting my judgment, looking for explanations, wishing it was all a bad dream. It’s not so much the actual content that bothers me, it’s having put it out there, sans context. My attempts to add context seem to have exacerbated the situation. How does one out grow the situation, out pace it? Usually there is laughter when someone says ‘you’ll never live that down’ but no one is laughing.

I think back to an observation that my mother made when I was a late teen, about how I always brought friends home at the beginning of a relationship. We were living in those days in a house with no walls and no floors and no interior doors. At one time the only toilet was over the drain thingy in the basement. Whatever. I think she was correct in her observation that it was a test of sorts for my would-be friends; a place not for the faint-of-heart.

I don’t recall any of the people who didn’t come back for a second visit, but those who did shared some rollicking good times at The Doll House for many years. And here I am meeting all sorts of great new people at work, at home, at play and I find myself wondering if my own cluttered mental closets are now my testing ground, if I have become a psychic flasher exposing people early and unexpectedly to the worst mess that I can find.

Lamenting to Philip, aka CSI Socrates, one morning over coffee he said “Hey, I can understand that. When I met you I thought, ‘Let’s be friends – we don’t have time to mess around’.” He later asked me if I was collecting characters. A glance askance was my response.

And now I wonder if the qualification for ‘characters’ are those who don’t mind the messy closets, the incomplete thoughts, the over-the-top enthusiasm or being emotionally flashed once in a while. I wonder if we are all closet-flashers, masquerading as people who have our shit together. As I look around my collection of characters I see that it is an expanding community and that each of us is collecting characters in our own way, according to our own test.

In the mean time I keep hoping for the punch-line, the thing that will make it all ok, will make this so much water under the bridge and keep me from spending so much time inside my mental closet, hanging and folding all the unanticipated answers to ‘why’.

And I offer thanks to the powers that be for my own collection of stout-hearted characters.

Rose-coloured glasses

The crowd got impatient. They’d come early for good seats and had been standing some time. The lobby was full – only 12 tickets left for sale. An unwitting usher came out the locked door of the theatre, someone pushed him aside, others rushed passed. He tried to stop them – they threatened, shoved, surged in through the door. I pressed my way through the people and pushed the door closed, prying the fingers of one old lady off the door knob to do so. I turned to look at them and in spite of my disgust, all I could say was “I am so surprised!” Nobody cared about my surprise. Fights broke out in the house over seats – “That’s mine!”

They were not trying to get magical healing or the last rations of food. This was the opening night of Ten Green Bottles. The buzz about the show is great and the public performances are few, but what happened to create such a frenzy? Such mob mentality?

The show is about a family who survived the Holocaust, about man’s inhumanity to man, and I wondered if those people were shamed as they watched the story unfold. Did they see themselves, cloaked in self-righteousness, degrading and attacking others? Did they apologize to that usher? To each other?

Written and directed by Mark Cassidy, the show is poetic and sophisticated. The creative team of Ten Green Bottles are the most lovely people ever; hard-working, passionate, sensitive and sincere. It chagrins me to think that the back-door rioters are likely affiliated with one of us as opening-night crowds usually are; author’s friends, actors parents, sponsors. It grieves me more that they are probably unaware of their own behaviour and that they will, in their toothless old age, simply be glad that their children are more generous, more kind than they have been.

Te-Amim Music Theatre exists to promote a message of tolerance. It does this through arts education, creating plays like Ten Green Bottles for students to see, and then conducting workshops in the schools to make connections between the Holocaust, contemporary genocide and our own behaviour in school yards and back yards. Te-Amim teaches students to educate themselves, to understand each other and to stand up for social justice. It focuses not only on how countries treat countries and how people treat people, but how the students treat each other.

To date, approximately 20 schools have attended the production of Ten Green Bottles, with another 25 scheduled. Students range from grades 8 to 12 and yet, to date, there have been no riots in the lobby, no violence towards ushers, no fighting over seats. It begs the question of who is teaching whom?

I lost my red sun glasses that day and now I have to squint at the world, seeing peoples’ hard edges in stark contrast to the way I like to imagine them. I get the irony, the symbolism, but I don’t want new glasses, I don’t want to see the world this clearly, I just want my rose coloured lenses back until a time when I no longer need them.

At the cast party that night we tried to laugh about the bizarre incident, wrote it off as an aberration. Nobody I know…

Membership has its priviledges

As I get to know who’s who around the Centre for Social Innovation and learn about who does what, I have come to realize that like the fabled Justice League, CSI is a veritable Hero Central and  its tenants are the backroom heroes who are working towards making the world a better place.

There are people here who save animals and others who feed children, some who save rivers and others who advocate for those whose voices are not heard. There is a cohort of heroes whose skills and talents enable these world-changing activities, people who believe in this shared vision of a future that is more kind, more just, more beautiful.

My friend Peter, in Australia, has a theory about employment and the path of least resistance; that most of us choose the career path that has been followed by those who came before us. Here at CSI there are so many people who have chosen the paths less traveled. They are paths whose destinations only these adventurers can see and so they are charged with sharing that vision with the rest of us, showing us where it goes, how to get there, what we can expect to find at the other end.

Philip Stern, aka CSI Socrates, calls this the Time of Tumult, and believes that we will remember these times when they are over as a time of changing world-views, a time when the tectonic plates of humanity are shifting, colliding, forming new social continents. Called Agents for Change, the tenants of CSI are like the white-hot core of social dynamics, harnessing or encouraging this energy and advocating, sometimes quietly and sometimes collectively for what the rest of us will come to call normal.

My office has glass walls and from it I can see Wonder Woman and Superman. I hear tell that Cat Woman is on the first floor. Leading the way into the future is CSI Executive Director Tonya Surman, a golden Paladin on her dancing charger, scribbled banner to guide us, sharp sword point for the un-heeding “Take tupperware!”

It makes me wonder if heroes are born or if it is a calling, the result of their brightly-coloured values in a world gone grey. Choosing passions and missions over security, reward or recognition, these multi-sector heroes leave a trail of been-there, done-that in their wake for the rest of us to follow, a path of least resistance that we can choose unthinkingly and still be on the way to that bright future.

I have a vision of the future and in it I am a very old lady (108) and I come here every day to the Centre for Social Innovation to set up a Sweet Spot and a Hot Pot. In my vision I still have my teeth and probably a new coat and it’s my mission to feed the Heroes of the future and maybe, just maybe, they will think of me as one of them.

Privacy Piracy

There I was, wondering how I could integrate my website, my blog, my twitter, my Facebook etc, and voila – enter Google Profile. Like a lot of things, once it exists, you wonder why it took so long. You suddenly wonder why your Yahoo! homepage is only for you…

Farhad Manjoo states some probably very valid concerns about Google having access to even more of our personal information, but what I find weird is that this kind of information should be private at all? I would certainly rather have targeted ads about Ted Talks, local organic restaurants or conference venues in Calgary than more Viagra, dating sites or California implants.

I find it a shame that my birth date, co-opted by banks as an identifier, is now the best kept secret on or off of Facebook. Mother’s Maiden name is like a dirty word nowadays that you don’t dare speak in public. Pity the high-profile people about whom all of us know everything…

As I go about getting to know the people in my communities at work and at home, I realize that I know nothing of the really fundamental things. If that guy in the next office passed out, would I even know who to call, bedsides an ambulance? Is he married? Does he have parents? Kids? Is he diabetic? Does his mother’s maiden name signify? And how about in the neighbourhood? The kids seem to know everything, but only in the extreme; that man’s a drunk; she’s grounded; their father lost his job and now they have to move…

It calls to mind old superstitions of not revealing your name cause then the devil will know you, (and get you) but who is the devil we are trying so hard to thwart? Is it the advertisers? Is it fraudsters who will raid our bank accounts? It seems like we are individually fighting this by creating alternate identities for ourselves; identities with no birth dates and no mother’s maiden name. Where will that stop? Will we need to protect the fake ID’s with new avatars, faceless nameless clones of who we used to be? Can we not all band together, act as a community of consumers or citizens to enact some laws that put a stop to the problems, instead of running in circles around the symptoms?

Myself, I could care less what kind of crap they put on my Yahoo! homepage – it is all irrelevant to me. I figure, the farther off they are, the easier it is to ignore it. And if they really can figure out what I want or need and deliver it to my inbox – so much the better since I have a hard enough time figuring that out myself.

But if the people, the majority of the people, don’t want this, don’t want businesses keeping up with our personal evolution, don’t want to risk weirdos knowing anything about our kids, then lets just get together and do something about it and stop hiding in the shadows of the digital dimension.

“Dear Google, I hope you have been scanning my blog. I would like to change the world and maybe you can help… here’s how:”