Thursday, December 09, 2010

Memories: Being Afraid

There are only two times I that I can remember experiencing fear for my personal safety when we lived in Africa.

Once was on the way to boarding school when I was about 10.

That time we flew. We lifted off from the rough airstrip at Mbingo, Cameroon and headed north and a little west toward Jos, Nigeria. It was rainy season and when it rains, it POURS! Our small, six person plane was unable to fly high enough to get above the rain, so the pilot had to land somewhere.

I don't know all the details and I should probably get those from my parents. What I do know is that we ended up landing on a Nigerian military runway under construction.

Our pilot could not get them to give him permission to land, but he did anyway. There was no place else to go, and he had to keep the safety of all 5 children aboard in mind. He chose to take the risk of landing in the hope that when they saw a plane full of children, that they'd back down.

I remember that when we landed it was a concrete runway strewn with debris, mostly rocks. I thought it was odd that they would leave such a nice runway so messy. When we finally rolled to a stop, a very angry solder with a big gun came running up to the pilot's window. He stood under the wing, protected from the down pour while he harangued our pilot. The gist of it was that we were forbidden to land and that we had to leave immediately. Our pilot calmly responded that he would do so as soon as the rain let up and had only landed to protect the children. It was very tense and I remember that we all just sat and watched silently.

I don't know if the soldier realized the truth of the situation or if he just didn't have a response to that. But he finally stopped shouting and we waited with him standing under the wing until the down pour became a drizzle. At that point he made it clear we were to leave immediately.

The second time was just before we left Africa when I was almost 14.

There was political unrest in Nigeria and we began hearing about things going on in the capital city (it was Lagos then). I remember that one of my classmates was afraid because her Dad had been shot (but not killed) in an attack on their compound. There was also talk about whether it would get as bad as the "last time." The last time was the Biafran War.

Suddenly, the armed guard that watch over our compound at night didn't seem enough. He was there for thieves, not mobs.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Slow Cloth and the Off Switch

I ran across a new term today. Continuous Partial Attention. It got me thinking about some of the things that I struggle with and see the people around me struggling with even more. The concepts of Slow Cloth and using the off switch.

In the fiber industry the term "Slow Cloth" means pretty much what it sounds like. Something made slowly, by hand, with excellence and pride by the maker and with consideration for the end user. Examples of slow cloth could be the hat a wife crochets for her husband, the dress a grandma makes for her grand-daughter, the table a son makes for his mom, the pendant a man makes for his sister-in-law... You get the idea. Things made by hand, with excellence and love.

Slow Cloth is directly opposed to Continuous Partial Attention. It requires full attention and commitment from the maker while making. No working and Twittering at the same time. Email is out of the question. And no talking on the phone and sewing at the same time. Not if you are committed to excellence and love.

The Slow Cloth concept applies to other areas of life as well.

• When you go to a meeting at work, how many people have their laptops open "taking notes" and checking email, watching videos friends on Facebook posted, Twittering about how boring the meeting is, working on other projects because it's due right after the meeting...? Or do you have their full attention because they've left their smart phone and computer at their desk?

• How many people are driving and on the phone at the same time, not really paying full attention to the road or others around them? I'm very thankful for the "no texting while driving" law in Colorado. What scares me is the need for such a law. Do you try to multitask while driving or do you actually give your driving your full attention?

• Have you ever sat down in a restaurant with your spouse and found that both of you immediately pull out your smart phones and start checking email and Facebook or playing a game? Oops. Guilty as charged and I'm trying to be more conscious about keeping it put away. We should be talking and enjoying each other not distracted by our phones.

This is where using the off switch comes in. Most of those things in our current lives that we allow to distract us (create Continuous Partial Attention) have an off switch. If you can't let the phone ring, ignore email or texts, stay off of Twitter or Facebook, or whatever it is...Turn It Off.

"But I can't. People need to be able to get a hold of me." Set limits and communicate them with people. Then stick to it. You'll be amazed how it changes your life. You'll be MORE productive, more engaged, more connected with those around you, more creative, and certainly less stressed out. Don't believe me? Prove it! I dare you.

So my Christmas wish for us all this year? Be more slow cloth and turn it off if you can't leave it alone. Actually BE with your loved ones 100%. It's the best gift of all.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Dan Phillips on Waste and Creativity

This guy is good.

He makes houses out of construction site waste and junk and they're beautiful. But I really like how he looks at materials and what many people would call waste. He blames the waste of the construction industry on the Apollonian ideal and lists all the advantages of his more Dionysian method. This doesn't just apply to building construction, but to everything we do.