There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered. --Nelson Mandela
I'm back. And as I try to think of a jaunty way to write about this past month of travels, I realize its not just geographical travels that have been working on me. It's the question of sustainability which was deeper than I imagined, and the ever-present reminder that time is long and short and what I do with it is what matters. It's this occasion of post #101. It's my 9-month anniversary of blogging at HumanKind Media (now without my buddy Liz who is recovering and moving on to work in her field of journalism). It's the impending graduation of my oldest son, and the rapidly-approaching end of the spring irises (already).
If I had to distill these recent experiences: travelling to a theme park with kids rapidly becoming adults, my road trip across New Mexico, feeling for and missing Liz, writing about Annie and going to a "Journalism that Matters" conference, I would say the theme is impermanence.
The Buddhists and others consider impermanence to be one of the big categories of suffering, and I certainly can take up the banner for that one from my travels in April. But as usual, a way out of suffering is to accept what is--nothing lasts forever, in this case--rejoice, and enjoy the flip side of what change has to offer. Here are four things I've been thinking about:
1. This time of my life, this time in our culture, this era of humans, even the life of this planet is a blip. The scale of time of the petrified forest and 25,000 years of humans at Acoma, Arizona, and our many billion-year old universe reminded me of that. In addition to experiencing the deep time of that landscape I also discovered my new favorite TED talk about what's beyond our corporeal sense of space and time. Jill Bolte Taylor's very personal exploration of the brain is the most e-mailed TED talk of all time. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out.
2. Learning to hold "what is" and await "what unfolds" can usually be a difficult experience that's full of gifts. Most of my pain and suffering around change resides in the trying to hold on to what I know or push away what I don't. Randy Pausch, the Last Lecture professor, is my most recent example of being with what is and watching what enfolds. If you haven't seen it (not the same as reading the book) please take some time out of your busy schedule to see someone who masters impermanence and rides the waves of its unfolding.
3. If you let go of something having to be the way you envision it, the real possibilities move into the space.
My latest example of this was the "unconference" format for the Journalism that Matters conference. Here's a great description PBS MediaShift's author Mark Glaser. For me, it was exciting to explore possibilities with journalists, technologists, professors, entrepreneurs, and fellow humans, all in service of telling good stories and contributing to a better world. Many amazing things will be germinating from these sessions and I hope to write about some of them. It was also an affirmation that if you create a space for possibility--it comes flooding in. Good news on the heal the world front.
4.The good news is that everything changes. If you didn't like the last president, this year's Oscar winner, what your kid wanted for dinner every night when he was 4, or the weather--it's ok, because it will change.
The bad news is that everything changes. I'm trying not to be dramatic about this but this last trip might have been the last time boys climbed the fort on the island at Disneyland together. But, there are oh, so many cool adventures ahead of us and our "newly grown" children.
On the future of journalism and creating a useful narrative for our society, I have not yet figured out the good and bad news, but I did meet many people who are in the same question this past week--many creative, intelligent, inspiring people who live to tell the stories we all should be so lucky to get to read or hear. Though much is changing in the journalism world, there was less "hand-wringing" and more highly committed, energetic people looking for new ways to create meaningful content in new ways.
I have been altered by my travels and experiences in April. At the NewTools 2008 journalism conference, I was classified as a "new media blogger". Ironically, one of the seasoned news guys kept calling me "Hope" instead of Chris. (Better than Polyanna, I guess.) I'm excited to explore many of the ideas, groups, and people I met as the possibilities unfold. Classified as a human, I'm happy to continue to hold "what's possible?" as my torch into the future. And, with my new reminders about how time is short, and people are good and infinitely resourceful, I plan to make use of my possibilities as long as I can.