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Archive for the ‘Fulfillment’ Category

I’d say I fall squarely in the Global-Climate-Change-is-real-and-we-need-to-do-something-about-it camp. I’m probably more of a pragmatic environmentalist, but I worry over wasting water, drive a tiny, gas-sipping Aveo, and want to make my garden bigger every year. I support renewable power, conservation, etc. I’m also smart enough to realize I could be wrong.

The climate change we’re experiencing (I do believe it’s real, but could be wrong there too) could be caused by any number of factors. Some might be beyond our control, some might reverse themselves shortly.

Who knows? Maybe its the end times, in which case I have bigger problems then my carbon footprint.

So what if I’m wrong?

The truth is, I wouldn’t feel too horrible about the things I’m changing.

Using less energy, or renewable energy, lessens our dependence on foreign oil and saves me money. Both, i think, are pretty well good without qualification.

Eating locally, or growing my own food, in addition to saving the use of tons of pesticide and lots of fuel to bring me bananas from Chile, means I eat better tasting and more nutritious food. Besides, gardening is just fun. Have you ever grown your own tomato and eaten it fresh off the vine, warmed by the sun? Try it, and trust me, you’ll come out of it not only with a more enlightened relationship to life and food, but seriously considering tearing up part of your lawn to plant a garden.

Walking or biking more (which is actually a necessity on my campus for non-environmental reasons) makes me more fit. I know everyone says that, but it’s true, at least anecdotally. I lose a solid ten-fifteen pounds every fall when i get back to school and put away my car keys.

Protecting wild lands has plenty of benefits besides any related to climate change. For starters, there are alternatives to oil. Biodiversity is a one off product, and I for one don’t want to have to wait for the millions of years it would take new species to evolve (disregard that if you must, in respect of your religious beliefs – if anything, not believing in evolution makes biodiversity that much more significant, since once we lose one of God’s creations, it never comes back). Many of the plant and animal species potentially hold new medicines or other scientific discoveries; again, once they’re gone, they’re gone. Besides, I feel a rich natural world, and more of it, makes the world a more beautiful and interesting place. (Then again, I love the Rewilding Project, which once suggested releasing wild African elephants into the southwestern US to replace the recently [10,000 years before present, give or take] lost large herbivores and solve some invasive species problems. Is that not awesome? Okay, almost no one agrees with me.)

If nothing else, most things people tell you to do to help the planet also help our communities. They create (sustainable) jobs, encourage community, and foster learning.

Is any of that so bad? And what is there to lose?

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Hello again! It’s been a bit longer then the two weeks, which I suppose is your answer (if you’ve been sitting at the edge of your seat) about Step Lightly’s future. It’s not that i don’t like happiness or the pursuit thereof, but that I really just can’t keep up with new things to say about it. At least not without delving into minutia that I don’t feel is helpful to anyone but me.

I’m not sure what comes next, exactly. I’ve been feeling more and more a need to talk about things. (A lot of it pretty silly or pointless, but some more general, informative, or important.) I’m not sure if this is the right venue (this blog specifically and blogging in general), but I have some things I need to say somewhere.

So keep your eyes peeled. I might throw up more content here. And if not here, then I will let you know where.

Thanks.

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For those who don’t know, The Tao of Steve is an excellent movie. Go watch. In short, it revolves around this guy who has developed a three step system for getting women to sleep with him. It’s surprisingly simple and, by all estimation, very effective.

  • Be desireless. Essentially, don’t lust after the woman you want, just hang out with her.
  • Be excellent. Whatever you do well, do it in front of her.
  • Be gone. “We pursue that which retreats from us.”

I’ve yet to meet someone, male or female, who wont admit that it is probably a sound plan. Ironically, in the movie (spoiler alert: skip the paragraph if you don’t want a really vague suggestion of the rest of the movie), the protagonist decides that he doesn’t want to live by the Tao anymore. Earlier in the movie, though, he tries to convince a fellow character that the Tao isn’t about getting laid (that is a side effect), but rather about being a good person. I think he was right.

I think the Tao of Steve is a fundamentally sound way to live your life, and not just a way to attract women (though it probably does that too). Lets look at the steps:

  • Be desireless. Buddhists and Catholics agree, being overly desirous is bad for you. This prohibition not only keeps you from lusting, but combats our society’s tendency to objectify others. If you are treating everyone like a friend, you aren’t treating them like a (insert your preferred derogatory term here). I’m reminded of the core advice from a great book, The Holy Man, which predates the dime-a-dozen tiny self-help books fad. “Treat everyone you meet as if they were a holy man.” (On a distantly related note, this is an interesting story about groping.)
  • Be excellent. Take your skills, your job, whatever you do, and excel at it. This is basically just telling you to work at self improvement. Hard to argue with that.
  • Be gone. For a long time I thought this was the weak point of this argument. It’s basically playing hard to get, isn’t it? Nope! This is a prohibition on resting on your laurels. You shouldn’t sit around doing nothing, basking in the glory of your previously acquired excellence. Nor should you stop looking for new experiences. (If this restlessness results in retreating from some people, thats okay).

Maybe it is a bit of a loose argument, but I love the simplicity of the Tao. If nothing else, it’s not a bad way to relate to members of the opposite sex, so long as you don’t abuse it. After all, if you can take all the potential self-destructive energy that relationships can stir up, and redirect it into being a better, more successful person (while having more romantic success), that has to be a good thing.

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Where I Am

I have about three weeks (er, two and a half?) until the end of another school year. I’ll be a junior, technically, but still have three years to go as a consequence of switching majors. In that regard, I’m going for a Bachelor of Fine Arts, with a photo concentration, and probably an Art History minor. I have classes, housing, financial aid, etc. Scholastically, I am pretty well set, and feeling more confident about my choices then ever.

This summer is a different story. No job, yet. I’m not terrible concerned about what the job is, which hopefully will make finding one easier. I’m still not exactly sure how people come back from school with jobs already in hand. I must be missing something.

Lots of artistic ideas, but no darkroom in which to execute them. Not sure what to do about that, but I keep trying.

In other ways, I’m also on unsure footing. Maybe more on that some other day, though.

A little bit of positive news though, to bring this to an optimistic close. I am receiving some sort of award from a scholarship show (that I didn’t enter) in the art department. What this award is or why I was chosen, I have no idea. Oh well! Recognition is recognition.

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This is a another guest post from Quinn Maclaren. Quinn is a freelance writer, was published in The Oasis Journal, and is currently building content for a site of her own (Ed – Coup De Quill is live). (By the way, if you have an idea for a guest post and would like the exposure, please contact me, I would love to hear from you.)

A few days ago, Step Lightly featured a post on starting. Starting anything can be difficult, but starting a new creative endeavor can be agonizing. Any writer who has faced a blank page, or any painter with a blank canvas, can tell you stories. We are led to believe that if we wait, inspiration will come. So we wait, and the longer we wait, the larger the fear of that blank page or blank canvas becomes.

But we all know people, or have read of famous creators, who have no problem starting. Joyce Carol Oates, one of the most prolific authors publishing today, talks in her journals, “The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates: 1973 – 1982,” of her writing practice. She always has multiple projects on the burner. If the book of fiction isn’t coming together too well one day, she might instead complete a book review, or polish some poems for publication. When one book goes off to the publisher, she has often already started taking notes on another one.

As Oates writes the end of a book, she also rewrites the beginning. She says that by the end of the book she knows the characters better, so she puts that knowledge to work polishing what she wrote when she was just getting to know them. I suspect that it also helps her to begin with the knowledge that she will be going back over the beginning chapters later. It is mesmerizing to read her journals and see how a master keeps creativity flowing.

Now Twyla Tharp, one of America’s greatest and well-known choreographers, has published “The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life.” Tharp’s blank canvas is an empty white dance studio, and since beginning her career in 1965, she has created more than 130 dances for her company, has choreographed ballet, has collaborated with film directors, and has worked with every kind of music from classical composers to Billy Joel. Her book boils down all of that experience, and offers it to anyone from composers to writers to a businessman working on a deal to a chef developing a new recipe. Tharp doesn’t see creativity as a gift from the gods. No more waiting for divine inspiration. You can make it happen anytime, and every time.

Over the course of her career, Tharp has developed ways of moving from one project to another without missing a beat. She offers rituals to prepare for new projects, offers exercises to teach us to ‘scratch’ for new ideas, and shows us the difference between being in a rut and being in the groove. Each chapter of her book is followed by exercises (over thirty in all) to help a struggling creator put Tharp’s years of experience and insight to work, not someday, but today. Everything she offers is practical and accessible for beginners and experts alike. There’s nothing fancy here: you might need a pencil and a piece of paper, or a few coins. But there is power in her simplicity.

For example, Tharp begins every creative project with a box. She writes the project name on the box, and as she progresses, she fills it up with everything that went into making the dance. “This means notebooks, news clippings, CDs, videotapes of the dancers rehearsing, books and photographs and pieces of art that may have inspired me.” Her Billy Joel project eventually filled twelve boxes! The beauty of the system is that nothing is ever lost.

And yes, even Tharp has known failure. She says “…there is a therapeutic power to failure. It cleanses. It helps you put aside who you aren’t and reminds you who you are.” As creators, we all fail. We must try to put failure to work for us, and find positive growth in it. Never let it stop you.

So, what are you waiting for? Begin here.

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On Starting

Sometimes, you know exactly what you need to do to be happy. The next career move, the new habit, the new person; it’s there for the taking, the path is clear, but you don’t go forward. That first step can be the most difficult one, even if it’s small, because we all fear the unforeseen consequences of change.

So how do you take that first step? There are lots of ways, most of them not very helpful. Of course we’ve all heard the old saying, “It’s like a band-aid, just go for it!” Even if we did rip band-aids off (I don’t), odds are that if it was as easy as that, you would have done it already. No, this stumbling block is a bit harder to move then a band-aid.

Another helpful tactic is to enlist someone’s help. It’s easy enough to find excuses for yourself, but typically these excuses sound silly if you have to tell another person. Find a friend you can rely on to boss you around a little. Have them go with you if you can. Knowing that they are counting on you can help a lot.

Finding another way to approach the problem can help as well. Maybe you need to rethink your first step (or how to complete it). If there’s more then one way to get it done, do whatever is easiest for you.

One other way I find useful is to put myself in a do-or-die situation. It’s not easy, but it can be done. I know that if I have something important to tell someone, it’s usually easier to drop them a message at some point saying “we need to talk” (perhaps by the quasi-anonymous e-mail or text message) then to just come right out and say it. True, it’s less direct, but when that person later asks why you need to talk, you can’t back out. Think about your first step; is there a way you can do something similar? Find a way to create a deadline for yourself that you can’t back out of.

However you go about it, the important thing is to start, even though it’s hard. Often, the things we really want are like a giant slide. It can be very hard to make that first move, to push off, but then you have your momentum, and the rest is fun.

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This is a another guest post from Quinn Maclaren. Quinn is a freelance writer, was published in The Oasis Journal, and is currently building content for a site of her own (Ed – Coup De Quill is live). (By the way, if you have an idea for a guest post and would like the exposure, please contact me, I would love to hear from you.)

It seems I talk to more and more people of all ages who, like me, feel they are missing out on something in life. We do not find satisfaction on the job. And at home, more and more of our free time is spent in front of the television. We retire at night with no real physical fatigue, but a weariness of mind that seems to prevent the introspection needed to determine what is wrong, or what should be done. Most of us have little energy for job changes, so we change the channel and hope for a better day tomorrow. We are waiting for something to happen to us instead of making something happen for ourselves.

Our society rewards multi-tasking and communication at the speed of email and fax. We are rewarded for quick fixes and little thought is given to whether we produce lasting results. We are taught that we must keep up with our neighbors and peers, and we buy bigger houses and cars, and take more elaborate vacations. But most of us, if we are honest, hear a small voice inside asking what we are doing with our lives, a voice urging us to live differently. Maybe your small voice, like mine, seems to get louder and harder to ignore each day.

My search for answers led me to George Leonard’s book Mastery: the Keys to Success and Long-term Fulfillment. This book was originally published in the early 1990’s, but this is not old news. If anything, the questions he attempts to help us answer have only grown more insistent, more urgent, in the intervening years. Drawing on Zen philosophy and his own practice of the martial art aikido, he shows us why we do not find fulfillment in the way we currently live, and how the process of mastery can help us attain a higher degree of excellence in all that we practice in our daily lives.

Leonard begins by identifying the three personality types that make mastery impossible. (I am a ‘dabbler,’ one who practices a new hobby or art until it becomes difficult, then drops it.) He then offers five keys to mastery, and explains each in detail, drawing on many aspects of his life and the lives of others for examples to support his theories. He knows all the ways we will throw obstacles up, and explains how to best circumvent them. The Zen philosophy underlying his process introduces the beauty and serenity to be found in daily tasks when ‘practice’ is seen not as something we do once in awhile, but rather is how we live every day.

I began my quest for mastery as a writer today while writing this post. Where will you begin?

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