Category Archives: Imagination

Keeping My Feet Under Me and Staying Off My Ass

My “day job” (that pays the bills) is working as a “business process consultant” for Kaiser Permanente. Honestly, I have a lot of issues with the U.S. health care industry, particularly the for-profit part of it, because it seems to be more about profiting from illness by selling more pills and procedures than promoting health. KP on the other hand, is a non-profit company and is all about being a “health maintenance organization”. It is successful financially by doing what it can to keep its members healthy. My partner Sally and I appreciate the KP model, we have been members for the 28 years we’ve been married, and KP has helped us through raising two kids plus our occasional health crises.

So like my current employer (and since my personal cataclysm of a bad bicycle accident two years ago followed ten weeks later by removal of a three-centimeter blood clot from my skull) I am all about my own health maintenance. For me, that maintenance includes eating a plant-based, whole-food, low-fat diet; leading as balanced a life as I possibly can; and maximizing the joy while minimizing the stress in my life.

Where I find a great deal of that joy these days is when (literally and metaphorically) I have my feet under me and I am moving forward, rather than sitting on my ass! Though I have what is conventionally a very sedentary job (spending the bulk of ones day sitting in front of ones computer or in a meeting) I don’t accept that conventional framing. I am up, on my feet and moving about as much as I can wrangle at my job site during my work day.

Continue reading →

Destruction of Wealth? Better Google Google!

There have been innovative alternatives emerging in cyberspace over the last couple decades to challenge the traditional models of selling people “stuff” (in this case hardware and software) to facilitate their use of electronic media for information gathering, development, storage and distribution. Many of these new models have been challenges to “the Man”, that is the big global businesses (like Microsoft, Apple, AT&T, Verizon, etc) that have been dominate players in an information-industrial complex.

Shareware and freeware models like Linux, and for love-not-profit enterprises like Wikipedia are beginning to make significant inroads against for-profit computer operating system, encyclopedia and other business products.

But perhaps ironically, a more traditional 20th Century profit model applied to the facilitation of electronic information gathering, development, storage, distribution and commerce is powering the emergence of a new for-profit juggernaut that may be making the other traditional for-profit cyberspace companies and their profit-models obsolete. It certainly has positive ramifications for a more egalitarian access to the tools and benefits of the information age, but also possibly negative ramifications in terms of sheer size and concentration of power and money involved.

Continue reading →

Got Mythos?

My partner Sally and I spent this past weekend at a “Yoga and Wellness” camp up at the Unitarian-Universalist deBenneville Pines camp in the San Bernardino Mountains about two hours east of our home in Los Angeles. There were some 80 people in attendance, 90 percent women, and mostly all white and (I’m guessing) between 30 and 70 in age. I attended a number of yoga workshops (stretching my body in all sorts of wonderful ways) and also learned some Tai Chi (new for me) and did a labyrinth walk led by a self-described Buddhist. And during the times when I wasn’t doing my workshops, eating meals, sleeping, or talking with the other interesting people attending, I started reading Karen Armstrong’s new book, The Case for God. The introduction of the book included her thoughts on our culture and its obsession with “logos” and disrespect for “mythos”.

Continue reading →

Play School

Margaret Dow Towsley
Margaret Dow Towsley
At age four, before I went to regular school, my parents sent me to “Play School”, which may sound like an oxymoron to some. Actually the place was called “The Children’s Play School”, and it was founded (in 1935) and run by Margaret Grace Dow Towsley, a feminist, a University of Michigan graduate, and woman of wealth who was deeply committed to issues of child development. She was a founding member of the local chapter of Planned Parenthood. In the 1940s she led the effort to gender-integrate the Ann Arbor chapter of the YMCA, one of only two chapters in the country to accept males and females at the time. In the 1950s she served two terms on the Ann Arbor City Council. In founding her “Play School”, Towsley was acting on her belief that play was critical to child development, self-confidence and a sense of worth.

Towsley may well have been inspired by Maria Montessori, the famous Italian scientist, feminist and humanistic educator, who said that, “Education should no longer be mostly imparting of knowledge, but must take a new path, seeking the release of human potentialities.” Montessori demonstrated in her schools (and packaged in her “method” that is used today in thousands of schools around the world) that children learn best in an enriched child-centered environment where they can explore, touch and learn at their own direction. This should be an environment without tests or grades, which retard learning and self-esteem by introducing a negative and debilitating competition. Continue reading →

Helper Guy

One of the fun and very developmentally significant things that youths do is try on various personas towards developing an adult one (or several) they can call their own. Some of this is not pretty, and becomes one of those things that drive a lot of adults to distraction in dealing particularly with teenagers. But this sort of “scientific method” of theorem (persona), experiment (attempting to be or play that persona), and observation of results (seeing how others react to you), is such a critical developmental tool. Most kids (with notable exceptions of course) feel that they don’t have the gravitas and chutzpah to even consider being fully and comfortably themselves, if they even really know yet who that is. And in our patriarchal society, where kids are securely ranked at the bottom of the pecking order, most adults are comfortable with that fact. Continue reading →

Big League Manager

Table top hockey had created the bug in my brother and I for simulated worlds of sport. The drama of athletic competition in the arena of team sports and the personalities involved, both the star players and the journeymen who filled out the roster, was real fodder for our imaginations. We took it a step farther, a step more abstract, with Big League Manager.

I was introduced to BLM (Big League Manager) Baseball by my best friend in 8th grade. It was the summer of 1968 and he had recently moved to Ann Arbor from St Louis Missouri, and we had met in school, having several classes together. We were two white kids with a list of things in common… Continue reading →

Tabletop Hockey

Our parents got us a tabletop hockey game one X-mas, with the 2’ by 3’ hockey rink and the players maneuvered forward and back by metal rods that you twist to pass and shoot. Though other friends of ours had such sets, my brother and I were the only kids in our circle that built an entire imaginary world around this venue.

It started with each of us creating our own professional hockey teams. Mine was the Cooperstown Cats and I had named players, two “lines” actually, for each of the six positions represented by the plastic figures on the tabletop set. My “A-Line” center was “Steve Scimitar” and his “B-Line” comrade was “Sonny Star”. Each player had his own personality, athletic ability, style and personal history on and off the ice. My team’s coach was the legendary former hockey great “Kitty McBee” and the team was owned by “Manfred J. Sedgwicks”, a cigar-chomping old-school sport franchise owner who happened also to be a cat, thus the team name. Continue reading →

Choice Time

My Kids at ages 7 & 10
My Kids at ages 7 & 10
Play was always a critical part of my own youthful development, so I worked hard to try and give my kids the same opportunity. When my two kids were young, they were always pestering me to spend time with them, above and beyond all the activities with them that I initiated. So I worked out a deal that I would allot a half-hour of time each day (which realistically often stretched to an hour) where I would do whatever activity with them they wanted me to. If they could not agree on what to do on a given day we would do each of their activities (with the other participating) for fifteen minutes. Continue reading →

Plastic Dinosaurs and the Tragedy of Jinx Island

Most of my posts lately have been related to the various paths forward for youth education in a more formal sense, but I feel that much (most?) profound learning takes place in more informal settings… like play. So rolling back the clock to revisit my own youth…

I am not sure what initially inspired me, at age five, to become obsessed with dinosaurs. Could be it was going to the University of Michigan natural history museum and seeing the big reconstructed T-Rex bones or the tableaus behind glass of small scale dinosaur models in the best guess of what their living environment looked like. Or maybe it was seeing the movie, “The Lost World” (the 1925 version) based on the book by Arthur Conan Doyle, of Sherlock Holmes fame. The story was a wonderful tale about scientists and adventurers who travel to a previously uncharted plateau in South America and discover that the stories of living dinosaurs there were true (kind of the progenitor to “Jurassic Park”). Continue reading →