Posts Tagged With: life

Balloon Animals Will Save the World

They will. I believe it. Just creatures of breath covered in skin, they are all shapes and colors and sizes, turned and molded by their makers. They wander the world giving joy, but are, at the same time, so fragile and scared, so tempted to hide. Their skin is thin, and the world is full of sharp edges and surprises.

It could be so terrifying for them, the idea that one day, one false move will end in POP and they will be no more. Only rumpled husks, breath loosed out into the ether. And even in long life, their inescapable fate is to grow wrinkled and deflated, slowly losing their shape until the last puff of life leaks out.

Yet there is such joy to be had! Continually shaped from inside and out into new forms, squeaking and laughing and wrapping in and around each other, they smile and bring smiles, looking around in the world from all angles. Inside out. Upside down. Outside and around and through. Such joy to bring, to be found, to be shared. What a world!

Yes, they could hide, but they have learned there are worse things than POP! There is the slow, sad deflating of a careful life safely hidden in the shadows, afraid of every corner, of any surprise. So instead, in joyful defiance, they travel and explore and feel every tug and hug and laugh, embracing the uncertainty in every turn.

So brave they are, these great, small creatures—so fragile, made only of skin and air—willing to spend every moment they have spreading love and delight in the world, to be filled up with life and travel joyfully into hands of all colors.

We, too, are these fragile breath creatures.

We are the balloon animals.

We will save the world.

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Categories: From the Imagination | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Happy New Year: And Now for Some Thoughts on Death

In what’s usually a time swept up in thinking about beginnings, I’ve been thinking about that other thing. You know, the part where you stop breathing before you start doing whatever comes after that. (We’re not really going to get into that “after” part.) But yes, that thing: death.

Over the holidays, I read a couple of really interesting life stories that involved their endings. One was the biography of Jim Henson (creator of all things Muppet and then some), and the other was Going the Distance, written by George Sheehan (doctor, writer, marathon runner, fitness believer) as he was dying of cancer. Both accounts, though about men with very different career venues, served large dishes of food for thought about the quality of life on a day-to-day basis. I won’t go into too much detail about their stories here, but they’re both good books about great-yet-greatly-flawed men that are well worth reading.

We know, at least intellectually, that we all have a limited shelf life. Sheehan, knowing very acutely that he was actively dying, offered a lot of interesting thoughts on what, if anything, he would/should have done differently (or not), and on what he felt was really important. He noted that:

“Obituaries are filled with achievements that mark those we think of as successful. But obituaries tend to conceal biographies, and those biographies tell us the deficiencies and defeats of even the great and near great… Each one of us is an experiment-of-one. Each is a unique, never-to-be-repeated event.”

Sheehan talked a lot about getting up every day and starting fresh, living days with the goal of “eight hours of sleep and sixteen hours of being happy and productive.” And both his story and Henson’s include a deep belief that a person does the most good when they pursue what they love and are becoming fully themselves. After all, it was Henson, through Kermit the Frog, who said that he just, “wanted to make millions of people happy,” and both men went to great lengths to share joy and a fullness of life with the people around them by doing what they each loved—pursuing what brought them the most true joy in their own lives and letting it ripple out from there.

I like that a lot. There’s a lot of room for growth and joy in living like that, even while knowing we’ve got flaws and will make mistakes. Every day fresh. An experiment to explore with curiosity and joy.

Oh look, this turned out to be about beginnings after all.

Categories: On the Page | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Four Letter Words: Time

Last week at work, I went through some timed creative-thinking exercises. Some were fun, intriguing and even a little helpful. One, however, involved designing something which would keep track of time. No budget, no boundaries. Just take 15 minutes to think up some new device that would be useful in keeping time. After I completed it, I read in the instructor’s end notes that this was supposed to help you learn to think outside the box, to not limit yourself to ideas based on things that already existed. That exercise did not teach me anything close to that.

What it taught me was that I really hate keeping time.

I have suspected this for a while, but the exercise only confirmed this in a visceral, deep-seated loathing that surfaced while trying to accomplish the task. I don’t want another way to track time, I thought. In fact, that’s the last thing I want. What I actually want is a way to move within it differently. To be looser with time, less strict. I want moving through time to be more like a rubber band. Stretchy. Adjustable.

There are a lot of “life values” quizzes that contain some form of this question: “What would you do differently if you knew you only had a short while to live?” My answer has become this: to the best of my ability (with some exceptions), I would never, ever look at a clock again. 

I think what the exercise produced was the acknowledgement (and resentment) that I let clocks make far too many of my decisions for me, and when it boils down to the bottom of it, those reasons are largely based on tradition, efficiency, productivity and economics. If I could afford to swing outside of the system even a little, I would make my decisions based on other things. I would let my body tell me when it needed sleep. I would let it tell me when it was rested—waking up, not to a loudly-beeping machine, but maybe to the sunlight or the birds. I wouldn’t quit my job, but I wouldn’t worry so much about being 5 or 10 minutes late. Then I would get lost in my projects, working on them until I was deeply satisfied, not when it was just the scheduled time to go home or to move on to the next task. I would let my body tell me when it was hungry, instead of the clock telling me it was time for scheduled food intake. Why let a machine tell me when I’m hungry? It has no connection to my stomach.

I would like to experience time with a little more generosity, a little more give and take. Schedules can be useful, and even helpful—if I’d like to meet a friend at the gym or the movies or dinner, it does help if we show up roughly in the same time frame. But when everything gets too scheduled, I can feel myself start to shrink, in a bad dream where the clock hands loom larger and larger overhead, and I feel myself get smaller and smaller. Never mind small closets. I get claustrophobic in those small spaces between the notches on a clock. 

Those hands on the clock will keep going around and around, but to be able to move more freely in and around those little notches? That would be something. After all, in the grand scheme of things, we really do have only a short while to live.

Categories: In the Lexicon | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

What to Read in 2012: A Good Start

Even just a few days into the Aardvark’s existence, I was asked, “What should I read in 2012?” Where to begin? (We do read a lot of books here.)

For the sake of brevity, I’ll mention just two books (well, one is a trilogy), that I was enormously glad I read last year and can’t stop recommending to people.

Fiction for good story

The Hunger Games trilogy (Suzanne Collins). Is there a word for “fear of trends?” I can’t seem to find it (let me know if you do), but I was deeply skeptical about picking up such popular books. However, I was deliciously surprised and impressed. It has been a very, very long time since I’ve encountered such a strong female protagonist in Young Adult fiction. Courage, harsh conditions, battles, politics, humanity, compassion, etc. (Yes, this is YA fiction—I could hardly believe it myself.)  I was describing it to a friend, and surmised that it’s somewhat similar to the battle school children of Ender’s Game, only with a female lead. (And if you haven’t read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, you should really do that, too. I re-read that series in 2011, if that counts.)

Non-fiction for learning

Your Money or Your Life (Vicki Robin). A few years ago I’d read the first edition of this, originally published in 1992. It was updated in 2008, and I was compelled to read it to see what they’d added. There are a lot of money books out there. What make this one good isn’t just how it guides you in finding out how you’re actually earning or spending your money, although it does that in practical, objective exercises. What makes it great is that it looks at what money really is and is used for, defining money (spoiler alert) as “something you trade your life energy for.” Then it helps you discover what you’re doing with yours. Robin steps back to non-monetary questions such as “What do you value in life?” and “Are you spending your money in ways that reflect what you value?” which are really at the root of anyone’s financial situation, regardless of how much you have (or don’t). Whether you do the more major tracking exercises they recommend or not, it’s fairly revelatory even just for the reading. It definitely triggered a few epiphanies for me.

So there’s the start of “books we love.” There are millions of books out there. Sadly, a large number of them are not that great. Some are really good. Some are great. Even fewer are those that are crafted so well we feel compelled to tell everyone we know about them.

We’d love to hear which books fall into that last category for you (mostly because we’d love to read them, too).

Categories: On the Page, Visual Books | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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