Every TED talk I've heard has inspired me in one way or another. Even the one on fungus, which you might not expect to be as thought provoking as it was. This talk from Aimee Mullins is no exception.
At BayCon, Chris revealed his three rules of dating, which contained enough insight and resonance that we later pressed him to post them for posterity. And after reviewing his expanded version, I have come to the conclusion that they're just as relevant to one's work life as one's love life.
Since I think these are pure brilliance and don't want anyone to miss them just because they're too lazy to follow a link, I'll reprint them here:
I developed these some years back and several people asked me to write them down for them so here goes. Will they work for you? Maybe. I am reasonably confident that they worked for me given the beautiful, competent and intelligent woman I wound up marrying (see Poeso)!
Any set of rules/guidelines should be as succinct and unambiguous as possible which necesitates them being broadly worded. It also means that there are clarifications for specific points (in case you didn't catch the obvious intent) I have included a few. Finally, like Asimov's Laws of Robotics, these rules are in an order for a good reason...
Rule #1: Be comfortable with yourself! If you can't be comfortable with yourself then other probably can't be either. Being comfortable includes being comfortable around people you don't know or by yourself. Don't always rely on the opinions of others. In the end, it is your opinion of yourself that matters. Don't mistake Arrogance for Confidence. The Arrogant need other people to be wrong so that they can be right which builds in weakness. The Confident recognize that there are many viewpoints that can be right and refines their viewpoints by allowing them to be challenged.
Rule #2: Meet new people. There are many people in the world who can be "right" for you. The more people you interact with the more likely you are to meet one of them. Just because someone appears to be "right" doesn't mean that they are not already taken or will ever be emotionally available to you. Take heart, enjoy your time with them and LEARN what a "right" person looks like and looks for. The worst that can happen is you get a cool new friend and maybe learn something about yourself. Sometimes meeting new people means expanding upon the relationships you already have. "Friend of a friend" is more likely to have common interests and come to you "pre vetted" by the people you already trust. Make time for the people who make you feel good about yourself. Who knows, one of the cool friends you have may have been waiting for you to become "emotionally available" and you may not have noticed it. Either way, it helps with Rule #1.
Rule #3: Avoid worthless relationships! Admit it, everyone has gotten into or stayed in a relationship that is just not fulfilling and never will be. Sex, routine, emotional security, what ever the reason in the end all you are doing is keeping yourself from growing as a person. Either work to improve the relationship you are in or get out! Grow or leave. Harsh, but this is the biggest trap most people fall in to: staying in a dead end relationship because they lack the confidence to either make it work or end it. If you are not yet in a relationship, remember rule #1, enjoy being with yourself. You don't need to get hooked up just to validate your self image. Flirt, have fun, be daring, but don't date some one unless you see in them the qualities that make you say "wow, I'd be really happy to tell my friends I am dating this person"
Thanks to Scott for reminding me of this. I loved it when I first found it a few years ago, but it seems particularly appropriate now.
It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.
It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain! I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty even when it's not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, "Yes!"
It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
Oriah Mountain Dreamer
I got an awesome email today from an old WebTV coworker's dad today.
Jos (pronounced "yose") was an amazing guy. One of those people you just couldn't be in a bad mood around, who was always creating these wacky side projects that were sometimes more successful than some of the company's main projects.
One of my favorite Jos projects was called Don't Fear the OOP. It's a brief, informative and highly entertaining tutorial on "why coding Java (or any other object-oriented programming) is just like writing a trashy Western novel." Each page was separated into three sections: explanation in normal English, using cheesy Western novel metaphors; pseudo-code that was still readable, but structured more like code; and actual Java code. Add in a bit of Jos-patented humor, and it really is a brilliant way of teaching object-oriented programming.
Sadly, Jos died not too long after completing the tutorial (and the WebScissors tool that I maintain on his family's behalf). Healthiest man I knew, and he died of a heart attach at his desk one day. Just like that. I suppose it's true what they say: "You get what everyone gets; you get a lifetime."
But Jos really did something with his. (Besides the obvious, of leaving behind scores of people who loved him dearly.) It's been... wow, has it really been almost a decade since we lost Jos? And yet his WebScissors tool is still getting a few thousand hits a day, and his Don't Fear the OOP tutorial is still out there on the web, helping people get friendly with Java.
Which brings us back to the letter. Jos's pops just forward this email that he got from a high school programming teacher (does it make me old that that's a foreign concept?) who stumbled upon Don't Fear the OOP and used it to great effect in his class.Letter from a happy OOPer...
Yes, Joss Whedon has created some great shows, like Firefly, Serenity and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For that, we thank him. But it's the inspiration behind why he does what he does that makes us love him - and his creations. If you have any doubt of this, take a listen to his acceptance speech for his award from Equality Now.
"When you're asked something 500 times, you really start to think about the answer."
NPR has a series titled This I Believe, in which people from all walks of life share their essays on what beliefs they hold dear. I just ran across this one from November, in which Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller fame) shares belief that there is no god. Regardless of your own view on the topic, this is an excellent read. My favorite bit, which I think sums up the whole essay is:
"Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around."
As most of you know, I've spent the lion's share of my free time for the past few months organizing the charity fundraiser for the Serenity fan table at ComicCon, to benefit Equality Now. My journal-silence since the event is definitely not due to a lack of things to say. No, I'm still hard at work, tracking down all the prize winners, mailing out tons of packages, updating the website, and trying to make my living room look less like a shipping/receiving dock before Sarah gets here this weekend.
I can honestly say that I have not worked this hard on any personal project, ever before. It has been a hell of a ride, getting to know so many generous browncoats and fans, as well as a few of the Big Damn Heroes, and working my ass off to make sure we could raise as much as possible for Equality Now. It was a uniquely exhausting experience, but also one that was more personally fulfilling than anything I've done in the past ten years (except maybe Noelle & Lewis' wedding). Every day I go to work and slave away at the code mines, working on projects that I have varying degrees of faith in. But it really felt good to go back to my roots and get my hands dirty with some grass roots charity work, like my mother used to do. It was truly a labor of love.
I had a real sense of accomplishment on the drive back from ComicCon. And when I called Mandy at Equality Now to tell her that we had raised over $12,000 for them, the stunned silence was heart-warming. It wasn't just a drop in the bucket like the $2000 we raised for Red Cross at WonderCon - these folks were blown away by what we accomplished on their behalf, and were grateful beyond words. So regardless of any bits of drama that might have taken place at the con, or the bags under my eyes from so much hard work, I'm really glad that I volunteered to run this fundraiser!
But wait, it gets better! Now that I have the website (mostly) updated, including the amount we raised, someone posted a link to it on Whedonesque (a community blog for all-things-Joss). And who should respond but the Big Damn Hero himself!
There's no way I'm not weighing in on this one.
I am SO proud and grateful that this is where the energy of the Browncoats is going. Buffy and Angel fans have always distinguished themselves through their altruism, but this hits close to home in a way probably none of you know.
My mother started what I believe was the first high school chapter of Amnesty International. She was a history teacher, and started a feminism course as well (she also directed plays -- not so much the slacker). Probably her favorite student (and she had many that she loved) was Jessica Neuwirth. Jessica went on to work as a lawyer for Amnesty International and then started Equality Now, which used the Amnesty model to combat gender-based offenses. Jessica is as kind, intelligent and dedicated as anyone I've ever known (and would probably cringe to read any of this.) The idea that my work is on a wavelength with Equality Now's agenda is as gratifying as anything I could wish for. But for the fans to take an active role in helping out this under-recognized cause, and on such a grand scale... it means more than I can say. I have said, in point of fact, much more than I usually would in this forum, but I can't contain my appreciation. My mother would have been so pleased.
There are two ways to fight a battle like ours. One is to whisper in the ear of the masses, try subtly and gradually to change the gender expectations and mythic structures of our culture. That's me. The other is to step up and confront the thousands of atrocities that are taking place around the world on an immediate, one-by-one basis. That's a great deal harder, and that's Equality Now. It's not about politics; it's about basic human decency. And it's more important than... well, than that movie I keep telling everyone to see.
Thank you to the tireless Browncoats and everyone who donated, bid or lifted a finger to raise this money, for making my work mean more than it ever did, even to me.
As you can imagine, reading this totally made my day! (And got me a little misty-eyed, I must admit.) But like Joss, I have to give credit where credit is due. Without one very important person, volunteering to run a charity fundraiser never would have occurred to me, and I wouldn't have had any idea how to do it in the first place. That person is my mother: Shirl Markus.
When I was in Junior High, I told my mom that my friend Katy Surritt (my first crush, actually) was no longer at school, because she had been diagnosed with Leukemia. Several years before, my older brother's best friend had died of Leukemia, so this really caught my mom's attention. Immediately, she got in touch with Katy's mom Patty and began organizing a surprise party for Katy. A few weeks later, Katy was picked up in a limo and brought to a Lion's Hall packed with all her school friends that she hadn't seen in months.
But that was just the beginning. My mom has always been big on organizing charity drives. When my brother was in the military during the first Gulf War, she organized a mass-baking circle, and had at least one dozen cookies sent to every single sailor on my brother's ship. So she switched into high gear and started hitting up all sorts of local merchants and businesses for prize donations, and then blanketed the town with fliers and went door-to-door to every business in town, getting people to buy raffle tickets. Not long after, she had a nice fat check (in the neighborhood of $4,000, I think) for Katy and her family, to help defray the medical expenses, as well as a second, smaller-but-still-sizable check that was strictly to be used for going out and doing something fun.
I've learned a lot from my mom over the years. Chief among them is that when you see someone in need, you need to step up and do your part to help. She taught me everything I know about evangelizing Good Works, convincing people to part with their money for a worthy cause, and how the small sacrifices of many can add up to an amazingly beneficial outcome in the end. One of my favorite things about this whole experience is that it has reminded me just how proud I am (and have always been) of my mother, and how grateful I am to have her as a role model.
I love you, mom.
[By the way, Katy has been in 100% remission for close to two decades now, and is the proud mother of a beautiful, healthy baby girl. I'm convinced that she was just too damned stubborn to die. But I think it's safe to say that the love and support she got from my mom and the rest of the community as a result probably didn't hurt, either.]
Something a friend wrote tonight jarred an old memory. I ran across this a few years ago, and thought it was beautiful, although it didn't answer any of the questions I was asking myself at the time. I'm not even sure it does now. But I feel compelled to share it, as I have a hunch it might resonate with one or two of you in the days to come.
It doesn't interest me what you do for a living,
I want to know what you ache for,
And if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.
It doesn't interest me how old you are,
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon,
I want to know if you have touched the center of your sorrow,
If you have ever been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain!
I want to know if you can sit with pain; mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own,
If you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself,
If you can hear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul,
If you can be faithful and therefore be trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty even if it is not pretty everyday
And if you can source your own life from it's presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand
on the edge of the lake and shout to the sliver of the full moon, "Yes!"
It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the children,
It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and like the company you keep in the empty moments.