Archive for April, 2010

I’ll take my books to go…

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

You may have heard of or seen bookmobiles–libraries on wheels.

But have you ever seen a library that was a wheel?

Check out the Archive II, a human-sized gerbil wheel that serves as a bookshelf.

(Then go to Curbly, the design do-it-yourself site where I read about the Archive II, for other interesting, unusual, or inspiring design ideas.)

Masterful Merchant

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

Natalie Merchant was at TED this past February.

Listen to (and watch) her performance here.

Learn about her recent project here.

A stunning performer.

The Man Who Planted Trees

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

The Man Who Planted Trees is a story by Jean Giono published in 1953. It was also made into a short film, which you can watch here.

As you might surmise from the title, the story tells of a man who planted trees in a desolate wasteland that was bare of all vegetation except scrub and lavender. Most of the villages in the area were abandoned, and the few people remaining scratched out a bitter living from an unyielding environment.

Over decades, the shepherd (and later beekeeper) carefully plants one hundred trees everyday, which eventually leads to the reforestation of the area. Trees help retain the water, bringing the animals and birds back. The people return, drawn to a land that is farmable and can support farms and families and villages.

All this because of one man.

The story is fiction and is not based on anyone’s life. However, there are other modern-day Johnny Appleseeds responsible for rehabilitating the landscape through tree planting. Look at the bottom section of this Wikipedia article, which notes (among other tree-planting efforts) the 35 million (!) trees planted due to the work by the organization Trees for the Future.

It makes one wonder… what can we plant and nurture day after day, year after year? What forests do we have within us to share with others?

Boredom

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

When I was growing up, my older brother and I sometimes complained that we were bored. This drove our mother to distraction. “How can you be bored?” she’d ask. “Play a game, read a book, do some chores!” Chastened, we’d head to a different part of the house to be bored somewhere else.

It seems as if boredom gets a bad rap, as something to be avoided at all costs, for we certainly spend money trying to avoid being bored. There are now televisions in doctors’ waiting rooms and bank lobbies. We carry phones with us constantly. My iPod has songs, photos, games, movies, radio programs, and I don’t know what else…

Seems as if it’s pretty hard to be bored these days. Which I’m not so sure is a good thing.

I’m beginning to see boredom as a state of mind not unlike the “neutral” gear in a car transmission. I got this idea from John Muir in his book How to Keep Your Volkswagon Alive. Muir recommends pausing momentarily in neutral when shifting gears. He suggests that doing this is gentler on the gears and extends the life of the transmission.

I think boredom does the same thing for our brains. It’s likeĀ  a pause and disengagement with one’s usual way of interacting with one’s surroundings. In fact, there’s a 2008 article in The Boston Globe that links stretches of boredom to the creative impulse.

With my own children, I used to repeat my mother’s line, asking them how they can be bored when they’ve so much to do. Now I try to teach them to accept, if not welcome, the boredom.

My answer when my kids tell me they’re bored? “Good.”

Funny thing is, within five minutes of telling me they’re bored, they’ve gone and invented a new kind of game and play happily at it for hours. They would have missed that if I’d tried to alleviate their boredom for them.

Boredom… gateway to creativity?