Tag women

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “Minister to the world in a way that can change it. Minister radically in a real, active, practical, get-your-hands-dirty way”

On May 29, 2105, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave the commencement address to Wellesley’s graduating class. With her characteristic insight and power, Adichie asks the class of 2015 to help rethink and redefine feminism and what it means to be in the world as a woman, “Feminism should be an inclusive party. Feminism should be a party full of different feminisms.” I’ve transcribed some highlights below, but highly recommend watching the full speech. 

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Try and create the world you want to live in. Minister to the world in a way that can change it. Minister radically in a real, active, practical, get-your-hands-dirty way.
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Think about what really matters to you. Think about what you want to really matter to you.
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All over the world, girls are raised to make themselves likable; to twist themselves into shapes that suit other people. Please do not twist yourself into shapes to please. Don’t do it. If someone likes that version of you, that version of you that is false and holds back, then they actually just like a twisted shape and not you. And the world is such a gloriously multifaceted, diverse place that there are people in the world who will like you. The real you, as you are.
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I don’t speak to provoke. I speak because I think our time on earth is short and each moment that we are not our truest selves, each moment we pretend to be what we are not, each moment we say what we do not mean because we imagine that it’s what somebody wants us to say, then, we are wasting our time on earth. I don’t mean to sound precious, but please don’t waste your time on earth.
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Never, ever accept, “because you are a woman” as a reason for doing or not doing anything.
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Girls are often raised to see love as only giving. Women are praised for their love, when that love is an act of giving. But to love is to give and to take. Please love by giving and taking. Give and be given. If you’re only giving and not taking, you’ll know; you’ll know from that small and true voice inside you that we females are so often socialized to silence. Don’t silence that voice. Dare to take.
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“I suppose it’s the human way to try this and that; we are a curious and resourceful species” – Our Interview with Jennifer Beggs, Registered Midwife …*

"I suppose it's the human way to try this and that; we are a curious and resourceful species" - Our Interview with Jennifer Beggs, Registered Midwife ...* | rethinked.org - Photo: Jennifer Beggs

Jennifer Beggs

I am super excited about today’s interview, which is a first of its kind on two fronts. Jennifer is our first woman interviewee (it was starting to feel a bit like a boy’s club in here), though far from the last—we’ve got plenty more splendidly inspiring women coming soon. The second first, is that Jennifer is a personal friend. We met in September on our very first day of the Camino and it was my pleasure and delight to share my walk with Jenny for several days as we walked together to Pamplona. Kind, caring, smart and insightful, Jennifer is a registered midwife from Sydney, Australia. I’ll let her introduce herself:

Being the eldest of four and blessed with a wonderful mother, the nurturing gene came through strongly in me. Becoming a mother and a midwife were written in the stars. My children are my greatest education and joy, and my work with women during pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood has provided great satisfaction.

What really drives me though, is creating and making things. I have had this powerful urge since I was a child and have potted, painted, photographed, sculpted, crafted and designed intensely for short periods in my life. For much longer stretches I have had to attend to paying bills and raising children, but I have usually had some creative project going on the sidelines. It is however a calling that I have not yet succeeded in fully answering,….or is it perhaps just my ego reaching for something sexier?

What was the last experiment you ran?

I run micro experiments all the time, like brushing my teeth with my brush in my left hand instead of my right; saying “Hi” to people walking towards me on my daily walks (sadly many will instinctively avoid eye contact); varying my interactions with the world and seeing what happens. I suppose it’s the human way to try this and that; we are a curious and resourceful species. Having largely conquered basic survival (if we’re lucky), we search for meaning, connection and wholeness. In the West, and increasingly globally, we are all implored by self-help books, gurus and advertisers to do better and be better; the best of it sometimes leads to healthier and happier lives, the worst, to dissatisfaction and anxiety. Buddhist philosophy increasingly makes sense to me. In the last few years I’ve been enjoying practicing yoga and taking some long walks. Being a bit of a restless soul, I like change, discovery and adventure.

I’m fascinated by the science of nutrition, gut flora and bioscience and soak up any information that I can. I recently saw ‘That Sugar Film’ by Damon Gameau which documented Damon’s experiment changing his diet to include 30-40 tsp of sugar daily, which is equal to that of the average Western diet. These sugars were hidden in foods that many would consider to be a “healthy” diet. The results were alarming. Over the past 2 years, I’ve been trying to stick to the ‘5:2 diet’ developed by doctor, writer and journalist Michael  Mosley. I’ve had some success in dropping a few kgs. In addition to weight control, many studies have suggested that having a couple of lean days per week confers other health benefits. So far the best and simplest advice that I have heard is summed up elegantly by Michael Pollan who says, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT YOU FEAR AND HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR FEAR?

In my life I have been privileged with safety, plenty and love. Of course, I have fears common to many of losing loved ones. The fear that will have me lying awake at night with catastrophic rumination, is of something happening to one of my children, now young men. I have dealt with this by being completely candid with them about the kind of life choices I hope they’ll make in general, and naming the fears I have for them in specific circumstances. In short, I put my fears on the table and have a good look at them with them. Those conversations, though sometimes tense, have usually been very beneficial as we came to understand each other. I didn’t pretend with them; if I felt afraid for them I said so and said why. They didn’t always agree with me but they understood and respected that my fears came from great love. I recognize that ultimately I have to let go and trust them. I stand in awe of the great human beings that they are and feel blessed every day at having the privilege of being their mum.

WHAT BREAKS AND DELIGHTS YOUR HEART? IN OTHER WORDS, WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN AND SURRENDER TO?

I believe in nature. We live in an incredible world that is complex and works beautifully. I surrender to this and remain fascinated by life. From witnessing women growing and birthing a child, to seeing my own babies through to adulthood, and my own life as it unfolds, I stand in awe of nature. For me there is no need to look for God, it is here in this wondrous life. When people are arrogant and think they are above and apart from the natural world is where disease and disaster starts. Again and again I’m taught the lesson that nature always wins, work with it, don’t fight it. We are a smart species and we have been incredibly inventive and resourceful to our great benefit. I remain hopeful that our innate good sense will help us to move towards harmony with the planet and all the life that inhabits it.

In my work I encounter sometime tens of women daily, each of them going through pregnancy so ordinary, yet so extraordinary for each of them. I try to stay present and encounter each woman afresh; giving her my full attention and care in the time that I have with her. I delight in that moment of connection, which may be just a shared smile, or may become a wonderful conversation.

Just last evening a woman told me about the birth of her last baby in the bathroom of a department store. She felt no pain, just simply noticed a foot emerging as she peed. Yes, breech! Wow! I said expecting a tale of trauma. Instead she laughed and told me, “I was the only one who was fine, everyone else panicked. Another woman raised the alarm. We had the security guards, cleaners and shop assistants all there. The head cleaner delivered the baby just as the ambulance arrived.” That funny, relaxed woman brightened my day.

That same evening there were tears as another woman nearing the end of her pregnancy revealed her sadness around the ambivalence of her baby’s father. He had let her down once again after she had given him another chance in the hope that her baby would know his father. Her own mother sat beside her, distressed to see her daughter in tears, imploring her in their mother tongue to not cry. “It’s ok to cry mum, sometimes I feel sad,” this brave woman said. Through her tears she explained, “My mother loves us too much.”

WHAT IS THE MOST PROVOCATIVE IDEA YOU’VE COME ACROSS IN THE PAST DECADE?

Quantum physics though I can’t even begin to understand it, is pretty mind blowing. The idea that our gut microbes affect our overall mental and physical health is incredible to me also.

Provocative? That there are people in this world who will kill for a belief, that there are people who rationalize and glorify immense greed and arrogance,… It’s disappointing beyond words. I guess if I’d studied more history this should have been no surprise to me, however I think 9/11 took away some of our innocence, it did for me anyway. I do believe though, that there is way more good than evil in this world.

CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT A TRANSFORMATIONAL MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE?

I guess I’m still looking for a transformational moment, a blinding light; that would be kind of wonderful. Maybe I’m not the kind of person who has an epiphany, I tend towards pragmatism and skepticism where high emotion is involved. Perhaps transformation has been more glacial in my life and hence only recognizable with hindsight. Making big decisions such as having  a child, buying a house and even ending a marriage have always led me to a better place often from a low point in my life.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO LIVE A GOOD LIFE?

Tread lightly. Take what you need and leave enough to go around. Be thankful for your good luck and don’t take it for granted. Practice compassion, gratitude and kindness.

COULD YOU SHARE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE ABOUT THRIVING AS A HUMAN BEING?

In each moment remember to breathe. Keep making courageous and responsible decisions. Make your life meaningful. Remain curious and open to life. Enjoy and love. Don’t waste time. Do it now.

 WHAT IS YOUR DRIVING QUESTION?

How do I bring my efforts into alignment with my passion ? Where best to direct my energy?

ANY BOOKS OR MOVIE YOU RECOMMEND?

So many. I’m still excited by the magic of the big screen and in awe of the many talented filmmakers. I like feature length documentaries and international dramas. Documentaries I’ve loved include: Bill Cunningham New York; Babies; It Might Get Loud; 20 Feet from StardomSearching for Sugar ManThe Green Prince. Dramas, too many to mention. Off the top of my head, Lost in Translation; My Life as a DogRumble Fish; AmelieThe Spanish Apartment; Talk to HerCrouching Tiger, Hidden DragonBabette’s Feast… Each has left my world and my heart a little larger.

Some great fiction by Australian writers that I could recommend include Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey; Eucalyptus by Murray Bail; The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks; and Remembering Babylon by David Malouf.

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THANK YOU, JENNY!

Aja Monet – Powerful Women Voices, Nomads & Poetry …*

“Everybody sings, you know. You might not ever share that you sing with anybody, but everybody has a song. My focus has always been on writing good lyrics and things that inspire people but I recognize my voice and I recognize my voice does something to the lyrics and to the words, not that it’s necessarily singing but it’s inflecting a certain emotion.” – Aja Monet

A couple of weeks ago, I shared an arresting image from the amazing non-profit Get Lit. It was a screenshot of the Image results page to a Google search for “famous authors,” all of whom–save for the notable exception of Maya Angelou and Agatha Christie–were male, white, and many of them, dead. Get Lit captioned the image, “We need young female voices because this is what comes up when you google “famous authors.” So I thought today I’d highlight an incredible woman poet with a strong and moving voice, the spendid Aja Monet. I discovered Monet serendipitously last week while looking into the production company, Greatcoat Films, that had made the short film on Kintsugi featured in Friday’s post.

Monet is dedicated to empowering at-risk youths right here in NYC by helping them learn to use, harness and share their own voices. I loved Monet’s take on education, which I found in the bio section of her website:

As a Teaching Artist for Urban Word NYC as well as Urban Arts Partnership in NYC, she uses poetry as a therapeutic tool with at-risk inner city kids, showing how words can empower and encourage holistic healing in youth education. She teaches her students to harness meaning in the world and to transform the world by transforming selves. In an interview, Monet speaks to her passion for education: “Education gave me perspective on my circumstances and it fueled my imagination by providing me with teachers that made the difference where my parenting may have failed. Education was the village that raised me. I care about it because I recognize the difference it makes in my life and the impact it has on fine-tuning my vision.” 

Watch the short interview and her extraordinary “Nomads” below, both films brought to you by Greatcoat films.

“Anything I feel or something I’m inspired by, something compels me to speak. Sometimes I don’t know what it is but I trust that it comes from an authentic place, I trust that it comes from a true place and I just write about it.”

Aja Monet: Poet, Voice, Storyteller from Greatcoat Films on Vimeo.

“POETRY, AT ITS BEST, IS A CRAFT, AN ART THAT TRANSCENDS THE WRTING INTO DOING AND INTO CREATING ALTERNATIVE WAYS OF SEEING THE WORLD.”

– Aja Monet

Aja Monet “Nomads” from Greatcoat Films on Vimeo.

listen, speak, rethink …* 

Friday Link Fest…*

Friday  Link Fest...* | rethinked.org | Photo by Elsa Fridman

READ

When Empathy Hurts, Compassion Can Heal ~ A new neuroscientific study shows that compassion training can help us cope with other people’s distress. Research suggests you can cultivate a compassionate mindset through encouraging cooperation, practicing mindfulness, refraining from placing blame on others, acting against inequality, and being receptive to others’ feelings without adopting those feelings as your own. via Greater Good Science Center, published August 22, 2013

Closing the Chasm Between Strategy and Execution ~ Strategy and execution is a false dichotomy, unnaturally sheared apart in order to divide labor in increasingly complex organizations. It’s an efficient approach. Alone, the shearing isn’t a problem. The problem is that both sides don’t see it as their responsibility to intelligently pull the two sides back together again. They leave a chasm, hoping that it will miraculously close on its own. The best strategists and executors don’t see a hand-off between strategy and execution. They see an integrated whole. They continuously hand ideas back and forth throughout all phases of a project, strengthening them together. via Harvard Business Review, published August 22, 2013.

How Four Years Can (and Should) Transform You: Mark Edmundson’s Essays Ask, ‘Why Teach?’~ Mr. Edmundson reminds us of the power strong teachers have to make students rethink who they are and whom they might become. This is what a real education is all about. via New York Times, published August 20, 2013.

The Real Neuroscience of Creativity ~ The latest findings from the real neuroscience of creativity suggest that the right brain/left brain distinction is not the right one when it comes to understanding how creativity is implemented in the brain. Creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain. Instead, the entire creative process– from the initial burst of inspiration to the final polished product– consists of many interacting cognitive processes and emotions. Depending on the stage of the creative process, and what you’re actually attempting to create, different brain regions are recruited to handle the task. via Scientific American, published August 19, 2013.

An Inventor Wants One Less Wire to Worry ~ A great profile of Meredith Perry who has the mindset and habits of a true rethinker…* via New York Times, published August 17, 2013.

Growing shoes and furniture: A design-led biomaterial revolution ~ En Vie (Alive), curated by Reader and Deputy Director of the Textile Futures Research Center at Central Saint Martins College Carole Collet, is an exposition for what happens when material scientists, architects, biologists, and engineers come together with designers to ask what the future will look like. According to them, it will be a world where plants grow our products, biological fabrication replaces traditional manufacturing, and genetically reprogrammed bacteria build new materials, energy, or even medicine. via Ars Technica, published August 18, 2013.

Make Your Work More Meaningful ~ You learn to make your work more meaningful yourself. While it helps enormously to have conditions in place that facilitate work meaning (like autonomy in deciding how you do your work), it’s important to realize that meaning is ultimately something you create on your own. Indeed, even in jobs that may look dismal from the outside, there are always steps you can take to build the kind of meaning that will make you feel better and work better. via Harvard Business Review, published August 16, 2013.

10 of the Most Counterintuitive Pieces of Advice from Famous Entrepreneurs ~ Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in what we ‘should’ be doing that we forget there are others who have gone against the grain and had it work out for them. via Creativity Post, published August 19, 2013.

What A Mallard’s Feet Can Teach You About Learning Tools ~ Often I see amazing educators using tools, apps and programs to create the most fantastic learning experiences for the students. These educators make it look easy. It is like watching a duck as it gracefully glides across the pond. The thing to remember is the graceful glide of that duck is powered by the fervent paddling of webbed feet under the water. via Teach Thought, published August 20, 2013.

“I Approached Business the Way a 6-Year-Old Would.” ~ Fast Company has an outstanding piece on the revitalization of Detroit, and all of the do-ers that are making it happen, many with little or no experience. It’s a must read for anyone launching a project. Andy Didorosi is one of the people profiled, and he shared how he started a bus company to help fill in for Detroit’s gutted public transportation system. via 99u, published August 20, 2013.

Google’s New Chat Service Connects Information Seekers With Experts ~ Helpouts by Google is a new way to connect people who need advice with experts in different fields. It consists of face-to-face video chats powered by Google+ Hangouts, where people can pay to get help from people who are able to monetize their knowledge and skills by covering areas like cooking, gardening, computers and electronics. via PSFK, published August 22, 2013.

The Magic of Metaphor: What Children’s Minds Teach Us about the Evolution of the Imagination ~ Metaphorical thinking — our instinct not just for describing but for comprehending one thing in terms of another, for equating I with an other — shapes our view of the world, and is essential to how we communicate, learn, discover, and invent. Metaphor is a way of thought long before it is a way with words. via Brainpickings, published August 19, 2013.

LOOK

7 Essential Life Lessons From Kids’ To-Do Lists ~ These sometimes-hilarious, always-adorable to-do lists written by children serve as refreshing life lesson reminders. via Mashable, published August 22, 2013.

Smart Interaction Lab Presents: TOTEM: Artifacts for Brainstorming ~ How can interactive objects encourage inspiration and dialog during brainstorming sessions? We worked together as a team of multidisciplinary researchers and designers to explore how we can improve people’s experiences of the ideation process through tangible interaction. Our solution was TOTEM—a family of three unique objects that help people get inspired and stay engaged in creative conversations and debates in order to generate new ideas. It is composed of a stack of three separate but complementary objects: Batón, Echo and Alterego. via Core77, published August 21, 2013.

Feeling brain-dead? Go for a walk: Your brain on walking, in fMRI ~ fMRI scan indicating increased brain activity associated with happiness after a 20-minute walk vs. 20 minutes in sedentary mode. via Explore, published August 12, 2013.

249 Bloom’s Taxonomy Verbs For Critical Thinking ~ Bloom’s Taxonomy’s verbs–also know as power verbs or thinking verbs–are extraordinarily powerful instructional planning tools. via Teach Thought, published August 18, 2013.

Play & Learn: A new interactive board game, laXmi, designed by Akshay Sharma, aims to teach illiterate Indian women about financial literacy in a fun and engaging way ~ via Design Indaba, published August 19, 2013.

Torafu’s Haunted Art Gallery for Kids at the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art ~ In an attempt to better engage the youngest visitors to the Museum of Contemporary Art in TokyoTorafu Architects created a special art gallery just for kids called Haunted House. On entering the exhibition a few familiar artworks appear hung in frames around a large white cube, but something is clearly amiss as everything appears to be moving. via Colossal, published August 18, 2013.

How To Draw Out Your Worst Fears ~ For her Fear Project, Julie Elman asks people about their fears and then lets her illustrative mind go wild gathering and visually interpreting their fears. And in committing to the project, she confronts her own creative fears in a circuitous way. via NPR, published August 15, 2013.

Off Ground: Playful Seating Elements For Public Spaces ~ Exploring different playful elements and seating alternatives, ‘off-ground’ by amsterdam-based designers Jair Straschnow and Gitte Nygaard is made from recycled materials. The public installation is a different approach to the way public space is used and perceived, basing the design on fun and play for adults. ‘Play is free, is in fact freedom. Play is essential to our well being. Why does play most commonly associated with children? Why do all playing facilities in public spaces get scaled-down to kid’s size? Why do all seating facilities in public spaces sum-up to rigid benches?’ via Designboom, published August 5, 2013.

Matali Crasset Creates Living Pods for Modern Artists in the Forests of France ~ Parisian designer Matali Crasset has produced a series of low-impact living pods in which modern artists can spend a summer residency while working in a natural setting. via Inhabitat, published August 22, 2013

WATCH

Carol Dweck on the power of “Yet” ~ It’s just one little word, but says world-renowned Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, it has the power to inspire your child to do incredible things. via Great Schools, published June 26, 2013.

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