Moving Letter From a Courageous Guatemalan Mother to Her "Forcibly Disappeared" Son, 20 Years Later

From Boing-Boing "Oscar, there are so many things I would like to tell you which have happened over these past twenty years. Ever since you were abducted, on that February 23rd 1984, my heart has remained completely void. You know I considered you not just my son, but also my brother, my colleague. You were everything to me and ever since that day I swore I would neither rest nor give up the struggle to find you. "More than twenty years have passed now and unfortunately I have yet to complete the objective I set for myself. If these walls could speak, they would recall everything we once talked about. How many sleepless nights of work we spent! I don’t know if you remember the amount of cigarettes we smoked together, the cups of coffee we drank while planning our work. Work intended for that struggle you took upon and eventually involved me in. Despite it all, I do not regret a thing. If things were to go back as they were in the 1980s, now in 2005, I would do it all over. Even if it meant losing you … [Read more...]

An Artist's Progress

Artist Joel Harris has posted a selection of his artworks spanning his entire life starting with crayon masterpieces from age 5, and proceeding through his Mad Magazine phase, cartooning phase, Marine Corps phase, European travel phase, and culminating with a radically new style of art that he evolved after he: "Sold everything I owned and lived in the Amazon region of Peru for 1 year. I took one year off from painting and creativity, and focused on finding answers to life's questions. In the Amazon, I worked with a visionary/shamanic plant called Ayahuasca which alowed me to view reality from a different perspective, and has changed my life forever..." Fascinating visual portrait of a creatively free mind at work. … [Read more...]

Q: "How can one make the best of one's life?"

A: "By converting as wide a range of experience into conscious thought.” - novelist Andre Malraux Talk about succinct! Malraux captures the theme of The Lifelong Activist in two sentences. And he's not even the first smart French novelist to do so: “Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” — Gustave Flaubert Okay, this guy's not French,and not even a novelist, but he still rates a mention: “In dreams begin responsibilities.”—William Butler Yeats … [Read more...]

How Not to Codger

I’m at the age (almost 50!) when many people start to codger, i.e., turn into someone with fixed ideas and narrowed perceptions. A lot of people do it earlier, and some people never do it, remaining youthful until they drop. I’m hoping for that last outcome, and I think I’ll get there, mainly because I hang around with many vibrant young and vibrant older people, and am always open to new learning. Age is a construct, really – a hardening of the mental arteries – and I hope and believe I will feel young forever. (BTW, my real arteries are pretty young, too – thanks, Mom, and thanks, veganism!) One thing that keeps one young is to partake of the world of youth. I confess that my musical taste peaked sometime in the ‘80s, but I have tried to stay keyed in to various trends of culture and, especially, technology. The world is becoming more technological, and so it’s a good idea to keep track of trends. A good source is the technology section of your local … [Read more...]

My War on Housework Continues…

As I always suspected: "LONDON (Reuters) - Housework might be bad for your health, according to a study suggesting that tidying up as little as once a week with common cleaning sprays and air fresheners could raise the risk of asthma in adults... "Exposure to such cleaning materials even just once a week could account for as many as one in seven adult asthma cases, the researchers wrote in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine." There's also plenty of other chemicals in non-organic cleaning products that could make you sick; and overuse of disinfectants can lead to the development of resistant "superbugs." As a biologist friend once said to me, "People now use chemicals in their houses that we once only used in laboratories." Except that he and the the scientists didn't actually live in the laboratories and so weren't exposed to the chemicals round the clock. And none of the above addresses how excessive housekeeping can suck the time and energy out of you, leaving you less able … [Read more...]

Heroes: Randy Pausch

Recently, I have been very inspired by a video of “last lecture” given by a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Last Lectures typically involve a retiring professor who condenses his or her decades of accumulated wisdom and experience into one final blockbuster talk, but this one is different because the professor, Randy Pausch, is only 46 years old but has terminal cancer: he will be dead in a few months, he tells us, and he will leave behind a wife and three young kids. Pausch’s Last Lecture, on how to achieve your childhood dreams, contains much useful information, but it is his courageous joy and vital energy in the face of a crushing personal fate that has really affected me. It has made me determined to feel more joy in my own daily existence, even the mundane or disappointing parts of it. The video is here - it’s around 90 minutes long, and if you want to skip the intros, just go to the 8 minute marker and start there. … [Read more...]

"Countdown Clock" May be Scary, but It Can Also Keep You Focused

Wired magazine founder Kevin Kelly writes here about the "countdown clock" he created on his computer to remind him of how much (or, more to the point, how little) time he has left on the planet and that he shouldn't waste any. He's 55 years old, he says, so anticipates he's got about 8,500 days left, assuming he makes it to the U.S. male average for his age set of 78.63 years. He reports that his friend Stewart Brand (founder of the Whole Earth Catalog), uses another approach: "Brand, who is now 69, has been arranging his life in blocks of 5 years. Five years is what he says any project worth doing will take. From moment of inception to the last good-riddance, a book, a campaign, a new job, a start-up will take 5 years to play through. So, he asks himself, how many 5 years do I have left? He can count them on one hand even if he is lucky. So this clarifies his choices. If he has less than 5 big things he can do, what will they be?" If you're tempted to set up your own countdown clock - and I am - then … [Read more...]

Salon.com reviews The Lifelong Activist

From Cary Tennis, Salon.com's advice columnist : "Anyway, that sort of reminds me about how hard it is to make social change when many of us feel unrepresented by the major political parties, do not belong to labor unions and must figure out for ourselves how to make activism a part of our complicated little private lives of comfort and ease. So along came this book called "The Lifelong Activist" by Hillary Rettig. It is about how to arrange your life so that even though you have to work for a living and pay bills and raise a family or whatever, you can avoid getting sucked into the utterly life-draining mess that is the typical consumer lifestyle. So you can find time to pursue your art or change the world or both." "Now I admit to having all the typical biases against anything that might smack of self-help. This book is not about finding your bliss. I mean, you might find your bliss along the way. But that is not what this book is about. It is about becoming more useful and effective as an activist or … [Read more...]

NYT Publishes My Letter to the Editor on Balancing Work/Home Life

Written in response to this article about how women struggle to balance their spouse/parent/household manager/career roles. A lot of my students and coaching clients (and not just the women) are in this predicament. They blame themselves for being underachievers, when what they should be doing is congratulating themselves on their ability to multitask and meet multiple difficult responsibilities. Underachieving in your career is a problem that can be at least partly corrected using the techniques outlined in The Lifelong Activist. But only partly - the NYT article does a good job of explaining how a lot of blame should go to society. “The real challenge is, companies expect you to perform as if someone is at home taking care of everything for you,” said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. “Some men are better positioned to deal with these corporate demands, because they do have someone at home. Most women don’t.” The NYT editors edited my letter … [Read more...]

Oh, So It's Called "Time Poverty"

The act of naming something is incredibly powerful, since naming not only defines a phenomenon but can render it visible. Think how hard it would be to fight for justice if we didn't have the words "racism" and "sexism" in our vocabulary, and the corresponding concepts as part of our world view. I just found the name for a phenomenon I've been pondering for a while. It's "Time Poverty," the paucity of non-work-occupied time in our lives. It's a nifty term because it takes the focus (and blame and shame) of living an overworked, imbalanced life away from the individual and directs it where in many cases it more properly belongs: society. The term seems to have been coined by a group called Take Back Your Time which says on its homepage: "Millions of Americans are overworked, over-scheduled and just plain stressed out...We're putting in longer hours on the job now than we did in the 1950s, despite promises of a coming age of leisure before the year 2000....In fact, we're working more than medieval peasants … [Read more...]

Much More Thrilling High Tech News Than the iPhone

Forget about the iPhone - the news that Google is opening its first office in sub-Saharan Africa is truly thrilling. My foster kids are from Sudan, and I have many other personal and professional connections to the region: I have opined many times that the information revolution is going to spur a vast amount of economic and political progress there in a very short time, and now the dream seems on the verge of coming true. It's hard to imagine a stronger catalyst for this kind of change than Google. Its office will be in Kenya, and Google has appointed its first senior executive from the region, Joseph Mucheru, former CEO of Kenyan ISP Wananchi, to run it. It wuld be terrific if any major computer company set up a base in Kenya, of course, but the fact that it's industry leader Google makes the news even more wonderful, as others will no doubt be inspired to follow suit. Mucheru lists his priorities as: "Firstly, we want to optimise the use of Google applications in the region. We already have a lot of … [Read more...]

Unfiltered and Unfettered Kindness at the Grassroots Radio Conference

Had a fabulous time, this weekend, at the Grassroots Radio Conference in (itself fabulous) Lowell, MA. I met dozens of radio producers and fellow progressive travellers from around the world - lifelong activists, most of them. The whole event totally psyched me up and recharged my batteries, and reminded me of the critical importance of immersing yourself within a supportive community that shares your values. The conference also reminded me of the wonderfulness of being progressive. The people I met were so kind and generous: many of the radio producers bought copies of _The Lifelong Activist_ to support me, a progressive author, even though they could have easily requested free review copies from the publisher...and it's a safe bet that most do not have wads of cash to throw around. Conservatives can be kind and generous, too, of course - but as Lakoff and others have documented, kindness and generosity are congruent with progressive ideology and ethos, but antithetical to conservativism, which is based … [Read more...]

Yes, You Can Change the System From Within…

From Daily Kos "The last few days saw advertisers like GM and American Express fleeing from Imus, but the head of NBC claims that's not what caused him to stop the simulcasts of Imus' show. It was the pressure from inside NBC. The pressure from staffers and reporters who were tired of being associated with these boneheaded remarks. Even weatherman Al Roker stepped up to the plate and demanded that Imus go. And it's certainly worth mentioning that Keith Olbermann called for Imus to be fired. With the growth of Keith's audience and this increasing importance of his show at MSNBC, that certainly had to weigh heavily with the suits." … [Read more...]

Dog of the Year

Check out this year's Dog of the Year - or substitute your own dog! … [Read more...]

A 16-Year-Old + A Videocamera + the Web = A Better Future

Margaret Mead famously said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has," and legions of technology devotees (including moi) keep insisting that the Internet and digital technologies are ushering in nothing less than a new, global Renaissance. Both points by now seem like cliches...until something happens that brings them vividly to life. I don't know how I managed to miss this up until now, but there's a 16-year-old schoolgirl in Montgomery, Alabama, Ava Lowery, who is making the most awesome anti-Iraq war and anti-Bush Administration videos, which she posts on her blog (itself, awesome) PeaceTakesCourage The blog is getting 30,000 visitors a day, and you should be one of them. Would any of history's most famous and influential artists, philosophers, statespersons, freedom fighters, scientists and other thinkers and doers have even dared dream of having the power to communicate and influence people on a global scale … [Read more...]