Prisoner of hope

wedding day

I’m so excited to confirm that long-lost pals Jim Lowder and Jerene Broadway have accepted our offer to come out and perform our wedding ceremony in October. I’m indebted to Jim for the concept of hope in general (see my previous post), and I’m extra indebted to Jerene for a recent email and shout-out to African American theologian Cornel West, as quoted in a recent Rolling Stone article:

The categories of optimism and pessimism don’t exist for me. I’m a blues man. A blues man is a prisoner of hope, and hope is a qualitatively different category than optimism. Optimism is a secular construct, a calculation of probability. Black folk in America have never been optimistic about the future – what have we had to be optimistic about? But we are people of hope. Hope wrestles with despair, but it doesn’t generate optimism. It just generates this energy to be courageous, to bear witness, to see what the end is going to be. No guarantee, unfinished, open-ended. I am a prisoner of hope. I’m going to die full of hope.

In making me aware of this quote, Jerene has kicked the entire concept of hope to the next level. I can only endeavor to be a prisoner of hope and abide by this thing I’ve been so compellingly recently drawn towards. It has occurred to me since giving birth to Lucy that having a child (in any of various ways) is itself the ultimate act of hope, and likewise it has also occurred to me that it provides indeed a precious reason to hope in general.

Jerene provides me with the biggest gift when she elaborates, referring to the Cornel West quote:

He is quoting the book of Zechariah when he refers to himself as a “prisoner of hope,” a phrase which has always captured my imagination. I resonate with his insistence that hope is the courageous choice, for I surely know that it is easier to be cynical & despairing than to be hopeful. I’m working very hard to live into that kind of hopefulness. From your writing, it sounds like you have chosen hope as your home. May you continue to reside there, welcoming others in.

Such beautiful words; I count myself lucky to receive them. Thanks Jerene.

Leanne interrupts me just now to tell me that one thing our daughter has marked in the latest catalog as a required birthday present is actually not for sale (the surfboard). Way to go Lucy! Nothing is beyond your reach. May you always be filled with this. May we all be so lucky to be prisoners of hope.

The only community that needs to matter

I just read Mike Walsh’s post Community through the eyes of a 2nd grader. I really like his musings about the community at his boy’s school:

They create mini-communities or groups which they call a Grove. A Grove consists on 9 kids, 1 kid from each grade, k through 8. These Groves meet every couple of weeks to mentor, share, help, learn and develop friendships across grades. What a fabulous idea – gathering all stakeholders and discussing how they can create a stronger and more valuable community – I love it!

This interests me for many reasons. Not the least of which, life has made sense to me diffently — or only — now that I have my girl, but I’m also fascinated in general about the nexus between on- and off-line communities.

'Rock climbing' at Crissy FieldI’m passionate about “my” San Francisco community, even though it often feels just as intangible as bits on the Internet, but I’m especially curious about where on- and off-line communities “meet.” Arguably, you could say we have Monica Lewinsky to thank for the powerful growth of online communities in the “offline” world of politics (think Move On). Lately, some clever innovators are monetizing through their online stores but delivering just down the street (Kodak and its picture books). And I’m fascinated about the physical books we still buy, print, read, and most importantly, share — as well as new online gems like the promising Red Room that are also bridging that gap between physical and ethereal communities.

So are physical and online communities really so different?

Some day soon I’ll re-post my blog/rant on “Web 2.0 and my community” – which I wrote internally at my company after walking down Golden Gate Avenue to the Expo last year (and the ensuing Spock Debacle), but for now, I’m happy to just to be reminded of what matters. As Mike says

I learned quite a bit during the 60 minutes that I spent with a bunch of little kids – and enjoyed every minute of it. This is a great reminder of keeping eyes wide open. Turn off the Blackberry and listen to your little kids. It turns out that they’re pretty smart.

Likewise, like Therese Stewart saying “It’s not same-sex marriage: it’s marriage” — it’s not on- or off-line community, it’s just community. I’m thrilled every day in which I get to perceive it through new eyes.

Volumes of a Man

I had lunch with my father yesterday.  I twittered that I was lunching with the most important man in the world – but he in reality has always made me feel like the most important person in his world, and I bet that everyone in my family, and beyond, feels like that whenever they are talking with him.

He brought me some important records from his long and successful working career in different in ascending levels of government in California. He shared wisdom gleaned from all these years of his important career.

Many things he said struck me and will help me, but one thing made me bolt awake early this morning. Whenever he went into meetings, he said, he took a notebook and he always took a lot of notes. Before he met with me he took the time to go through his huge porter, as he called it, to find the essence of what was important to bring to me. He said there are notebooks and notebooks and notebooks in this huge porter.

This struck me in the light of the early morning for two reasons. One is that every day – or maybe just as time goes on – I find ways I am more alike with my family. A bolt of recognition breeds a common understanding, and that’s a special feeling I’m getting used to with my daughter as well. Just like my dad, it turns out, I take tons of notes (coming as no surprise to anyone who works with me).

The second reason has to do with that elusive process of synthesis. To some, the amazing point might be that he kept all those notebooks at all, but to me, the big gift is that my dad pulled out just the right notebooks that would be valuable to me at this point in my working career. What’s funny about blogging this is that I believe this to be the point of “Web 2.0:” the synthesis. The medium might have changed from notebooks (just as from newspapers, editorials, letters, even emails) to blogging – now continuing on to twittering – but the point is still the same: to synthesize.

When it comes down to it, is the huge porter and the process of going through notebook after notebook really a different process of innovation than popping up a browser tab to Google? The tools might have advanced with us, but what’s important is culling through those years of volumes to get to the right point at the right moment – for the right person.  How lucky I am that Dad has always made me feel like the right person.

The third of two things that struck me (yes, I should have kept sleeping) is that innovation is such a continuing process, just like another common thread through our family. Big companies talk about reacting to this or that latest disruption as if it’s the only one. It’s only today’s — this moment is small. What’s important in the next moment will be different.