|Get the best of Oprah.com in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletters!|
something to think about (357 posts)
As children in school, we all were taught about the Holocaust. At night, in bed, I used to wonder what I would do in a situation like that: would I have the courage to stand up and do something? The question stays with me, especially as I age and realize how complicated moral lines can be when it comes to one's own survival.
One of the most astonishing and uplifting things to come out of the coverage of the 9/11 anniversary is the stories of the people who risked everything to save others—not just the fireman, police, and hospital workers, but ordinary people like the gentleman who carried a woman in a wheelchair down 68 flights to safety or the man in the red bandana.
The story I've never heard before is about the private boat captains who responded to the call by the Coast Guard for help with the stranded victims on the southern tip of Lower Manhattan. In this moving new video by The Road to Resilience organization, we watch as nearly 500,000 people are saved and carried across the waters of the Hudson—an act of bravery that turned out to be the largest sea evacuation in world history.
I keep thinking about what I want to take away from this Sunday—and what I want to remember long after the day is over. Perhaps Robin Jones, the hardboiled engineer of the Mary Gellatly, best described what we should always keep in mind, in terms of all of our lives. "I believe everybody has a little hero in 'em," he says in the video. "You gotta look in there. It'll come out, if need be."
I spent eight months picking out the wallpaper for my kitchen. I taped samples on the wall. I grilled my family, my neighbors and poor, innocent, befuddled dinner guests. I sat for hours, staring at the different options, trying to pick the one square of printed, decorative paper that said "me!"
Trying to express ourselves through chosen objects—be they wallpaper, raincoats, or living room couches—can be exhausting, and yet we all seem to love ultimately finding things that let both the world and us know who we are.
Which is why I thoroughly enjoyed the silly yet oddly satisfying quiz/game/10-minute time suck that Firefox has developed called Webify Me. In a nutshell, you answer a series of questions about yourself and your use of new technology, and—presto!—the gizmo comes up with a desk filled with items that represent you, from compasses and magazines to seashells, crayons and action figures.
The bonus? As you scroll over each item, pop-ups appear explaining why and how it relates to you, usually with a flattering comment, such as "You use many different tools to communicate your vision, Traveler, " or "You're a class act, even when you let loose." A little senseless yet very specific flattery from an algorithm can do wonders for your morning.
By now, most of us have heard of Outsider artists—artists who create works without any formal art instruction or ties to museums or galleries. Recently we discovered Jerry Gretzinger, who maybe an Outsider, but who can articulate his vision so that anybody can see—feel—the importance of his work. In his Vimeo clip, Jerry describes the map he has been making in his basement since childhood, a map of an imaginary world filled with cities, farms, roads, woodlands, and just about every feature the regular word possesses.
True, not everybody can spend their days working on painting, and if we did, we might create something whose progress is not solely dependent on the shuffle of a deck of cards. Still, there's so much to be inspired by Jerry's dedication (note: the map now has 2,000 panels) and ideas. What struck us most, however, was the void, the mysterious white splotch that threatens to block out his map.
"There is one defense against the creep of void," Jerry says. "There is a...wall, and part of it has been built around...the biggest city on the map." This is complicated. If we think of the void as a threat to the world of Jerry imagination, something that will wipe his map out, then drawing a big stone wall may be an excellent idea in order to protect his creation and his creativity. But what if the void is something else? Inside the white void, Jerry also says, "is a bud of gray...it's a whole new world for me." So perhaps by building a wall, he's limiting his own progress, by denying the end of his old map and the start of a new one.
Our takeaway: We all have a void of some kind or another—a problem, a fear, a worst-case scenario, something that seems to threaten what we've spent so long creating. Maybe the first step to being less afraid of it is understanding that, in certain cases, destruction may be just want we need to move on.
When it comes to gardening, Classie Parker is the fairy grandmother who we all long for—except that she doesn't turn pumpkins into coaches or mice into footmen. Instead she does something much more powerful and true-to-life. This spunky, funny, vegetable grower visits different communities in New York, "teaching people how to put the love in their food" by instructing them in the forgotten art of canning. Along the way, she inspires all who listen to her about passing along the lessons of our "mommas..grandmommas...and great-grandmommas..." as you'll see in this video that Etsy put together.
The takeaway: Whether or not you grow peppers and cucumbers in your backyard, whether or not you can those veggies with garlic or don't can them with garlic or don't can them at all, it's worth remembering that what we eat and how we share it is, as Classie says, "what brings people together."
What would it take to change your life for the better? It may be less than you think—we’ve got mini-makeovers to help you upgrade everything from your workout to your weekend. #21: Giving back has never been easier.
30 days of makeovers
Skip the beach for a volunteer vacation
5 ways to use your professional skills to give back
Ways for children to volunteer
I often like to think that I'm different kind of learner. I didn't do particularly well on the SATs before college or the GREs afterward, or even my driver's license test. My children, too, I found, suffered from the same plight. They didn't score well on our city's Gifted and Talented exams, despite my flashcards and enforced workbook sessions. Could it be, I wondered—loudly, repeatedly, insistently, to anyone that would listen—that none of us were wired for important, multiple choice questions? Was it all about how and not what we learned?
Imagine my chagrin at the findings presented recently on NPR's Morning Edition, which suggested that none of us learn particularly differently and that teachers shouldn't alter their teaching styles. Talking to Doug Roher, a psychologist at the University of South Florida, the radio show reported that when it came to learning styles, Roher found no scientific evidence about different kinds of students. "We have not found evidence from a randomized control trial supporting any of these," he said, "and until such evidence exists, we don't recommend that they be used" in the classroom.
But what impressed me most was the opposite idea, presented by Dan Willingham of the University of Virginia who suggested it might be more useful to figure out similarities in how our brains learn, rather than differences. For example, "Mixing things up is something we know is scientifically supported as something that boosts attention," he told NPR.
For me this opened a whole new window of opportunity. My kids and I will now spend 15 minutes learning to advance ourselves in terms of math (them) or bill-paying on line (me), then 15 minutes learning hand-eye-coordination sling-shotting parrots into cargo boxes for points on Angry Birds, then spend 15 minutes picking up Legos (okay, that's not learning, but I like not slipping on a lethally slippery plastic cubes on the way to the bathroom) until, by god, we are all geniuses—or maybe just normal people, trying to pick up what they can, as best they can.
Raising four kids—including one set of twins—is challenging enough. But when we heard about the Manning's family struggles once their premie 3-pound son developed a bacterial infection that resulted in a stroke and seizures, two million dollars in medical bills, and a host of other seemingly insurmountable family problems, from lost jobs to marital issues, we were astounded not just by how these folks survived, but how and why they thrived.
As Alice Manning speaks, there is so much to be inspired by, including how she used her creativity to reflect on her experiences and how her Los Angeles community rallied around her family. But note what Manning says at the very end: "The biggest lesson for me is that it's not about the future. You know, it's not about 'I'm going to be so happy when this is over'...because we experienced everything else being taken away, and when everything else is taken away, I have to see that there is only one thing left...and that's the option to love, the option to see my circumstances as an opportunity."
Thank you, Alice, for reminding us once again: Love is not just a feeling. It's also a choice.
I have spent far too much time studying the cats in my house and wondering—deeply, for long, embarrassing periods of time—how I could possibly turn into one and spend the rest of my life napping in the pool of sunlight on the warm, beige carpet, not so that I don't have to go to work or don't have to fix the broken water purifier in the kitchen or don't have to beat myself up for not learning Spanish or even taking a self-improving pottery class....but so that I don't have to exercise again. It's not that I am lazy. I am tired. I am busy. Most of all, I am uninspired about slapping on some jiggle-enhancing Lycra pants and lugging myself over to the dreaded giant purple ball over which I am supposed drape myself and engage in stomach-firming crunches.
Meanwhile, miles and miles away in Brooklyn, a 15-year-old boy is keeping busy watching a different kind of animal. Henry Lim, who, as the New York Times reported won a Young Naturalist Award from the American Museum of Natural History, has been observing the troop of six baboons who live in 4,000 square foot rock enclosure at the Prospect Park Zoo. Baboons, apparently, have 67 previously identified behaviors observed in the wild, which include: approach, look, grunt, lip smack, carry on back, genital inspect, eyebrow raise, short running attack, grimace, and sleep. But as young Henry told the Times, there is a "60 percent chance that a baboon will spend time sitting."
In addition, he produced a stopwatch for the reporter and recorded the following observations of one particular male baboon:
2:30pm: Sitting/shake fur
Reading this, it dawned on me that I no longer have to wish I were a cat. For all intents and purposes, minus the hair, I am a baboon.
After watching the terrifying path of the hurricane up the East coast for the past four days, some of our all too human creations on television now seem a touch overwrought in comparison—for example, last night's MTV Awards.
Which is why this unexpectedly simply performance by Adele singing Someone Like You profiled on PopCrush—executed without gender-bending disguises, smoke bombs, sequins, flying trapeze wires, four french hens, three turtle doves, or even any mis-timed lip synching—seemed so poignant and moving. Even for those of us who no longer watch the MTV Awards or, okay, let's admit it, date back to an ancient time when MTV actually showed music videos....
Army boys put on their own musical
A love letter just for you
What would it take to change your life for the better? It may be less than you think—we’ve got mini-makeovers to help you upgrade everything from your workout to your weekend. #14: Spend time with someone you don't agree with.
"Otherising" is the dangerous act of turning someone into the enemy just because he or she looks different, prays different, speaks different, or thinks different. Some of history's most tragic events—wars, genocides, terrorist acts—began with ordinary people demonizing other ordinary people.
I noticed a remarkable amount of otherising during the 2008 presidential race. And there was one woman doing it who bothered me the most—me!
Keep Reading to find out to open your mind