Moving Forward Department: Complaint, or creativity, which shall it be?

Back when I was married to my dear late husband, the mathematician Jeff Joel, I used to remind him that we were “creating a culture of creativity, rather than complaint.” Jeff was Jewish, and I figured that was why complaint seemed to be his default disposition. Then I moved to Bloomington, and got invited to join the Green Acres Neighborhood Association, which I agreed to on the condition that we “choose to create a culture of creativity, rather than complaint.” (Neighborhood associations are notorious for their complaint-based culture.) In other words, whatever we do, it’s got to be fun or it isn’t worth our time. (The Transition Town movement started with the same attitude. Read, for example, the last line of this recent blogpost from founder Rob Hopkins.)

This mandate was joyously received, and we’ve been following it ever since, experimenting with different forms and events and processes that either generate creativity or not, in which case we let them go and move on to the next. The key is the attitude of experimentation coupled with learning from each experience. In other words, don’t worry if what you try doesn’t succeed, or rather, doesn’t meet your (often way too high) expectations. You still learned something. What did you learn? For that will serve as one more stepping stone in the foundation for WHATEVER comes next. Little by little, we both refine our act while broadening our horizons. Nothing is too big, as long as the little things are continuously attended to. Are they? And nothing is too small, unless we narrow our focus so minutely that we forget the larger horizon. Once again, one eye focused close to, the other far out. The latter lends the former meaning; the former, over time, renders the latter real. Both together, create internal balance, resilience, the human seed bed for permacultural regeneration of our world.

GANA has now spawned the GANG (Green Acres Neighborhood Garden) and GANE (Green Acres Neighborhood Ecovillage).

A friend of mine here in Bloomington, whose husband was a classmate of Jeff’s at Princeton, also, she says, constantly complains. We meet for lunch and laugh. He too, is Jewish.

Then I discovered: I am Jewish! (Hidden family history on my mother’s side.) WOW! So either complaint is not (or not only) an inherently Jewish trait (admittedly, I only had two examples from which I generalized), or, I complain more than I realize. Hmmm.

SEATTLE—Following a multiyear study of atmospheric gases and their role in organic processes on earth, a team of researchers at the University of Washington reported this week that the majority of the oxygen on the planet is used for complaining. “By carefully measuring the processes of gas exchange, the respiratory capacities of living organisms, and resulting metabolic activities, we discovered that most oxygen molecules in Earth’s troposphere are used for the purposes of sighing, whining, and most commonly, complaining,” said the study’s lead author, James Lauderio, who noted that an adult human converts an average of 19 cubic feet of oxygen per day into petty grievances about acquaintances, nitpicking objections about popular media or the weather, criticisms about tasks they are performing, and general fussing with family members. “And while humans are the species most responsible for transforming oxygen into complaints, it’s important to note that other animal life, including mammals, birds, and reptiles, also convert massive amounts of O2 into displeased growls and screeches about their habitats and food sources.” Lauderio added that the research team has not been able to determine a verifiable upper limit to the number of complaints that can be produced from a single inhalation, with many human subjects reportedly producing upwards of 40 or more complaints with each breath.

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