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The Thing With The Stuff

comments, complaints, quandries, curses

Building community as an act of love

Editorial warning: this is a messy, stream of consciousness kind of post. 🙂

I was listening to a podcast called Becoming Wise today, in which a scientist who is also a Jesuit priest recounted a memory:

When I was a little kid, about nine years old, I remember a rainy Sunday afternoon, and you couldn’t go out to play, and you were stuck in the house, and my mom came out with a deck of cards, and dealt them out, and we played rummy together. Now, my mom can beat me at cards because I’m 9 years old, but that’s not the point of the game. The game was her way of telling me she loved me in a way — she couldn’t just say, you know, son I love you, because I’m 9 years old, I’m going to squirm and go ‘aww mom,’ and run away — in a way, being able to do science, and come to an intimate knowledge of creation, is God’s way of playing with us. And it’s that kind of play that is one way that God tells us how He loves us. So, is it invented? It’s as invented as the card game. But is it an act of love? It’s as much an act of love as the card game.

I had a lot of thoughts about this story, including stuff around gendering deity, the notion of deity itself, is 9yo deflection of love innate or taught by the patriarchy, etc. Take all that as a given if you can (I know: distracting).

Today, what really got me thinking from this story is the notion of how science, as an act of understanding the universe, can also be an act of love. Because what is love, but an effort toward acceptance and understanding someone/something? And then I got to thinking about my work, which centers on community organizing.

There is this huge community of people who use WordPress, and my work for the past 5 years has been to facilitate that community’s growth and health. Community is vital to the WordPress open source project — to any open source project — because WordPress is developed through a collaborative effort among hundreds of volunteers all around the world. Community fosters collaboration, which then fosters the growth and development of WordPress.

Collaboration is an act of love. Working with a group — sometimes even when you don’t 100% agree with everything the group’s doing, but flexing your muscles of acceptance and understanding, and adding your effort to the effort of many — working together for the common good, that shows trust and love.

Likewise, it’s an act of love to welcome criticism — to welcome reports of negative experiences — more ardently then we welcome praise. Praise just tells us that what we thought was right, was right.  Which is good — “works as expected” is always nice, right? — but that positive echo chamber doesn’t lay open more roads for improvement.

Community is an act of love. The act of talking about how you use this software, WordPress, that we all share, of telling people the problems that you face, of sharing your solutions to those problems, or lack of solutions — that is a vulnerable act, and humans rarely make themselves vulnerable unless they feel safe. But when you feel you know people in the group, when you feel close to people in your community, you are more likely to feel safe and make yourself vulnerable. By growing closer, we are stronger, and more able to become closer yet again.

Adding new people to our community is an act of love. It can be frightening to include more people, to make the circle bigger, to factor in more experiences and more ways that our solutions and tools could be imperfect. Humans survived a long time by defending their groups against “the other,” not embracing difference. Groups are safe, and opening your group to different people causes change, and change is not safe.

But without an open and actively opening community, our project, our WordPress, stalls out in an echo chamber. So the work is collaboration and community, but the master’s work is to constantly question your assumptions, to every day question if you have made your community as welcoming and as open as it possibly can be. To question yourself constantly: have I missed something? Is there another perspective, a group of people for whom this event or experience would not be pleasant or useful? How can I welcome those people and perspectives?

The way we design (or try to design) WordPress, should also be the way we design community: so that the experience is effortless and welcoming for everyone. And the way that we show our love and our willingness to collaborate is by constantly questioning whether we’ve done enough, listened enough, opened our minds and communities enough.

The work is never done, and isn’t that marvelous? There are, and will be, so many ways to improve how we show our love for one another.

 

Tree deck!

Tom’s been working on building the kids a tree-related structure (we don’t have any trees that would support an actual tree house). Amelia has been his helper. Witness the half-done result: the tree deck! 


Eventually it will have a ladder and railings and other fun accoutrements. Yay, we’ve been wanting to do this since we moved into the house, so it feels great to have made a start. 🙂 

Self-portrait of a lonely child

“This is how I look when I’m alone in my room with no one to snuggle me.” – Baxter

Campfire

Powell Butte adventure 

This morning we decided to bike over to Powell Butte and hike around. Powell Butte is about 7.5 miles from our house, along the Springwater Corridor, which google maps said would take us about 50m. I’m not sure exactly how long we took, but we stopped semi-often along the bike path, and had a nice time in the late spring sunshine. There’s a lot of bike theft along that stretch of the Springwater Corridor, so when we got to Powell Butte we decided against leaving the bikes, even locked up. I hiked a short spate either the kids, then doubled back and sent Tom in to hike a little with Amelia as Baxter and I snacked and rested. 4-year-olds have very different endurance levels compared to 7-year-olds, even when they’ve ridden the whole way in a bike trailer!

While we were hanging out, 5 riders on horseback came through and started riding on the trails! After our party was reunited once again, we rode back down the corridor, stopped for lunch at Cartopia, the food cart pod on 82nd (yakisoba noodles for the kids and banh mi for the adults) and then rode home. We were feeling our legs by the time we finished that last mile, and I’m pretty sure we’ll both be sore in the morning, but we had a really good time. 

Before-we-begin selfie
Pit stop at the floodplain
Amelia poses
Mom and Dad looking so fabulous
Tom examines the map
posing on the trail
Blurry trail selfie with mom
horses on the trail!
Cartopia selfie!

Hiking at Hoyt Arboretum

We had a fun Sunday morning hike at Hoyt Arboretum! We stopped for breakfast at Kormblatt’s Deli on NW 23rd (YUM), and then drove up to Washington Park to the arboretum. It was overcast, but the sun peeked through a few times. We more or less did a one-mile loop, and the kids only declared that they were tired and likely to die a few times. Maybe with increased exposure to hiking — by the end of summer maybe? — we can almost-die at the 2 mile mark. 😉 It was a beautiful hike fearuring lots of interesting trees, including various larches, which are deciduous conifers. Neat, huh?

in the beginning, everyone’s happy
we found a slug
“let’s sit on this stump!!'” – Baxter
goofing with trees
boys
amelia hugs a redwood
then we found a banana slug
that light

Poem: Insomnia

Awake at 4am on Sunday: my brain’s cruel joke.
Unfinished work and arguments
rev my body, overheat my thoughts.
Sleep retreats, crowded out by
the non-stop, frantic, tense what-ifs.

Too much red wine last night. I have to pee
and drink some water. Maybe if
I take something for the headache.
Who are we kidding, brain? The sky is light
and I don’t yet know where we’re breakfasting
this morning. Please don’t let this blow my day.
Worry is a misuse of imagination,
and my imagination is mighty,
like Samson at the temple of Dagon.
Maybe a nap at noon.

Poem: Scold

You did a thing I didn’t like.
I ask you why and tell you how
I’m angry, sad. You nod. Your face
gets pink. Tears well, and roll, and drop.
You ask to change the subject but I keep
talking about it, hoping that
if I repeat myself enough,
next time you’ll make a different choice.
You’re miserable and hot with shame.
I want to stop but, equally,
I want you to think twice — thrice! —
next time, and this is all I know
to do. The shame and tears ring loud
and I don’t know if I’m doing
the right thing here. When do I know —
like, really know — I’m parenting
with wisdom, skill, and grace? Your joy
is not my always-goal. I want
to raise you right. At the same time,
I’m sad when you are sad. I want
to make it better, wipe your tears,
and buy us all an ice cream cone.
The Talk is over. When I ask
if you want a hug, you decline.
In separate corners now, we go
about our days, corrected and
correct. Ten minutes later we
are back to normal: laughing, light.

Pre-breakfast art time

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