Sunday, 7 June 2020

I said yes gladly, but it has run its course

There was no such thing as inconvenience. Each new task was just part of life. It was a whole different way of thinking. We kind of knew what we were going to do each day, but no two days were ever the same. Life was like an old tale better told in the retelling. Gaines and his wife built their own house, though it took nearly a decade to finish. I had no reservations about building my own house, he said, although I'd never built anything, even in wood shop in school. But I knew that people had always built things, and I knew I could learn if I tried. Their puzzle featured a medley of 1980s candy wrappers. Amanda saw a yellow piece that would fit perfectly in a Sugar Daddy wrapper. Can I join you? Now she often keeps a jigsaw puzzle going during parties. If she feels strange, she can sit and move pieces around. It's a way to be somewhat alone but still in the room. Hanging out with children--not just watching over them but being on their level--is a fantastic way to change the course of a day. Amanda takes the kids to the beach while the other adults sleep in, or goes sledding with them after lunch, or strolls the neighborhood with her daughter right around happy hour. And there's nothing more magical than asking a crew of kids, Anyone want to go for a late-night swim under the stars? Even as she sits here typing, Amanda can remember the cheers. There has never been a time in history where you can make as much of a difference as now. So change something worth changing.

Why not you? Why not now? What's unchanging? Just as much is changing, so is much unchanging. People fundamentally do not change: our need to be loved, to laugh, cry, feel included, feel like we matter and that us being here makes a difference to the people we care for. None of that is going away. We stated in the introduction that we aimed to launch a raft of calm into the sea of panic around change. Our mission is to help our readers, our leaders, our kids and even ourselves worry less and achieve more. You just pick up a hammer and you start. Materials came partly from whatever they could recycle and partly from a lumber mill, carried on foot to the property. The whole south wall was a series of windows constructed on the principle of solar heating. On sunny days in winter you didn't need more than a very low fire, the house was so warm, Gaines said. In summer we opened the windows, and the mountain breeze and tree canopy cooled the rooms. After the interior walls of the house were up, Gaines made all the furniture, including beds, tables, chairs, and cabinets. When those were finished he added scroll work to all cabinet doors, table legs, and bedposts. He was still perfecting the woodwork when they left the house twelve years later. For money, Gaines built and sold traditional lap dulcimers and hammer dulcimers and finally got a job playing and singing with a bluegrass band that performed at the Snowshoe and Silver Creek Ski Resorts about twenty miles across the mountain. His wife worked as a teaching assistant in Mill Creek where their children went to school. Some of us stopped having fun too early (or never had childhoods where fun was available), or just forgot along the way what it felt like to be un-self-conscious and completely immersed in a game or puzzle or fort or trampoline. And the hyper-creative, sober people who can best teach us how to do it all again are often kids.

Amanda's got amazing kids of her very own, and Jardine gets to hang with her awesome nieces and nephew, and her friends' sweet kids. They're wise souls who demonstrate the best way to climb a waterslide, how to tell ghost stories, and how to make s'mores and get the s'mores all over our faces and then make more s'mores. They remind us to sing off-key and really loud, as long as it's from the heart. They can show us how to paint with our fingers, and help us see that this blur of black and yellow paint is actually a tiger. We were nerds as kids, and knew we were nerds, and yet we sort of buried our nerdy side as we grew up. We got sober, and it's true, we hunkered down and read murder mysteries and ate supermarket cupcakes and watched Eastbound & Down for hours. We might have stayed in the cozy zone for weeks, months, even years. And that's fine. In other words, as Heraclitus advised us, we had better all get used to change being our constant companion in life. What this leads us to conclude is this: Firstly, that there are Forever Skills that are worth investing in. These will have value and provide us with success and influence no matter what the future brings. If we're going to remain relevant and future-proof ourselves, our children and our teams, we would do well to invest in them. Secondly, that our greatest power ultimately lies within ourselves. Drawing on the wisdom of the Tolstoy maxim quoted at the beginning of this article, if we would change the world, we must first commit to changing ourselves. There is little use complaining about change or hoping it goes away, but preparation and a sense of resilience will always be critical assets, no matter where we choose to focus our energy and interest. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the development of skills and capabilities, the need for constant and lifelong education and personal reinvention and development is in itself a Forever Skill. Every epoch we traverse in the future will bring its own requirements in terms of skills and unique challenges to our existing values and conventions. But things were changing. The community broke up.

One of the homesteaders who had bought very hilly land and who had terraced all his fields became a landscape gardener. The winters, which earlier had been leisurely, became busier than summers. The bluegrass band began touring, first in West Virginia, then the eastern United States, and made and sold their records. Gaines had built a life with low technology, but technology finally invaded the homestead. The family had no telephone for several years and no television until the last year they lived in Randolph County. Then the eldest son bought a TV set with money earned from a part-time job and carried it all the way from the road to the old house where he had taken up residence--his house, as he wanted to be independent. When the family began spending more and more evenings in the old house watching television, Gaines realized that his children needed and wanted a wider world than their homestead provided. I had envisioned living there forever, with grandchildren bouncing on my knee, he said, but after his wife finished her degree in biology at Davis and Elkins College, they moved to Lewisburg where she attended the West Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine. But then we peeked up from our nests, hungry for something else. A new appetite was brewing, but in a way it was just a return to a seminal curiosity, the resurrection of a dorky fixation on a variety of subjects. Amanda took a class on color theory and then joined all the art museums in Austin. She met Jardine for a double date at the Jones Center on a special Members Night where they toured the new exhibits, then stood with their men and gazed at the sun setting over Congress Avenue, and then talked about the show over pasta and bubbly water at an Italian restaurant down the block. She heard a talk on landscape design, and one about making mole. Both sober and drinking friends dig museum nights, art talks, film talks, science talks, readings, cooking classes, writing workshops, photography lessons--these are buzzy interactive incubation-spaces for friendships once nurtured in a bar. We've developed a supersonic sense of things happening near us, whereas we used to be somewhat deaf to it. We've learned to get a yearly membership to places like botanical gardens and space museums for the same price of a single long night's bar tab. We scan the paper and subscribe to local e-mail-newsletters, circling flamenco classes or clicking on collector talks on Betty Sayre or Shirin Neshat. We go to serious lectures and ridiculous lectures and useful talks and esoteric talks, and we know we're in the right room when the person sharing their knowledge is bonkers-in-love with the subject, giddy and generous to be discussing it. If you hunger for certainty, then this is it, such as it is. Change is just how the system is meant to work .

However, what this also means is that there is a great deal we can do personally to set ourselves, our organisations and our children up for success in the future. The greatest Forever Skill we can pass on to future generations is a love of learning and a yearning for skills and capability. This desire and need will remain relevant . Given we have termed the capabilities in this article `Forever Skills', it seems likely that these skills informed our success and viability as a species throughout our history. With that in mind, this appendix will detail some of what we found in terms of which skills have always been with us and how they might inform what matters today as well as what will matter tomorrow. The goal of this exercise, as with all of the research we've conducted, was to identify patterns and trends, and to isolate those skills that have proven to be evergreen and a consistent asset to those who wield them. One of our key finds has been that often the words different cultures and industries use to describe certain skills or traits have varied. In fact, the variation in definitions of skills and the breadth of these definitions appears to be incredibly important. She eventually became a professor at Ohio University's medical college in Athens. Gaines, who had learned to read the natural world, finished his PhD in semiotics--the science of signs and one of the most arcane fields of communication. After twenty-four years of marriage, they divorced and sold the homestead as a vacation hunting lodge. Gaines went on to teach at Wright State University in Dayton and live in Yellow Springs, home of Antioch College--one of the most experimental colleges in the country--and has traveled widely in Southeast Asia and South America. Perhaps they knew the meaning of Thoreau's conclusion upon leaving Walden Pond that he had several more lives to live. The family had been part of the mountains, sunrises, bird-songs, seasons, spring floods, and autumn dry spells. They had raised four children. They were like rivers that change course and yet are the same rivers, flowing in different directions from the same sources. Falling Rock Area The Ohio River separates it from the narrow peninsula of West Virginia and from Pennsylvania. We'll listen to almost anything--almost--if the speaker is earnest, because good nerd energy can help us combat a cynical world. Jardine went to a class taught by a mother and daughter who had followed their (now deceased) leader on pilgrimages for decades;

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