Being Blue

One of the books I’ve enjoyed reading over the past few weeks has been the Steve Jobs biography.  When he passed away last fall, there were several of his quotes that circulated through various channels.  I was close to finishing my run and some of these quotes really resonated with me, particularly references to leading a life outside the norm.  Aside from the media frenzy surrounding his death, I didn’t know a lot about him other than I owned a couple of his products that I really, really like.  What surprised me as I began to read his life story was how poorly he treated a lot of people around him.  He could be quite cruel and unforgiving, both with his words and actions.  There was no doubt he was brilliant and people revered him for his ability of making Apple what is has become today.  But over and over again throughout his life, he treated a number of people like shit.

A few years ago, I listened to a chat by Adam Werback.  He’s a former Executive Director of the Sierra Club and at the time, had taken a consulting position for Walmart.  They hired his firm to help the superstore giant become greener.  Over the past several years, becoming green has become the norm for corporate companies.  Everyone is, in theory, trying to do their part to treat the planet with respect – to make sure we care enough about this Earth to ensure we can continue living on it for generations to come.  What Adam proposed however was a transformation to a blue movement.  He essentially argues that it isn’t enough to just care about the Earth.  We spend so much time and energy trying to recycle, lower our emissions, eat the right food, save the polar bears, cut down less trees and drink tap water instead of bottled.  But we’re not doing a great job of simply caring for one another.  Are we caring as much for our neighbours, coworkers and even strangers as much as we’re trying to care for the planet?  For Adam, this aspect of caring is equally as important, if not more so, than caring for the Earth.

Parker Palmer is an educator in the U.S who has written extensively on education and the nuances of being a teacher.  He has a compelling argument that we teach who we are.  It matters less what tools and resources a teacher has and more so the identity and integrity of the individual.  I have begun to think about this in the context of those who work consistently with students.  For those of us who are passionate about students being exposed to the natural environment and making a connection with nature, it is easy to see the passion that flows from educators who genuinely want to shape their student’s minds for the good of this planet.  But if I take Palmer’s educational approach to heart, than I think it’s just as important for students to see how I interact with the Jehovah’s Witnesses that showed up at my door today (true story) as it is to teach those students about how intricate and incredible our ecosystems are.

Steve Jobs was an amazing human being.  He is emulated by thousands of young entrepreneurs around the world.  There is so much of him that I strive to be like.  But for my two cents, there is more at work than creating the next iWhatever regardless of the path taken to get there.  There are hundreds of people I’ve met over the past year who care about getting kids outside.  There are thousands more whose determination and passion will create change and instill a greater connection to this Earth.  I am reminded every day that as important of a mission this is to pursue in my life, it is only part of the equation.  I must care for those around me, whether I know them or not, to find fulfillment in this bigger picture.  Treat others like you want to be treated.  Easy words to say and write… difficult words to live.

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