Not really, but I’m going to Maine for a week for a residency at the Institute for Humane Education in Surry, Maine for my doctoral program. Fourteen (yes, 14) of us will be staying in a cabin with bunk beds and 1 (yes, one) bathroom. Am I excited? Anxious, more like.
As a child, I NEVER wanted to go to summer camp. EVER. My siblings were of a more “joining” nature–sports, after school activities, student government, scouts (ugh). I was not of this nature. In the least. I much preferred the solitude of a good book in a quiet place ALONE.
Mom signed me up for Brownies. I was okay with that. Brownies is basically craft time with snacks, things I love (still).
Then came Girl Scouts. I was an awful Girl Scout. Sell cookies and earn badges and make camp stoves out of tin cans? Exactly what were the tin can stoves for? CAMPING! I played hookey from troop meetings until Mom caught on and then she let me drop out. Thank you, Mom!
She know better than to propose summer camp. I spent my summersreading books, drawing pictures, and watching way too much television. I was so happy!
My vision of summer camp is of mean girls, being humiliated and probably drowning, awful food, and bug bites and sunburn. The word rustic should be applied to expensive artisanal foods, not living arrangements.
When I was about 10 or 11, in an effort to get us out of the house, my stepfather gave my brother money to take me to the movies. He took me to see the double feature of Butterflies are Free and Bless the Beasts and the Children. Probably not appropriate for my age. Have you seen Bless the Beasts and the Children? (Get the Carpenters song out of your head.) Summer camp is not a nice place. People and animals DIE.
How I imagine myself at summer camp:
The letter I would write to my mother (soaked in tears):
I am sure the house will be very nice and surprise me. The 14 of us will become good friends (we’ll for sure get to know each other), have a good time, and learn a lot from our instructors and mentors. That part I am excited about. I have a feeling I’ll be taking showers at weird hours and mostly avoiding the bathroom as much as possible. I will post updates, no worries about that! And if anyone pushes me in any body of water, maybe I’ll finally learn to swim.
(Note: This is for an assignment in Humane Education 640: Culture and Change at Valparaiso University.)
The Emperor Ashoka (died 232 BCE), third monarch of the Indian Mauryan Dynasty1, is quoted to have said: “No society can prosper if it aims at making things easier. Instead, it should aim at making people stronger.”
Ashoka statue, Kanaganahalli, Gulbarga, Karnataka, India (photo by Alene Devasia)2
In this spirit, Bill Drayton founded the organization Ashoka, in 1980, with the mission: “To support social entrepreneurs who are leading and collaborating with changemakers, in a team of teams model that addresses the fluidity of a rapidly evolving society. Ashoka believes that anyone can learn and apply the critical skills of empathy, team work, leadership and changemaking to be successful in the modern world. “3
Ashoka is a global network with Ashoka Fellows in 70 countries. Fellows are divided into the six broad categories of
Drayton, an assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Carter Administration in the 1970s, began searching for people to bring about change in areas he saw as critical human needs.
As described in a 1998 profile in The Atlantic, Ashoka “looks for people who will become references in their field, who will set or change patterns at the national level or, in the case of a small country, at a larger regional level. Ashoka searches for people who, in Drayton’s words, will leave their “scratch on history.” When the foundation finds a bona fide social entrepreneur, it elects him or her to a fellowship, provides financial and professional support to help launch the fellow’s idea, and connects the fellow with other social entrepreneurs working on similar problems. Like a venture-capital group, Ashoka seeks high yields from modest, well-targeted investments. It seeks returns not in profits but in advances in education, environmental protection, rural development, poverty alleviation, human rights, health care, care for the disabled, care for children at risk, and other fields.”4
If you don’t meet the stringent criteria or no one has had the sense to nominate you as a Fellow, you can volunteer with Ashoka through its Everyone a ChangemakerTM program.
What makes a successful social entrepreneur? According to Adnan Mahmud, founder and CEO of LiveStories and Co-Founder of the non-profit organization Jolkona, which works with students and young adults to build a new generation of philanthropists, “successful social entrepreneurs lead by example and have fun at the same time” (i.e., “love what you do”). 5
How do social enterprise ideas differ from traditional business ones?
“Social enterprise ideas, unlike conventional business ideas, typically result from a desire to solve a social need; similar to how many non-profit and charity organizations find their beginning. Traditional business ideas can also come from identifying a social need. But, the difference between a social enterprise idea and a traditional business idea is the motivation of the entrepreneur. The primary motivation for a traditional entrepreneur is more-often-than-not a desire to make money; a social entrepreneur is driven more by a passion to solve a social problem, and only chooses to use business as a mechanism to solve these problems.”6
One successful example was begun more than 60 years ago by Pennsylvania Mennonite Edna Ruth Byler (1904-1976), who on a trip in 1946 to Puerto Rico was struck by the poverty she witnessed. She believed market opportunities in North America would provide economic opportunities for artisans in developing countries. She started by selling handcrafted items out of the trunk of her car, and eventually the fair trade organization Ten Thousand Villages was established.7
One of the most famous examples (and famous founders) of a social enterprise is the company Newman’s Own, founded by the late actor Paul Newman in 1982. All royalties and profits from the sales of its food products go to the Newman’s Own Foundation, which has granted over $450 million to thousands of charities.8
You can also eat well for a good cause by supporting social enterprise restaurants and cafes, many of which provide job training and skills for people with barriers to employments as well as raising money to support social missions. An example in the Bay Area is the Delancey Street Restaurant on The Embarcadero at Brannan. The Delancey Restaurant opened in 1991 and was built by the Delancey Street Foundation’s residents, former substance abusers, ex-convicts, homeless, and others in need of help to live in mainstream society.9
Anyone who knows me will not be surprised that I also found examples of animal-minded social enterprises. Twelve of these companies were profiled by Trend Hunter in 2013.10
My particular favorite is Rescue Chocolate (no surprise, again). Who can resist the slogan “the sweetest way to save a life”?11 The chocolates are all vegan and 100% of the net profits go to animal rescue organizations around the United States. They also incorporate educational messages in the names and labeling of the chocolates, with:
Peanut Butter Pit Bull (crispy peanut butter and chocolate, countering the negative public image of the pit bull-type dogs)
Pick Me! Pepper (sweet ’n spicy dark chocolate with peppers, highlighting the advantages of choosing pets from animal shelters instead of breeders or pet stores)
Foster-iffic Peppermint (dark chocolate with peppermint, highlighting the need for people to provide foster care for shelter animals as they await their forever homes)
The Fix (plain 66%, highlighting the importance of spay and neuter)
Mission Feral Fig (fig, cranberry, almond, and spices, highlighting the humane solution for feral cats, TNR)
Fakin’ Bacon (smoky, sweet and salty, a salute to farm animal sanctuaries and compassionate gourmands)
Forever Mocha (hazelnut praline and coffee, highlighting ways to help people make and honor a lifetime commitment to their pets)
I love my car, as far as cars go, but I don’t really like to drive. For the past 6 months (my, how time flies!), I have been commuting 69.8 miles from door to door (but who’s counting?) EACH WAY to work. Luckily I don’t hit too much traffic, but it takes a while nonetheless. I’ve listened to audiobooks on and off over the years, but now is most definitely an “on” time. If I get sucked into a really good book with a great match of narrator to material, I can get so absorbed that I miss my exit or sit in my parked car just to listen a few more minutes.
Here are a few of my favorite narrator/book choices from recent memory. In no particular order, but starting with the most recent, which I finished after 36 hours and 11 minutes of enthralled listening (got me few a few trips back and forth!) just tonight:
Lonesome Dove, book by Larry McMurtry, read by Lee Horsley
This is an addition to my top 10 favorite books. The list changes, of course, but as of now, this is on it. I’ve read Larry McMurtry before–The Last Picture Show, Some Can Whistle, TheEvening Star, The Desert Rose, The Late Child–but never one of his Westerns. It won the Pulitzer Prize, so I’m not sure why I assumed I wouldn’t like it. I was also intimidated by its length of 842 pages.
Loved it! And the actor Lee Horsley, who I know from the early 1980s as television’s Matt Houston, was perfect. From Texas himself, he captures the characters speeech patterns and is able to convey each one’s idiosynchrasies. He shines as Captain Augustus McCrae.
Now I have to listen to the other books in the series if they are available as audiobooks as well. I had no idea it was the first of 4 books in a series. And I must watch the beloved television series with Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones.
Any book ever read by Simon Prebble; seriously, ANY book
English actor Simon Prebble has one of the most distinctive voices I’ve ever heard. I first heard him read the odd and mysterious Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, a wonderful book by Susanna Clarke made more wonderful by Prebble’s narration. In case you didn’t figure it out, I am a Prebble fan. (Note: I also just saw him act for the first time that I am aware of, as Jamie’s mean father on the STARZ adaptation of Outlander, the Diana Gabaldon book series also available as audiobooks read by the popular narrator Davina Porter.)
This is a rare case in which I can say that the TV series, shown recently on BBC America, does justice to the book and was one of the best adaptations I’ve seen on television.
Some of my other favorite Prebble readings include Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, by William Kuhn;
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro;
and the classic A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Prebble does the best Scrooge ever.
Again, pretty much anything ever read by Jim Dale
As Dr. Terminus in Pete’s Dragon
Jim Dale is a versatile English actor, singer, and songwriter (going back to the song “Georgy Girl” from 1966, nominated for an academy award). Americans of my generation know him from the 1977 children’s movie “Pete’s Dragon”. Now many know him as the narrator of the J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter books. I haven’t read the books, only listened to them. By book 7, I was pretty sick of the whole thing, but I kept listening mostly due to Jim Dale.
Yet again, pretty much anything read by Lorelei King
King is an American actress living in the United Kingdom, and I first saw her in the British comedy series “Chef!” (1993-1996) with comedian Lenny Henry. She played American chef Savannah, a sous chef and possible love interest to the temperamental executive chef Gareth Blackstock. I highly reccomend the series.
01ASVD70; Left to Right: JEFF NUTTALL; ROGER GRIFFITHS; CAROLINE LEE JOHNSON; LENNY HENRY; LORELEI KING; SOPHIE WALKER and DAVE HILL (Stars of the BBC-1 comedy ‘Chef’) COMPULSORY CREDIT: UPPA/Photoshot …
She is probably most popular with the Stephanie Plum mystery novels by Janet Evanovich. She is adept at creating and maintaining voices for each recurring character, and her Grandma Mazur and Lula voices are hilarious.
Following Atticus, written and read by Tom Ryan
I loved this book. My heart warms just at the thought. And I loved Tom Ryan’s reading. It’s not often that an author makes a good narrator. And it’s a book about a dog, hello! I am sad to report that Atticus recently passed away, but you can read about Tom’s just-starting adventures with new rescue pup Samwise on the “Following Atticus” Facebook page. You’ll love Tom Ryan. And Samwise.
In the same spirit, Travels with Charley in Search of America, written by John Steinbeck and read by Gary Sinise
John Steinbeck with Charley
I’ve read this Steinbeck travel memoir a few times, and still love it as much now as I did in high school. Yes, I was the nerd in high school who liked American Literature and was happy to read Steinbeck for class. Steinbeck was a great writer. And I am still a nerd.
Gone Girl, written by Gillian Flynn, read by Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne
I first heard about this book on the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast before it was the big hit it became or a movie adaptation. Creepy! The inside of Gillian Flynn’s mind is a scary place. And the whole unreliable narrator motif was a unique concept to me. Who to believe?! These two readers, actress Julia Whelan and actor/comedian/singer/songwriter Kirby Keyborne, are perfect in the she said/he said/who do you believe back and forth format.
It was a pretty good movie to, I have to admit.
Speaking of weird and creepy, Room, written by Emma Donaghue, read by multiple narrators
Donaghue is an Irish writer who lives in Canada. Room is the story of a young woman who is abducted and kept in a shed (the room) for several years, where she gives birth to and raises a son. Spoiler alert; they escape the room and adjusting to life in the outside world proves challenging. What really stands out about the audiobook is the performance of the late actress Michal Friedman in the chapters told from the voice of 5-year old Jack.
Tragically, Friedman died unexpectedly and we will never know what successes her carrer might have held for her.
Oh, and another movie adaptation to mention, but I haven’t seen it yet so I can’t give you an opinion.
The Book Thief, written by Markus Zusak and read by Allan Corduner
Zusak is a young writer (born 1975), and I hope he keeps writing! Of German and Austrian heritage, he lives in Sydney, Australia. This story of a young firl and her foster family in a small town outside of Munich during World War II is heartbreaking yet still has moments of humor.
Actor Allan Corduner, born in Sweden to German and Russo-Finnish father but raised in London, has a sonorous voice you can imagine on the Shakespearean stage. As the novel is told by the overworked Grim Reaper, it’s a good fit. My Googling tells me that he was in 5 episodes of the television series Homeland last year.
No, I haven’t seen the movie adaptation. It’s on my list.
Summerland, written and read by Michael Chabon
I’ve had friends tell me they don’t particularly care for Chabon’s readings of his books, but this is the one book where he is absolutely perfect, in my opinion. It made me feel like I was a kid being read to by my dad. The story is a modern fairy tale about baseball and a flying station wagon. Trust me, it’s delightful.
I could keep going, but I will end on a humorous selection with Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir), written and read by Jenny Lawson.
Laugh out loud funny. Also check out her blog, aptly titled The Bloggess, “Like Mother Teresa, Only Better”.
I returned to my old neighborhood at UC Berkeley today. I don’t get to campus very often since I left my job at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) last December. But I was lured back by the Greater Good Science Center, of which I have been a member for a couple of years now. Taking their Science of Happiness MOOC (massive open online course) in September, 2014, was a life-changing experience. I highly recommend it. The next offering begins September 6 this year.
According to the program notes for my adventure today, a “day of cutting-edge research and awe-inspiring performances”, the event “marks the culmination of an unprecedented three-year project to advance the scientific study of awe, conducted by Dacher Keltner’s Berkeley Social Interaction Laboratory and funded by the John Templeton Foundation”. Sounded like a worthwhile way to spend a Saturday to me!
Off I headed to the Zellerbach Playhouse, a smaller (yet to me, nicer) annex to the big Zellerbach Hall that is the home of Cal Performances.
Ever since I took “The Science of Happiness”, I’m kind of a Dacher Keltner groupie. UC Berkeley psychology professor Dr. Keltner is the founding director of the Greater Good Science Center. He gave the morning keynote, “What Is Awe and Why Does It Matter”, getting us off to a great start. (I am trying not to use the word awesome. And I apologize for the “save” box on the portraits; that happened when I screen shot the images somehow and I am not going to redo them!)
What is awe, you ask? Keltner defines it as “being in the presence of something vast, beyond current understanding”.
Lest you think this will get too serious, the discussion even included designing better emoticons with an artist from Pixar.
And why study awe? Because awe might provide the counterpoint to what many of us see as a current cultural malaise.
Next up was arguably the crowd favorite, a participatory music session led by the amazing Melanie DeMore. Okay, I normally balk at sing-alongs and participatory anything, but I let myself be open to this and it was so much fun, and moving as well. I had a tear (or two) in my eye at the end. Melanie DeMore is a vocal artist and activist and is a natural teacher and mentor, if this session was anything to judge by. She had me singing and clapping and swaying at 9:30 on a Saturday morning before I’d even had coffee. Unanimous standing ovation from the audience.
Then followed the first panel of the day (the members of which acknowledged humorously that Melanie was a hard act to follow): “Nurturing Awe: How Awe Can Be Fostered Through Education”. Moderator Vicki Zakrewski, Ph.D, moderated the discussion, with presentations from high school teacher Julie Mann and Tom Rockwell, Director of Exhibits and Social Media at the Exploratorium in San Francisco.
.Vicki Zakrzewski, Ph.D
Julie Mann teaches at Newcomers High School in Queens, where 100% of the students are ESL students. As hard as awe as a concept is to describe, she asked us to imagine describing awe in a language you are learning as an immigrant. “You have to experience awe to understand it” so she works with her students to provide them the experience as well as the tools to describe it.
Tom Rockwell talked about how they approach exhibits at the Exploratorium in an effort to provoke wonder and curiosity and questions, not to provide the answers. He also talked about the concept of wonder and how it relates to awe.
Break time, and the search for coffee, one of the magical things that instills awe in me.
The next panel, “Natural Elevation: The Therapeutic Benefits of Experiencing Awe in Nature”, was led by moderator Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D, and included presentations from Craig Anderson, Ph.D. (UC Berkeley), Stacy Bare (Director, Sierra Club Outdoors), and Jaclyn Lim, who as a teenager participated in a collaborative study between UC Berkeley and the Sierra Club that looked at the mental and physical health benefits of experiences in nature for underserved adolescents and military veterans.
Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D.
Craig Anderson, Ph.D.
Even Golden State Warriors basketball superhero Steph Curry made it into the discussion, as he apparently has a very expressive face for comparisons of facial expressions and emotions.
The morning wrapped up with poetry readings by former US Poet Laureate, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner, and UC Berkeley professor Robert Hass. I would have loved to take a class from this warm, engaging gentleman. I felt awe in his presence.
Lunch! Time to seek culinary awe. And thank you Greater Good Science Center for providing a vegan choice (catering by Ann’s Catering).
The afternoon started with the super high-energy and voluble Jason Silva, host of National Geographic’s “Brain Games” and maker of the short film series “Shots of Awe”, in conversation with Dacher Keltner on “Our Responsibility to Awe”.
Lots to say!
To be honest, he was talking so fast about so many things with such animation that I lost track! As someone who feels inarticulate much of the time, this did produce a sense of awe in me.
The afternoon keynote, “What’s Awe Got To Do With It?: How Awe Changes Our Minds and Bodies” was delivered by Michelle “Lani” Shiota, PH.D, of Arizona State University.
Post afternoon break, we again were introduced to awe through music, with beautiful sounds of the Chinese stringed instrument the pipa, played by Wu Man. Haunting, mesmerizing, and meditative all at the same time.
Wu Man then joined the panel on “Evoking Awe Through Art”, moderated by Director of Cal Performances Matias Tarnopolsky and with presentations by husband and wife team Ben Davis and Vanessa Inn (Illuminate the Arts) and David Delgado (NASA Visual Strategist and co-founder of the Museum of Awe).
Illuminate the Arts is a light-based arts project that teamed with artist Leo Villareal to create the The Bay Lights, making the Bay Bridge into San Francisco a “canvas of light”.
David Delgado “develops experiences that provoke curiosity through a mix of science and imagination”, such as Metamorphosis, a sculptural depiction of a meteor that allows people the experience of walking through the tail of a comet.
Emiliana Simon-Thomas led another panel on the topic of “Awe and the Greater Good: How Awe Can Inspire–and Be Inspired by–Acts of Altruism and Moral Courage”.
Presenter Paul Piff, Ph.D., of UC Irvine, spoke about whether the experience of awe attenuates narcissism, entitlement, and self-interest (no surprise to me, he found that the people who are the most well-off also feel the highest sense of entitlement and are less generous).
Covering the concept of moral courage was Jakada Imani from the Center for Popular Democracy (and former Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights) with a profile of the Reverand Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, and how he ended up the path to altriusm and moral courage.
The final panel of the day, “Global Awe: Finding Awe Around the World and Across the Universe”, brought back Dacher Keltner with Jennifer Stellar, Ph.D., of the University of Toronto, and astronomer Alex Filippenko, Ph.D, professor at UC Berkeley (and nine-time Professor of the Year).
Jennifer Stellar, Ph.D.
Alex Filippenko, Ph.D.
Jennifer Stellar talked about how awe varies across cultures and what about it is universal.
Alex Filippenko, as the astronomer, went the universal route, invoking Albert Einstein and mostly talking over this humanities/arts/humane education person’s head. The crowd was generally more physics friendly, as far as I could tell, since they laughed and seemed enthralled and entertained. This kind of intelligene does invoke awe for me even if I don’t understand what’s being discussed!
Dacher Keltner closed with remarks about how the life’s work for each presenter beagn with awe and wonder, and after the standing ovation, everyone went out to the annoying but ear-worm inducing sounds of the song “Everything is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie”.
I had to get that out of my head, so I drove home to the sound of Lee Horsley reading Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer prize-winning book “Lonesome Dove”. That, my friends, is truly awesome.