Archive for imagination

Elephant Poo and Wasted Possibilities

There is a lot of crap going on in the world right now.  Sometimes it seems like everywhere you go someone is trying to dump their mess on you. …as if you don’t have a big enough load of your own. But I want to encourage you and let you know there is hope….

I present to you Exhibit A: Elephant Dung Paper

Transforming poop into paper pulp

Did you know you can make paper out of poop? No, its not scratch and sniff. Its paper made out of the fiber found in elephant dung. Large elephants can eat as much as 600 lbs of vegetation a day (things like grass, leaves, bark, seeds, etc) but they pretty inefficient digestive systems. As a result, around half of their food comes out the other end as fiber. This fiber does not stink and makes for the perfect raw material for paper pulp.

There is a lot of good coming from this crap. First, anything that limits the number of trees lost to deforestation for the purposes of making paper is a good thing. Its estimated that 50% of the world’s forests have been lost for paper production ( a high price to pay for all junk mail). Poo poo paper is recycling at its finest. Saving the trees=saving our oxygen= saving our lives…YAY for saving the planet! Beyond this, many elephants lose their lives because of profit. Farmers often kill them because they are seen as a threat to agriculture ( their livelihood). Plus those who are making virgin paper kill them as they are bulldozing the forests…all bad. But now that elephant dung provides profitability, there are more incentives to protect their lives. Elephant dung is proving to be packed with possibilities.

And this just scratches the surface. Elephant dung is not the only powerful poo. In Haiti, they are finding ways to use human waste to create sustainable agriculture practices. In a place where poor sanitation has led to outbreaks of cholera, parasites, and typhoid, an organization called SOIL is using human poop to create much needed fertilizers to re-cultivate barren lands, and grow food. In Haiti, their crap is creating jobs, addressing a public health crisis, and supporting healthy eating and agriculture. To find out more, check out the video on SOIL here:  Holy Crap.

All this talk of poo got me thinking, if you can make paper and sustainable agriculture out of poo, what can I make out of my crappy situations? What am I down in the dumps about that I could be creating from? Lets face it, we all have crap in our lives. But ultimately, it is up to us whether the lessons this messiness provide are wasted. Even our crappiest situations present us with opportunity to be powerful, to use things that could break us down to build something new. It is when we are knee deep that we are forced to stand the tallest.

Are there things you have dismissed as a waste? A waste of time, even? A waste of energy? A waste of resources? Are there people who you have dismissed as a waste? Are these things, in reality, just wasted possibilities you are missing out on?

Stuff happens. Its what you do with it that matters.


“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God.― Orson F. Whitney

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You’ve Got to Play with Your Soul

As a little girl escaping into the backyard to play alone, an old wooden jungle gym awaited me. To the unknowing eye, it wasn’t anything special. There were no fancy tunnels to crawl through or swings—just a ladder that led to a splintered slide and a rope. But this was no ordinary jungle gym. It was the headquarters for an after school arts program. I was the director and met parents at the jungle gym to explain to them the program offerings and supply lists. The best program we offered was jump roping class! Nearly every day during the summer, practice would be held for the imaginary students. I would make up routines and demand they do them to perfection. In an effort to get the routines down for the pretend parent recital, we would practice ALL afternoon if need be. I would shout out encouragement and reprimands into the air, happily jumping my day away. As the rope hit the ground faster and faster, the vision of the applauding parents became clearer and clearer. Proud of our collective success, I would take a humble bow before stepping out of the way for my invisible students to do the same at the end of every recital in front of the garage.

Solo play-dates left space for my imagination to create the most outlandish scenarios. They created a creative sanctuary where the only rule was to embrace freedom. When people asked the everlasting question, “What do you want to be when you grow up,” at nine years old I had an answer. I knew in my heart I could be whatever I told them. In fact, I had practiced being that director, teacher, or coach out in the jungle gym the week before. I learned the foundations of leadership in that splintered oasis. Playtime was more than a way of filling time. Play was about learning the world and creating your space within it.

Mr. Rogers once said, “When children pretend, they’re using their imaginations to move beyond the bounds of reality. A stick can be a magic wand. A sock can be a puppet. A small child can be a superhero.” Somewhere on the road from imaginary friends, freeze tag, and legos to careers and “realistic ambitions”, moving beyond the bounds of reality became a childhood memory. We have “real” things to figure out, “more important” adventures to pursue. But what could be more important than believing in the impossible, or playing with your soul?

How much bigger would our world be if we all made playtime a priority? Play isn’t just for kids. How we play and the things we play with reflect who we are, how we learn, how we relate to each other, and what we value. What realities did your childhood play allow you to explore and what could you do now to rediscover those places? Who’s superhero can you be? How can you save the world? What can you build? What stories are waiting on you to create them?

Come on, lets play!

“Culture arises and unfolds in and as play.”- Johan Huizinga

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The Fitting Room Alter Ego

Sometimes I wished I lived inside a department store fitting room. It is a mysteriously liberating and magical place. Electric current flows through fluorescent lights to set the mood. A series of deceptive “skinny” mirrors surround me, validating and delicately cradling my body image fantasies. The divine red glow of the word “sale” on the tags of my clothes selections serve as a gift from the host of this upcoming fitting room party. As the door shuts behind me in that four-by-four room, my alter ego comes out to play.

My clothes hook is typically filled  by a combination of practical choices, outlandish items that tease my creative side, and a BUNCH of prize finds from the clearance racks (ohhh the joy of multi-layered discounts). Each time I undress and redress with a new outfit, I take off the life I came in with and take on a whole new world of unapologetic self-expression and badass-ness. In one outfit, I am at an important meeting with some powerful person who is humbled by my presence and left momentarily speechless by my impeccable dress. In another, I am strutting down the street with sunglasses snuggled in my hair, wearing the most perfectly fitting jeans, a fit that accentuates “what my mama gave me” and leaves a trail of gaping mouths tracing my path. A woman looking this good requires a theme song and so, of course, there is one playing in my head as I strut rhythmically to my anthem towards the mirrors—“Don’t You Wish Your Girlfriend was Hot Like Me,” “Isn’t She Lovely,” “Hot like Fire,”  and  “Shaft” are on regular fitting room fantasy rotation.

Outfits four or five usually beg me to be the center of the party and I answer their call. I close my eyes, raise my arms, and start to dance in the center of my imaginary crowd, opening my eyes periodically to greet imaginary friends… and to make sure no one is outside my fitting door that can see my feet moving. When I am lucky, I come across the right outfit combination for the ultimate climax: an all out jam session in front of a crowd of adoring fans. The jam session requires as much dancing as possible while trying to breathe lightly so that fellow fitting room mates don’t catch on to my momentary private craziness. A great session ends on the verge of breaking a sweat and with a big exhale. I gather my finds, exit the fitting room, and leave my fantasy world behind in the room without anyone knowing what just took place.

Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if we lived the way we live inside the fitting room— letting our fun alter ego lead the way. I wonder what life would be like if  each of us outwardly lived the fun our imagination has conjured up and were unapologetic for our inner craziness. What if we all sang out loud instead of humming our favorite songs on the bus, broke out into random dancing as we walked down the aisles of a supermarket, or skipped down the street just because our imagination gave us the idea to do so? What if your small acts of random fun liberated someone else to enjoy their own life just a little more—would you do it? Would you take the risk of looking just a little bit crazy for the sake of letting your imagination grow your life and unleash the fun living dormant inside someone else? I dare you this week to let your fitting room alter ego run the show for just a little while. If you gave it permission, what would it allow you to do?

Need a little inspiration? I’ll let you borrow my theme music. Every hero needs some.

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