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Friday, September 15, 2017

What Can One Small Person Do?

Ten-year-old needs a little break

First things first: my schedule for September, somewhat complicated, but I’ll try to make it clear.

Friday, Sept. 15, I’ll be closing at 4 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 16, I’ll be opening late (following an 11 o’clock memorial service up the hill) but will be open until 5 p.m.

Then, from Sunday, Sept. 17, through Monday, Sept. 25, the bookstore will be closed for vacation.

I’ll be back in the shop on Tuesday, with regular hours (11-5) Tuesday and Wednesday and Friday and Saturday, plus the evening event with author Bob Downes on Thursday, Sept. 28, at 7 p.m. (see sidebar).

*  *  *

Okay, now to come back to our sheep -- or, more literally, to books –



Last Wednesday, Sept. 13, I attended a book event at Trinity Congregational Church. Mistakenly, I expected the book’s author, Sarah Van Gelder, to be in attendance, but it turns out she will be in town on Oct. 7, and meanwhile people in town were getting together for a preliminary discussion of her book, The Revolution Where You Live: Stories From a 12,000-Mile Journey Through a New America.

Some people at the church on Wednesday evening had read the book; others (like me) were about halfway through it; and a few had not yet started. Presenters Nancy Fitzgerald and Marie-Helena Gaspari, however, had prepared and led us through a set of exercises to generate discussion and get everyone thinking about questions we might want to ask Sarah Van Gelder when she comes to town. The presenters did a magnificent job. The meeting only took an hour (with cookies and lemonade afterward), and it was an hour very, very well spent.

One woman admitted she had postponed opening the book because she was afraid it would be just one more “Ain’t it awful?” collection of horror stories around the country. Nothing, she realized when she finally started reading, could be further from the truth. Avoiding the big cities on the east and west coasts, Van Gelder visited reservations, small towns, Midwestern rust belt cities, and communities in Appalachia, finding everywhere people who loved their homes and were finding ways to come together to overcome racism, inequality, environmental threats, and unemployment. She met with activists of every stripe and learned that the solutions people were attempting to put into place were always unique to those communities, their histories and their specific challenges.

For me, a theme that ran throughout the book was restoration. Early in the book Van Gelder met with ranchers in Montana practicing restorative grazing, sometimes called mob grazing, a practice I first read about in the magazine Acres USA. Before the book ends, she has encountered a Virginia town dedicated to restorative justice, a process whereby those convicted of violent crime can begin to make amends to victims and be re-integrated into the community rather than becoming life-long outcasts. In between were burned-out city neighborhoods being restored to productive local food-growing projects and employee-owned businesses restoring dignity to owner-workers. And the stories in the book connected not only with my readings in eco-agriculture but also to more recent readings I’ve been doing in ecological economics and steady-state economy, work both by and inspired by the work of economist Herman E. Daly, so that I feel much as I did my first semester in college, learning many new things and seeing many connections across exciting disciplines.

Another participant confided to me quietly that she felt the tasks to be accomplished in our country were huge and overwhelming. Well, they are huge, and they certainly can be overwhelming, and I certainly know the feeling she was talking about. I think it’s like preparing to move from one house to another: You look at everything that has to be packed up and transported, and what needs to be done looks impossible. All you can do is start with one room or even one closet or a single kitchen drawer and make progress little by little.

For myself, I think the biggest challenge is not the enormous size of the task but how easily I can be paralyzed at the thought of my own smallness. Another message of Van Gelder’s book, however, is that people do not have to be wealthy or hold political clout to come together and accomplish crucially important work for their communities.

When I come back to my bookstore after a few days of vacation, I’ll be hosting an author presentation and book signing, and to be perfectly honest I had a little anticipatory trepidation about the book that I did not share with the author. I’m always a little apprehensive when non-Native writers create Native American characters in their fiction. I have enough confidence in Bob Downes that I know he is respectful of Native culture and history – he not only did considerable research but is also learning the Anishnabe language – but there are still sometimes touchy feelings about who gets to tell whose stories, and not all non-Native writers are as serious as Bob when injecting Native culture into their fiction.

So now, to answer Sarah Van Gelder’s question about what “one small [specific] person” (me) can do to help my community, I want to collect a diverse audience for Bob’s events – not only ethnically diverse, but diverse in terms of age – and I’ll be taking proactive steps to try to make that happen.

A bookstore, after all, especially a small, independent bookstore in a little northern village, is all about connections. Someone the other evening had the kindness to refer to my bookstore as one local “pocket of hope.” Now it’s up to me to live up to that challenging designation.



Wednesday, September 13, 2017

I Am Ten Years Old

I'll explain at the end.
Ten! Not my bookstore. Dog Ears Books is (only!) 24 years old. And not me personally (and never mind about that number). No, it’s “Books in Northport” that is officially ten years old today, September 13, 2017, marking a complete decade since my first blog post.

Who would ever have imagined it a decade ago? David and I did not even have Sarah yet! It’s possible her actual birth occurred on this very day, though I use September 10 as her birthday, since when we found her at the Cherryland Humane Society and adopted her on January 10 we were told she was four months old. But the blogging bug had bitten me earlier, back at the beginning of the autumn of 2007.

In September 2007 I set out on an experiment. Looking back now, I’m glad to have taken advantage of this modest form of self-expression because, thanks to a decade of entries, I can look back not only at words but also at images from my life, from random sights I would otherwise have easily forgotten to carefully planned personal or community events. My “Books Read” lists, visiting authors and family, friends old and new, vacations, rambles (mental and physical), and more than a few rants (though belatedly I set up “Lacking a Clear Focus” for the least bookish of my opinions and other life flotsam) – all these form the log book of my journey over the past ten years. I did not, in 2007, imagine ten years of blogging. But neither did I foresee, in 1993, 24 years of bookselling. “I always wondered,” someone said to me once on a very different subject, “how it happens. And now I see. It happens one day at a time.”

A notion that fascinates me is a little pop meme going around, to the effect that each of us has a “true age” that captures our essence. You’ve heard it said of a toddler or a puppy, “She’s an ‘old spirit.’” Certain individuals seem to be born wise beyond their years – or prematurely middle-aged – while others of us retain a certain childishness (not to put too fine a point on it) clear into old age. No doubt there are self-tests one can take to determine one’s “true age,” but as soon as David and I understood the idea, we needed no tests to know that he is 14 years old and I am 10.


Ten years old. Fourth grade, crazy over Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion, suffering the pangs of transition from child to pre-adolescent. Socially awkward, physically immature, intellectually curious, and quivering with secret fears and dreams, at the age of ten I was more comfortable exploring the natural world of the world of books on my own than venturing into “society.” This has not changed, but I have come to recognize shyness and uncertainty in others, and when they enter my bookstore world I try to make them feel welcome and comfortable.


And now “Books in Northport” is as old as I am (or as my soul is). Back in the mid-20th century when I was born mankind knew only handwritten diaries, but guess what: these very words that you are reading now in Bookman Old Style font on your lighted screen first came into the world on the yellow pages of a legal pad, scrawled in pen, in the pre-dawn hours of a cool August morning (I was planning ahead), as a ten-year-old girl disguised as an aging woman sat on a porch light near an open window, dog by her side.



Will I ever grow up? Doubtful. Will I live forever? Impossible. But we are here now, you and I, on this beautiful, crazy, cruel, and miraculous planet, and I am glad for your company. Thank you for your company on my journey.

That horse up there at the top of the post? Well, you know, I am stillcowgirl in my dreams!


And for those who like counting, this is post #1721.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

When Does Summer End?




The official first day of autumn this year is September 22, making the 21st the last official day of summer, but for many families of schoolchildren and for those whose traditional minds can’t help seeing Memorial Day and Labor Day as summer’s bookends, the season ended last weekend For some others (I heard them muttering!) the end came earlier, with a couple of summer vacationers in late August shivering in their jackets and sweatshirts, feeling that fall had arrived in northern Michigan before they got here. Isn’t that always the way, though? Beginnings and endings of seasons are not like doors opening and closing all at once. Any two adjacent seasons interpenetrate and play tug-o’-war for a while before settling down to the new one.



For many years, David and I used to take off for the U.P. the Tuesday after Labor Day. (Once we fled north on Labor Day itself but only had to learn that lesson once, sitting for hours in a long line of unmoving traffic during the annual Mackinac Bridge walk.) Northport, however, is livelier these days than it was a dozen years ago: no one is rolling up the sidewalks yet, a week into September, though there are more strolling older couples now than young families in town. Two years ago we didn’t make our getaway until October, and it was short then. So yes, there have been changes over the years, some more gradual than others.



But this year has been entirely different in one very important way, and that has been David’s one-man exhibition at the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City. A career milestone for him, it has been the focus of the season for both of us, and that’s why my bookstore, open on Labor Day itself until 3:30, was closed the Wednesday following Labor Day when old friends from Kalamazoo came up to see the show.



Since David and I were at the museum before our friends, I took the opportunity to photograph the artist with several of his paintings (below), photographing individual paintings, also, and several more inclusive groupings (above). 








When they arrived, of course my camera and I were eager to capture David and our friends surrounded by his work.









I guess it rained a bit while we were in the museum. I didn’t notice. We toured the sculpture of Sally Rogers and the Inuit gallery, as well as David’s painting exhibit, explained the new additions underway, and our friends were quite impressed by the museum in general.





Tearing ourselves away at last, we adjourned to downtown and, creatures of habit, suggested to our friends Cafe Amical, an iconic Traverse City restaurant for (I’m going to say) 23 years. Our table was back by the fireplace, and so, again, I didn’t notice any rain until we left the restaurant to stroll up and down a couple blocks of Front Street and saw that the pavement was gleaming wet. Anyway, the rain had let up, and we had dry walking, and coming back east on the other side of the street, we stopped in at the old U&I (an even older landmark than Amical) for one last round of drinks and then strolled together to the big new parking structure down by the Park Place.

(It occurs to me that I’ll probably be saying “the new parking structure” as long as I live, just as the Civic Center, or whatever it’s called, will always be, to me, “the old fairgrounds.”)

Old friends! Time together! David’s beautiful show! One more Kalamazoo friend comes up on Friday, and then Saturday will be the last day of the exhibit, and we will go in Sunday to pack up the paintings, and that will be the close of summer for us. But oh, what a summer it has been! One for the memory book!


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

And So September Continues



Kitchen time!
Labor Day weekend was busy. Sun, rain, company at home, many holiday-makers in Northport, meals and sleep, lots of books going to new homes, with here and there some quiet time for a dog walk or, lower on Sarah’s priority list, a short grooming session. Reading, too, of course, even if it had to happen at 3 a.m. while the rest of the world slept.

American Stranger, a novel by David Plante, came to me as an ARC from Delphinium Books. While it was enjoyable reading, I have to say I expected more. Nancy’s parents fled the Nazis in Berlin but never speak of those days. She grows up believing that her parents’ furniture came with them from Germany and only learns as an adult that they bought it all in New York. But that is the extent of the revelations from their old life. There is a vague reference to “the president” asking people what they can do for their country but no more politics than that. I understand that the novel had to do with Nancy’s life, not the life of the greater United States. Still, it seems odd that the world around her wouldn’t seep into her thoughts now and then. I would have liked to get out of the bedroom more, I guess.

Pause en route
From fiction I turned to another book on economics and am finding that fascinating and very, very important. I’m trying to think back to my days as an office worker at Western Michigan University and topics covered in the interdisciplinary Environmental Studies course: Did those students perhaps read Herman Daly? The first edition of Steady-State Economics came out in 1977, so it’s entirely possible. I’ll have to ask my friend who was the program advisor, but if I knew the name back then I’d forgotten it.

My introduction or re-introduction, whichever it was, to Herman E. Daly in the 21st century came, as does much of my environmental/scientific news, by way of Acres USA, a magazine that calls itself “The Voice of Eco-Agriculture.” With their Eco-Update and Industrial Ag Watch news sections, I keep abreast of developments that don’t necessarily make NPR or the top newspapers in the country, but another fantastic feature is the interview in every issue. (I’m trying to get the editorial people to pull a few years’ worth of interviews together into a book. I would be thrilled to have that for sale at Dog Ears!) September’s interviewee was Herman Daly himself, and I was so impressed by what he said in the magazine pages that I tracked down a few of his books.

Daly went from being a professor of economics to senior economist in the Environment Department of the World Bank. He co-founded and was associate editor of the journal Ecological Economics. As emeritus professor from the School of Economics, University of Maryland, he currently serves on the executive board of the Center for the Advancement of Steady State EconomyThe essays in Steady-State Economics do not form a quick or easy read, but they are clearly written and understandable to any educated person willing to take the time.

Daly holds his opinions strongly and with good reason. In his preface to the second edition ((1991), he notes the omission of serious consideration for any works of “even remotely ‘Malthusian’” economics, including his own, by the majority of American economists who reject such theories and such works without examination. He quotes Daniel Raymond’s rejection of Malthus, Raymond who wrote simply that “the mind instinctively revolts at the conclusions....” Daly goes on:
It might be said in Mr. Raymond’s defense that one is not obliged to accept an unwanted or counterintuitive conclusion just because one cannot immediately find a logical or factual error in the argument leading to it. One might legitimately say, “I need to think about that.”
The thing is that they didn’t bother to think about it or examine it or consider it, and here Daly is stern:
[T]o refute an argument one must find either a factual error in the premises or a logical error in the reasoning. If after an extended time no such error can be found, then, contrary to Mr. Raymond’s view, one must bow to the conclusion of the argument. If the reader is annoyed with me at this point for unnecessarily reminding everyone about the elementary rules of argumentation, then I am glad. But experience has taught me that many people cannot distinguish an argument from a fulmination and are equally convinced (or unmoved) by either, depending only on whether or not the conclusion fits their established mind set.
(Is anyone else reminded here of the Heath and Heath book I brought forward recently? The well-supported contention in Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard that logic is not enough, that people also need a motive to change their minds and behavior? Well, that is an important insight, but for now I only bookmark it and suggest to those who missed the earlier post to check it out.)

The one big, big, big idea underlying steady-state economics is that “the economy” (an abstraction with no clear real-world referent) is not a closed, man-made system but an open system depending on low-entropy inputs from the natural world. Human beings convert raw material matter-energy into more artifacts and more people -- we reproduce ourselves as well as adding to the world’s “stuff” -- and output waste of all kinds. Some of our waste is recyclable, but even recycling takes time, so that even recyclable waste builds up, while a lot of our waste is nothing nature is equipped to recycle at all. The goal of unending economic growth, therefore, nothing more than a recipe by which we will bury ourselves in waste and ecological disaster.

Why have most economists not seen this?

Because they are too enamored of abstract mathematical models to allow the intrusion of the biosphere into their schemes, too committed to what Daly calls (and I love his dark humor) “crackpot rigor,” “scientistic pretension,” and the “blind aping of the mechanistic methods of physics,” at the same time that they ignore the laws of thermodynamics that would alert them to natural limits.

And because no one wants the bad news. “Growth” is seen as positive for two reasons. First, it’s the basis of power for nations; second, it’s an alternative to sharing. Daly puts it pithily: “It offers the prospect of more for all with sacrifice by none....”

Take the question of American agriculture “feeding the world.”
The drive to increase agricultural productivity leads to the replacement of low-yield species by newly developed high-yield species, which results in greater homogeneity of crops, that is, in a reduction in the diversity of the genetic stock and consequently a greater vulnerability to future pest and disease mutants. The increased vulnerability of the monoculture calls for even more protection by pesticides. [GMO seeds modified to be resistant to pesticides have only accelerated this vicious upward spiral.] In addition, more inputs of fertilizer and fresh-water irrigation are required by “green revolutions,” with resulting problems of water pollution and shortage.
 
It isn’t only farmers whose livelihood depends on soil and sun and rain. Everyone on earth is in the lifeboat together. Look at today’s newspaper. Any day's news!

"National Minstrel"
One of the reason I am so proud to sell so many used books is that these ‘artifacts’ (in Daly’s language) are still fulfilling their purpose as human artifacts, still conveying the ideas of their authors, still useful, not waste. And because I know how long books can live, when properly cared for, I feel good about selling new books, too. Here are a few places where I’ve written about questions of and books about resource use, production, “stuff,” books, etc.:




Copyright 1836


Saturday, September 2, 2017

And So, September Arrives



Labor Day weekend is not après-Season time. It’s the last big hurrah of The Season, with cars all over the roads and motel reservations a must, but “of The Season” is not “of the summer.” Autumn has arrived with cool temperatures and the first changing leaves, nighttime blankets on the bed and clothes that don’t want to dry completely on the line, even in full sun. Visitors we still have, and the calendar continues to be crowded with special events – life has not yet slowed down (one begins to wonder if it ever will again) -- yet the feeling of September is definitely here, a feeling difficult to pin down but saturated with memories.

I’ve been saving the posthumous collection of Jim Harrison’s essays, A Really Big Lunch, wanting to stretch the anticipation out as long as I could, but finally the other I succumbed to the pleasure, and pleasure it was indeed. Every page, every line, was so completely Jim’s voice that I felt, as I told my husband, as if Jim and Linda were alive again. I’ve never been to Montana and so never visited them in that home, but the descriptions of the house on French Road, of the U.P. cabin and surrounding woods, the Arizona casita and mountains there on the frontera, and even Paris (though my times in Paris were nothing like Harrison’s in any way!) – all those I pictured clearly while hearing Jim’s voice, my mind full of pictures and talk. And Linda, too. For instance, in one of my favorite essays in the book, “Gramps Le Fou,” writing of himself in the third person, Harrison had this to say:
Only a week ago he had announced to his wife that he intended to spend the rest of his life studying wrens, which he loved for their pretty heads and tubby bodies. “That’s a wonderful idea,” she replied.
I just love it. It made me so happy to hear their voices again!

Much in these essays is taken from memory’s hoard – memories of fishing and hunting, of eating and drinking, spectacular meals and memorable bottles of wine remembered again and again, along with the friends who shared the food and wine and the settings in which all were enjoyed. There are also dogs, of course, and there are dreams, and there is aging, and there is pain, but always acknowledgement that someone who has lived so vividly and so well has no grounds for complaint.
...I have no complaints because when not actually writing I get to be outdoors doing important things like hunting, fishing, bird-watching, roasting a wild piglet, studying the sources of creeks, or driving ornate mandalas around the entire country. By profession I collect memories.
The temptation for me is to go on quoting endlessly from A Really Big Lunch (famously, the title meal was a lunch of 37 courses -- but only, as he repeatedly reminds his readers, 19 wines!), but that would be self-indulgent, not to say selfish. Anyone who already loves Harrison’s work or is discovering it for the first time deserves to find his or her own favorite passages. The photos are wonderful, too.

My favorite - whole family + garden
After finishing, with a deep sigh, the last literary gift I can expect from Jim Harrison, it seemed logical to turn to another Michigan writer, Dan Gerber, who lived in Leland for several years. His novel, A Voice From The River (all words in the title are capitalized on the cover and on the title page), from Clark City Press, is one I must have read before but now seem to be “discovering” as if for the first time. When Dan lived in Leland, his favorite pastime one fierce winter seemed to be driving around in his 4-wheel-drive vehicle with heavy winch and rescuing motorists who had gone off icy roads into ditches. Gerber, like Harrison, is a writer I’ve appreciated most for his poetry, but A Voice From The River, a beautifully written, thoroughly original story, had me captivated today at 4 a.m.



Shorter days, cooler days and nights, the long, lovely, slanting fall sunlight, a different cast of blossoms and colors, and a crowd of memories: all that is September. For myself, I cannot deny the beauty of even the deadly invasive purple loosestrife. I would not plant or transplant it, but is it wrong to recognize its beauty when by happenstance we encounter one another?


August is over. Labor Day is almost upon us. I’ll be here in the bookstore on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. but have not committed myself one way or the other about Monday. It will depend on how tired we are ... how many people are still in Northport on Sunday evening ... what kind of weather seems to be coming our way... how we feel. In general, once this weekend is past, I’ll be taking a few days off, probably Sunday and Monday on a regular basis and maybe a few more if we can snag a little break....

Whatever you are doing this holiday weekend, whether working or traveling or staying close to home or getting ready to go back to school, do stay safe! And a really big thanks to everyone for reading Books in Northport and for supporting independent bookstores in your hometown and wherever you travel!

Preparing for departure!




Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Just How Hard IS Change?


Good morning!

I’m coming back today to a book that cheered and energized me last week. In Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, Chip Heath & Dan Heath don’t tell us that change is ever easy, but they do make a convincing case that we can make change easier by approaching it differently.



Here’s how too many of us (yes, me, too), often react, when people aren’t making changes we want them to make:

“How can they be so stupid? And lazy! Can’t they see past their noses? Can’t they use their heads?” Sartre said (or, at least, is said to have said), “Hell is other people,” and who hasn’t felt frustration at the apparent intransigeance of other people? But every single one of us is an other. We meet face to face or online or over the phone: to me, you are the other. To you, I am. And that’s just how it is.

Chip Heath and Dan Heath – and I’m going to call them H&H from now on – cite numerous research studies and tell many true stories in every chapter. They are not simply “brainstorming” or speculating on how change might be made easier. Their tips and recommendations are clear and specific and backed up by results. And whether I want to change myself or someone else or a whole group of people, the basic empirical insights hold. H&H tell us story after story of changes that worked, changes initiated by people with no special authority or power other than an ability to see how to do things a different way.


Do human beings "stubbornly resist" change? Maybe the change they are asked to make isn’t clear to them. “What looks like resistance,” the authors say, “is often a lack of clarity. So provide crystal-clear direction.”

For instance, “Eat a healthier diet” is not specific. – And here I have to interrupt myself to say I don’t at all like the authors’ example, because it has to do with buying and drinking milk with only 1% butterfat rather than whole milk, and I am not at all convinced that whole milk is unhealthy (in fact, it drives me crazy that most of the yogurt in the grocery store case is nonfat!), but that’s not the point. The point is to give clear, specific instructions, and make them easy to follow.



H&H also say, “What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.” All of us depend on routines and habits to get through the day, and if we have to think too much, uncertainty about what to do can be paralyzing. Too many possible choices or an ambiguous situation will make our minds anxious, and when anxious, we revert by default to a familiar path, seeking our comfort zone. If we can’t, studies have shown that operating outside a comfort zone for too long results in deteriorating task performance. The mere experience of applying willpower to not eating a plate of cookies left in the room with them resulted in subjects performing more poorly on a task than other subjects without the antecedent test of will. Self-discipline wears us out. We only have so much energy for it. So we’re better off devising little tricks to keep ourselves in line.

In order to brave a new path, we also need a motive. Emotion is the “elephant,” in the book’s terms, intellect the “rider,” though I’ve avoided that language here. The important point is that to effect change, in ourselves or others, we must appeal not only to the intellect but also to emotion.

Here’s an astonishing revelation from early in the book. Can you believe that of the 24 most commonly used English words for emotion, only six are positive? Our language, and probably our brain itself, is more alert to threats than to happiness, probably for reasons important to survival – but still, that’s what we see all too often in each other, even when it isn’t there. I see not what you’re doing right but what you’re doing wrong, not the good you’ve done but the good you’ve failed to do. And how motivated are you by criticism? Me, not very!

All the logic in the world does not induce people to change without emotional appeal. Argument and reason are good, often necessary, but by themselves insufficient. Okay, what kind of emotional appeal? How about fear? Fear is a strong motivator, H&H acknowledge, but works best in the short term. It doesn’t work all that well for problems requiring incremental change over the long term. Why would that be?

Well, fear is one of those negative emotions.
When you’re angry, your eyes narrow and your fists clench and you get ready for confrontation. When you’re disgusted, your nose wrinkles and you avoid whatever has grossed you out. When you’re afraid, your eyes grow wide and your body tenses up and prepares to flee. On a daily basis, then, negative emotions help us avoid risks and confront problems.
Narrowed eyes, clenched fists, tense body – that’s how we respond when we’re in the grip of a negative emotion. Fight or flight! says the mind. Don't confuse me with more options! But that narrowing effect also works on our thoughts and doesn’t help when what we need is a broader vision, when we need to innovate, and to grow.
The positive emotion of interest broadens what we want to investigate. When we’re interested, we want to get involved, to learn new things, to tackle new experiences. We become more open to new ideas. The positive emotion of pride, experienced when we achieve a personal goal, broadens the kinds of tasks we contemplate for the future, encouraging us to pursue even bigger goals.
Appeals, therefore, to positive emotions – excitement, hope, optimism – motivate people to embrace change.

One tip the authors give is to focus on success, however small, and build on it. They call it “finding the bright spots.” Say your son was failing all his junior high classes but this semester managed to get a B in one of them. Talk to him about that good grade, help him find out what made the difference in that class and how he might be able to extend his success into other subjects. In general, don’t look for problems but for what’s working.

Another is to shrink the change. Don’t ask for a big change all at once. Show people ways they have already, without being aware of changing, taken the first couple of steps, and it's like magic!

He's on his way!
It also helps to provide “environmental tweaks.” These, H&H say, “beat self control every time,” whether it’s my own behavior or someone else’s I want to change. One simple example (we’ve use this in our home) is to use smaller plates on the dinner table. Rearranging furniture is another way to tweak the environment and change the situation. Shaping the environment changes behavior, and it’s easier, more efficient, and more pleasant to shape new behaviors that way than by hectoring and scolding. You don’t even have to talk about it!

I’ve hardly done justice to this book, because I’ve been boiling down to prescriptions what the authors present in exciting stories of change. You just need to read it for yourself. Switch is written largely (not exclusively) from and with a business perspective, but the implications go way beyond. In fact, I can hardly think of a realm where they would not be appropriate.

So, from what I’ve said so far, let me ask what lessons you would draw from the H&H prescriptions when it comes to working for political change? ??? If you’re not feeling optimistic yet, blame it on me and not on the authors, go to the library, and give H&H a reading for yourself. (I’ll order the hardcover for anyone who requests it; unfortunately, the book was never issued in paper. I also have 2-3 used copies winging their the way to me.)

If you buy the book from me and read the whole thing and don’t feel the faintest glimmer of hope, I’ll cheerfully refund your money and take the book back, knowing that it will inspire someone else. What I hope for, really, is a community of energized, hopeful people ready to go at change in a whole new way. Maybe we can help each other? I’d love to travel hopefully into the future! Wouldn't you?