Play Threads

October 22, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Art, Auto-Biography, Play

I like to play with my life.  This is not particularly obvious to some people that know me as they observe the enormous amount of time I spend indoors at my laptop conducting business, talking to clients on the phone, emailing activists around the country, talking to activists on the phone….  I spend a lot of time emailing, reading emails and talking and listening on the phone.

Play follows trails while allowing itself to be led.  Wondering into the forest of an interesting idea, I occasionally come to the end of a small dirt path and have to either backtrack or just stroll into the underbrush.  These daily essays feel like just such a stroll.  I can’t see my feet because of all the foliage, but I feel the ground is firm, so I keep on going.  After a bit, I realize there happens to be a footpath where I am walking.  It just wasn’t evident at first.

When I say I play with my life, I mean that I pay attention to what feels interesting, what I feel attracted to.  I explore what feels neat.  A neotenous aspect of my personality is that I reflexively like and trust people.  I feel affection for people.  And I spend a lot of psychic energy hiding this experience from myself and the folks I know or come across.  The net result is that to many I seem somewhat removed.  Often I am feeling moved.  Maintaining the constant barrier between my affections and those toward which my affections are directed, my attentions divert toward what seems interesting in my life.  I focus on ideas or the making of things, instead of people.  This dam I create between folks I know and me generates energy used to understand how things work, how new things get made, how things connect.

Play seems to unfold in pathways or threads that lead to new and increasingly more interesting threads with time.  Illustrations drawn in the 70s led to paintings that led to a greeting card publishing company I created in 1979 to exhibit my works.  That led to a career as a sales rep specializing in greeting cards.  I picked up The Far Side as a greeting card line.  My focus turned to cartooning.  I published a cartoon strip.  I began a cartoon syndicate to distribute my strip and the strip of eleven other comic artists.  I published a comic arts monthly in Chicago and Ann Arbor to exhibit our work.  I founded a puppet manufacturing firm (a puppet is a 3-D cartoon) with almost 60 characters.  Then, the several threads faded and I needed work.

I looked for business for my new, one-person, website design firm by cold calling over 1,500 independent retailers once a year starting in 1999.  I decided to collect the information in a series of online village retail directories.  My son Elia or I took photos of every shop.  Each shop got its own free page.  I also created directories by category, not just village.  My clients got prime positions in the directories.

By chance, I had needed a tenth search engine to run comparisons and the name Google jumped out at me off of a list of hundreds.  It was back when Google was unknown.  With time, I noticed that the ways the directory pages interlinked provided some of the directories top spots in Google for their key phrase.  Having accidentally uncovered Google’s linking criteria for high rankings, as Google grew I was able to achieve top ten positions for phrases like “airline tickets,” “lingerie” and “mortgages.”  I wondered if I could channel this insight into money for the environment.  I raised over $20,000 for environmental organizations using affiliate agreements, generated by getting high rankings for key phrases using directories similar to what I’d created for local stores.

Around 1997, I grew interested in dragon mythology.  My studies of dragons led to an exploration of serpent myths and their matrifocal culture of origin.  Investigating matrilineal social structure, I hypothesized an alternative human evolution model based on female sexual selection.  That work led to studies of the relationship among evolutionary biology, anthropology and neuropsychology.  Autism and conditions characterized by maturational delay emerged as neurological conditions supporting the new model.  Recent revelations on the relationship between society and biology place autism as central to understanding how humans evolved.

With the war, I became politically active again.  I found ways to integrate my activism with my firm’s programming capabilities.  Specifically, Rod Homor applied for a job and offered a deep intuition for how to integrate programming with political action.  Then Dave Larson came aboard and revealed a universe of understanding for how to integrate the world of the activist with online action execution.  I discovered I was not playing by myself.  I was involved in a creation process with gifted colleagues who loved to create and participate in change.

When one plays with life, life unfolds in threads in a journey filled with joy.  As time goes on, I find more playmates.  The play grows deeper.  Play seems to not know how to end.


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