When I was a little boy, my grandfather released some goldfish in a big pond he had in his yard. The goldfish grew to the size of trout.
Usually, those prized fish inspire memories of getting in trouble for trying to catch them with my fishing rod. Today, they inspired some thoughts on radical living. When we break molds, it's only a matter of time before we experience growth. The environments we place ourselves in, and yes, we choose them, dictate our behavior and development.
Molds, in other words, constraints, somehow have a way of becoming seen as comfortable and safe until they are removed. What's remarkable is that when they are, growth occurs in areas we never even realized were being constrained.
The giving experiment project is all about breaking the molds and experimenting outside of social norms.
Over the last few months, we've been giving away as much of our stuff as possible, keeping only the basics for our return from Guatemala. In doing so, as a family, we've been exploring the WHY of what we're doing. Interestingly, we are actually finding more and more genuine reasons every day. It has been incredible.
Many times we all look for affirmation before taking any kind of action, don't we? We dip our toes in first instead of just jumping right in. Somehow, the programs channeled into our living rooms have programmed us to stay there longer than we should. Our couches have kept us from taking action needed to pursue our dreams for long enough. When I go for walks at night, I'm always amazed at the blueish TV glows coming from almost every living room window. It's like being a spectator at an aquarium. (When I go back to my own little fish tank, I often indulge in the same behaviors I see as problematic. Observation, not judgment)
So, let's talk about programs. It's been a daily topic in our house, and I'd like to open it up to the people interested enough to read these posts.
The most concise description of what I mean by programs is an example of what I see when I watch Faye and Katie play with their dolls and stuffies. The same introductions, lines, and words are repeated over and over. (Insert dad voice imitating a 5-year-old girl's voice here: "Hi! How are you?" Would you like some tea?"
Our brains, at their core, rely on repetition and mimicry. Grocery store clerks, you know what I'm talking about. How many customers come in with individual responses to your auto-pilot line "How are you today? Would you like any bags?"
It's not that it's wrong, guys. It's the way all our brains work. It's just that it's...boring.
I want to live in a world where the unexpected becomes regular. In the world I envision, connections become more substantial than dental floss strandlines of repeated one-liners. I'm talking about SOUL baby!!!!
I revert very quickly to autopilot program lines when I am tired, overworked, and stressed.
Our brains will do their thing. But let's explore what happens when we give our souls a bigger piece in our personality pie charts.
This project of stripping down our possessions is bringing us to question. What are the things that define us as individuals?
First date programmed questions: "What kind of music do you like?" What are your favorite movies?" "Where did you grow up?"
...In other words, "Who are your programmers? I want to know if they are similar to mine. Are our programs compatible?"
As humans, we identify with something we see as cool and then imitate it. If we allow it, pop culture stars are there to set the pace. We judge and are judged by clothes worn and things owned.
But what happens when it's all stripped down to the bare bones.
It's like what Bob Dylan says in It's alright Ma, "Even the president of the United States sometimes must stand naked."
(Yes, Bob Dylan was one of my programmers.)
At the point of bare nakedness, nothing more than our actions define us. Actions go beyond the words we speak, the clothes we wear, the cars we drive.
This has been a ton of work so far. Packing up a house with five kids, winding down a business, designing this website, setting up the online store, and blogging has been no small undertaking.
But, as mentioned, the vision is becoming clear. I'm very excited to discover more about who I am and who we are as a family with less "stuff."
Challenge for my friends this week: find a unique and creative response to a programmed question. Something 100% you. Make it so out of the box that the person asking would write home about it! Break the mold, be bold, be goofy, be spontaneous and let your souls take over from time to time. Let's all experiment with that together.
I want to end with a massive thank you to everyone that has offered us support this week in one way or another. We are moving out of our house tomorrow. We are officially "floating" until I finish up the last jobs booked with our business and repainting the place we have been renting for 3 years. We've had offers of places to stay, child care, and many friends checking in on us. We feel our community support and love each and every one of you! If anyone near or far needs any household items, please send us your wish list in an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Owen Dargatz is a Canadian father of five, husband of one, and writes about life as a family man. Having grown up with three sisters in Peru, he has a unique view and appreciation for Latin American culture, travel, and family values.