Memo: Invest Yourself Where It Matters

Lilibeth Andre, Garden Iris, photograph

Lilibeth Andre, Garden Iris, photograph

Are you at peace with life? Are all your ducks in a row? Have you got your bucket list checked off, and planted the trees, written the book, and had the kid?

Nothing shakes you down more than finding you left something undone. Here’s a memo so take note.

We hear about last minute regrets so we prepare and make sure we are ready to find peace, hopefully, in our lifetime and not just at checkout time. We prepare ourselves but wait. What if it is someone else who gets the ticket to ride before you thought they would, and all that prepping you did for yourself, is now tested when you realize you did not prepare to say an early goodbye to someone else. Someone you expected to be here long after you were gone.

Don’t get stuck lining up your ducks, working on your peace, building your accomplishments and collecting your laurel wreaths because stuff is not something we take with us. It is the time we said, “no, can’t do that because I’m busy. It doesn’t fit my schedule or calculated and carefully weighted plan.”

Find who really matters to you and invest yourself in a way that will leave your hands full of memories you can take with you too.


The Future of Work – An Artist’s Perspective

The future of work is a concern for many. As we advance technology with artificial intelligence, with drones, with massive analytical capabilities we ask, will machines replace humans? Will there be any jobs left? What will we humans do?

In 2014, I was invited to present my Vision for Houston in 2040. This vision focused on our living environment, the combination of urbanism and nature. Since then, I’ve realized we also need to change how we live at the social level.

Currently we each carry a dollar sign on our chest. It is our value. It is what categorizes us and makes some targets to pursue and others untouchables. It gives us license to adore some and the ability to turn others invisible in their very presence. We relate to each other according to this value but aren’t we more than that?

If we look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs we can find a guide for developing our social make-up.

Maslow's pyramid of needs. Found on Wikipedia.

Maslow’s pyramid of needs. Found on Wikipedia.

Each person is unique. We each come to this life with certain gifts. I propose that we allow each person to pursue the development of those gifts, that we allow them to be their passion. With free education to pursue the development of those skills and knowledge people will become richer in areas that make them happy.

By providing a universal basic income thanks to the automation of much of the work we will enable everyone to meet their physiological needs along with their needs for safety and security. Everyone would have food and shelter where they decide to live.  This would be a standard.

We would then be free to pursue love and belonging, esteem, and self actualization. We would become givers instead of takers. Creators instead of consumers. We would all be free to become philanthropists of the gifts we have to give and these gifts would be developed to the level we desire. Some people would pursue technical paths, some would pursue social or natural areas. We would be able to match those who are young and curious with incessant questions with those who are senior and experienced looking to share their accrued knowledge and wisdom.

Everyone could become a master or an expert, or obtain enough experience to suffice for the needs of sharing in their community. The choice would be theirs. Those who want to pursue more could do so. Those who have had a life of making widget number 5 all their life would be invited to learn that which always called to them. This would not stop them from pursuing the great fish that got away but would give meaning to their retirement by giving them the opportunity to kick around that which they always wanted to pursue or practice, even if it was what they always did and loved. They would share of themselves with those looking for just that ability. Each person would be honored at all points of their life.

By finding the space to pursue love and belonging they would become esteemed members of their community. By finding and developing their true calling people would identify their place in the community. For the love of it, they would be scientists, engineers, technology experts, analysts enhancing the the advancements that make life hum. There would be those who engage in the social make-up of the community filling the creative, spiritual, and human need. And there would be those who become explorers, philosophers, and those who contemplate the essence of life. There would be those who become specialists and those who become generalists testing life in various areas at different times in their life. Everyone would be a teacher and a giver at one time or another, some more than others.

By enabling everyone to create a specific space for themselves in the community and valuing them for who they are, we can change the way we see “work” and live. We will recognize that each individual is important for who they are and what they contribute to the rest of us or the world in thought, product or presence. Not to pursue consumption but quality of life and enjoyment. We would pursue the purpose of being human.


Why We Need to Exercise Responsible Parenting In Our Creative Process

At the easel, painting a live portrait, First Saturday Arts Market a few years ago.

At the easel, painting a live portrait, First Saturday Arts Market a few years ago.

Responsible parenting is the magical ability to teach and impart self-managing skills to our children in a gradual and masterful way that fits their learning abilities and level of maturity. You will note that my definition does not assume anyone is an expert as there is a degree of immeasurable wiggle-room and ongoing opportunity for improvement. Perhaps that is why they say you become more of a master with grand-parenting.

If grand-parenting gives us room for improvement because we can stand back and look at our “creation” and learn from our mistakes then perhaps we can use this example in the practice of our creative works as well.

So how do we impart self-managing skills to our creations?

A key element that I find missing from many creative processes when it comes to the production phase is the consideration of what it takes to power your production, maintain it, and the plan for its obsolescence or posterity. In other words, the consideration of its full life cycle.

When we consider the full life cycle of a product we are giving it life skills for self-management. We are making a sustainable product.

What is a sustainable product? This definition is like the one for “organic” products. What is truly organic and what is acceptably “organic”. It depends on who is measuring. Our job is to consider every aspect of the product from its reason for being to its design, use, and end of life. Is the product necessary? What purpose will it serve? Does it enrich, communicate, serve? Is it unique, is it an improvement, is it a copy of something else?

Mitch model

Mitch posing for his Character Sketch at the First Saturday Arts Market.

Over the last few decades, we are again paying more attention to the aesthetics of a product but we are forgetting about its production and operation. We need to maintain the balance of quality control in all aspect of the creation’s life-cycle. Just as we look for the optimum design, the right raw material, the most effective and efficient production process to deliver maximum operation capacity, we also need to consider how it will be maintained and how it will ride off into the sunset…because if we don’t, then someone else will have to pick up the slack of our lack of planning and incur costs that we ultimately should be accountable for as master creators. Ineffective design fails to consider these elements in the rush to get the product out to market before its time.

One of the key elements today when it comes to sustainability of a functional product is how it will be powered. If this is an after thought then we will be incurring potential retrofitting costs to the owner when finding the most effective, efficient, and environmentally responsible source of energy. Operation, maintenance and planned obsolescence are critical to sustainable design.

So when considering birthing your next purposeful design, be mindful of what will go into it, how it will go into it, how it will operate, how it will be powered, how it will be maintained, how it will seize to exist, and how it will reintegrate as raw material for other creations.

Now if we could only write the ultimate parenting guide with that!

Have You Checked Your Flight Plan?

As I travel further on my untraveled road, I have given myself the luxury of looking back. Sometimes with a laugh, sometimes longingly but mostly thankful for the experiences and the gifts that have brought me to where I am today, rich in experience that, as I was taught during difficult times, I will always take with me in my heart. And now I realize that what is in my heart I will take with me beyond this lifetime, nothing more.

There are many things that we encounter in our life, places and people as well. Some of these things we relish, some we use, and some we want to attach ourselves to for the various purposes we give them. More importantly, in the big picture scheme, I begin to question purpose.

Purpose is what gives meaning to all questions and although some answers are revealed, some remain a mystery. In boiling down those that have been revealed I can only try to comprehend their meaning and find reason to my own existence. What is my purpose? Why am I here? and, How will I get there?

It would all be very clear if the flight plan would be revealed but the next best thing is what I believe to be a very basic part of it and to me basic allows for simplicity, and simplicity is something I can understand.

This is how I see this simple flight plan:

I believe we come to forgive and be forgiven, to love and be loved, and to appreciate what is and what isn’t. Forgiveness absolves all debt. Love accepts all beings, and appreciation allows us the freedom to find joy and learning in all things that are revealed along our path. These are the accomplishments we are able to take with us. Everything else is icing on the cake of life.


Houston–My Vision for 2040

On March 19, I was invited to share my vision of Houston 2040 with the My Houston 2040 folks, a group of visionaries from Houston Tomorrow, Air Alliance Houston, Better HoustonCongress for the New Urbanism (CNU), and the Citizen’s Transportation Coalition. After dinner with friends at Piola, and a preview of the play at The Ensemble Theater, I got home to put my vision on paper.

I began with how I arrived in Houston 22 years ago. Here’s my story:

In 1992, I came to Houston as a consolation prize.  My family and I were moving to San Antonio to be close to family. His in Michigan, mine in Mexico, and siblings in SA.

We arrived in the evening and decided to stay at an economy motel to rest and freshen up before going to see the family.  With four kids and a trailer each in tow, we were glad to park, grab a quick happy meal, give everyone a bath and hit the sack.

 In the morning the main vehicle and trailer were gone and after 30 days of searching and coming up empty- handed, we decided to take a second option … Dad lived in Clear Lake … and the coordinates were not too different from SA so we made Houston our home.

Having lived in Mexico, Illinois, Michigan California and Arizona, I came to Houston with the understanding that Houston was an industrial town with many freeways. And it had a medical center too.

We discovered Bellaire, the loneliness of downtown after 5pm, and the people-swallowing tunnel system. And there was a pretty cool express bus to Memorial that took 45 minutes to get there and allowed me to read a novel a month while commuting to work.

Working downtown I saw the run-down housing west of the main square give way to change. I saw an initial attempt to bring new residents to downtown without much thought to support services to satisfy their living needs. People were also saying they wanted better services in their own neighborhoods.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I discovered there were other things to Houston that seemed to have greater value. The great outdoors.

I began to discover that Houston had a tremendous assortment of natural ecosystems that could be enjoyed within a day’s drive. There were swamps, prairies, woods, marshes and of course the coast. I reconnected with nature and remembered the peace it gives freely.

In 22 years, I’ve seen downtown become a more livable core. I have seen freeways expand and still not satisfy traffic congestion. I’ve seen people grow in their understanding of what quality of life means to them. And I have seen how more people question what success of an economy looks like.

But the most exciting thing I see is that many more people are stepping up to make a difference. These people along with all the other dedicated people I have seen along the years, are where I was 22 years ago, and they are hitting the ground running.

The tipping point is before us and these young and high energy people understand that we must join together and create change from the individual level. They realize that this change must ripple out to build momentum and allow others to join in and build the synergy necessary to create a force for change.

I’m going to make a request. Sit comfortably. I invite you to close your eyes and breath in, slowly and deeply. Hold your breath for a few seconds and slowly exhale, and as you exhale, with your eyes still closed, follow me and begin to see this picture in your mind:

We move foreward in time. It is now 26 years later. It is the year 2040.

We are high above the ground and we can see below us. The Houston region appears to be made up of core islands of dense development surrounded by wooded green space, prairie grasslands, and marshlands all the way to the coast.

We see arteries of water, our bayous, like fingers reaching across the city coated by lush green gloves.

We see that the core islands are interconnected by a principal shared roadway with public transit, smart cars, people-powered vehicles and people-movers. There are mayor highways capturing freight vehicles anchored by public speed trains connecting to other major cities.

Within the core islands are meandering paths with rail, smart mini buses, smart cars, people-powered vehicles and pedestrians. Public and private transportation run on superconducting energy, solar cells and hydrogen.

We now begin to notice the architecture. It blends into the surroundings, so well that it is difficult to tell where nature ends and structures begin. The design is organic, it works with the elements, and the aesthetics present some artistic features that appear to be landmarks.

On closer observation we see that these landmarks are community structures. Within these structures we see shared space for learning, professional, and social activities. The structures, as with the residential structures, are adaptable. The public structures contain activities that take place 24-7.

Each building, private or social, is independently powered using solar, wind and water. They regenerate waste for reuse.

Learning and professional activities take place via eCommunication, in groups and individually. Many of these activities take place in residential space.

Education is tailored to the individual and is ongoing throughout life. Sharing of knowledge takes a special meaning in the social space where ideas are shared to expand interaction, creativity and innovation. Because education is free people seek learning and job satisfaction creating a workforce that satisfies the needs of the community. Education is repaid through social service and professional practice.

Leaders are elected electronically. There are no political parties. And candidates run on measured accomplishments and vision. Positions are unpaid and part of the social service so opportunities are open to anyone with the right skills and ideas.

Income is determined by the amount and level of education each individual achieves. Positions are assigned using a sophisticated system based on the old Myers-Briggs personality evaluation. And these evaluations take place upon request of the candidate and after life-changing conditions occur.

Because careers are determined by innate and developed skills, and education is unlimited, people can determine their social level through their merit and initiative so poverty is non-existent.

Health care is based on holistic natural health maintenance that includes natural modalities coupled with spiritual and energy practices. These activities are taught within the public learning system and coaches can be accessed for assessment and guidance. Emergency care is provided in public trauma centers that count on sophisticated and low intervention methods that allow for minimum tissue damage and high precision repair. Both systems work interconnectedly to maintain, restore, and manage health.

The connection to the natural environment is tied to quality food, water and air, wellness, learning, and well-being. It provides for high quality of life.

Each residential and social structure includes food gardens. The value of local organic farming is recognized and industrial farming is a forgotten industry. The higher quality food provides greater seasonal and nutritional value. It enhances overall wellness at the physical and emotional level.

Because the use of resources is measured there is little true waste. Resources are captured, modified, and recaptured. The community has adopted minimalist living and believes in quality versus quantity. This causes a resurgence in craftsmanship and natural materials that are consciously retained, particularly in the personal living space reducing indoor emissions and exposure.

Efficiency and innovation provide clean industry that satisfies local needs. We are a model of independent and resilient living utilizing minimal resources and maximizing natural systems.

Communities are naturally resilient through design and use technology and innovation to improve and advance the quality of life without sacrificing the same. The living environment works with nature and can better withstand changes because it allows nature itself to maintain the primary balance.

As we observe this vision of 2040, we sit down in one of the many public gardens off one of the multiple hidden paths within one of the wooded green spaces. We can hear the birds and feel the sunshine on our skin. We breathe and smell the fresh aroma of spring, of soil, of nature.

We breathe slowly and deeply, and gently, we begin to open our eyes.


Evolution or Revolution?

In my humble and individual opinion, we need to allow nature to work in our favor when looking at the world as it is today. This means we need to learn from those who have worked with the earth because they already possess the human knowledge of how to ‘allow’ nature without taxing natural processes. Nature can take care of itself but perhaps not in our lifetime or in a way that we are adapted to survive so working with nature can be most economic for us.

I think we have been quite spoiled to know nature in a fantastically favorable phase to us. We have adapted to most of its extremes and have propagated. But we have assumed earth is an endless source of resources and have taken advantage of its regenerative powers by eroding its various (eco)systems. And alas, we are an integral part of the system ourselves so the effects of imbalance reach us as well.

Rob Hopkins recently spoke in Houston about Transition. This group of folks is playing it by ear and taking action.

 I think that revolution (being from Mexico and hearing tales of Zapata in my family) is a tool. When a child wants to be heard and is continually ignored, the child resorts to screaming or acting up. I am not saying that revolution is a childish act. It is an example of a powerless being asserting its boundaries. I agree that it is a drastic act. An act to call attention to actions that must be faced. We live in a very comfortable social world and if lack does not affect us directly, we can easily live without looking it in the face. It doesn’t mean it goes away. It means we have grown blind to it. This can enable further push in the negative direction, until someone screams and people look and see what is happening. The next step is taking action. Action is difficult because it requires change and change is uncomfortable on various sides, namely emotional, physical, social, and economic.

 Awakening to a consciousness of love for the earth and the people in it allows us to see what is not good for all and what is inhibiting the good from happening without depletion of the source–earth. As you can see from the video, there is no perfect recipe. Each area, region or group has different needs and resources and therefore will evolve in finding their own solutions. Sharing our own successes helps us all grow exponentially in practice and experience as we move in a more benign way for all. To get there we need to trust. Trust that we will be OK with the change and not panic at the potential loss of what we have known because panic drives one to drastic measures on both extremes inhibiting benign evolution.


And The Pursuit of Happiness…Are We There Yet?

We declare our independence to be free to pursue happiness and we ask ourselves, are we there yet? Can you respond to this question instantly? Do you ponder and assess? Would you know what it looks like?

In asking myself those very questions I realized that I did not know the answer and I began an unacknowledged journey in the pursuit of happiness.

I certainly wanted to be there but I wasn’t quite sure of the extent of it or what it would be like.

I thought that if I had certain things which I didn’t have, that would make me happy but those things were not always there for me to have. This caused tremendous turmoil, rebelliousness, and unhappiness. There were two options, I could force them or I could not.

Not being one to give up I became so focuses on chasing those things that I forgot to paint, sing, and dance.

A dear friend lent me his hand and said, “Look at all the things you have.” He pointed to the sun, the breeze, the leaves and the loving people at my side but I was not quite ready to be satisfied.

Right around the moment of the most extreme angst I finally listened to a colleague and joined a breathe-focused meditation workshop. Through this experience I was able to see what really mattered to me. I didn’t stop wanting but I could see what mattered most to me.

The first thing was to know there was total love and acceptance where it mattered, at the beginning, at the top! This gave me the freedom to give that to everyone else.

The journey began to matter more. I was less distracted. I could begin to see that certain things called to me. I was unadulteratedly free to explore them. They had significance and I felt the freedom to relish the learning without judgement. In doing so, I was learning to know myself more than before.

As I continue to enjoy my personal journey through life and realize that each one of us chooses our own response and disposition to the path before us, I can be free to be myself and allow others to make their own choices. Have I reached the level of perfection? Far from it but at least now I know where I need to focus: I am the work in progress.

What have I gained? This process has taught me that the destination is myself. Knowing who I am. The result is what I give back in the form of what I receive and the light I choose to shine is that of peace and love, not only as words but as a true understanding, as an authentic experience.

So today, I believe I am truly on the right path. I have been on it all along but today I am more ready to enjoy it as myself.

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    © Lilibeth André and Art by Lilibeth André, 2009-2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this text, images or content without express and written permission Lilibeth André is strictly prohibited. For permission to license, exhibit or purchase any of the artwork, email Links to this site may be made with full and clear accreditation to Lilibeth André and Art by Lilibeth André.