Personal Guiding PrinciplesI initially used "Manifesto" instead of "Guiding Principles" - but then decided to change it for several reasons, including the fact that the cultural associations with "Manifesto", on both an individual and government scale, are not so great... & Pro Tips

For me, connectingWhile this site leans towards the personal, my orientation towards connection applies equally to ideas as to people. personally, playfully, and meaningfully is what makes life worth living. It was a major contributor to the formation of my science-art-education studio TechnoFrolics, and my micro rarely-updated bike path adventures Cycling Reflections site.

I believe the world is in great need of play, connection, and community. As but one example, the level of addiction (at least in the USA) has reached epic proportions, is growing at an alarming rate, and, as the author Johann Hari His TED Talk (have watched - great; includes study of rats in connection vs. in isolation that is both profound and moving); his book Chasing the Scream (have not yet read). notes, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, the opposite of addiction is connection.

As a secular humanist, below I offer some thoughts and reflectionsDisclaimer: There is some repetition of core concepts, simply using alternative phrasing; perhaps I will prune in the future, or perhaps not. (currently 44 guiding principles and 2 pro tips) that (on a good day anyway...) function as my guiding principles. Perhaps you will find some of them resonate with you as well.

  1. Connectedness and mutual understanding are their own rewards.
  2. The value of playfulness and humor cannot be overrated.
  3. Acknowledging and appreciating the otherand oneself is paramount.
  4. A thousand tiny disappointments eventually take a toll; every interaction matters.
  5. Try, like a child (or Buddhist monk Beginners Mind / Shoshin ), to be open, inquisitive, and unafraid.
  6. Smile at strangers as you would if they were a newborn baby — adults need smiles too.
  7. Being joyful and connected is more important than being "proper"; be respectful, but do not become an island of subdued propriety.
  8. Don't take yourself, or the opinion of others, more seriously than is helpful.
  9. It is easier to be unguarded and playful with the very young and the very old than those in the middle; golden retrievers (And other friendly breeds as well of course.)

    The dogs I grew up with (click to expand). dogs
    offer guidance for how to be joyous and playful with all.
  10. Beauty matters, and takes many forms.
  11. Art matters, and takes many forms.
  12. Feelings matter — indeed perhaps they are the only thing that do"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Maya Angelou; don't let concerns about practical issues obscure or overwhelm that truth.
  13. Striving to understand, articulate, and share the nuances and origins of one's and that of others internal world is a pursuit both worthy and connective; never let others, or the surrounding culture, convince you otherwise.
  14. Live your life in part as performance art; never so much as to prevent connection with others, but enough to entwinkle Nope, not a real word, but exactly what I want to express. each day.
  15. Name, categorize, and separate your world into pieces only to the extent it is useful for your understanding and calm; do not segregate so much as to prevent valuable connections between people and between ideas.
  16. Others likely don't know how to meaningfully connect any better than you do; be strong and reach out — we all need to work together.
  17. Be sensitive to the privacy and desires of others, but not so (over) sensitive as to needlessly isolate yourself; remember that good connections benefit you and the other.
  18. The interchange “How are you?”, “I’m fine, how are you?", “Fine” rarely helps either party; be real.
  19. Don't let the fact that you don't know someone prevent meaningful connection; everyone's a stranger until they're not.
  20. Communication is almost always better than the lack of it, even — perhaps especially — when it feels scary.
  21. All other things being equal, it is usually best to behave in a way that expands your worldand concomitantly that of others, rather than keeps its size constant or shrinks it.
  22. Try not to let your trepidations make you overly cautious: If there is a chance reaching out will generate a moment of awkwardness, and a chance it will create a smile, err on the side of reaching out; life is short - live it.
  23. Being vulnerable is almostUnless you are in a truly hostile environment, in which case get out of there as fast as you can. always better than being defended; it is of particular value when it allows another to feel safer.
  24. Feeling embarrassed and silly is not so bad — particularly if it is a consequence of doing something that matters to you.
  25. Kindness matters — a lot.
  26. Honesty matters; be authentic.
  27. What you choose to say is just as important as whether what you say is true.
  28. If you feel regretful, be quick to apologize; saying you are sorry is not the same thing as saying you were wrong — you can be sorry and not wrong, and wrong and not sorry.
  29. Take responsibility for your feelings because they are, after all, yours.
  30. Just because one is feeling distress does not mean someone (another, or you yourself) is "to blame"; life is way more complex than that.
  31. Respect both your own boundaries and the boundaries of othersAs a man, I find this requires particular attention in connection with women, due to the increased complexity of the interaction, stemming from both interpersonal elements and cultural context.
    As one example within the riding arena: I tend to be a faster cyclist than most (though certainly not all) women riders. This means that the decision to ride together for a bit is, in its most elemental form and prior to attending to non-verbal cues or asking explicit questions, a decision in my court as I can readily speed away if I wish, but less so the reverse.
    I find this unequal "power dynamic" far from ideal, as it makes the simple pleasure of connecting and playing more challenging (though certainly worth the effort!).
  32. Asking questions is almost always a good thing; you don't have to try to figure everything out on your own, and in relationship to others, cannot.
  33. Try to leave a trail of sparkles in your wake; it is a worthy effort, and forgives occasionally tracking in a little mud.
  34. If you have two paths to choose between, don’t avoid one simply because it is a little scaryI spent a period of time trying the reverse of this - in other words, choosing a path based almost exclusively on its being the scariest of the options. That didn't always work out so well either... (though I did grow a lot). As in most things in life, a middle ground is probably best. .
    If you have two paths to choose between, don’t choose one simply because it is comfortable and predictable.
  35. It is much more likely the other person doesn’t understand, or doesn't know, than that they are of ill intent. It is the rare person who is malicious; it is the frequent person who is different sometimes dramatically, painfully, so, overwhelmed, or distracted.
  36. Be neither overly ashamed of your mistakes, nor overly self-congratulatory for your successes; be balanced.
  37. Most things of value require work, usually extending over a longer period of time than one can possibly imagine at the outset; do not expect overnight success or be overly discouraged by interim setbacks.
  38. Love matters, and takes many forms.
  39. Listening deeply is a gift to both the listener and listeneeThe fact that this is not a real word is just silly..
  40. Empathy, compassion, and forgiveness are soothing, rejuvenative, and healing; don't forget to give them to yourself in equal measure as you give them to others.
  41. Mistakes are inevitable; don't beat yourself up, but do try to learn from them.
  42. If you feel strongly about something or someone, you should probably pay attention — even if you are not immediately clear what to do with the feeling.
  43. Share stories of your attempts to reach out and play; in this way even failures — indeed particularly failures — are often transformed into fun stories and rewarding connections.
  44. A fellow kinetic artist said during a talk that one of the reasons he built his public artworks was so that strangers could smile at one another without feeling self-conscious. I love him for that.

Pro Tips:

  1. When at a social gathering, a highly recommended conversation starter is "What question would you like to be asked?" It provides the listener an opportunity to think deeply about who they are and what they truly care about, and their answer can offer much interesting information. At its best, it creates a mutually-welcome real connection amidst a sea of superficiality.
  2. Evaluate someone not on what they believe but on how they came to believe it. By doing this you naturally begin to understand them, they to better understand themselves, and you to better understand yourself. This approach has the potential to bridge divides that may, if one focuses only on the beliefs themselves, be near-insurmountable.
    The world is extraordinarily complex and people's life experiences profoundly diverse, and where even common, shared elements may be given dramatically different intellectual weight and emotional importance. Our society is in desperate need of kind, respectful communication; I don't know about you, but I do not want to live in a veritable war zone - even if that war zone is "just" political.