Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Perchance to Dream

Many of us, for whatever reason, have been discouraged from dreaming. The pragmatists tell us it's a waste of time and energy. I suppose I have always been somewhat of a dreamer, even being called an idealist once by a work supervisor. I have seen many of the dreams come true, and have many yet to be fulfilled. I dreamed of singing and recording in multiple languages, combining two of my greatest passions and giftings. It has happened. I then dreamed of equipping other creatives with a broader world view and a deeper sense of their place in this world. Almost 1000 creatives came through the programs we offered. Could I have done some things better? Oh yes; but the dreams became reality nevertheless.

They're not all old dreams, either -- the dreams keep coming. One of my latest dreams is to promote a deeper sense of cultural awareness in this age of globalization; to foster what one author has termed "glocalization", where we learn to think and act both on a local and on a global scale. (Check out the book in my reading list on the right.) And being an American, one of my more ambitious dreams is to improve the image of America and Americans in the international community. God willing, this will take the form of seminars, webinars and podcasts on cross-cultural dynamics in this new age in which we live.

Another dream that is not far from reality is hosting World to the Wise Cultural Tours, where North Americans are given the chance not only to visit their dream destinations, but also to understand the heart of the culture they're visiting: what is the story behind the way people live as they live? Stay tuned -- our first tour is in the offing!

Welcome to Water Cooler Wednesday -- check it out!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Celebrating a Hero

I do not pretend that Nelson Mandela is perfect. What I do affirm is the astounding way he has resisted the urge to respond in kind. Imagine spending 30 years in prison under an oppressive regime -- 30 years -- then upon your release, walking out and committing to rebuild a nation through peaceful means. Has the African National Congress always operated without violence? Of course not. But if Mandela had responded to apartheid in the same spirit, my sense is that the nation of South Africa would have been completely consumed in violence and civil war.

This Nobel Peace Prize recipient turned 90 years old on July 18, and was celebrated by a huge crowd at a concert in London's Hyde Park.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Mandela. My hat is off to you, one of the stateliest statesmen I know.

Click here to watch a 4-minute audio slideshow of this man's extraordinary life.

Dancing Badly Around the World

This video is sure to bring a smile to your face and remind you what an amazing place Planet Earth is:

With all the "war and rumors of war," it's easy to lose sight of the fact that when God created the world, he sat back and pronounced it good. And as Matt Harding demonstrates in his own unpolished, abandoned way, there is much to celebrate in the beauty of cultural diversity.

So do a little jig today -- wherever you happen to find yourself on this big ball of ours!

This post is part of Water Cooler Wednesday -- check it out!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A World in Flux

First, thanks to all who participated in the poll, with the question of whether it's appropriate for governments to boycott the Beijing Olympics to make a political point. 88% of those who took the poll said it is inappropriate.

Speaking of China, she finds herself again in todays' topic: our changing world climate. Addressing an elite gathering in Switzerland of CEO's from some of the foremost international companies, Herbert E. Meyer laid out an insightful manifesto entitled "What in the World Is Going On? A Global Intelligence Briefing for CEO's." Meyer is widely credited with being the first senior U.S.Government official to forecast the Soviet Union’s collapse, for which he was later awarded the U.S. National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, the intelligence community’s highest honor.

According to Meyer, there are four great transformations that are currently shaping global political, economic and social life:

  1. The war in Iraq - the conflict is not just between Islamic terrorists and the U.S.-led coalition; Meyer says it is much, much bigger -- and actually represents the 3rd major attack of radical Islam on Western Civilization.
  2. The emergence of China - in a few short years, 500 million Chinese will have moved from the country to the city. This internal upheaval and historic transformation cannot help but have a cataclysmic effect on the world stage.
  3. Shifting demographics of Western Civilization - Europe is currently importing so many Muslims and other foreigners that by 2020, for example, more than half of all births in the Netherlands will be non-European.
  4. The restructuring of American business - with the rise of outsourcing and independent contracting as a common business model, it is increasingly difficult to get an accurate read of the economy.

Fascinating and illuminating, Meyer's entire speech is worth the read...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

To Boycott or Not to Boycott

President Bush has pledged to attend the Beijing Olympics, stating that to boycott would be an "affront to the Chinese people." French president Nicolas Sarkozy has also decided to attend the opening ceremony, having stating earlier that it depended on China's handling of the Tibetan situation.

This brings up a huge question: are the Olympic Games an opportunity to air grievances between nations? Do they supply the leverage governments are looking for to punish another country or at least make a political point?

Take our poll and post a comment!

Monday, July 7, 2008

What's a Hash Cafe Owner to Do?

If you've ever been to Amsterdam, you know it stands out from other world capitals. Having lived there over five years, I have vivid memories of a charming city rich in culture and history -- but also of a conflicted city on an ongoing quest to "find itself." Historic old churches in the middle of the world's most (in)famous red light district; world class museums housing priceless treasures, coexisting with buildings almost effaced by graffiti.

Since July 1, Amsterdam finds itself again facing a unique set of questions. In compliance with the EU's initiatives to ban smoking in public places, the Netherlands was one of the last to lay down the law. Not surprising when you know that the traditional coffee shop can just as easily be called a smoking parlor. But in Amsterdam, it's a little more complicated: for years, many of the city's notorious coffee shops have also offered hashish on their menus. It's technically illegal, but smokers are not prosecuted for possession under 5 grams. Around 750 Dutch cafés — half of them in Amsterdam — are licensed to have up to 500 grams in stock at any one time. The problem Dutch smokers now face is that most of the marijuana they smoke is in fat, cone-shaped joints that contain a blend of cannabis and tobacco. With the new law now in force, the hash will have to be pure.

Shops are scrambling to adapt. One alternative is "vaporizer" machines, which incinerate weed smokelessly. Another is to replace tobacco with herbs like coltsfoot, a common plant that looks like a dandelion and that smokers describe as tasting a bit like oregano. But most shops are just planning to increase their sales of hash brownies and pure weed — and are hoping the law isn't enforced.

What a predicament. I guess every small business has its challenges...

Thanks to my friend Celeste Yohai for the observation!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My Nephew the Olympian

You may have heard about the track and field Olympic qualifiers in Eugene, Oregon this past weekend. The trio of finalists in the men's shotput includes my nephew, Adam Nelson. The son of my wife's oldest brother, Adam is a two-time Olympic silver medalist.

Let's be honest -- when you look at those guys, you tend to think they're all brawn and little brain. Nothing could be farther from the truth, especially in Adam's case. In between workouts, he happens to be working on his MBA at the University of Virginia, and his wife, Lacie, is in law school there. Adam is the picture of perseverence, discipline and keeping life in balance.

You can listen to Adam's latest interview with NPR's Neil Conan, where Adam shares his perspective on the quest for the gold. And check out the numerous videos of Adam on youtube.