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What’s the risk?

“If it’s icy outside, better stay in,” they say,

“A slip or a trip, and there’ll be hell to pay.”

“Want to learn about leaves? Could be fun, so sweet!

But a kid could get lost, just print the worksheet.”

“Building stuff with real tools?

Sounds cool, but nope,

Could turn into weapons.

We’ve lost all hope.

Yeah, we can count the injuries,

the broken bones,

But what about the risks that go unknown?

The ones on graphs that can’t be shown.

What’s the cost to a kid who never plays,

Never gets to figure things out in the fray?

Schools stick to the script, tests and all,

Too much freedom? They’re afraid they’ll fall.

But aren’t we missing something, a vital part?

The growth of imagination, invention, the heart?

Are we so scared of risks that we blindfold our youth,

From a world where they need to find their own truth?

If a child never gets to climb a tall tree

they’ll miss out on the view of what they could be

Yes, calculate your risks, but keep in mind,

It’s not just the numbers that you need to find.

In trying so hard to control every twist, We forget,

avoiding risk is the bigger risk that exists.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the risks we take in life. And even more so, the risks we DON’T take. 

Schools are a good example of this. American schools have become increasingly afraid of quantitative risks. 

Too icy outside? Someone might slip, so keep the kids in. Want to learn about leaves in the fall by walking in the woods? A kid might run off, so print a worksheet instead. Want to teach engineering by building something with real tools? A kid might use those tools as a weapon, so watch a YouTube video instead. 

Yes, there are real, actually quantifiable risks. You can count broken bones. But do we give equal thought to the hidden qualitative risks? What is the risk to the mental health of a child who never gets time to process and practice on the playground because injury and litigation are too scary for administration? You can’t see that risk until it’s too late. 

Schools are afraid to risk letting go of strict curriculum and standardized testing, because too much choice becomes uncontrollable and unmeasurable. But what is the unseen risk of keeping children from exercising the skill of imagination, invention, and problem solving?

Have we become so risk-adverse that we are raising an enmeshed, over-stimulated, under-regulated generation? 

Yes, take calculated risks, but first make sure to have all pieces of the equation.

Controlling for risk is a risk itself.

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It Makes Sound

If the tree falls when no one’s around
Does anyone care? Will it make sound?
Yes! Our own creations, like that silent tree,
Echo inside ourselves, their own melody.

The purpose of art, in its purest form,

Is to make us more human, to transform.

In the act of falling, in the act of creation,
Lies the essence of our human station.

“If a tree falls in the forest with no one around, does it make a sound?”


This question always seemed silly to me. Of course it does, the tree was there to hear itself. The tree experienced the fall. As did anything close to it. And it continued to make sound as animals made their home in it, more sound when its fading leaves blew in the wind, and even more sound when that child eventually came to the forest to learn to balance on its history. 

I’ve thought about this sentiment a few times as we continue to see a rise in Artificial Intelligence. It wasn’t that long ago that I thought the humanities – unique pieces of art, music and literature – would hold off against artificial replication. Clearly AI has moved well past that. So why create art, why write stories, why craft at all if AI can do it faster, better, and for a wider audience? If it can make a louder sound?

Because even if art is created with no one around, it makes sound to the creator. My humanities make sound to me. No one else and nothing else can ever replace my creative process. For me, the process of creation is part of becoming. The process of creation changes me. It helps me take the time to process my world. It reflects back at me to help me see my priorities from another angle, even if no one else is standing where the light bends for that same perspective. The process of creating helps me become more human – which is to say – more vulnerable, raw, and real. That is the purpose of humanities – to help us become more of what we already are – human. And AI can’t replicate that.

Is all of this to say I’m anti-AI? Not as much as some artists. AI can be used for good *if* it is used like a hammer or a paintbrush – something to pick up, utilize, and put back down again. This is something I do on occasion. Many times I’ll have an idea in my head that I’m having a hard time sketching out properly. So, I turn to the tool of AI and ask it to make the building blocks for me, nudging it different directions until I have enough of a reference picture to get back to hands-on. AI has potential to be used for some incredibly noble advancements. However, if the humans behind AI and the humans utilizing AI don’t first touch the earth, watch an eagle’s natural co-parenting instincts during a blizzard, and ultimately learn to balance on that fallen log – they will never know what and why to build with AI.

As humans, we spend too much time focusing on what our impact will be. How many likes, how many followers, what awards, how much noise? We overlook the value that it is to experience existence. An individual experiencing existence and experiencing creation is worthy as is. The value is not in the results. We need to allow ourselves the space to create for the sake of creating.

Is all of this selfishness? No. The tree could could not exist in and of itself. The air it gave, the nutrition it produced, the beauty it stood for is the emergence of the soil and seeds of the past and the biodiversity of its presence. Every creator is the emergence of their past and the diversity of their communities. Creating is to acknowledge our universal connection.

As we move into a world heavily influenced by collectively trained AI, I also consider the universal connection we have with the rising generation. Will we help the next generation see that their sound matters no matter who else sees or hears it? Will we help our children create more than they consume? Will we personally value their individual experience? Will we allow them to make mistakes in their creative processes (including grammatical errors), or will we overly sanitize their existence with algorithmically assigned standards? Will we help them touch the dirt, watch the birds, and balance on that log, so that they can, in turn, know what and why to create with the tools they have been given? Or will we create a world where they believe their noise is only measured in decibels?

I have, on occasion, tried to raise the decibels of my voice about what I believe matters in all of this. And does that voice matter? Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it if I measure it by splash or influence. I know it matters to my puddle-jumping Ander-Joy family, but even if it didn’t make a splash there, I can remember the trees. It matters that I am using my voice, because the process of using my voice is a reflective sound to myself.

If this post falls into a world unseen by even one other person, will it matter? Will it make a sound?


To me. 

The process of using my voice, the process of creating, the growth of me now and after I’m gone still matter – my personal experience – my progression towards authenticity. Those matter. 

They are what make me human. Writing this has been a form of self reflection. What do I value moving into this new rapidly changing future? How will I grow from now until the next time I create? What will I do to ensure that the next generation can hear their own sound? All of this musing makes sound to me.

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How Will I Nourish Today?

Finding the lagom (a Swedish word for “just right”) approach to health & wellness can be difficult. A hyper-focus on health leads to toxic and sometimes dangerous diet, exercise, and appearance cultures. On the other hand, an ignorance of healthy practices clearly also has negative impacts. 

For me, that just-right, lagom solution has been to start a habit of asking two simple questions each morning:

  1. How will I nourish myself today?
  2. How will I nourish future generations?

The answer to the first is often as simple as “I will drink an extra glass of waster” or “I will write in my journal” or “I will walk instead of drive.” 

The answer to the second can be equally simple “I will remind them that they are loved” or “We’ll practice swimming” or “I’ll advocate for sensory/outdoor education experiences” or “I will plant native plants.”

Little by little these once-a-day intentional choices have helped me get to know myself better while also bringing a fuller feeling of wellness in my life. 

How will you nourish today?

Will you drink an extra cup of water?

Will you plant a seed of advocacy for the future?

Will you listen to those “this song gets it” words?

Will you take the time to gökotta with the birds?

Will you paint simply to paint?

Will you renew something yorn, yet quaint?

How will you nourish today?

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Support The Spark

Year 2023 Motto

If you slowdown enough to truly listen to people, especially children, you’ll find intrinsic sparks.

Rather than mold, coerce, and impede – try to nurture, uncover, and support. Look for the spark, add kindling, and see a generation catch fire with inspiration to uplift the world.

Consider focusing on “Supporting the Spark” in yourself and others in 2023.

Thank you to everyone who has brought kindling to my life.