Clarity First Newsletter,
December 18, 2020

“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence, summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance, winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.” — Yoko Ono

Clarity First

A notebook about how we work, and learn, and love and live.

In just three days those of us in the Northern Hemisphere will experience the winter solstice, the darkest day of what has been a very dark year.

But there is a reason that virtually all of Western civilizations have identified this day as special.

“The Romans had, like other Pagan nations, a nature festival, called by them Saturnalia, and the Northern peoples had Yule; both celebrated the turn of the year from the death of winter to the life of spring – the winter solstice. As this was an auspicious change the festival was a very joyous one… The giving of presents and the burning of candles characterized it. Among the Northern people the lighting of a huge log in the houses of the great and with appropriate ceremonies was a feature.” – Samuel L. Jackson

“The night of December 25, to which date the Nativity of Christ was ultimately assigned, was exactly that of the birth of the Persian savior Mithra, who, as an incarnation of eternal light, was born the night of the winter solstice (then dated December 25) at midnight, the instant of the turn of the year from increasing darkness to light.” – Joseph Campbell

“That’s what Hanukkah is about: trying to survive the darkness on the far-fetched hope there’s still some life and light left in the universe. It’s more than just a religious story. The days have been growing shorter, imperceptibly but inescapably darker…. Heading into the night of the winter solstice, every spiritual tradition has some kind of festival of light. We’re all just whistling in the dark, hoping against hope that someone up there will see these little Hanukkah candles and get the hint.” – Lawrence Kushner

The solstice, this time compounded by an international pandemic, delivers us to what Fr. Richard Rohr calls the liminal state. “It is where we are betwixt and between, having left one room or stage of life but not yet entered the next.” He also suggests that while liminal states can be unsettling, they offer unique opportunities for setting aside assumptions and opening ourselves to real change.

As you know, dear reader, I strive to live in and for this state of learning, transition and growth.

Happy Friday. Happy solstice. As Yoko says, perseverance rocks.

Learning, Collective Consciousness

Liminal space is an inner state and sometimes an outer situation where we can begin to think and act in new ways.

“It is where we are betwixt and between, having left one room or stage of life but not yet entered the next. We usually enter liminal space when our former way of being is challenged or changed—perhaps when we lose a job or a loved one, during illness, at the birth of a child, or a major relocation. It is a graced time, but often does not feel “graced” in any way. In such space, we are not certain or in control. This global pandemic we now face is an example of an immense, collective liminal space.

“The very vulnerability and openness of liminal space allows room for something genuinely new to happen. We are empty and receptive—erased tablets waiting for new words. Liminal space is where we are most teachable, often because we are most humbled. Liminality keeps us in an ongoing state of shadowboxing instead of ego-confirmation, struggling with the hidden side of things, and calling so-called normalcy into creative question.”

Article: Between Two Worlds

Thank you to Gratia Napier for reminding me of this post.

Collective Intelligence, Learning

What if these difficult times are part of an important transition into a better way for human beings to live together?

David Rynick is a Resident Teacher at Boundless Way Temple in Worcester, MA Image by Steve Lavana

“Deep Democracy asserts that each person in a situation speaks not just for themselves, but for the situation itself. Each person deserves to be heard, not just because they have a right to be heard, but because they see and experience some unique aspect of what is occurring.

“Author and thinker Arny Mindell teaches that there is wisdom inherent in every situation – even situations of conflict and chaos. Our job as participants is not to control or fight to impose our will on a situation, but to support what is emerging. What if the current difficulty is the gateway to new understandings and new solutions?  As we uncover and support the deep currents of  what is already happening, we create the potential for new and sometimes paradoxical resolutions of ancient problems.

“Curiosity and courage are the two essential skills here. We have to be willing to step beyond right-and-wrong thinking and to set aside, even briefly, some of our cherished certainty. This requires an intentional practice of flexibility and growing capacity to deal with the many inner opinions and feelings that inevitably arise. This is not easy to do, but we can grow our skill and capacity to appreciate and work with what is emerging.”

Article: Deep Democracy

Thank you to Steve Abdow for introducing me to the work of David Rynick.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Employees increasingly want their employers to become more responsible corporate citizens. 

 Illustration by Klaus Kremmerz

“Here is a playbook for how employees can be effective change agents and how leaders can respond to employee activism.”

Article: Business Disruption From the Inside Out

Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion

Learn about the history and dynamics of how racism manifests at the individual, interpersonal, organization, and systemic levels. 

This week my friend and colleague Beth Tener told me about a very cool online  “learning challenge” that she is co-facilitating starting next month. Presented by New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility, the Workplace Racial Equity Learning Challenge provides individuals and teams in the workforce community a way to:

“- Learn about the history and dynamics of how racism manifests at the individual, interpersonal, organization, and systemic levels.
– Gain insights into NH history and current imperatives on issues relating to racial equity.
– Discover local resources and leaders working on these issues so you can support, amplify, and/or complement this work.
– Have a space for dialogue with other organizational leaders to reflect and consider how you can take action and invest your resources for change in the most effective ways.”

While the curriculum is centered around New Hampshire communities, Beth assures me that it will be highly relevant to all, and that all are welcome.

And thanks to the support of generous sponsors, participation is free. See you there?

Workshop Series/Learning Community: Racial Equity Learning Challenge 

Graphic Design, Social Messaging

Art and design have the power to document, inform, comfort, provoke and create hope for us in times of crisis.

“Dylan Mulvaney, head of design at Gretel, explores how art and design played a part in communicating vital information during the influenza, polio and HIV/AIDS epidemics.”

Article: Art and Design in a Time of Crisis: What Can We Learn from the Graphic History of Viruses?

Social Messaging, Conceptual Art

Artist demonstrates how the far right might leverage environmentalism to justify white supremacist agendas.

“What happens when alt-right ideologies are packaged in progressive aesthetics?

“This is the question posed by Ours, Samuel Marion’s new conceptual browser work, commissioned by Rhizome and presented by the New Museum. It foretells a near future in which conservative politics leverage environmental sympathies to both justify and obscure white supremacist and anti-immigration agendas. In order to explore these issues through the lens of advertising conventions, Marion created a darkly satirical corporate website for an imaginary outdoor clothing and equipment brand called Ours, that loosely resembles companies like Patagonia and REI.”

Article: Satirical Corporate Website Brands Ecofascism

Just for fun

What GIFs tell us about ourselves

“Giphy has revealed its always popular list of most-viewed GIFs of the year, a visual summation of 2020’s global emotional rollercoaster. Dominated by love, support, gratefulness and virtual hugs, the list also depicts isolation and a smiley dumpster fire – exemplifying the past 12 months’ events. Each of the GIFs has been shared hundreds of millions of times, showing how the platform can act as a litmus test for how online society is expressing itself.”

Article: Giphy’s Most-Viewed GIFs of the Year Reflect the Global Emotions of 2020



Article: How SEO Is Gentrifying the Internet

Article: Why “Remember Me” on Logins Should Be the Default

Article: The Difference Between Efficacy, Effectiveness and Efficiency


Image of the Week

The image of the week is by Jesse Krimes. “Red Eagle” (2020), is made from antique quilts, used clothing collected from incarcerated people, and other assorted textiles. 95 x 72 inches.

Jesse Krimes is quilting a history of disappearance. Originally a sculptor, he developed an interest in patchwork while incarcerated. With no art supplies, he made do with old newspapers, bed sheets, pencils, and hair gel. His large-scale quilts now reach over eight feet, draped across the walls of Malin Gallery like grand tapestries. For his latest exhibition, he brings together works focused on the loss of individual identity within the prison industrial complex, interweaving victims’ cherished materials into solemn, contemplative scenes.

“Multiple quilts in American Rendition portray a solitary bird perched beside a chair. These two symbols are particularly thought-provoking in the context of imprisonment — the caged bird longing to fly, an empty chair at the dinner table. Krimes sews pieces of denim, US flags, and textiles collected from current and formerly incarcerated people. Decorative flourishes bring the scenes to life, with patterned borders and backdrops drawing the eye to each colorful motif and panel.”

Article: In Large-Scale Quilts, Jesse Krimes Memorializes Those Subsumed by Incarceration


As you know, since last winter Tiny Desk Concerts has been asking their hand-chosen Tiny Desk artists to phone their contributions in, rather than trek to DC to perform behind the the NPR team’s actual tiny desks. But few artists have been able to showcase their Tiny Desk (Home) Concert as dramatically as Brazilian vocalist Bebel Gilberto. Her home frames a lagoon in the heart of the Leblon neighborhood that overlooks the dramatic Dois Irmãos mountain in Rio de Janeiro.

“Bebel Gilberto is, of course, the daughter of one of the creators of bossa nova, João Gilberto. But as she slinks into the subtle electronic samba of “Cliché,” from her new album Agora, it becomes clear why she is now a standard bearer of Brazilian music. During this concert, she is accompanied by Chico Brown, the son of famed musician Carlinhos Brown and grandson of the legendary Chico Buarque.”

Tiny Desk Concert: Bebel Gilberto: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert


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If you’re new to Clarity First, it’s the weekly newsletter by me, Mitch Anthony. I help people use their brand – their purpose, values, and stories – as a pedagogy and toolbox for transformation. Learn more.

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