Life + Outdoors » Field Notes

Disruption (Personal Edition)



"Disruption" seems to be the latest business fad; if you're not disrupting — taking risks, causing chaos and regularly failing — you may as well pack up and go home. Being neither a capitalistic mover nor shaker, I can't offer an opinion on corporate change, but I will on personal change. We humans have evolved to be super-flexible, our survival having depended on our ability to change according to the environment and circumstances. That's how humans, from the earliest times, were able to extend their range to the ends of the earth — fashioning clothes from animal skins to maintain body temperature in cold climates, making boats to migrate to new lands, harnessing the power of oxen to plow for our new-fangled agriculture. "Change or die" might well have been the motto of our species.

Now that most of us have more stability and are not constantly challenged by the pressures of a hostile environment, it's easy to settle into routines — which can lead to inactivity and apathy. In order to not just survive but to thrive, we need to do what our hardy ancestors did: change. Me, I dread slipping into a routine-rut: getting up at the same time every day, hearing myself tell the same stories, paying the same bills year after year. If you empathize, here are some disruptive ideas to consider as we embark on the New Year:


Try following libertarian Harry Brown's advice: Pick an amount ($2, $5, $20) that you're willing to simply let go of rather than argue over — if you picked $5, and realized the waiter overcharged a buck, make believe it's OK and just pay it. Get a $10 roll of quarters from the bank and give them all away in the next hour. Outlaw pennies — leave those you receive in change.

Inner Life

Sit quietly without any stimulation, eyes closed, listening for the farthest sound. Start writing with the stem "I'm ready to ..." for 15 minutes (no editing on the fly). Choose your own funeral music and record to a CD or flash drive (give to a younger friend with instructions).

Physical Life

Turn the shower on cold at the end. Wear no makeup, nothing to "improve" your looks. Time how long you can hold your breath. Fast for 24 hours. Go bowling. Walk in the rain. Eschew elevators and escalators for stairs. Tape two mirrors at right angles and see yourself as others see you (that is, not left-right reversed as in a regular mirror — see image above). 


Learn the name and birth town of one stranger per day for the next week. Take turns at word association with a friend — no pauses! Walk blind for 500 steps: eyes closed, holding hands with your bestie. Ask the next telemarketer how their day is going. Write a letter to the editor.  


Purge shelves and walls of any trinkets or art that you haven't noticed for a week. Store unused stuff in taped-up boxes with a note, "Dump on January 1, 2017," as you consider Kris Kristofferson's line: "Freedom's just a name for nothing left to lose."

Night Life

Change your digital clock or watch to 24-hour time. Set your alarm for 0300 hours and go for a nightwalk. Follow the phases of the moon over the next month. Sleep in a different room or on the floor. Use the word "crepuscular." If you live near city lights, promise yourself, sometime in the next six months, you'll see the Milky Way as our ancestors did, from a dark site on a moonless night.

Barry Evans ( resolves to purge in 2016: beliefs, guilt and stuff, including old T-shirts.

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