The Massive Perturbers are Here!!

...a blog by melanie gillespie...

...a blog by melanie gillespie...

My birthday was this week. The Healthy Gen team gave me some great birthday gifts and one of them is the ability for you to now share comments at the end of this blog so that we can be in an interactive conversation! I am so excited! Please say hi and share some thoughts when you are done reading!

My birthday was on Monday, in fact. Yes, that means I got to share my birthday with the day we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday. His real day is the 15th, but this year I got to share the official day with him and I felt honored and grateful. He is still such a teacher for us all, he feels alive to me sometimes. I have so many favorite quotes and writings from him, but this year for my birthday I chose this one:

We have so much work to do to realize the dream of a society in which all are equally included, in which enduring health equity is the reality, not the mission statement.

It seems like there is lots of debate on how to get there. Another great teacher, john a. powell, provides some wonderful food for thought in an article parsing the concept of targeted universalism (a critical component on the path to health equity in my mind) and varying viewpoints about the Black Lives Matter movement. I recommend the whole article; these excerpts may whet your appetite:


“We should be universal in our goals and aspirations, but targeted in our strategies based on where we are situated in our structures, our cultures and our environment. Too often our strategies are universal under the claim that we are treating all people and groups the same.

Targeted universalism acts like the proverbial canary in the coal mine: drawing our attention to structures and how different groups are situated with the structures so that we can develop strategies and pathways to get all to the universal goal.

… All lives should matter but in this America -- from Ferguson to Charleston -- we are constantly reminded that blacks lives have not mattered as much as whites lives. And by proclaiming our target of fully embracing that black lives matter, we come closer to our aspirations of a society where all lives matter.

Along these lines, I was bowled over by the articulate and on point writing of Seahawks lineman Russell Okung this week in GeekWire in response to an essay by venture capitalist, Paul Graham. I was pretty much jumping up and down and fist pumping when he got to this part (if you’ve met me, you can insert visual image here, you’ve probably seen me jumping up and down or gesticulating wildly at some meeting or event…):

Economic inequality isn’t the symptom; it’s the virus that attacks. You, Graham, like the rest of America, have been deceived. You are a victim of the American Dream, the belief that anyone who works hard can move up economically regardless of his or her social circumstances. American cultural optimism is one of the greatest lies ever told. (emphasis added)

In addition to loving how well he made his point and in an area of America’s economy where these discussions rarely happen (76% of VCs are white men), I also enjoyed the opportunity to have my own assumptions jarred. I admit, I had an initially dismissive thought before reading the actual article because Okung is a football player. And, well… apparently I labor under the unconscious bias/delusion that football players can’t also be smart. FACEPALM! It reminded me of a recent conversation with my daughter who had been regaling me with her hero worship for Richard Sherman, also of Seahawks fame, and also a graduate of Stanford and was ranked second in his high school class. She rightly recognized him as what we refer to in our home as “a badass.” You don’t use that terminology in your home? Oh well… sorry if I offend!

Of course I hadn’t even considered the fact that both men are African American until I decided to write about them in some fashion here. I am such a poor follower of football that I didn’t actually know that was the case for Okung, whom I had never heard of previously, and I get confused about who Sherman is, although I vaguely recognize the name when mentioned in popular media. I know, you can’t even imagine that, you’re calling me a liar right now, but Emily would vouch for that fact, all the while mocking my lameness for not being a football fan like she is. For me, the automatic bias was the jock not the race. Some excellent writing here, though, on the issue of racism in sports and specifically re: Sherman and his much lauded GPA and Stanford pedigree.

I LOVED this moment of being brought face to face with my own bias. Just when we think we know how things are, something new pops up to challenge our assumptions. I LOVE this! Pretty much every time. I don’t know why exactly, I just love that moment of your mind gently exploding as the universe as you know it rearranges itself around a new insight, fact, song, poem, person… really so many things can cause that if we stay open for it.

Since you already know my passion for all things space, you will correctly gauge my delight at the new evidence suggesting a possible 9th planet in our solar system:

The evidence for Planet Nine is based on data revealing a so called “massive perturber.” Seriously!! This is my new band name! Or maybe the new mascot name for Healthy Gen… “The Massive Perturbers…” What do you think? Certainly HOPEtivisits, by definition, are Massive Perturbers. We’ve started profiling them in HOPE Happens; send us your HOPEtivism stories so we can share them!

At the core of HOPEtivisim is recognition of our interdependencies. We are all connected. We need each other. Hope is a social gift, remember, we each hinder or help each other along our pathways to our goals. Relationship IS the evidence based practice. We need 4 hugs a day to survive and 12 to flourish after all. So get hugging, people.

As a parting gift, in honor of Dr. King, I am thrilled to share with you my new favorite book, You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey with artwork by Soyeon Kim, which I found at the treasure trove that is Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings. The incredible artwork and writing tell an inspirational tale of how we are all made up of the very same thing, how we are all connected to every living being and rock and star everywhere. It has movement and excitement and gloriously captures a critical wide eyed wonder I believe we each deeply need to nurture to become our best selves. Here is a fun, super short video about the book and accompanying app and below that, several images from the book for your viewing pleasure

Have a fantastic day!