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October 21, 2005

Substitution Effect

Today as I was walking back to work after lunch I spotted some bright-colored paper that had some writing on it. I walked a little closer and saw that it was a small, bright-pink colored notepad with a couple of pieces of purple notes sticking out of the middle pages. There was some blue ink-pen writing on those two pieces of paper. After examining them I discovered that the two pieces of paper were Ďflashcardsí for some business-oriented student. There was a word or phrase on one side and the definition on the other.
Card one had the phrase ďSubstitution Effect,Ē which is ďChange in Quantities demanded of a good that results because buyers switch to substitutes when price increases. I.e. Pizza to Cheeseburger.
The second card defined ďSubstitutes.Ē ďTwo goods are substitutes in consumption if increase in price causes right shift in demand curve.Ē
As I was walking back to work from lunch I was thinking of my own substitutions in life. These little notes just reminded me and drove home some thoughts that had been swirling around in the breeze flowing through my brain lately. When I set sail on the bike ship it was a runaway ship with the crew and captain doing their own things, sometimes together, sometimes contradicting each other. I found it somewhere between the rock and the hard place, stuck on the shoals but still afloat. At first I thought it was a cool ship, but then saw that it was full of pirates, steeling the heart and soul of it all, thinking they were touring the world while stuck in their dilusions. I decided to board to see if I could at least get it off the rocks and set it free. It was going to sink and still may. But I thought it was still worth boarding. After all, I can swim and teach others how to swim. Thatís another story though. One thing I did not come on board to do is start a mutiny. A mutiny at this point would be stupid because there is hardly a crew on board that can handle powering and steering the ship. What is needed is not a mutiny, but a substitution. Iím not here to fight against the leadership and destroy the only crew available, but to bring myself and others aboard, who can create a seaworthy ship out of a pile of canibalized bones. There is going to change, but the change is not brought about by resistance and fighting but by substituting despair, anger and burnout with hope. That which we resist, persists. I donít want to fight anything or anyone. Nobody has to be fed to the sharks to make the ship float. Itís not sinking under the weight of the crew. Itís sinking because of the lack of crew. The ship still waives a beautiful flag from itís rocky position and the crew is fed a steady diet of fish, but eventually the water would fill more than the bottom of the hull, substituting the light air for the heavier water, bringing it down. Itís stuck and Iím going to help the others rebuild it and sail it free, breathing life into the sails again. No pirate flags, no looting, no bragging rights, just a beautiful, clean-sailing bikeship, sailed cooperatively and willingly all over the world.
The way to do this, is not to tear down and destroy. That which we resist, persists. The way to do this is to create something wonderful to take the place of void. Put wood where there is an open gash. This creates a substitution effect. Filling the spirit of the ship with goodwill and good works makes no room for depression and that old sinking ship feeling. Instead of scrambling for lifeboats, the crew is mending sails, cooking up a storm in the galley, and feeling good about the destination. There is a substitution going on and Iím not worried about losing the things that were not working. Iím only concerned with building something that will sail and be able to sustain itself in the rough waters. You wonít see me in the captains quarters, youíll see me in the bowels of the ship building something cool. Can it work? Well, time will tell. Iím hopeful. I see the vision and hope. Itís not beyond repair. Seriously. It still has a lot to offer the community and a lot of good works it could be doing. Sure it may be too late, and I canít do it by myself, but itís also worth trying to save. Just the process of creating a seaworthy ship is fun and worthwhile. Even if I have to swim to shore and build another ship, Iíve been inspired by this shipís design and world-class ideals. I will never be the same again. Every ship I touch in the future will be effected by the people and the experiences here.
In life we donít have to fight evil we have to create good. We have to create good in order to create more good. Iíve been learning about Cooperatives lately and think this is a good example of substitution. Workers creating a new way of doing business, by sharing ownership and risk is a beautiful, successful thing, displacing the greed of a rank-based, owner-takes-all business model. All the workers benefit from their own hard work. Instead of fighting corporate greed, they created a better ship to sail on.
Jesus talks about filling our hearts with love and there will be no room for evil to grow. Many people donít follow this advice. Iím even guilty of not following this. But more and more Iím believing this by experience. The more I love others the less room I have for hating others. The substitution effect is really about making better choices. Making choices that create instead of destroy. Making choices that lift up instead of tear down. This is very hopeful and encouraging.
Last night at the bike shop I had three very enthusiastic learners who could hardly speak a word of english. They were excited to return next week. Bikes as a Second Language (BSL) is going to be a worthwhile creation. They loved the idea of helping to fix bikes for others. At the same time, they get a language tutor to help them live in this country. I sent them home with three tire-irons, a patch kit and language study material. They are going to fix tires at home, study hard and come back next week to fix two flat tires each. That is more than six tires that were flat but will now work. Do you see the beauty in this? Next week's instruction will be the braking system. Are any of you good english tutors? Want to work with some Hmong refugees with practically no english skills? This is a cool opportunity on a small scale with a large-scale effect. Let me know. There's plenty of room aboard.

Posted by carl1236 at October 21, 2005 4:02 PM | Attitude