Better Ways to Live
Honoring Social Inventors, Exploring New Challenges
Everybody knows what a physical invention is, but what is a social invention? On the community level, it can be as simple as a story-telling evening or an “abundance swap,” both among the many examples described here. On the global level, the Peace Corps was a social invention. Better Ways to Live celebrates many successful social inventions, and explores challenges that invite new ways of working together. It’s a form of creativity, inventing the social forms that enrich our lives.
Gift of Darkness
Growing Up in Occupied Amsterdam
(Foreword by Francis Weller)
Gift of Darkness tells the story of a boy who, like Anne Frank, lived in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. Unlike Anne, he was not taken into early hiding, but was able to move around the city, even to help serve its Jewish community, and observe first-hand the ominous things that were happening.
Robbert Van Santen lived each day not knowing how or when the war would end, not being sure that he would survive, not imagining that as an elder he would articulate his experiences to an American author.
To put one of Mary Oliver’s poetic phrases in a new context, his story is “a box full of darkness,” but in the telling he offers the author and the reader the gift of stepping into his shoes and thus the satisfaction of coming to understand a teenager’s challenging life.
What did Robbert do afterward? He sought “to find joy in life despite what happened. Not instead of the memories, but as a response to them.”
Comstock has performed a valuable service in putting these vivid, closeup memories on the record in his book, Gift of Darkness. It is almost unimaginable that all of this happened, miraculous that this young eyewitness survived, and we can be grateful that the author encouraged him to tell the tale.
– Adam Hochschild, author of Bury the Chains and
To End All Wars, finalist for the National Book Award
Enlarging Our Comfort Zones
A Life of Unexpected Destinations
How do we learn to enlarge our comfort zones rather than lapsing into a life of habit? How do we negotiate the awkward stage of trying something new and learn to operate there with success?
This book is the story of ten years of a challenging, surprising, and deeply satisfying career that gave the author the repeated opportunity to create an expanded comfort zone. It starts with a life falling apart around the age of 40, and describes the happy discoveries this allowed.
Enlarging Our Comfort Zones illustrates the process of growth, which can start in many ways and take many forms. In the words of the dedication, the author wants to celebrate “clients and friends who led him into new worlds” and readers who risk enlarging their own comfort zones.
"In dark times in this country, it's good to be reminded of just how many people are trying to do decent and useful things. A small fraction of those folks come to life in these pages, and they will hearten you!"
– Bill McKibbon, founder of 350.org, author of Oil and Honey