When I asked Barbara to recommend people to this project, she immediately mentioned her husband, Ian, who I had the chance to chat with briefly at Rose's house in the summer. We found some time that worked for both of us and then put something on the calendar and then we pushed that date around a bit. We eventually met at Ian's mother-in-law's house which is serving as the Trask basecamp while they work on their own home. And we dove right into meaningful conversation over some coffee and traded loads of stories and experiences before I turned the recorder on. Ian has an incredibly kind affect and finds easy access to his emotions and tears - a trait which I find very becoming - likely because I share it. Ian's brilliance and articulation seem to only be surpassed by his compassion. It was an absolute treat chatting with him.
Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
My name's Ian Trask. I am a human being. I have a large heart. Tend to be pretty heartfelt. Struggle with my own identity issues somewhat, but overall, I'm not ruthless in any way. I've done my best to be genuine and caring and honest and live in integrity with myself to the extent that I'm able. And I can honestly say that through my life, if nothing else, I've done that.
Other than that, I have a lot of interests. I feel I've had - to date - a full life experience. I get bored easy, so I do things for a little while and then do different things. So, I've got to experience a lot of things. I feel fortunate for being born into the circumstance and then giving myself the permission to explore and experience many things.
What matters to you or do you care about?
I care about my family and their well-being. I guess in the short list of values I care about honesty. I care and I certainly struggle with living in integrity - with knowing how I truly feel and then acting in accordance to support and align myself with that on a daily basis. In the large scope it's easy; in the minutia sometimes I'm capable of being very upset with people in traffic even though I'm the one who left late. I'm pretty human in those regards. But I care about our experience. I care about how we live and are able to sustain life on this planet. I have concerns around all that.
My background is in mechanical engineering. Again because I get bored easy, I've done a lot of different things and studied different things, so I have a perspective on that that causes me some grief when I watch what we do versus what we are capable of doing. So, yeah, I care about people and humanity in the large scope. And sometimes it's difficult for me to care in the minutia - in the individual level - to carry that and be in integrity with that on an individual basis.
What concerns you or what gives you a heavy heart?
I feel that we've developed a culture that the socioeconomic pressures are to do certain things even though we know they are not in the best interest of our longterm quality of life. And that's difficult to watch. To know there's alternatives and watch how, for profit - mostly profit-driven reasons - we continually make very poor choices both on the small scale as consumers and on the larger scale as what is available to consume and what we promote into this circumstance. That's difficult for me. That upsets me.
We have companies putting millions of dollars into making efficient cars, but our cars on average weigh 3,200 pounds; we on average weigh 160 pounds. So five percent of the energy goes to moving us and 95% to moving the car, so there's no efficient way to do that. That's just not possible. And we know how and have the technology to build low-mass cars that are safe and that would work and that would be practical and that would actually do what we need the car to do 80% of the time. And then we could get three or four or five times that efficiency that we're struggling so hard to get out of these vehicles. So, that isn't new technology; that's just a set of choices that the companies and the consumers are not making that would solve this problem we say we care about, but we're not doing it. So, that's just one example of the difference between what we do versus what we say we want to do. And this is driven by socioeconomic pressures for companies to make money doing what they do. That's hard to watch.
What would you say we mean to each other - person to person?
I think we're more alike than we... I feel I'm more alike than I'm willing to admit. So when I see any person, there's a part of me that can recognize that that is just like me. When I'm in really good spirits, when I'm having a good day, when I feel I'm clear of heart and mind simultaneously, that is obvious. And then it's obvious and easy for how to be. And then in other times, I struggle with perception and I tend to believe that we're all very similar so I would believe that the rest of us struggle with that, too. And that can be divisive and shift what we do towards things that are maybe not the best either for us or for society.
Ultimately, I think that human beings have evolved to thrive in community. It was the only way we could survive, so that was selected for. So there's a baseline understanding that through shared values we build community and through community we can exist and that's the best for everyone. And that's the most fun, too. And yet, I've been enculturated to have other beliefs about how that is.
What does it mean to you, personally, to be part of the greater community?
Well, two things. I struggle with feeling that I'm part of the greater community because of various things that I've done that tend to isolate myself from it. But, conceptually... yeah, I don't know how to answer that. Conceptually, I would like to think that the end of the day at the end of my life I added some more than I took from the experience of being here - that I had a positive impact even in some small way to the overall process. And I believe that we inherently feel that way and then we struggle to reconcile that with the requirements to what we have to do to exist.
What is it that allows us to be hard on ourselves and to chastise ourselves for the things we do wrong, but slower to celebrate general accomplishments?
That's an interesting question and dilemma and it's kinda sad. I think we are enculturated in so many ways to not live, and let alone embrace, how and who we are - how we truly feel, how we really are. I was enculturated really to believe that all that is very secondary to that I have a good job or that I am responsible or that I'm not a criminal - which, part of that is valid. But I just don't think we're trained to embrace ourselves just for our goodness of being. And that's a pretty simple choice and I think it would add to the quality of each of our lives. It certainly would add to the quality of my life were I to do that more readily. So, that's interesting.
I don't understand the idea of social injustice in general. I don't know why we find these things to use to pit us against one another. And why we lord over people over things like eye color or skin tone or political affiliation or religion or sexual orientation. What's your role in a general day-to-day sense in this obliteration of social injustice or in the reparations? For the people that do care about these things or at least have the consciousness to acknowledge that it's there, what's it gonna take to actually do something about it?
Boy, on the large scale I don't know on that because as you stated it's something we are all aware of - mostly, I think we're all aware of it - and yet perhaps it's viewed as such... either we pretend that... I pretend that I'm not capable of that; I don't promote that; I don't take part in that so it's not my problem, which is wrong - a different misperception. Or that it's such a vast problem that there's nothing I can do about it - also a different misperception, though that may be a little closer to part of what I feel. I can say - and again I have to admit that this varies with the quality of my day - if I'm not having a good day, then unfortunately my processes focus more and more on me and less and less on the world at large. And I do my best to have good days and be present and be present with people.
One of the things that I do and that I'm doing everything I can to impart to my daughter is that I acknowledge (this part I don't impart to her) that as a privileged white male, things are easier for me just every day of my life than for many people. And the one way that I'm able to acknowledge that is when I see people of color or people that are different, I do my best to respect them and look them in the eye and see them. And in very subtle ways - I'm not pushy about it - I hope that they're able to acknowledge that I see them. And that in that I recognize the differences between us in our struggles and paths and that they deserve the same respect, the same whatever that I expect as just a being. And then I'm, in my way - and I do this in a glance; I don't know how much comes across - but in my way, I apologize. 'Cause it is an injustice. And it's an injustice that I mostly don't feel. I've had little pockets of experiences where I have felt it and it's horribly disarming and I'm just aghast - How could you think that of me? And yet other people, just because of the color of their skin or where they live or how they speak, are shown that constantly. Or, you know, just the difference between men and women, how they are treated is wrong and incorrect and very unfortunate. So again, and it's easier as I've gotten older, I just really try to see people as people and in whatever small ways I can acknowledge them as and for just that. And that we share that.
Do you have a sense of purpose and does that mean something to you?
I do and I have some real personal struggles with what I perceive as a lifeline struggle for me between what I've felt at least since I was probably nine - pretty young - was part of my purpose and what I've actually been able to realize and accomplish despite having all the opportunities and gifts and wherewithal to do better. So that's actually a personal challenge for me. But I do feel that - and I don't know if others feel that way about themselves - but I do feel that there's a purpose for me beyond just being here. Part of me probably really hopes that there's a purpose for me beyond just being here because if it's just being here then I'm... you know maybe I need to reconcile that and that just being here is an amazing privilege; it's this phenomenal experience to be in this human suit thing that I get to interact with the physical world. I have my own spiritual beliefs that this is not the beginning or the end of my life - I could be completely wrong with that - but I have those. And in that scope, then I see this as all the more precious as a momentary experience of physicality that is just amazing.
I feel that I do. I don't feel that I've accomplished nearly what I'm capable of or would like to take part in, but I feel I do, yeah.
What do you want more of in your life?
Ease. Contentment with myself so that can shine back into the world. I think that our state of being is demonstrated in how we move through the world. And when we share the beauty of being human it shines out of us and reminds others that they can do that. Yeah, peace.
That doesn't mean sitting in a lawn chair because I'm financially done or whatever - that's just contentment with self. Just to clarify. That's settled in me. I believe - again, on my best days - that comes from a real sense of myself that I'm good enough and people like me (laughs). That it really is both a joy and a privilege and a dream to be human and to be me and be thankful and grateful. So, it's that. It's being with reality that I believe is the reality of being. So, yeah, I would like to be able to more often be calmly accepting and embracing of that being human.
Do you have anything that you'd like to put out there?
I'm raising a child rather late in my life. I like to think that I will do a decent job of that - of course we started the therapy fund anyway because it loos likely (big smile). I do believe that one of the most profound ways that I can impact this world in a positive - or maybe by neglect in a negative - but one of the most profound opportunities I have to impact this world in a positive way is through and by how I enable my daughter to be herself and know what she's passionate about, know what she cares about, knows what matters to herself, and encourage her and allow her and provide her the opportunities to learn how to bring that to the world. I fear that in her lifetime this world will experience some very difficult times, difficult challenges, and that we heartfelt, conscious, able, and empowered beings - that they're our only hope to deal with it. So, my hope would be that I'm able to help her to be that type of person that can make a difference.
Do you have anything you'd like to ask me?
Yeah, I would just encourage you to look at ways that you can take your work and present it, brand it, package it - ask yourself what can you do to really have a positive impact on others through this work so that you get both the feedback and appreciation for what you're doing, but also so that you have the experience that your efforts into the world matter and have value. Because, again, if we don't have that, then I think we meander and we're not encouraged to find - let alone reach - any potential of being that is accessible to us. So I would just ask that of myself when I can and certainly of everyone I care about to trust that their work is valid and valuable and if that is not obvious or apparent, then to find what's missing to make it obvious and apparent. I need that for me, so I would love that for you, too.