Utne Reader Visionary: Nina Simons

We need to pay exquisite attention

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In an age when public relations and marketing are usually used to peddle us bad things we don’t need, Nina Simons is one of the most accomplished members of a different class of PR professionals: people who put their consciences to work with their Rolodexes. As director of sales and marketing for her partner Kenny Ausubel’s Seeds of Change company, Simons helped give the firm a national reputation in a fast four years. Today she’s in charge of setting up partnerships between juice maker Odwalla, and nonprofit organizations who share the company’s Green principles; she’s also president of the Collective Heritage Institute, which is devoted to promoting global biodiversity. Yet another iron in the Simons fire is a film project that will tell the frightening story of medieval Europe’s war on witches, which Simons calls the “holocaust of women.”

“It’s important that we gather ourselves to participate more fully in the stories of our time and our lives. There’s a serious threat of couch-potatoism in our culture, and we need to make a conscious effort to avoid it and to recognize the enormous energy that comes from participation. It’s easy to get bogged down in the circumstantial and mundane, but if we connect to our passion, that in itself will be regenerative; we won’t have to wait for the energy, it will be there.

“But how do we connect to that passion? One of my favorite phrases, which a friend taught me, is that we need to pay “exquisite attention” to our responses to things—noticing hat makes our flame glow brighter. If we pay attention to those things, we’l be able to catch the flame and feed it.”