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The Value of a Brain Box

Bainbridge Island with Seattle in the backgroun with the words: The Value of a Brain Box.

I moved to Bainbridge Island, WA from Chicago, IL. To say that it was more than a geographic change is an understatement. I had relocated from one of the country’s largest cities, to a small island, from living in the heart of the city, to taking up residence in one of the island’s oldest homes, a former nursery and organic orchard. What was I thinking? It didn’t take long to know I had made a huge cultural shift. 

Just a few days into my getting settled, as I was driving into our four-block town, I saw a very tall, muscular man, wearing an unusual outfit of either a farmer or fisherman—heavy serge material, a dimpled long-sleeved shirt with thick leather suspenders. He had an unusual steady gait, close-cropped hair, and carried a canvas bag. He looked determined and at the time I didn’t know he was an Island fixture. His name was Dave Ullin. Dave lived on a tugboat in Eagle Harbor. He was locally known as a “live aboard.” He frequented local meetings and as I learned, had a reputation for helping everyone: the harbor master, local school teachers, farmers, and anyone who he knew needed a helping hand. A book by island photographer and author, Joel Sackett, an island treasure, as in my mind is Dave, captured Dave’s life in a book called, Dave’s Brain Box

Dave Ullin in Bainbridge Island, WA

There is no doubt that Dave was an island icon and the book, rich with the retelling of stories about him proves it, but the fascinating thing about Dave is that he was a philosopher, a literary critic, a teacher, an environmentalist, and an extraordinary craftsman. One of the ways we know this is because of Dave’s Brain Box. He carried the box in that worn canvas bag he toted around the island. It was filled with cards—thoughts, notes on books he read, advice on sustainability and education, conversations, and his personal history. The cards were not one-time reflections. Dave revisited his notes and revised them. He proved he was always thinking, revising, and coming to expanded conclusions. I think we should all consider having a brain box, enabling us to store our thoughts in one place so we can revisit them frequently.  

I’d like to share some of the cards that were part of Dave’s Brain Box:

  • Churches are only built when Man can no longer find God in Nature.
    ~A quote Dave used which was passed to him by Paul Svornich
  • Dave’s Way to World Peace:
    I believe “toy play” conditions children to external dependencies whereas purposeful work with parents and real tools develops a can-do attitude and I believe this imprint leads to the caring and sharing attitudes of altruism needed for world peace.
  • Pull Back on the Reins
    I see our culture of excess as an unnecessary burden on the Web of Life perpetuated by following the flow of society. But following is to wear blinders. It takes those outside the herd to see the cliff, that is what I mean by standing against the tide.
  • There are more satisfying and respectful ways of being which I am aware of from my early life imprint. This is why I suggest that compassionate listening discussion to explore the reasons, along with voluntary simplicity experiences, can lead to a cure that is its own reward. A chance to re-discover our continuum needs without the frills lightens the burden on All. 
  • Martin Luther King Jr. said: “The success of any social movement depends on its ability to show a world where people will want to go. The price of not painting the picture is too high.”
  • When we realize society is mostly for show, and the present show is not sustainable nor just for all, then we should be inspired to exercise our intelligence and wisdom to re-engineer the script. 

Dave quoted the Buddha, Aristotle, Plato, and the Bible. He was obsessed with volunteerism and education and hands-on learning.

Why not follow Dave's example. Start your own Brain Box and begin documenting who you are and spend time contemplating and extending your thoughts to others. 

Dave has given us a gift to learn from and share. 


With warm regards,

Marilyn Turkovich