today is the best day of all

20-life-gets-sparkier

‘When you are grown up
and have children of your own
do please remember
something very important
a stodgy parent is
no fun at all
What a child wants 

and deserves
is a parent who is

SPARKY’*

‘Some people never celebrate anything.  They have no time. … Some feel there is nothing to celebrate.  Such people are prisoners who slog away in a secure and predictable routine.’**

Life is best in complexity, not when we make it complicated.

I don’t hanker after tomorrow, or even a different today but I will look for opportunities to bring my imagination to this day because it really is the best day of all.  When I do this then the day gets sparky.  When I leave my imagination behind then the day becomes stodgy and complicated.

To discover the identity of our own imagination will require our disconnection.  I’m struck by how the early Jesuits would send their apprentices into 30 days of isolation so they would better identify the thing they must do with their lives.^

Sherry Turkle identifies the tethered world that begins for children when they are allowed a mobile phone so they can be in touch with their parents.   Not only does this tether them to their parents but also to their peers.  I wonder whether it’s possible to hear the whispers of our lives – who and what we most want to be – when we are never alone for any considerable period of time:

‘Traditional views of adolescent development take autonomy and strong personal boundaries as reliable signs of a successfully maturing self.’^^

When we notice what we already have and develop this further then we get to be sparky people.  Every day.

And then, because you must, shine.

(*From Roald Dahl’s Danny the Champion of the World.)
(**From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(^See Chris Lowney’s Heroic Leadership.
(^^From Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together.)

a journey of a thousand days

12-we-can-only

1,109.

The number of continual days I’ve been posting thin|silences (whispers), with a doodle.

I’d decided that from the 1st January 2014, I would try posting some of the ideas I found myself exploring through journalling every day.  Wanting this to be about more than words, I committed – thanks to the inspiration and encouragement of the awesome Hugh Macleod* – to add a doodle .  I’d never doodled in my life.

The reason for sharing these things is because, after more than three years of continual posting, I’m going to leave it for a week and explore another idea I’ve had.  I haven’t a clue what will come of this, and this is part of the adventure.

These eleven hundred and nine days have included many adventures.  They convince me of how turning up daily to do something which has piqued by curiosity and interest will change us.  As we set off, we have no idea how.  The only thing we know is we must step out into a journey, opening ourselves fully to what might happen.

Along the way, I’ve discovered the magic of words which come together in stories and ideas, forming in different patterns and phrases.  I’ve also come upon the wonder of image – how pictures are powerful helpmates to the imagination – the first form of recording or “writing” used by humans.

Thanks to Steven Covey,** I’ve carried for some years the words finding our voices so others may find theirs.  I think this experience of finding my voice has been enabled by the slow journey I’ve found myself in, and sharing whispers of possibility which I hope will make it possible for you to find and strengthen your voice.

When it comes to making the future we commit to what we do not know – this is why we find it so difficult to set out on these journeys.

Many of the ideas emerging in my early morning journaling have moved into experimentation and even full-blown practices and events.  These are the stories we’re each capable of writing with our lives.  We never find our voice alone.  Many have whispered into my life, whether I have met with them or they have written a book “to me.”

If you have begun a slow journey of discovery, I want to encourage you to keep going.  You don’t know what’s going to happen on the way but something will.

It’s all about the journey.

(*Check out Hugh Macleod’s blog and three books: Ignore Everybody, Freedom is Blogging in Your Underwear, and, Evil Plans.)
(**Specifically Steven Covey’s The 8th Habit.)

questions before answers

11-life

I am trying to live in the questions rather than rushing to find the answers. And I find a strange thing happening.

While my body is telling me on a daily basis that I’m getting older and one day it will have had enough, there’s something inside me that feels younger than ever.  I am thinking that following our curiosities does that for us.

Curiosity is full of questions.  I’ve been remembering when my youngest son Luke was five and he’d follow me around the garden asking one question after another after another about the plants and what I was doing .

I feel this is where I am – so curious, so many questions.

In rushing to the answers we can give the appearance, if not necessarily believing, the end justifies the means.  After all, it’s the results that matter, isn’t it?   This feels a lot like we’re saying we haven’t been curious and questions enough in the means but this is where we are most creative.

‘I was able to interview more than one hundred creatives in this research.  No group taught me more about the inherently tough middle space of processes and the power of integration. … The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness – even our wholeheartedness – actually depends on the integration of all our experiences, including the falls.’*

We would never accept a story in a movie or book without a middle full of struggle and questioning but our inability at times to see the possibilities in our own discomfort  and struggle – being curious about why we feel this way – means we don’t spot the adventure to become more who we are able to be:

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.”**

‘The primary battle of this century is with our selves.  It is the battle between the self and the Self: between our existing habituated self and our emerging future Self, both individually and collectively.’^

This between who we are and who we can be is often the least controllable place we find ourselves.  Richard Rohr offer his definition of suffering in this way: ‘whenever you are not in control.’^^

Ask and it will be given, seek and find, knock and the door will be opened.  Jesus of Nazareth spoke these words to his disciples.  Which words do we notice?  Given, find, opened?  Or ask, seek, knock?  They strike me as being encouraging a lifetime of curiosity, asking, exploration, We have no idea what the answers might be.  It’s all in the questions we ask.

(*From Brené Brown’s Rising Strong.)
(**Joseph Campbell, quoted in Brené Brown’s Rising Strong.)
(^From Otto Scharmer’s Leading From the Emerging Future.)
(^^From Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now.)

we are not homo erectus

10-faster-humans

‘If tinder was nearby, the toolmaker became a fire maker.  Homo erectus would maintain fire but probably not until Homo sapiens could humanity make it.’*

“If you want your dream to be, take your time, go slowly.'”**

Ever since we were able to make fire, our species has been on an ever faster journey of invention, integrating technology into our lives.  Sherry Turkle shares some of the remarks made to her by those struggling with the connected life their mobile phones make possible: “I don’t have enough time alone with my mind,” “I have to struggle to make time to think.”

We are more Borg than we know, unable to separate ourselves from the technology we are dependent upon:

‘These formulations all depend on an “I” imagined as separate from the technology, a self that is able to put the technology aside so that it can function independently of its demands.’^

“Time to think” is all around us – the journey to work or to shop, the space between tasks, our evenings at home – yet this time is increasingly filled with technology.  Two guys were walking in front of me a couple of days ago, each wearing bluetooth headphones, both sets were white and silver and big, but one set was bigger than the other.

As I slowly read Turkle’s reflections on her research, she’s been observing our interaction with robots and with the internet:

‘With sociable robots, we imagine objects as people.  Online, we invent ways of being with people that turn them into something close to objects.’^

The trouble is, when we begin to treat people as things – perhaps because of a large number of messages we receive being perceived as a nuisance or interference – it’s not too much farther to messages becoming harsh and more critical, then cruel and bullying.  We hear more and more stories of online/offline anxiety, embarrassment, guilt, and even shame.  Technology is increasingly unforgiving, though.  Whatever we put online stays online, always remembering our indiscretions.  Offline, though, new beginnings are more available – human memories fade, closeness overcomes.

‘Indeed, when a colleague turns to answer a text when talking to us, it is difficult to feel that we matter.’^^

Turkle closes her chapter about constantly being online with the short story of her meeting with a sixteen year old student.  He’d turned his mobile phone off at the beginning of the hour they talked together, but when he turned it back on he found more than a hundred messages demanding his response.  He asked quietly, “How long do I have to continue doing this?”

It’s a frightening question.  Every indication is that it is going to get worse.

‘Deep down you desire the freedom to live the life you would love.’*^

I am no luddite, nor do I want to be.  I enjoy technology.  But we must develop other human capacities so that our interaction with technology leads us to a better, more deeply-connected world.  This world will find us taking slower journeys.

Be slow to see more, be slow to feel more, be slow to act more.

(*From Stephen Pyne’s Fire.) 
(**Donovan Leitch, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(^From Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together.)
(^^From Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber’s The Slow Professor.)
(*^From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)

made for playfulness

9-can-you-come

‘KAGEMUND They say that your superheroes say a lot about you.  Americans have Superman, Spiderman and batman.  Danes have … well … Cakeman.’*

When our son Luke was five he would go around to our next door neighbour to ask him if he was coming out to play: Mr Kerr was seventy years old and he would “play” – it looked a lot like gardening – but Mrs Kerr didn’t.

We use play to open, connect, and create.  Playfulness is huge part of how we grow up, and we are always growing up.

We are a playful species.

Those who don’t take themselves too seriously get this.  They understand how the shapes and forms of society and culture are finite games we’ve made up and invited or forced people to play.

Alan Lightman in his wonderful book Einstein’s Dreams imagines a world that knows it will come to a end in one month, in which people drop their pretence. and  begin to see the beauty that is around them and in one another.  I can only imagine they rediscover their playfulness too.

Wandering, doodling, the “yes and” game, superheroes and talents, confabulating new words, cakemaking and (add your kind of playing here) are all ways and means of diminishing seriousness, making it possible to see more.  And seeing more, including imagining and dreaming, leads to feeling more and then to doing more of what adds to the wonder of life rather than taking it away.

With only minutes to go before the end of Lightman’s imaginary world comes to an end:

‘It is so absolutely quiet that each person can hear the beat of the person to his right or his left.’**

Our world is much to valuable not to be playful.

(*From Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge.)
(**From Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams.)

a life of opposites

8-life-is-found

I suspect there’s no such thing as work/life balance; we place the line between the wrong this and that.

‘You need to be generous to yourself in order to receive the love that surrounds you. … We must remain attentive in order to receive.’*

‘[There] are the sensory impulse and the formal impulse, both of which aim at truth, and neither of which get there without the other.’**

The true line of balance, or rhythm or flow, lies between the person we’ve become – the formal impulse – and the person we’re becoming – the sensory impulse.  These opposites, as identified by Friedrich Schiller, also appear to be identified as opposite poles of static and dynamic by Christian Schwarz and by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as conservative and expansive.^

Between these opposites we find what we might describe as life-in-all-its-fullness: ‘Truth is realised in embodiment.  Beauty is instantiated we might say, in a human being fully alive.’**

Each warns us about how a formal-, static-, conservative-only emphasis results in a rigidity of form, whilst a sensory-, dynamic-, expansive-only emphasis results in some kind of formless state, like the person not fully rematerialising in the USS Enterprise’s transporter.

When we move between the opposites, or paradoxical, though, we feel a “zinging” of creative energy inside of us – Schwarz describes how the dynamic produces the static and the static stimulates the dynamic.

‘No matter what, expect the unexpected.  And wherever possible BE the unexpected.’^^

(*John O’Donohue, quote in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From Harriet Harris‘s essay The Epistemology of Feminist Theology.)
(^See Christian Schwarz’s Paradigm Shift in the Church, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Creativity.  They aren’t exactly saying the exact same thing, but their opposites connect in many ways.)
(^^Linda Barry in 99U’s Make Your Mark.)

the creative life

7-we-can-only-be

We are vehemently faithful to our own view of the world.   We want to know what new story we’re stepping into before we exit the old one.’*

We’re a loss-averse species.  It’s why we see small numbers of people move into the new, who are followed by a few more who see the possibilities of the new and begin to make it inhabitable.  Only then do larger numbers of people move into this new reality and move us forward with momentum.  One of the bi-products is that the old reality, which seemed to us the safest or wisest place or best or most popular, no longer is.

A year ago, I was part of a group of people shaping a creative space.  We understood how this space needed to be three-dimensional, being freedom, importance, and curiosity.

One year on, these still look good both for the individual as well as a group.

Freedom is not only about being freed from something but freed to something

‘Take me down to the spring of my life, and tell me my nature and my name.’**

“To name oneself is one of the most powerful acts a person can do.  A name is not just a word by which one is identified.  A name also provides the conceptual framework, the point of reference, the mental constructs that are used in thinking, and relating to a person, and idea, a movement.”^

Importance, or significance, means we want to do something that leaves a mark: I was here, I did that.

Curiosity is about how we’re all different and have such diverse creativity.  It’s why we can only be creative our way.

I think it takes all our years to grow up – becoming more and more ourselves and less what we inherited.

At least, that’s the theory to be tested.

(*From Stephen Grosz’s The Examined Life.)
(**George Appleton, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)

(^Ada Maria Isis-Diaz, quoted in Harriet Harris‘s The Epistemology of Feminist Theology.)