What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves?*
Seek out people who aren’t afraid of making mistakes and who, therefore, do make mistakes […] they are precisely the kind of people who change the world.**
As Seth Godin brings his Bootstrappers Workshop to a close, he offers the advice “always be wrong.” Godin is saying, be willing to look at the things you get wrong because this will lead you to getting things right. When we don’t pay attention then we’ll keep getting the same things wrong. It becomes an endemic condition.
These are a few words about looking at what’s wrong in us and what’s right. The two go together, strangely.
Anne Lamott ‘s candour sets us free on this journey as she reminds us that when it comes to being human, there’ll always be something broken:
‘Almost everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, scared, and yet designed for joy. Even (or especially) people who seem to have it more or less together are more like the rest of us than you would believe. I try not to compare my insides to their outsides, because this makes me much worse than I already am, and if I get to know them, they turn out to have plenty of irritability and shadow of their own. Besides, those few people who aren’t a mess are probably good for about twenty minutes of dinner conversation.’^
To ignore this, to try and avoid it, to short-cut this leads us in the opposite direction to some of the most interesting and hopeful things we will ever come upon:
‘If you’re merely following [shortcuts], you probably won’t get anywhere interesting. It’s the detours that pay off.’^^
Which brings me to journaling. Every journal time is a detour. I have no idea where my exploring will take me. Richard Sennett’s description of a flamboyant worker facing their mistakes also describes the person who is willing to look at the worst and the best of who they are; spot the detours in his description:
‘A “flamboyant” worker, exuberant and excited, is willing to risk losing control over his or her work: machines break down when they lost control, whereas people make discoveries, stumble on happy accidents.’*^
See here how the good in us can overcome the bad, as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes our engagement in the things which lead to our enjoyment:
“At the moment it is experienced, enjoyment can be both physically painful and mentally taxing; but because it involves a triumph over forces of entropy and decay, it nourishes the spirit.’^*
I thought to include these because we must be honest about how the best in life can be the most difficult to obtain, can demand the most from us. It’s why Thomas Merton’s words, with which I open this post, ring true for us, yet when we break it down, we find that it can become a number of small things that we can bring our physical and emotional energy to. Here Albert Espinosa’s character George advises thirteen year old Dani how to stop the world for three days:
“Read good books, watch good movies, and above all, enjoy good conversation with someone who inspires you.”⁺
These are some of the the environments in which detours happen to us.
Eugene Peterson captured my attention in this direction once again when he wrote:
‘As the scholastics used to say: “Homonon proprie humans sed superhumanus est” – which means that to be properly human, you must go beyond the merely human.⁺⁺
This is not possible to only some but to all.
(*Thomas Merton quote in Dan Pallotta’s TEDtalk: The Dream We Haven’t Dared to Dream.)
(**From Paulo Coelho’s Aleph.)
(^From Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Against Self-Righteousness.)
(^^From Seth Godin’s blog: Actual shortcuts often appear to be detours.)
(*^From Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.)
(^*Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, quoted in Jay Cross’ Informal Learning.)
(⁺George in Albert Espinosa’s If You Tell Me to Come, I’ll Drop Everything, Just Tell Me to Come.)
(⁺⁺From Eugene Peterson’s Run With the Horses.)