This is the 60th time I have walked through this day.
I know it well and I do not know it all.
Umvelt or umwelt: the world as it is experienced by a particular organism.
The Scottish naturalist John Muir, born in Dunbar just along the coast from where I’m typing, declared:
‘When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.’*
Everything is present to everything else, but we often do not know it.
As I come into contact with this tree or this hill, as I watch this bird swoop across my eyeline or this hornet flit around the garden, I become connected. When I stop objectifying the world around me and allow for all this presence to teach me, perhaps there will be a better world in me, rather than the climate change I am:
‘Could a national park be seen as a place of poetry? Line by line, step by step, we wander along a path unknown to us, but in the process of discovery, we come to recognise ourselves in each tree, each plant, each bird and face our longing to reconnect with a larger world beyond ourselves. Rather than fear the wilderness ahead, even climate change, we are present inside it. Fear is replaced with engagement. Relationships are forged, resiliency as a species is enhanced.’**
For other thoughtful reflections on the relationship between ourselves and trees, see Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings post Consider the Tree, and Jacques Goldstyn’s poignant children’s story of the child whose best friend is a tree Bertolt.
Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is.*
We can do everything right and still not really live. Doing everything that is required is not the end goal. To do it with flair is way more interesting. We’re going to take a look at where that flair comes from.
In their lovely children’s book Going Places about a go-cart competition, Peter and Paul Reynolds tell a tale of what can happen if we go beyond the rules.
In school, Rafael is the first to grab a go-cart kit for the “Going Places contest.” When he got home, out came the kit and the instructions.
Rafael was very pleased when his cart looked like the one in the instructions.
He then wondered how his friend and next-door neighbour Maya was getting on. She hadn’t even started, instead she was intent on sketching a bird and then watched it dreamily fly away.
John O’Donohue introduces his book To Bless the Space between Us with these words:
‘There is a quiet light that shines in every heart. It draws no attention to itself, though it is always secretly there. It is what illuminates our mind to see beauty, our desire to seek possibility and our hearts to love life. Without this subtle quickening our days would be empty and wearisome, and no horizon would ever awaken our longing.’**
Maya is gazing at the horizon of possibilities but there is something lit within her that has already been noticed in her sketching the bird. She is about to bless the space between herself and Rafael.
When Rafael told Maya that she had not made a go-cart, she replied, “Who said it HAD to be a go-cart?”
Rafael gets it: the instructions didn’t say they couldn’t team up, either: his blessing for Maya
‘Our passion for life is quietly sustained from somewhere in us that is wedded to the energy and excitement of life. This shy inner light is what enables us to recognise and receive our very presence here as a blessing. We enter the world as strangers who all at once become heirs to a harvest of memory, spirit, and dream that has long preceded us and will now enfold, nourish, and sustain us. The gift of the world is our first blessing.’**
As Maya gazes at the bird in flight, some words from Frans Johansson catch my gaze as they wing there way past me – he encourages me to “take my eye of the ball” for a while:
‘Conscientiousness is […] the type of behaviour that insures execution, but also allows us to miss great ideas, projects, improvements or connections that keep popping up around us. Unfortunately, by rigidly pouring all of our effort into one approach, we miss out on the unexpected paths to success.’^
The other children had followed the instructions for the go-cart race and so all their machines look the same.
While the others roll along the ground as fast as they can, Maya and Rafael take to the air. They win the race and come to a halt by the school lake, and on seeing a frog jumping by the edge, wonder …
O’Donohue is saying that, deep down, we each have the light that makes it possible to move beyond … and beyond again.
we are amazing, mysterious beings leading amazing, mysterious lives, and we need to keep discovering new ways to remind ourselves of this, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary*
There is an art to making history, and it has everything to do with storytelling, and good storytelling is personal, layered, symbolic, and complex.’**
(Terry Tempest Williams)
Sacrilege is the stealing of sacred things.
Often it is we ourselves who are the thieves. Not to explore our amazing, mysterious lives is self-theft:
What we must do is often lurking in the darkness; we must dream it into the light.
We know life is special but we’re often distracted from this, perhaps only catching a glimpse of what it can be in someone else’s painting or poem or story or movie … .
I suspect dysfunctional religions are to blame, too, when they say “it has to be this, it can’t be that.”
In seeing our lives as stories we’re creating and capturing the rituals of our lives. They make it possible to bring our attention to the significant-ordinary, the sacredness of everything. When you think about being here on this planet, and everything required to make this possible, it is pretty amazing. I’m very happy to live with this.
We are creators of the sacred when we bring the power of our imagination to play upon the pressure of reality.^ Ben Hardy writes about it this way:
‘You design your worldview by proactively shaping your external inputs, such as the information you consume, the people you surround yourself with, the places you go, and the experiences you have. Most people, however, reactively and mindlessly respond to whatever environments they find themselves in, and then develop a worldview leading to ineffective behaviour and victimhood.’^^
Hardy is saying we blame our environments for what happens to us but we have allowed those environments to be formed:
‘If you don’t shape your environment, it will shape you.’^^
This is a fragile life but there is also an antifragile life.*^ We need ways of reminding one another that we are the creators of our own environments of possibility, in which we then interact and develop. This is where rituals and stories and the sacred become important. If this is true then Joseph Jaworski’s words make sense:
‘Each of us has the capacity for awe, wonder, and reverence.’ *^
Each can develop this capacity. It won’t arrive in an app, though, or some “twelve days to your perfect life” book – although these may be included from time to time.
It comes from forming the vital practices of life that allow us to create profound environments with which we can explore life-in-all-its-fullness.
(*From gapingvoid’s blog: Seeking: A Higher Love.)
(**From Terry Tempest Williams’ The Hour of Land.)
(^See Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Wallace Stevens on reality, Creativity, and our Greatest Self-Protection from the Pressure of the News.)
(^^From Ben Hardy’s Willpower Doesn’t Work.)
(*^See Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile.)
(^*From Joseph Jaworski’s Source.)
through the violence of these days.
in all your ways.*
When we declare ourselves wise, we’re probably not.
Even when we think we’re right about something, it’s likely we’ve missed something.
There’s truth that is the reality of things and there is the truth of what can be imagined into being.
There’s a lot of truth, then, much of it yet undiscovered.
The best truth of all sees good things being produced for others, enabling them to flourish. And the same goes for the world as for people.
New truths will always uphold the best of the truth we already know and question the truth that seeks to imprison.
Some think they possess the truth or they want us to follow their truth. They may even hurt us to make this so, something Terry Tempest Williams brought me face-to-face with this morning as I read:
‘In Iran, Shiva Nazar Ahari, a journalist, is arrested on charges of waging war against God; she is serving a four-year prison sentence. Lolo, a Tibetan singer, arrested for recording an album that called for Tibet’s independence and the return of the Dalai Lama, is sentenced to six years in prison. Agnes Uwimana Nkusi, a Rwandan and editor of the independent newspaper Umurabyo, was arrested on grounds of corruption after publishing opinion pieces criticising the government; she is now serving a four-year prison sentence. Mikola Statkevich, a politician and presidential candidate from Belarus, was sentenced to three years’ labour for organising mass protests against lifting presidential term limits.’**
New truth may challenge established truth.
It appears that each of us is capable of producing new truth when we are most creative, wherein we are connecting with what lies beyond ourselves:
‘A […] way of attaining union lies in creative activity, be it that of the artist, or of the artisan. In any kind of creative work the creative person unites himself with his material, which represent the world outside himself.’^
The more creative we are the greater the possibility of resistance, as John O’Donohue allows for when he writes:
‘A life that wishes to honour its own possibilities has to learn too how to integrate the suffering of dark and bleak times into a dignity of presence.’^^
Perhaps this is why we fall in line with what others are doing or to “copy and paste” their ideas – Hugh Macleod asks:
‘And since when did avocado toast become a thing … ?’*^
We need your truth and we need to figure out better ways of bringing our truth together into a better world.
(*Paul Field, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From Terry Tempest Williams’ The Hour of Land.)
(^From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving.)
(^^From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(*^From gapingvoid’s blog: How to create an innovation mindset.)
Modernity: we created youth without heroism, age without wisdom, and life without grandeur.*
Young human beings need exercise win imagination as they need exercise in all the basic skills of life, bodily and mental: for growth, for health, for competence, for joy. This need continues as long as the mind is alive.**
She felt young again, no matter what the calculation of her years had witnessed as an increase.
The day was new and there were things to explore.
Once again she had prepared for this. In the morning, as she did every morning. In humility … gratitude … faithfulness, the path this day was for her, opened up as her mind became alive with possibility.
Even the smallest and most mundane things finding their place and purpose.
‘If life is a journey our lives become tangible, with goals we can move forward, progress we can see, achievement we can understand, metaphors united with actions.’^
The geographical pilgrimage is the symbolic acting out of an inner journey. The inner journey is the interpolation of the meanings and signs of the outer pilgrimage. One can have one without the other. It is best to have both.**
We have never been here before.
Climate change. Will we change?^
(Terry Tempest Williams)
We do not have to walk the earth any longer. It has become interrupted by pavement, by wheels, by earbuds … .
Walking, though, is more than an outmoded form of getting from A to B. We connect with the earth and the Earth with us and she has much to teach us.