Just another question, please

I am a question-asker and a truth-seeker. I do not have much in the way of status in my life, nor security. I have been on a quest, as it were, from the beginning.*
(M. C. Richards)

[O]ur limitation as ephemeral creatures fuels our passion for finding the eternal truths of nature so that we may feel more at home in the universe and in ourselves.**
(Maria Popova)

If it’s possible for businesses to find themselves in a race to the bottom selling more cheaply to undercut the competition, it’s likely there’s a personal equivalent to this.

But whatever we do in life, it’s likely there’s a question we can find that can help us raise our game.

And then there’ll be another one.

We’re on an amazing journey in spaceship-universe.

*From M. C. Richards’ Centering;
**From Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: How to Live With Our Human Limitations, echoing Brian Greene.

To have or to be, that is the question

The experience of ego-identity is based on the concept of having. I have “me” as I have all other things which this “me” owns. Identity of “I” or self refers to the category of being and not of having. I am “I” only to the extent to which I am alive, interested, related active, and which I have achieved an integration between my appearance – to others and/or to myself – and the core of my personality.*
(Erich Fromm)

Our knowledge, if we allow it to be transformed within us, turns into capacity for life-serving human deeds.**
(M. C. Richards)

Perhaps the difference a human having and a human being is that one seeks to own and the other to make space within for the other – be it person or object.

If I have I will not be changed.

Not so if I make space for the other within.

Who am I in relation to this person, this book, this idea, this tool, this tree, this river … :

To read is to expose a vulnerability, for at least a brief moment, to surrender to another perspective, to bring it inside yourself and try it on.^

Such a human being opens to immense creativity, having respect for the other person, the world, their god, themselves, objects and artefacts, thoughts and ideas:

It’s all about what you ingest throughout your lifetime that creates what your eye is.^^

*From Erich Fromm’s The Revolution of Hope;
**From M. C. Richards’ Centering;
^Aaron Koblin in Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick’s A Velocity of Being;
^^Bill Ross, quoted in Austin Kleon’s blog: A gumbo in your head.

Which comes first: interested or interesting?

Interest is an all-pervading attitude and form of relatedness to the world, and one might define it in a very broad sense as he interest of the living person in all that is alive and grows. Evens when this sphere of interest in one person seems to be small, if the interest is genuine, there will be no difficulty in arousing his interest in other fields, simply because he is an interested person.*
(Erich Fromm)

Some interesting things about interesting:

An interesting path provides us with autonomy, mastery and a purpose greater than ourselves.

Interest is both an attitude and skill we can work on.

It grows and grows beyond its original borders.

This means that we don’t have to wait to find a particularly interesting path, but can take our interest into any path.

Interested people make for interesting people; they have thing we want to hear and see.

*From Erich Fromm’s The Revolution of Hope.

Activeness and creativity

“Interest” comes from the Latin interest, that is “to be in-between.” If I am interested, I must transcend my ego, be open to the world,,,, and jump into it: interest is based on activeness.*
(Erich Fromm)

Most children think they’re highly creative, most adults think they’re not. This is a bigger issue than it may seem. […] A culture of creativity has to involve everybody, not just a select few.**
(Ken Robinson)

Interest and creativity and activeness walk together.^

Interest in concern for the other, creativity contributing fulfilment, and activeness ensuring we turn up and take our turn.

To move to give rather than wait to receive.

It’s not about where you come on a list of creativity, but about exploring the creativity that looks like you.

*From Erich Fromm’s The Revolution of Hope;
**From Ken Robinson’s Out of Our Minds;
^Activeness is Erich Fromm’s word for the opposite to passiveness.

Bring some truth and don’t forget the beauty

I think that one may contribute (ever so slightly) to the beauty of things by making one’s own life and environment beautiful, so far as one’s power reaches. This includes moral beauty, one of the qualities of humanity, though it seems not to appear elsewhere in the universe.*
(Robinson Jeffers)

Graciousness is a quality of mind that do not separate truth and beauty.**
(John O’Donohue)

I’ve heard this said a few times, though admittedly not to me:

Don’t just stand around looking beautiful, make yourself useful.

As if the two things are unconnected.

John O’Donohue proffers:

If we were to describe our life strictly in terms its factual truth, most of its interesting, complex and surprising dimensions would remain unmentioned.**

We each have the capability to make the world better with both truth and beauty.

One of the ways we can draw this out is to understand and develop our lives as stories.

Robert McKee may have written the following words to storywriters, but we are all storywriters:

Life on its own, without art to shape it, leaves you in confusion and chaos, but well-told stories have the power to harmonise what you know with what you feel. Story is a vehicle that carries us on our search for reality, our best effort to make sense out of the anarchy of existence.

It’s why the end of a dreamwhispering journey is not a list of personal facts, but a story.

*Robinson Jeffers, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Robinson Jeffers on Moral Beauty, the Interconnectedness of the Universe, and the Key to Peace of Mind;
**From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
^From Robert McKee‘s newsletter: The Power of Story.

Having and being

In this game, we only get one choice. Once we are born we are players. The only choice we get is if we want to play with a finite mindset or an infinite mindset. […] And like all infinite games, the goal is not to win, it it to perpetuate the game.*
(Simon Sinek)

As I was reading this morning, I came across two sources writing about having.

Here is what they were writing, first of all from Paul Gilbert and then from Erich Fromm:

The drive for efficiency is actually making our live uninhabitable. So the business model of life will create have and have-nots and have-lots and will keep anxiety high as we try to maintain a “competitive edge.”**

The ego, static and unmoved, related to the world in terms of having objects, while the self is related to the world in the process of participation. […] He can devote his life to hoarding or to producing, to loving or hating, to being or having, etc.^

Such alignments are always interesting to explore:

“Interest” comes from the Latin interest, that is, “to be in-between.” I am interested I must transcend my ego, be open to the world and jump into it: interest is based on activeness.^

Interesting because these also align with what Simon Sinek is trying to encourage us to see life as being, namely an infinite game and, therefore, to choose the right mindset.

The finite mindset wants to win, to have, yet we have so much more than we know:

It is incredible how blindness and habit have dulled our minds. We live in the midst of abundance and feel like paupers. Our lonely emptiness seems to be the result of our desire to turn everything into product.^^

We receive not in order to keep to ourselves but to pass on to others.

We might, then, understand Fromm’s participation to be really about being held within something rather than trying to hold that something within us.

There are so many universes to be explored.

*From Simon Sinek’s The Infinite Game;
**From Paul Gilbert’s The Compassionate Mind;
^From Erich Fromm’s The Revolution of Hope;
From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty.

Are we making progress?


Establishing your identity as someone who is not static, open to change and eager for better makes it far easier to engage in a world where some would prefer us to do precisely the opposite.*
(Seth Godin)

Of all human abilities, open to the other must be one of the greatest of all?

Compassion allows the other inside of us:

All knowledge of another person is real knowledge only if it is based on my experiencing within myself that which he experiences. If this is not the case and the person remains an object, I may know a lot about him but I do not know him.**

John O’Donohue understands this to be an awakening:

To know a thing is to awaken to its death, complexity and presence.^

If I stay still for too long, I will eventually fall asleep. I need to keep moving; O’Donohue continues:

We turn the mystery and strangeness of the world into our private territory. We make a home out of our world. Life becomes predictable and we function automatically within our frames: routes to work, colleagues, friends, patterns of thinking and feeling, the faces of family, etc.^

I need to move from here to there.

Thich Nhat Hanh offers four mantras to enable this journey into the life of another, or their life into ours:

I am here for you.
I know you are there, and I am so happy.
I know you are suffering. That is why I am here for you.
I am suffering, please help.^^

*From Seth Godin’s blog: Identity is often used against us;
**From Erich Fromm’s The Revolution of Hope;
^From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
^^Thich Nhat Hanh, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: The Four Buddhist Mantras for Turning Fear Into Love.

Here to learn

Because there is no predefined finish, you cannot think in terms of ‘how many miles do I have left before this thing is all over’, so in fact, I found it very easy mentally. I just had to think about the next loop. The next loop, always the next loop, it’s very easy thinking. You’re never overwhelmed by what you have left to run, because you simply don’t know what you have left to run.*
(Austin Kleon)

We notice.

We are curious.

We investigate.

We learn.

We repeat

*From Austin Kleon’s Keep Going.)

Mission difficult, not impossible

Intentional change is emotionally rigorous – it doesn’t exactly feel good and can even be shockingly painful. If you’re unwilling to put yourself through emotional experiences, shift your perspectives, and make purposeful changes to your behaviour and environment, then don’t expect huge changes (at least in the sort run).*
(Ben Hardy)

First of all there’s the idea and excitement.

This is followed by the realisation that this isn’t going to be easy.

So we need to figure out a plan to make the idea reality.

It’s not impossible.

It’s just difficult.

But then the worthwhile things in life always are.

*From Benjamin Hardy’s Personality Isn’t Permanent.

Into the wild places

Walt Disney’s childhood would become a hard place as his father’s attempts to make a living failed.

He would find refuge in drawing and grew a determination to use his art and imagination to fuel a cause.

He would make it possible for others to escape the pressures of their circumstances.

When his brother Roy convinced Walt to take their company public, he increasingly felt his original purpose was being lost as the culture of the company changed and animation was being lost to live-action movies.

So he left and started over.

But his new stories wouldn’t be movies but a never-ending one captured in a theme park:

Disneyland will never be finished. It’s something we can keep developing and adding to. […] I’ve always wanted to work on something alive, something that keeps growing.*

Simon Sinek refers to this as existential flexibility.

Existential because it’s uncertain and unknown, beyond present knowledge and experience:

Existential flexibility is the capacity to initiate an extreme disruption to a business model or strategic course in order to more effectively advance a just cause.**

Whilst Sinek is thinking of business, I’m thinking of a person’s personal story.

When we feel ourselves to be moving along a trajectory towards an uninspiring future, we need to create an extreme disruption.

Take a different look at things. Head south instead of east.

Reconnect with values. Assess talents. Listen to the whispers from our lives.

Create a new story.

*Walt Disney, quoted in Simon Sinek’s The Infinite Game;
**From Simon Sinek’s The Infinite Game.