Do you see what I see?*

These words came to mind when I was thinking about how two people can look on the same thing and have quite different reactions and responses.  It turns out they’re from a Christmas song from The Little Drummer Boy.

One person looks at how things are and sees a hopeless situation.  Another looks and sees an opportunity.  One thinks they see the answer – at least the conclusion but the other sees a question..  One is travelling away from something, the other is traveling towards.

The ability to see something for what it is allows what Roy Baumeister might call aacrystalisaztion of discontent”** to take place.  Instead of being like other hopeless situations, it becomes memorable and meaningful.’^

This moment of seeing, which is elevated, insightful, masterly and connecting, doesn’t come from out of the blue but from a lifetime of living in a particular direction.  It’s simply a moment of realignment to our future hope.

Edgar Schein offers an insight for this clarity of seeing:

‘The critical thing is not to stereotype the situation even if it looks like something familiar.’**

What do you see?

(*From The Little Drummer Boy.)
(**Roy Baumeister, quoted in Chip and Dan Heath’s The Power of Moments.)
(^From Chip and Dan Heath’s The Power of Moments.)
(^^From Edgar Schein’s Helping.)


The studio

‘A studio isn’t a factory.  It’s when peers come together to do creative work, to amplify each other and to make change happen.  That can happen in any organisation, but it takes commitment.’*
(Seth Godin)

‘[Good’s] existence is the unmistakable sign that we are spiritual creatures, attracted to excellence and made for the Good.’**
(Iris Murdoch)

In a world of change we’re often out of alignment, though we do not notice.

Realignment requires openness of mind, heart and will.  It’s tricky because our realignment isn’t to some constant but to an unfolding something that doesn’t yet fully exist.  I see Seth Godin’s studio (and Brian Eno’s scenius) as expressions of a group of people seeking to help one another realign.  It’s a positive response to what we lose to an unquestioning approach to technology, here articulated by Sherry TURKLE.

‘What I call realtrechnik suggests that we step back and reassess when we hear triumphalist or apocalyptic narratives about how to live with technology.  Realtechnik is sceptical about linear progress.  It encourages humility, a state of mind in which we are most open to facing problems and reconsidering decisions.’^

Turkle reports how some research among fourteen thousand students reported a ‘dramatic decline in interest in other people:^

‘It is from other people that we learn to bend to each other in conversation.


Humans need to be surrounded by human touch, faces, and voices.  Humans need to be brought up by humans.’^

Not only humans, though, we also need contact with the natural world – Joseph Campbell reminding us here that we can have a deep respect for all things:

‘You can address anything as a “thou” – the trees, the stones, everything.  You can address anything as a “thou,” and if you do it, you can feel the change in your own psychology.  The ego that sees a “thou” is not the same ego that sees and “it.”‘^^

This would elsewhere be described as a journey from ego to eco.*^

Studios exploring critical thinking, feeling and doing can be places for realignment.  Instead of being seduced by technologies we come to see how they can serve the deepest human and planetary needs.

We don’t have to believe in God to appreciate what Brian McLaren is trying to say here about the incredible world are part of:

‘God’s first language is full-spectrum light, clear water, deep sky, red squirrel, blue whale, grey parrot, green lizard, golden aspen, orange mango, yellow warbler, laughing child, rolling river, siren forest, churning storm, spinning planet.’^*

Tonight sees the final programme in the Blue Planet 2 series.  Amazing exploration narrated by David Attenborough who stand as a planetary prophet for us.

We may learn again to be the laughing child.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: Rules for working in a studio.)
(**From Iris Murdoch’s The Sovereignty of Good.)
(^From Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together.)
(^^Joseph Campbell from Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyer’s The Power of Myth.)
(*^See Otto Scharmer’s Theory U and Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth.)
(^*From Brian McLaren’s We Make the Road by Walking.)


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Let’s keep talking

“Good ideas have lonely childhoods.”*
(Hugh Macleod)

‘So long as the gift is not withheld, the creative spirit remains a stranger to scarcity.’**
(Lewis Hyde)

If you have an idea, you need to keep talking.  As Hugh Macleod reminds us, this means first of all making sure we have conversations with ourselves, reminding ourselves as to why this idea matters so much.

Iris Murdoch writes:

‘Courage, which seemed at first to be something on its own, a specialised daring of the spirit, is now seen as to be a particular operation of wisdom and love.’^

Our wisdom and love deepens and strengthens around things that matter to us.  As Seth Godin points out:

‘failure frightens people who care less than you do.’*^

Courage isn’t isn’t a lack of fear but a lack of self.  Iris Murdoch writes of where this comes from:

‘Humility is not a peculiar habit of self-effacement, rather like having an inaudible voice it is selfless respect for reality and is one of the most difficult and central of virtues.’^^

I love working on things that allow people to be encouraged in their ideas when it comes to the next step – sharing with someone else.

Let’s keep talking.

(*From gapingvoid’s Good ideas have lonely childhoods.)
(**From Lewis Hyde’s The Gift.)
(^From Iris Murdoch’s The Sovereignty of Good.)
(^^From Seth Godin’s blog: Where would we be without fear?)




And then we will arrive at good

“You need to be generous to yourself in order to receive the love that surrounds you […] it is at the edge of your soul, but you have been blind to its presence.”*
(John O’Donohue)

‘Modern laziness avoids emotional labour.’**
(Seth Godin)

Maybe we think turning up is enough, completing what is expected us, or maybe ignoring the unnecessary.  The question is, are we also missing the opportunity.

Emotional labour opens possibilities:

“When a great moment knocks on the door of your live, it is often no louder than the beating of your heart, and it is very easy to miss it.”^

Seth Godin describes what he sees as modern laziness:

“This is the laziness of not raising your hand to ask the key question, not caring about those in need or not digging in to ship something that might not work.  Lazy is having an argument instead of a thoughtful conversation.  Lazy is waiting until the last minute.  And lazy is avoiding what we fear.”**

Beyond opening our minds to something different or new there is something more.  To open our minds takes us beyond downloading but when we open our hearts to possibility, we are taking a deeper dive.   Emotional labour involves stepping inside the world of another, being prepared to take a risk and meet them there.   Eugene Peterson sees that in hoping to avoid despair (and perhaps disappointment) we also avoid hope:

‘Hope is a projection of the imagination; so is despair.  Despair all too readily embraces the ills it foresees; hope is an energy and arouses the mind to explore every possibility to combat them.’^^

There is an even deeper dive.

To do something together or for each other, imagining new possibilities and then prototyping perhaps takes us to where Iris Murdoch describes when she claims:

‘Of course Good is sovereign over Love, as it is sovereign over other concepts, because Love can name something bad.’*^

Emotional labour is critical for moving us into what is possible though we hadn’t seen it and here we feel most alive:

‘when the soul is turned towards Good the highest part of the soul is enlivened.’*^

What we seek most of all may be found in what surrounds us but we have never ventured into.

(*John O’Donohue, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog Modern laziness.)
(^Boris Pasternak, quoted in the Northumbria Community’s Morning Prayer.)
(^^From Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.)
(*^From Iris Murdoch’s The Sovereignty of Good.)


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Disrupting the narrative

“Take me down to the spring of my life, and tell me my nature and my name.”*
(George Appleton)

‘You have to keep finding new and creative things to be grateful for. […]

Which simply means, you have to keep looking – hard.
Or else your brain just switches to autopilot, and all your blessing start turning to dust in your mind.’**

(Hugh Macleod)

What is hard-looking?

Does it have to do with how long I look for?  Do I need special glasses?  Do I have to screw my eyes up?  Or squint?

It’s probably all of these things.

Looking slowly helps.  Through the eyes of others.  Putting ourselves in an unfamiliar place.   Playing the “Yes and” game.   All are ways of seeing harder.

” ‘Yes and’ isn’t a technique.  It’s a way of life.”^

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has some good news and some bad news for us.  The good news is that we can regain our curiosity, the bad news is that it doesn’t hold a “charge” for very long:

‘The rebirth of curiosity doesn’t last long, unless we enjoy being curious.’^^

This is why going to spring of my life, as George Appleton puts it, is so important.  Going deep is also found in these words of Richard Rohr which recognise we can’t be everywhere doing everything:

‘The principle here is to go deep in one place and you will meet all places.’*^

There is a reason we notice the things we do.  And when we do, things begin to happen, first within and then without.  As Eckhart Tolle notices:

‘Awareness is the greatest agent of change.’^*

It is the agent of change because we become more an agent of change ourselves.  Erwin McManus connects the courageous life to this.  He points out in his book Uprising the connection between humility and integrity (connection not only to others but our world, too), and the connection between integrity and courage:

‘One person who chooses to live a heroic life disrupts the narrative.’⁺

That’s why, when we look hard there’s a change coming.

(*George Appleton, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From gapingvoid’s blog Count your blessings.)
(^Cathy Salit, quoted in Daniel Pink’s To Sell is Human.)
(^^From Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Creativity.)
(*^From Richard Rohr’s Eager to Love.)
(^*From Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth.)
(⁺From Erwin McManus’ The Last Arrow.)

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The bow twirler

“There is finally the pride of thinking oneself without teachers.

The teachers are everywhere.  What is wanted is a learner.

In ignorance is hope.

Rely on ignorance.  It is ignorance the teachers will come to.

They are waiting, as they always have, beyond the edge of the light.”*
(Wendell Berry)

There are disciplines that bluntly correct us without any understanding and there are disciplines which make it possible to do what we most of all want to do through our lives.  I am thinking of the latter.

Wendell Berry identifies how learning through discipline begins in the inner places of our lives where we find our most intimate sources:

‘We enter solitude, in which also we lose loneliness…

True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation.

One’s inner voices become audible.  One feels the attraction of one’s most intimate sources.

In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives.  The more coherent one becomes within oneself as a creature, the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures.’*

A recent conversation with someone around their questions in life left me wondering whether finding the wonder of our own Self makes it more possible to connect with others around us, and the world we are a part of.

Hugh Macleod writes about self-awareness as critical to how we connect and then makes the important clarification:

‘But in order to be self-aware, first one needs a self to be aware of.  And that takes a while.  Often an entire lifetime.’**

Although this may seem self-serving, my experience is the opposite.  In becoming more aware of ourselves we also become more aware of others.  We bring what we have in service to others because there’s something about who we are that cannot be complete without this movement:

‘We do not help the world by choosing to be less or do less; we help the world by choosing to be more and give more.’^

There is always a risk of being destructive, of keeping what we find or have to ourselves, but without that risk nothing that is humanly beautiful is brought to life.  Berry sees us as the species that struggles to be at “rest,” as he names it. A farmer-theologian-environmentalist, he has much to teach us about our connection with our world:

“And having returned from the woods, we remember with regret its restfulness,  

For all creatures there are in place, hence at rest.


In the circle of the human we are weary with striving, and are without rest.”*

We see ourselves as creators but this is not a term without critical nuance, as Berry continues to uncover when he writes:

“Works of pride, by self-called creators, with their premium on originality, reduce the Creation to novelty — the faint surprises of minds incapable of wonder.

Pursuing originality, the would-be creator works alone.  In loneliness one assumes a responsibility for oneself that one cannot fulfill.

Novelty is a new kind of loneliness.”*

Three disciplines i keep believing help find this kind of rest are humility, gratitude and faithfulness: to see ourselves accurately, to be grateful for who we are and what we have (which is different to owning) and to explore ways to lives out these things.  In Ken Mogi’s description of the five pillars of ikigai I find helpful seasoning of these disciplines or practices.  These five pillars are: starting small, releasing oneself, harmony and sustainability, joy of small things and being in the here and now.  Imagine what happens where the warp and weft of these meet:

Mogi tells the story of the sumo wrestler Satonofugi who has not been ablate attain to the highest order of wrestlers.  When Mogi writes about him, Santonofugi is 39 years old and has achieved 429 wins but has also lost 434 times.  Everyone in the world of sumo knows his name, though.

At the end of each sumo tournament there’s a ceremony to close the spectacle.  It’s thought to be an act of pride for the tournament’s victor to enact this and so Santonofugi steps forward with a performance he has made his ikigai (life purpose).  The ceremony involves twirling a bow, a symbol of victory.  Santonofugi is the bow twirler:

‘Rather, it is felt that Santonofugi has found a niche in the world of sumo, a role that he can fulfil with joy and pride, a part of the rich set of traditions that is sumo. […] Even though Santonofugi is unlikely to be promoted any further, he will be very happy, until the end of his career as a sumo wrestler, to fulfil his role as the bow twirler.’^^

There’s something in finding our niche that is about rest, finding our place.  As Mogi summates:

‘In order to have ikigai, you need to go beyond the stereotype and listen to your inner voice.’^^

For the person always wanting to learn, teachers are everywhere, including silence and solitude.

(*Wendell Berry, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Wendell Berry on Solitude and Why Pride and Despair Are the Two Great Enemies of Creative Work.)
(**From gaping void’s blog: Check yourself before you wreck yourself.)
(^From Erwin McManus’ The Last Arrow.)
(^^From Ken Mogi’s The Little Book of Ikigai.)


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Who cares?

‘Here’s a sign I’ve never seen hanging in a corporate office, a mechanic’s garage or a politician’s headquarters:


We care more.’*
(Seth Godin)

‘What you actually have control over is how much you actually CARE.’**
(Hugh Macleod)

In the infinite game that life is – the game that includes as many as possible for as long as possible – we can begin to care more right now.  No permission is required from anyone else.

What we care about most becomes our point of connection with others.  Wherever your deepest joy has people in it, or the possibility of people, is the place you can begin.

Another benefit of the infinite game is that we are outcaring with others rather than against others.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog The unfair advantage.)
(**From gapingvoid’s blog How to outcare your competition.)


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