neoteny

31 albert's

George Bailey only discovers what a wonderful life he’s lived when he’s offered a unique perspective of the town he can’t escape without him.

‘Wonder is a beautiful style of perception; when you wonder at something, your mind voyages deep into its possibility and nature.  You linger among its presences.*

George had thought it those who’d escaped Bedford Falls who lived the wonderful life, but his was the life of wonder.

It may be a movie, but the wonderful life is the reality we each possess.  When we allow for the wonder we are able to move deeper into the truth of this.

Warren Berger identifies how we’re more ignorant than ever because there’s so much more information and data today relative to what we know.  I’d add information about ourselves in this, so whilst we there’s so much more we can identify and measure in our lives, we hold back.

To live in this more complex world we’ll need to leave behind the notion of early-years learning and embrace life-long learning.  Here’s where wonder comes into its own, with Berger encouraging, ‘we must try to maintain or rekindle the curiosity, sense of wonder, inclination to try new things, and ability to adapt and absorb that served us so well in childhood.’**  Neoteny is the ability to retain childlike attributes in adulthood.

These childlike qualities promise to help us grow up to be more Human.  From simply reacting to the world, beyond positively responding to what we’re discovering, to be people initiating new possibilities.

George didn’t know it at the time, but all the hard energy and sheer slog he put in produced something astonishing.

Real life is even more impressive.

(*From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(**From Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.)

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time to stir the oxygen tanks

30 presence

It was the action which led to the Apollo 13 crisis.  The spacecraft’s cryotanks needed stirring to prevent pockets in the contents where density and temperature varied, and to aid measurement.*

In the fire triad I’ve been writing about – fuel, oxygen, and heat – oxygen represents meaning and purpose, and it’s time to stir up the oxygen tanks.

This morning I heard physicist Brian Cox mention how questions are being asked about whether the universe existed before the Big Bang – perhaps for ever – which set me off on a train of thought.

When it comes to the universe and meaning, many argue there is no purpose and meaning is something Humans give to their existence.  I found myself wondering whether, as accidental Humans,** we’re enabling the universe to answer the question it silently asks: What is my purpose?  After all, we are an expression or output of this same universe. 

We have a mighty long way to go.  We’ve come so far and have hardly started.  This is the business, the story, the conversation we’re in together:

‘Perhaps such certainty about the meaninglessness of it all is premature.^

Seth Godin shares a little feedback from someone who didn’t like his book Linchpin, this person writing how they’d “thrown in the towel on this book 80 pages into it.”  I was curious as to what they missed after putting the book down.  I pulled my copy of Linchpin off the bookshelf and checked out my margin notes after page 80.^^

Page 83: ‘An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo.  And an artist takes it personally.’

An artist is someone who stirs up the oxygen tanks.

(*The mission controller who gave the command, Sy Liebergot, later reflected it was lucky the ensuing explosion happened when it did – earlier or later in the mission and the astronauts may not have made it home.)
(**In the same radio interview, Brian Cox also mentioned Homo Sapiens have Neanderthal DNA in our makeup, meaning we bred with other hominids, turning out to be the people we are today.  Accidental stuff, but here we are, asking questions about meaning and purpose.)
(^From Alex McManus’s Makers of Fire.)
(^^From Seth Godin’s It’s Your Turn.  Godin’s reason for sharing this story is to illustrate how one bad or negative remark can play on us far more heavily than all the positive ones we receive.)

of the earth

29 no repeats

The meaning of humility (humus).

I’ve shared elsewhere how humility is having a true perspective and understanding of oneself – not some depreciating opinion.

Connecting us to the soil – which receives and grows many things – John O’Donohue offers us a great description of humility:

‘Now, like the silent earth, the cradle of all growth, you too can watch the stirring of a new springtime in the clay of your heart. You gain more courage.  You become surer about what you are and you no longer need to force either image or identity.  When you come into rhythm with your nature, things happen of themselves.’*

My dream is for people to awaken to who they are and what they can do.  Not to hesitate and step back from this, or to try and be someone they’re not.  Lives lived in this direction become a cradle for new growth, welcoming and hospitable to others, to the life of the earth, and to their future Self.

In this, each person finds their genius, the stand out contribution they have to make: unrepeatable.

Scarcity worldviews are cynical to the suggestion everyone has a standout contribution to make.  Abundance world views know, however, there will be a right situation or context for everyone to bring their creative dissonant, edgy voice.

Have fun growing things.

(*From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)

awe

28 all that28 all that glitters

There is so much of life we can’t see when we are in the flow of it.  But when we read or hear a story, or watch a film, we sense something more and feel it deeply.

Robert McKee holds this is the power of story, allowing us to reflect on the action of our lives we otherwise find so difficult because we’re caught up in all the movement.

Long before we could pick up a book or see a story played out on a screen, people paused, reflected, meditated, stilled themselves, or prayed – attempts ‘to enter into harmony with the deeper rhythms of life.’*

These are all threshold practices, allowing us to connect this life – the number of years gifted to us by and within the universe – with Human spirit and soul, meaning and purpose.

The poet Muriel Rukeser puts this well when she declares, “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”**  She has crossed a threshold from life to spirit.

To take time to observe ourselves observing, is to enter into what my friend Alex McManus would call a blue moment, a hyperlink, taking us to previously unseen realities.**

The world is full of blue spaces and people and objects.  Ultimately, these allow us to cross thresholds of increasing intensity: into greater knowing, into greater  connecting, and into greater activity.

Of course, we can come upon these blue spaces by accident, but we can come upon more through intention.

And then, we will be filled with awe.

(*From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(Quoted in Alex McManus’s Makers of Fire.)

a land i do not know

27 faith and hope and

Our imaginations thrive in the dissonance between how things are and how they can be.  But to imagine is not to dream delusionally.

The imagining person seeks to understand and know more about here and now -relentlessly defining reality – whilst also listening for weak signals (of what might be) from the future.  She constantly scans and interacts with stories and people.  And she does this through the highest personal understanding  of her skills, passions, and experiences.

It’s a crazy thing.  The future she imagines does not exist.  It is a land she does not know.

The land she does know is full of things and people and finance, full of roles and titles – tangible things.  This journey into the future will require she lets go of many of the things she cannot and should not take with her.*

Yet, through her future-sensing abilities of faith and hope, she will brings all she is and all she to bear on forming the future possibilities: she will “make the path by walking.”*

It has always been so, and now it’s your turn.

(*Alex McManus suggests she will have to let go of truth to take hold of trust, let go of  doctrine for direction, cultural power for spirit, and certainty for faith.  The quoting of Antonio Machadoalso appears in Alex’s Makers of Fire.)

to be human

26 no matter

What does it mean to you to be Human?

A question about our past or our future?

When I was first asked this question it profoundly changed the direction of my thinking and life.*

It’s arguably the most important question of our time.

Meaning is oxygen, oxygen is meaning in our triad of fire (artefacts as fuel, our creativity as heat, and oxygen).  Meaning is ever expanding and deepening, and it is why we are still here and moving towards the future.**

Such meaning, as we explore it and espouse it together, is the only preparation we can make to encounter the future, otherwise, Seth Godin is right to say, ‘We are unprepared to do something for the first time always.’^

When we are caught up in an exploration of being Human we’ll find ourselves caught up in bringing something beautiful and previously unimagined into the world.

“When the universe makes you wonder, all is as it should be.”^^

(*I’ve mentioned elsewhere how my friend and mentor Alex McManus asked this of a group he was working with.  It led me to a lot of reflection and personal definition: To be Human is to live with creativity, generosity, and enjoyment.  Of course, there are as many definitions as there are Humans.)
(**In a way which increasingly regards and respects all species of creature and the planet we share.)
(^From Seth Godin’s It’s Your Turn.  My ongoing encouragement is for us to see humility, gratitude, and faithfulness as means of preparing for creating the future: these creating capacity in us to deal with the complexity of existence.)
(^^Cirque de Soleil’s Varekai, quoted in Alex McManus’s Makers of Fire.)

in the disconnect

25 everything is

What if the Human Future could be modelled on a person’s life?

What if your life was chosen to model this future?

What would our future be like?

What would you do differently?

We all have the opportunity to shape the future, though it is something we do together, in millions and billions and trillions of interactions.  The reality of this invites us to live more imaginatively than we do in the space between possibilities.

It is in the disconnect of who we are and who we can be we find ourselves most alive.  Whilst we are drawn towards certainty, we are most alive in our struggles with bringing into being what do not exist.

We want life to work with immediacy like flicking an electric switch.  Yet, when we think about it, life has been stronger and more vibrant for us when we have hurt with hope for something out of reach, when we have failed and learned and failed again.

‘That delay, that hallway, the moment of indecision, the time when we get it and don’t get it at the same time, that’s what freedom feels like.’*

When life asks you to play, and you do not know what to do, then, in this moment, you know, this really matters.

(From Seth Godin’s It’s Your Turn.)