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.)

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.)


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.)

of fires and questions

24 be

I’m intrigued by Stephen Pyne‘s anthology of fires.  Great fires have been given names, such as the 1950 Chanchaga Fire in Canada which burnt through 1.4 million hectares (mostly forestry), or the 1987 Black Dragon Fire in China which burnt for twenty five days, killing more 200 people and making 33,000 homeless.  Both fires were started by Human activity.

The earth will recover from these fires, and will often be the better for it; not so for the families involved.

I realise, I have my own fires which have brought benefit to me, although they were uncomfortable at the time: the Great Sabbatical Fire of 1998, radically altered the trajectory I was on, and the 2005 Strengths Fire altered my way of thinking in a life-transforming way.  This one still burns beneath the surface of everything I do, and recently erupted on the surface leading to me stepping out of the work I’ve done for more than thirty years.  I also set small fires each day, as I seek to burn away anything prideful or greedy or foolish – often taking the form of being controlling, demanding, and unrealistic.

Questions are great fire-sparks.

Historian David Hackett Fischer describes questions as “cerebral machines that convert curiosity into controlled inquiry.”*  Imagine a world in which questions didn’t exist or were banned.  Many live as though they wished this were so.  Questions threaten the status quo – the deadening build-up of unimaginative and inactive culture and society; Polly LaBarre suggests the best sparking questions are “subversive, disruptive, and playful.”*

Here’s a question I’ve been pondering over the last year:

What would the world be like if we debunked the myth of only a few are creative, the myth of creativity being a solo occupation, and the myth of finding answers being better than asking questions?

(*From Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.)

what a feeling

23 we imprison 1

It’s 1983 and Flashdance’s Irene Cara is powering out the lyrics, ‘Take your passion and make it happen.’

Some wait for the feeling before they move.  Sometimes the feeling never comes.

Others, though, know, when they move, the feeling follows.

Here’s something sent by Andrew and Pete,* two energetic and enthusiastic marketing guys I enjoyed meeting recently; they say:

‘We … wondered if you might be interested on your blog about a subject close to our hearts and millions of others. … We see a lot of micro businesses struggling to see that future that they could make for themselves, yet held back by their beliefs that they will never be a great success, it’s a distant dream, a joke even. … Anyway we just thought that as a topic it might be of interest to you, a business spin on things?’

I thought to pull this in here because, whether you need to earn some money for that thing you do, or find some space and time to contribute it in a gifted way,  the important thing for your future to emerge is for you to turn up.

Every day, turn up with their passion – identified by the thing or things you’re curious about, your skills and do something to change the world.  Even if it’s one person’s world (if you can change one person’s world, you can change more).

When you turn up and do what you must do, your feelings will change (you will also change the feelings of others who share your space).**

One thing for sure is to do nothing, or to hold back, will result in nothing.

I went out for a run earlier.  I’m feeling good about it now.  After injury, I’m getting good signals my body is doing okay.  But in the winter, I never really feel like running – I only know I love running.  So I turned up, pulled on my shoes and went out into wind strong enough to almost stop me in my tracks a few times as I ran up one of the  hills.  At times like this, I remind myself I must respect the miles,which break down into steps.

When you turn up with what it is you must do, then you are developing mastery of something no-one else does.  Chris Anderson brings encouragement to see the market has many more niches than it has had before:

‘What we will see is simply more.  More innovation, in more places, from more people, focused on more narrow niches.^

When I first read these words from Robert Greene, it was as if he was speaking directly to me:

‘You push yourself to learn from every possible source.  You read more books than those who have a formal education, developing this into a lifelong habit … . You try to apply your knowledge in some sort of experiment or practice.  You find yourself second-degree mentors … . You try and make their ideas come to life … .’^^

The future will not be a progression of what already is.  It is unlikely to find you.  But when you increasingly clarify and develop your passion and your skills, you will see your future.  And you will know what you must do now to arrive at your future.

If you struggle with either of these, get in touch because it’s what I do – I imagine people’s futures.

(*Check out Andrew and Pete’s site.)
(**I’m learning this the hard way.  I’ve been in some pretty dreich meetings, where I’ve waited for someone else to lift the mood, and, often, it never happens.  I must do this.)
(^From Chris Anderson”s Makers.)
(^^From Robert Greene’s Mastery.)

bursting bubbles

22 there's no such thing 2

When I was a child I would watch adults and wonder whether I could ever live like they were.

In many choices. I had to become an adult.  Even now I marvel at how I manage to live in this adult world.

I realise now, the journey is more accurately about becoming Human than it is about becoming adult.

Even in the 21st century, our destination is elusive.  It appears, the journey is everything, promising more discoveries.

22 there's no such thing

Adults still want assurances everything will be fine, everything will work, and there won’t be any pain.  Yet, it appears, the journey is all about risk.

Since I was at my primary school, when adults appeared like creatures from a different planet to me, the world has changed greatly and rapidly and the degree and speed are only going to increase: ‘The shape of the future is fast.’*

We’re being rushed along and don’t know what lies around the next bend  Our lizard-brain demands we find some safe bubble in which we might journey safely towards death.

We cannot become Human by living in bubbles, though.  And the maelstrom of change will increasingly burst bubbles.

I am told, if I ever find myself thrown out of a kayak or raft in a white-water river, I need to travel downstream feet first.

For those who choose to leave their bubbles behind, or who find themselves burst out from their bubbles, feet-firstness – the ability to anticipate and respond to whatever’s ahead – will be aided by three movements in our lives:

From answers to questions
From comfort to discomfort
From arriving to journeying.

(*From Alex McManus’s Makers of Fire.)
(There’ll be more added to the cartoon for today; what would you put inside the lines?)