30 giftmakers

We’re discovering our natural state can be one of gift-maker, on a journey from the ego and self, to the eco and Self – from a wrong understanding of who we are now, to a greater understanding of ourselves in connectedness with others and the future.

Yesterday, I mentioned there are three things we use the name of gift for.  There is the  gift we receive; the gift which is the magic we bring to life – more than the sum total of our talents and passions and experiences; and, there’s the gift we make and give to others.

In each of these ways, we are nourished: nourished in receiving, in making, in giving – the nourishment we need to thrive and flourish

The gift will always take me into the lives of others, and their lives into mine.

‘Travel is never a matter of money, but of courage.’*

(*(From Paulo Coelho’s Aleph.)


you must leave here

29 given up waiting

“You’re not here any more.  You’ve got to leave in order to return to the present.”*

It’s the archetypal narrative arc of a great story: the reluctant protagonist leaves “here” and will wrestle their way back to the present.

Jerome Bruner refers to there being “no internal push to growth without a corresponding external pull”.**

Otto Scharmer^ speaks of there being internal context, external context, and a third: the context of the emerging future.

I offer these to understand gift.

We use the same word to mean three things.  There’s the gift which comes to us, which we must acknowledge (gratitude) – the external.  Then there’s the gift within us (more than the sum of our talents, passions, and experiences) – the internal.  And there’s a third gift, the one we produce (the emerging future) – that which did not exist before.

The question is, will you be present to this new possibility if you remain here?

(*J, Paulo Coelho’s friend and guide, quoted in Paulo Coelho’s Aleph.)
(**Jerome Bruner, quoted in Denis Wood’s The Power of Maps.)
(^In Otto Scharmer’s Theory U.)


28 such a fast universe

What do I want?

How do I know what I want?

Apple gave a generous gift with the iPhone 6 – an entire U2 album.  The problem was this was not how the gift was received.  Many purchasers of the phone thought the gift to be an intrusion.  Apple had then to provide a way for owners of new phones to remove the album.

I’m exploring using my city library as a creative space and borrowed Paulo Coelho’s Aleph. The following extract caught my attention.  I wavered for a split second over whether to use the faintest of pencil markings as a highlight – as I do in my own books.

I didn’t, though, because this would be an intrusion for those who borrowed the book after me and who will find their own favourite places in it.  Here’s the quote, though, with Coelho speaking to his friend and guide J:

‘”I can’t evolve any further,” I say, falling, as always, into the trap of being the first to speak.  “I think I’ve reached my limit.”

“That’s funny.  I’ve been trying all my life to find out what my limits are and have never reached them yet.  But then my universe doesn’t really help, it keeps expanding and won’t allow me to know entirely,” says J provocatively.’*

What do I want?

How do I know what I want?

What if what I want is less or different to what I really want?

We’re made of the same stuff as J’s expanding universe, the same dynamics of expansion at work within us – involving us in continual exploration.

Maybe the gift I can give, which does not assume or presume, is to ask, If I could help you know what you want, would this be useful to you?

(*From Paulo Coelho’s Aleph.)

schools of magic

27 wow, it's amazing

‘I began my apprenticeship in magic when I was twenty-two.  I followed various paths, walked along the very edge of the abyss for many years, slipped over and fell, gave up and started all over again.  I imagined that, by the age of fifty-nine, I would be close to paradise and the absolute peace I thought I could see in the smiles of Buddhist monks.’*

I am nearer now to where I must begin.

Magic is about seeing things differently to everyone else, and everyone’s magic is different.  I included this quote a year ago; it still excites me one year on:

‘The task is not so much to see what no one has yet seen, but to think what no one has yet thought about that which everybody sees.’**

I think my magic is to help you find your magic.

We have this wrong notion that most Humans are Muggles, that only a few are special and talented in magic.  The thing which stands between us and our magic is an illusion with teeth:

‘”Grown-ups have no time to dream, struggling from nine to five to support their family …, always bumping up against the thing we all know as harsh reality.’*

There are more schools of magic appearing.  No matter our age or background, there’s hope for anyone who will learn to open their minds, their hearts, and their wills.

(*From Paulo Coelho’s Aleph.)
(Albert Schopenhauer, quoted in Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler’s The Decision Book.)

everyone has magic

26 no-one is a mudblood

Everyone is capable of working magic somewhere.

At the beginning of her new book, Bernadette Jiwa speaks poignantly about her brother Johnny; I can only imagine some tragedy behind these words:

‘He was the most magnificent person who had everything he needed, and he didn’t know it.’*

I want you to know that you are a magician and I want you to know exactly what your magic is.

I was supporting my daughter-in-law yesterday as she graduated with a Jewellery and Silversmithing degree.  Karolina produces amazingly imaginative and beautiful items – part of her magic, I am often spellbound by the designs.

The proceedings began with a moment of reflection from Honorary Chaplain Richard Frazer speaking about how there is data, then information, then knowledge, and then there is wisdom, and he concluded by urging the graduates to take their degrees of knowledge into the world and to gain wisdom.

Wisdom is real magic and it is always meaningful.

This magic takes who we are and what we have and what we know and all of our experiences and our passions and dreams and hopes, and makes something extraordinary to present to the world.

As I replayed yesterday’s stream of hundreds of students receiving their various degrees, I found myself wondering about what kind of magic they’ll bring into the world.  I also found myself thinking about all the people who’ve never been part of a degree ceremony, who nevertheless are capable of magic too – every person is qualified to bring something meaningful into the world.

Degreed or not, everyone everyone discovers there’s no straight line to making magic. We’re so used to straight lines – straight lines on this webpage, all the lists we make, the ten things we need to do to get from here to a happier future – but straight is what we impose on a curvy world.

Maybe I made some progress yesterday but tomorrow I can mess up and have to begin again.  Welcome to the curve.  I may fail a hundred times but if I understand life has no straight lines then I can grow stronger.

‘The best way to verify if you are alive is by checking you like variations.’**

This sounds curvy, and yet, this is where we can make our magic, where we can play with the random and chaotic and find our creativity.

‘The greatest gift you can give a person is to see who she is and to reflect that back to her, when we help people to be who they want to be, to take back somee of the permission they deny themselves, we are doing our best, most meaningful work.’*

(*From Bernadette Jiwa’s Meaningful.)
(**From Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile.)

the magic in-between

25 we have to

Between the darkness of night and the lightness of day there’s been the most beautiful dawn: a hiatus in the universe, it’s a moment of wonder and magic, alive with possibility.

25 dawn

It’s a moment in which we can do something imaginative with what we have received.

My friend Dan said this about something we’re both involved in:

“We have to keep doing the scary stuff, else we’ll just keep doing the same stuff and not very well.”*

There’s a scene in Star Trek Generations when Jean Luc Picard is trying to enlist the help of James T Kirk, but the former captain of the USS Enterprise is content with a place in the Nexus – a Paradise ribbon moving across the galaxy.  That is, until they go for a horse-ride and a jump leaves Kirk feeling nothing – it’s not real and he knows he cannot live in the not real.

Between taking in from others and the world around us, and making our contributions, there’s generative place – and when we explore the potential of this place with others, something dynamic happens:

‘The revolutionary force in this century is the awakening of a deep generative human capacity – the I-in-Now.’**

(*Dan said this about VOXedinburgh which always feels like jumping a void.)
(**From Otto Scharmer’s Theory U.)

the moment i am

24 brah

‘Natural things – living things in particular – are like language we only faintly remember.  It is as if creation has been dismembered sometime in the past and all things are limbs we have lost that will make us whole if only we can recall them.’*

We are simply more ourselves when we join with others, the universe, and with the future.  These things comes to our aid but they are not who we are.

Someone sits down with others to tell their story.  They are not their story.

This is a gift they bestow, but they are neither the gifts they receive nor the gifts they give:

‘there is a middle phase in the process of the gifted self: between sympathy and pride, between the reception and the bestowal, lies a moment in which new identity comes to life as the old identity perishes’.**

The person continues to tell their story.  I listen to what they have done and what has been done to them.  I wonder whether there is another story:

These things are not me.  I, the person I am, breathe these in and breathe them out.  I am the moment in between the breathings, the moment of magic receiving something old,which dies, and bringing something new to life.

(*From Lewis Hyde’s The Gift.)
(**Lewis Hyde in The Gift, reflecting on Walt Whitman’s breathing in and breathing out.)

don’t be half-hearted

23 half-heartedness

The universe doesn’t reveal its secrets to the half-hearted, but to those who are willing to fully engage.

“To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow,
All rewritten to me, and I must get what the writing means.”*

This isn’t like reading a book.  The universe must be breathed in, consumed – as a prime experience.

Half-heartedness plays it safe.  There’s risk involved in breathing deeply, exerting ourselves in pursuit of something which matters.  Risk asks us for everything from us, to be full-hearted:

‘Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging.  It’s being all in.’**

Our creativity increases as we move from the familiar to the unfamiliar, as we take our “art” into new lives and new places and new scenarios, to breathe these in deeply and then having to breathe out.

The half-hearted find it easy to pass comment on how you could do things better or differently, or not at all, whilst never stepping out of what they’ve always known and done.  Trying to read the universe from the outside, they will always be fearful of taking deeper breaths.

‘”Can I get to exquisite without having to feel really vulnerable?”  “No.”‘**

We’ll never be perfect an we’ll never be complete, but we;re enough and have enough to begin.  Maybe the only hope for the half-hearted is to ‘Embrace your flaws’^ and step into deeper life.

(*Walt Whitman, quoted in Lewis Hyde’s The Gift.)
(**From Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly.)
(^From Rohit Bhargava’s Non-Obvious; Bhargava is reflecting on what he sees as the trend of Unperfection)


this slow dawn is mine

22 what if we could be 1

This morning I watched the dawn.  The promise of a new day lit up the few clouds with orange and salmon-pink.

I am grateful for this gift of beauty, feeling as if it was meant for me alone.

Timely, then, that I should be reading these words from poet Walt Whitman:

“Dazzling and tremendous how quickly the sunrise would kill me, if I could not now and always send sunrise out of me.”*

Whitman spoke of the two phases of the artist’s labour as sympathy and pride: breathing in and breathing out.  The poet inhales, being sympathetic to the dawn, but then must exhale, if he is to live.  Asserting himself, then, he shares himself with others – the poet’s pride.

With gratitude, we receive our gift of this dawn, this new day, and find we cannot hold it within ourselves, we cannot hold our breath.  We must exhale, offer something out, and this something is different to what we inhaled.  We have made more of it, we have generated something new.

I thought the dawn would soon be over and give way to the day, but it continued for most of an hour.  Perhaps at this time of year the dawns are slow.  And then, oh my.

The brightest white light completed this beginning.

So I am wondering.  Do those who awaken more slowly to what they are able to give out to others bring the brightest light?

(*Walt Whitman, quoted in Lewis Hyde’s The Gift.)

santiago swallow

21 presence

You can follow Santiago Swallow on Twitter.  He has over 8,000 followers and has posted more than 900 tweets.

The main thing you need to know about Santiago is that he doesn’t exist: he’s a social experiment.  At his height he had tens of thousands of followers when Kevin Ashton wrote a glowing article about him, but:

‘As a social experiment, Ashton had created Swallow’s profile a mere three days before, purchased thousands of fake Twitter followers for him and set up a fake WordPress account behind all of it.  The total investment for all these efforts came to a grand total of $68 and two hours of set up time.’*

Santiago Swallow’s complete fabrication presents a quick and cheap possibility for creating our own online personas.

However, real life is far more compelling.

Cheryl Song’s fingerprint art also caught my attention this morning.  The fingerprint is made up of the names of writers and their writings.**  Which made me wonder: what if we each were able to identify the different influences, influencers, values, talents, passions we could create our own unique fingerprint to impress upon the world and leave behind as our legacy.

21 fingerprint

Our persona doesn’t happen in two hours and photoshop but in thousands of hours of unique exploration of life in all its fullness:

‘Read, look to other areas, use different learning mediums, ask better questions, reflect, reopen to ideas, be surrounded by learners, and prioritise learning.^

(*From Rohit Bhargava’s Non-Obvious.  Bhargava tells this story as an example of a trend he predicted for 2015 and named Experimedia; ‘Content creators use social experiments and real life interactions to study human behaviour in unique new ways and build more realistic and entertaining narratives.’)
(**From Laura Damon-Moore and Erinn Batykefer’s The Artist’s Library.)
(^From Michael Heppell’s The Edge.)