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21 the universe doesn't need

“The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.”*

As a new day begins, we make a choice.

Our choice determines whether we move in a world of abundance, a “universe of possibility,” or into one of scarcity.

Roz and Ben Zander, who offer the term “universe of possibility,” see scarcity as a result of our attempts to measure and weigh:

‘We grow up in a world of measurement, and in this world, we get to know each and things by measuring them, and by comparing and contrasting them.’**

It’s hard to measure what is unique, though, and this is what each person is.

Yes, we live in the same world doing the same everyday things everyone else engages in.  Yes, we play finite games – which are full of measuring – when we have to do this thing by this time in this way for these reasons and for this cost.

More than this, though, we know how each person is able to infinitely mix what they are curious about and skilled.

We don’t have to measure each other.  As Richard Rohr points out, if this is our choice,  we shall ‘not have strong and final opinions about everything, every event, or most people, as much as we allow things and people to delight us, sadden us, and truly influence us.’^

We imprison one another when we say, “Why can’t you be more like me/more like us!”  We liberate when we say, “Why can’t you be more like you!” – releasing the future Self.

(*Saint Francis, quoted in Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.)
(**See Rosamund and Benjamin Zander’s The Art of Possibility.)
(^From Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.)

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‘[M]yths tell us that not only are we the good guys, but we are the smartest, boldest, best guys that ever were.’*

‘A hero sets off in search of something elusive that has the power to change both their life and the world.’**

There are those who stand out because they want to and those because they have to.  One steps into a world of scarcity in which only a few stand out, the other steps into a world of abundance in which everyone finds their “something elusive.”  One moves towards the place of stability, the other moves towards the journey of instability.  One wants to be seen to have arrived, the other is happy to be a constant learner.  One prefers answers, the other questions.

As IDEO’s Paul Bennett the questions arrives out of not knowing: “being comfortable with not knowing – that’s the first part of being able to question.’^

‘Wisdom happily lives with mystery, doubt, and “unknowing,” and in such living, ironically resolves that very mystery to some degree.  I have never figured out why unknowing becomes another kind of knowing, but it surely seems to be.’^^

(*From Jonathan Gottschall’s The Storytelling Animal.)
(**From Chris Guillebeau’s The Happiness of Pursuit.)
(^Paul Bennett, quoted in Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.)
(^^From Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.)

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19 I have been told

“Your remembered self is a translation of your life.”

‘When we are grateful, we are most fully alive.’**

Ian Duncan Smith has just resigned as the UK’s Work and Pensions Secretary.^

Behind the scenes of any news story, there’s something else happening.  Roz and Ben Zander remind us that by the time we’re conscious of something, it’s already been processed and shaped by our brains:

‘[F]irst our senses bring us selective information about what is out there; second, the brain constructs its own simulation of the sensations; and only then, third, do we have our first conscious experience of our milieu.’**

There’ll be opposing political opinions about what is right and wrong, but the point the Zanders are making, as Noah Yuval Harari is also at pains to make in Sapiens, is that all opinions are constructs.  And if they are constructs, why don’t we create something better?

This will mean opening our minds to more, something that is both possible and difficult.

Dan Ariely offers some interesting thoughts.  When it comes to the things we are selling or give away, there are three quirks to the experience: ‘we fall in love with what we already have;’ ‘we focus on what we may lose;’ and, ‘we assume other people will see the transaction from the same perspective as we do.’^^

Daniel Pink would want to add to this that “to sell is human” – it is what we’re doing all the time – like when we share an idea or tell someone about a great restaurant experience we’ve had.   But, what if instead of trying to “sell” our stories to each other, we add them together to create a better story.*^

Mind you, what I’m suggesting is yet another construct, another story, but I like it because it’s about offering the possibility to thrive to everyone.

(*From Erwin McManus’s Uprising.)
(**From Rosamund and Benjamin Zander’s The Art of Possibility.)
(^I pick out this story because it was one the news programme I’ve just been listening to.  Apparently, after more than five years of overseeing disability benefit cuts, supposedly to encourage people back into work, the latest round of cuts announced in the budget is “a compromise too far,” for IDS because the budget also includes tax cuts for the higher earning.  Different views of this story and what it’s about have been offered by friends, colleagues, and opponents.)
(^^From Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational.)
(*^Daniel Pink’s To Sell is Human.)


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18 when we embrace discipline

“Old men ought to be explorers
Here and there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For another union, a deeper communion”*

This is true for more than old men, or old women.  It’s about the future and about possibility.

Going to the future makes it possible to alter, or rearrange, our present and change our past.

‘A significant part of the artistic challenge is to go beyond interpreting human experience to be an interpreter of human possibility.’**

The past is the past, but when we develop the skills to be formed by the future, we use the the past as resources for our art in the present – the contribution of beauty and goodness we must bring into the world.

Roz and Ben Zander identify practices to make this happen which I’ll be exploring through the weeks that follow:

‘[The practices of possibility] are geared instead toward causing a total shift of posture, perceptions, beliefs, and thought processes.  They are about transforming your entire world.’^

We can only travel to the future, and change the past, to the extent that we’re willing to embrace discipline and practice.

Here are three I refer to throughout Thin|Silence.

These are future-opening practices because they open or rearrange our mind, most significantly from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.  They begin to open the possibility of more.

Humility makes it possible for us to see the true self in the kind of detail that we’re able to imagine a future Self.

Gratitude enables us to both recognise and value, and to hold within our lives, all we contain and touch, making it more possible to be creative and loving.

Faithfulness allows us to figure out the personal ways we can explore the explosive combination of humility and gratitude.

(*T S Eliot, quoted in Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.)
(**From Erwin McManus’s The Artisan Soul.)
Rosamund and Benjamin Zander’s The Art of Possibility.)
(Today’s cartoon derives from a conversation about freedom with my friend Alex McManus.  Alex brought to mind these words from Frank Herbert: 
“Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty.”)


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17 art, after all

‘[I]t was critical that I somehow found a way to help these individuals, who I had come to care about so much, learn to dream again’*

The world is changing.  No longer are privilege, position, and power the only way into what we want to do.

Richard Rohr only asks, ‘How much of your false self are you willing to shed to find your True Self.’**

It is our false self that hides the possibility, or possibilities.

When Ben Zander describes the work of his wife Roz, he could be describing why I love dreamwhispering so much – the unlocking of what is already inside people:

‘She pays close attention to the stories people tell about who they are and how their world works, and she gives them tools to rename themselves and their circumstances in a way that generally leads to an outcome that is more than they hoped for or even imagined.’^

These tools are simple, but not in the way we think of simple.

Yesterday, I explored how gratitude creates capacity within us, able to hold all we have and all that is available around us – resources for a generative life.  Gratitude is not simple, like just saying “thank you.’  It’s the kind of simplicity found on the far side of complexity.  As a result, it feels like we are stepping into a mystery, a path which changes us when we embark upon it.

This path leads us from scarcity into abundance; we see and value all we are and have, all that lies all around us, and perhaps especially the lives of those most unlike us.

The path moves us through the hasty or long-held judgements that have marked our lives, through not caring or being led by cynicism, so that we are free to give, and in giving, to love.

(*From Erwin McManus’s The Artisan Soul.)
(**From Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.)
(^From Rosamund and Benjamin Zandler’s The Art of Possibility.)

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16 she had the same as

‘The noble use all that they are and have for the good of others.’*

“I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –

Of Chamber as the Cedars –
Impregnable of Eye –
And for an Everlasting Roof –
The Gambrels of the Sky –

Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands –
To gather Paradise -“**

While some see less, others see more.

Some say that life for them is the way it is because there is not more around them – people, what people bring, the resources available to them.

More begins within us and what we’re prepared to see.

Gratitude is to see, being open to receive all that is, without judgement, cynicism, or even fear.

Greed is way more subtle than we imagine, essentially never believing or feeling we have enough.  It leads to a life unable to hold or contain all that it is and has, in the lives of others, in ideas and resources, in all fauna and flora and the world itself.

Perhaps there is a direct correlation between being grateful and being able to act, being able to imply what we are incapable of taking deep into our lives.  ven failure becomes something useful to us.

‘So failure and humiliation force you to look where you would never otherwise.’^

Gratitude doesn’t require we possess something or someone to fully appreciate it and benefit from it.  Sharing friendship, ideas, time, and gratitude leads us to understand that we’re generative beings, able to be generous.

This grateful way opens up a ‘universe of possibility’.^^  There is more to our environment than we know, but,even more, our lives and rich and bursting with possibility.

(*From Erwin McManus’s Uprising.)
(**Emily Dickinson, quoted in Rosamund and Benjamin Zander’s The Art of Possibility.)
(^From Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.)
(^^From Rosamund and Benjamin Zander’s The Art of Possibility.)

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15 the universe is asking

‘There is nothing in the patient that I do not have in me.’*

We seek autonomy, mastery, and a cause greater than ourselves.

Free to live as we dream.

Doing something really well.

Living the adventure for a cause greater than ourselves.

Psychologist Erich Fromm’s remark, above, caused me to ponder whether I urge others towards a heroic path because I want to journey with them.

By hero, I mean someone who is striving to be more human – towards themselves, towards others, towards their world.

Their courage isn’t bravado but the highest form of humility – knowing themselves, they believe they can grow exponentially.

I’m making this up.  It’s a story, but it’s one story among many.

We tell ourselves political stories, economic and humanitarian stories, love stories and hate stories.  Our stories are how we make sense of the disorder of life.  Paradoxically, the best stories are not easy ones: ‘The path of least resistance is a poor teacher.’**

The best stories are full of questions – questions asked of us and questions we ask of life.  And to ask questions, we must let go of our answers.

(*From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Listening.)
(**From Ryan Holliday’s The Obstacle is the Way.)

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14 while waiting for perfect

There’ll be something which captures your attention and intention more than anything else.  Around this lies the possibility of bringing your creativity and generosity in the form of beauty and goodness.

Yesterday, I met with two others to plan something which will provide a space for people to find their “voices.”  Towards this, two of us were helping the other to imagine what that something could be, and it felt like Richard Rohr’s description of ‘authentic soul friends … Guiding the soul across all the scary borders.’*

If you’re pursuing the right things for you at the right time, for the right reasons with the right spirit, then you’re you’ll be able to move adeptly towards the future – such poise is important because the future is tricky.  So here are a number of future-orientated skills to develop – and better together:

Anticipation, opening us to more, often whispers from the future
Reflection, allowing us to think deeply about what we’re discovering
Imagination, making it possible to see future possibilities
Synchronisation, connecting deeply with what is possible
Design, playing with possibilities sooner rather than later.
Creation, shaping something of beauty and goodness which responds to what was first anticipated.

(*From Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.)

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13 no matter where

We’re always on a journey from brokenness to wholeness, from disconnection to connection, and from giving up to keeping going.  So, this may be the twenty third story for letting go and letting come, but it’s about taking care of the basics – something we can never lose sight of.

Pixar’s Ed Catmull uses the phrase “the Beast and the Baby” to describe the need to keep creating stories that feed the movie system as well as the original new ideas which lead to films that tell great and inspiring stories.

It’s not as simple as saying the beast is bad and the baby is good – a beast can be trained and a baby may never mature.*

This left me thinking about how there is a beast and a baby in each of us.

The beast is the every hungry me with all kinds of cravings, and the baby is the potential me, who I can become.  Cravings are not bad in and of themselves but it’s about how I feed them.  And I have to remember, I have hopes and aspirations which I need to give shape to as well.

There are basic things we train ourselves to do in order not to let the beast have its way.*  Choreographer Twyla Tharp describes her daily routine: shower, dress in her gym clothes, call a taxi cab, and then two hours in  the gym at the beginning of the day.

Her creative habit was not the two hours in the gym, however.  It was more basic than that – it was calling the cab.

The difference between foolishness and wisdom are the faithful habits and practices we shape so avoid overfeeding the beast, making it possible to develop the baby.

(*Dan and Chip Heath’s Switch makes interesting reading: the brothers picture our thinking and behaving as an elephant, rider, and path.)


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12 responsibility

‘Freedom is not something we have; there is no such thing as freedom.  Freedom is a quality of our personality: we are more or less free to resist pressure, more or less free to do what we want and to be ourselves.  Freedom is always a question of increasing the freedom one has, or decreasing it.’*

‘Will is the discipline of the heart and the soul.  The will is the one thing we control completely, always.’**

There’s something you must do.  Don’t sit back for someone else to do it, or for someone to give you permission.  Taking hold of this will lead to both your growth and fulfilment, and will bring goodness into the world.

You must take responsibility.

Responsibility does have a dark side.  Taking on too many things others ask of us – because we’re responsible people –  can lead to angst and guilt when we take too much on, and not leave any time to do what we should be doing.  (I’ve been there and done that.)

The responsibility I’m thinking about is the kind that takes firm hold of what it is we MUST do and does it.

And when good things happen, we don’t say, “It wasn’t really me … it was someone else … it was god.”

No, it was you.  Take full responsibility.

When you do, you’ll not only do some amazing things – all kinds of things – but you’ll also grow because of it.

(*From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Listening.)
(**From Ryan Holliday’s The Obstacle is the Way.)