31 we are guides

Life has a habit of getting stuck.  Cultures, organisations, and individuals can all find themselves in a rut.

With the right kind of help, these places can become some of the most hopeful places.

It can be that we only need to share our story with someone who is really listening – the best listeners will ask us questions to clarify things along the way.  Simply listening to ourselves speaking our circumstances out loud can help us become unstuck.

We may need, though, to be asked the kind of questions that dig deeper into some of the things we’re describing – these are questions we hadn’t thought of asking.

Beyond questions about some details in our stuckness, further help comes from the person who carefronts us with possible scenarios and situations in the future – stuckness can produce the symptom of being unaware of the future.

A fourth way of being helped is to focus on what is happening in this conversation – how there is a dynamic at work that is already moving thoughts on and even feelings.

I’ve shared this in terms of conversations, but there could be drawing and even theatre involved.

We have each other so we don’t have to stay stuck.

the naming paradox

30 warning

‘Names not only address what we are, the irreplaceably human, they also anticipate what we become.  Names call us to become who we will be. … A personal name designates what is irreducibly personal; it also calls us to be what we are not yet.’*

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”**

We are the naming species.

As far as we know it, no other species has our preponderance for giving names to all flora and fauna, and absolutely everything: What is it?

When it comes to naming our children, it is with hope for the future: this baby will grow up to be a name-giver, too: reaching out in curiosity, finding out more truth than we have now, and becoming more who they are on the way.

A name says, I am more than my parent’s genes, more than a matriculation number, more than an employee reference.

The paradox is, we can too easily slip into the kind of life that gives all of this up.

(*From Eugene Peterson’s Run With the Horses.)
(**T. S. Eliot, quoted in Jonah Lehrer’s Proust Was a Neuroscientist.)



what do you see?

29 we get to 2

‘[B]ecause there are no light sensitive cones where the optic nerve connects to the retina, we each have a literal blind spot I the centre of the visual field.  But we are blind to our own blind spot: our brain unfailingly registers a seamless world.’*

I’ve just lost a contact lens down a plug hole.  Ugh.

It seems that this is the least of my worries as there are ten times more fibres running from my brain to my eye, than from my eye to my brain, meaning I am lying to my eyes about what they are seeing.  Furthermore, if I were able to remove my self-consciousness from this relationship of eye and brain, then I’d ‘see nothing but lonely points of light in formless space.’*

Our unique worldviews mean we all see something different.  It’s why listening to you speak about what you see is so important to me.

These worldviews are our stories, and we’re telling stories all the time – so much so that we often don’t even notice we’re doing it.  The bus driver in shades.  The woman walking with an elbow crutch.  The two fire engines passing each other as they travel in different directions.

I’ve just begun to read Steve Peter’s The Chimp Paradox because I’m wanting to see more through his eyes.  He names “seven planets in a psychological universe”: understanding self, understanding others, communicating effectively, living in your world, maintaining your health, being successful, and, being happy – all things we’re trying to figure out as we put together our stories in the best possible way.

Even with my contact lens, I only see a tiny part of what life and the universe is about.  People show me far more.

It is in seeing more together that I suspect some of the most creative things we’ll be about as humans will come into being.

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

(*From Jonah Lehrer’s Proust Was a Neuroscientist.)
(**From Edgar Schein’s Helping.)

i think you’ve mistaken me for someone else

28 the great i am

Me? I am Geoffrey.

‘Any time that we move from personal names to abstract labels or graphs or statistics, we are less in touch with reality and diminished in capacity to deal with what is best and at the centre of life. … For a name addresses the uniquely human nature.  A name recognises that I am this person and not that person.’*

When we find ourselves living increasingly within our roles and titles and functions, or the expectations of others or of self, we become less than who we are.

A long time ago my parents named me.  Many years later I was named again, by a group of people who had come to know me well.  The way it worked, I could not name myself, but could accept or reject the group’s name for me:

“To be called by his true name is part of any listener’s process of becoming his true self.  We have to receive a name by others; this is part of the process of being fully born.”**

We all need moments when we are able to simply rest in who we are.  And when we are who we are, then we can know what we want to make:

‘[Cézanne] knew that the mind makes the world, just as a painter makes a painting.’^

(*From Eugene Peterson’s Run With the Horses.) 
(**Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, quoted in Eugene Peterson’s Run With the Horses.)
(^From Eugene Peterson’s Proust Was a Neuroscientist.)

more or less

27 we have called your name

‘Some people as they grow up become less. … Other people as they grow up become more.’*

This is a choice we make.

Today I become 57 years young, and I am moving on.  Out of the organisation I’ve been with for 36 years and into dreamwhispering and doodling.

A number of people think I’m retiring – I certainly I know people my age who are doing just that, but this is a beginning.

I have come to know what I must do and am moving forward.

All those 57 years ago, my parents Marjorie and Jack gave me a name, and life got personal.  And I remember when Christine and I named our own children: Matthew, Charlotte, and Luke.  This was a thing of hope.

My work with others is on first name terms, journeying together, something hopeful lived towards the future.  About life being more, not less.

How we go about it is our choice: it’s personal.

‘Life is a continuous exploration of ever more reality.  Life is a constant battle against everyone and anything that corrupts and diminishes it’s reality.’*

(*From Eugene Peterson’s Run With the Horses.)

isn’t that a little … radical?

26 where the adventure

Usually asked when we think someone has gone too far.

‘[You are] called to a life of purpose far beyond what you think yourself capable of living [and you have] adequate strength to fulfil your destiny.’*

Radical’s etymology is in rootedness and going to the source.  What we point to as being too radical may simply be someone exploring life.

Tragically, many have give up on living long before they die.  This place of exile from life can be arrived at when it is wrongly believed that more is needed to be able to live a better and more significant life.

What each have enough, all we need to begin now.  We simply have to reorganise it by noticing our energy, valuing our experiences, and identifying our talents.

One thing radicals share is their orientation towards the future; being ‘anchored in the future rather than the past, drawn forward by what they truly want to see exist in the world.’**

(*Slightly adapted from Eugene Peterson’s Run With the Horses.)
(**From Peter Senge’s The Necessary Revolution.)

the salon of the refused

25 welcome to

In 1863, Emperor Napoleon III held a Salon of the Refused for those artists rejected for the annual art exhibition of the Academy of Fine Arts.

The meaningful work you believe you must do will not necessarily be recognised by the establishments and powers that be.

You need to get used to this and move on in order to continue developing the unique contribution just where it matters most, in the eyes and lives of those you produce your art for.

One day the establishment may recognise what you’re doing, but let’s be honest, that’s not the reason you’ve taken this path.  And, just like Napoleon, you too can create salons of the refused.*

(*Following writing this, I found myself listed amongst the members of just such a salon; we are living in interesting times.)

the journey makes us

24 it is the journey 1

‘The puzzle is why so many people live so badly.’*

‘At the deepest level of the human heart there is no simple, singular self.  Deep within us there is gallery of different selves.’**

In Florence’s Academia Gallery, four unfinished statues of slaves line the approach to Michelangelo’s David.  These four are also by Michelangelo and they have fascinated me ever since I first heard about them.  They epitomise the quest we find ourselves born into – to free ourselves in order to become all that we can be.


The struggle is to be free of judgement (this is it), cynicism (who cares?), and fear (what will happen if … ?) – from both within and without.  Someone once told me there’s a theory that Michelangelo never intended finishing these statues.  Maybe the quest will remain an unfinished one, and, yet, this is where we find life.

The journey makes us.

(*From Eugene Peterson’s Run With the Horses.)
(**From John O’Donohue’s Anam Cara.)

clarity is elusive

 23 did you know

“I have no idea where I am going.”*

‘Creative people must accept that challenges never cease, failure can’t be avoided, and “vision” is an illusion.’**

‘Instead of giving us fully realised forms, Cézanne supplies us with layers of suggestive edges, out of which forms slowly unfurl.  Our vision is made of lines, and Cézanne has made the lines distressingly visible.’^

Our eyes sees lines; our brains fill in the rest.  If for whatever reason this doesn’t work then we ‘see the world as such a hopeless commotion of fragments.^


If we can’t see the “lines,” the clarity we seek in life is difficult to find, too – and there’s always something we fail to see, always something new to see.

We need to find the kind of lines that will allow the bigger picture clarity to emerge.  We’re all able to find the lines of our curiosity, identify the lines of our talent, and practice the lines of your resulting “art.”  The rest will emerge, but these words from Pixar’s Ed Catmull are worth repeating:

‘Creative people must accept that challenges never cease, failure can’t be avoided, and “vision” is an illusion.’**

(*Thomas Merton, quoted in the Northumbria Community’s Morning Prayer.)
(**From Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc..  Pixar has to work very hard to produce a great movie out of the chaos and complexity of production – an illustration of life.)
(^From Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist.)


what do you see?

22 i love it

‘This is Cézanne’s genius: he forces us to see, in the same static canvas, the beginning and the end of our sight.  What starts as an abstract mosaic of colour becomes a realistic description.  The painting emerges, not from paint or light, but from somewhere inside our mind.’*

‘In shaping life beyond the Bubble, many visions will be needed.’**

Whilst we each see our world similarly enough to make everything we have made together work, we know that we each see our world significantly differently to make everyone’s contribution important – and the most complete picture only comes into view when we allow for the time dimension, including the future and the the past as well as the present.^

We have to admit, we don’t know what humans are capable of yet.

All of this means that it is important that you bring your seeing, and the art that emerges from how you see.

Life is coming into focus.

(*From Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist.)
(**From Peter Senge’s The Necessary Revolution.)
(^I dropped my watch into a sink-full of water this morning, so I wasn’t wearing it as I lost track of time earlier today; I realised how I need my watch to “see” where I am in time.)