who will i be today?

21 providing the universe purpose

“Did I not banish the soul when I began?  What happens is, as usual, life breaks in.”*

‘One of the deepest needs of the human soul is that others should be blessed through our lives.’**

For Virgina Woolf, the self was an illusion,a  dynamic of our brain’s processing observing some things and not others.

I notice some things and not others, and there I am.

We might posit that humans are necessary for the universe to be conscious, to be able to notice itself, and all the pandemonium happening in our brains, some of which some is noticed by the self, is exactly what’s required for this to happen.  It’s quite an amazing thing.

Our consciousness continues to fascinate and perplex us.  We deconstruct the brain, understanding more of how it works, but there’s always a danger when we cannot reconstruct our existence:

‘We thrive and perform best when we have a sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose.’^

Sunni Brown is reminding us that we flourish when we find our freedom, identify unique skills, and live for something beyond ourselves.

There’s a story that emerges every day from the ‘raucous parliament of cells that endlessly debate what sensations and feelings should become conscious.’*^

Perhaps this is what Robert McKee is touching upon this when he writes about how we love stories and movies because they allow us to both experience something of the story and to reflect upon it – often when living in the thick of the action, we don’t get the chance to reflect.^^

“Listen to your life.
See it for the fathomless mystery that it is.”^*

(Virginia Woolf, quoted in Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist.)
(**From John Ortberg’s All the Places.)
(^From Sunni Brown’s The Doodle Revolution.)
(^^See Robert McKee’s Story.)
(*^From Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neurotscientist.)
(^*Frederick Buechner, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)

when the door opens …

20 say yes

Am I able to move through it?

‘I am in charge of one dynamic: when the door is opened, I get to choose how I will respond.’*

For all the good things I have experienced, all the things I know, and everything I have accumulated, am I able use these things to move quickly when an opportunity presents itself?   To bring it together to create speed?

My speed of response possibly tells me something about how I am doing when it comes to opening my mind, my heart, and my will.

(From John Ortberg’s All the Places.)


19 bountiful

‘[T]he mind is made of fragments, and yet these fragments are bound into being – our mystery persists.’*

I’ve been playing with the word “bountiful” today, and I think I like it very much.

Perhaps bountiful is first of all a way of seeing and understanding.

I find myself wondering where a word like “bountiful” comes from.  Are we the optimistic ape?

Virginia Woolf explored the idea of self within the whirl of thoughts our lives are.  For her the self is the ‘subject for our sensation,’ the ‘perceiver of our perception.’*

(Steve Peters frames this in his book on personal development as the Chimp and the Human, Daniel Kahneman as System One and System Two thinking, and, Chip and Dan Heath as the Elephant and Rider.**)

I wonder whether what we think of as the self, is the embedding of energy: our energy – our responses and initiating through curiosities and experimenting:

‘The key word here is energy.  All life is energy; without energy there is no life.  Passion is the power of positive energy.’^

I found myself questioning: “Am I becoming more “me” the more I play with energy?”  Across our lifetimes, and even within the same moment, we can feel ourselves to be different people, but in our moments of playfulness with energy are we becoming our “eponymous me”?

When I imagine something that doesn’t yet exist, and I move to see if it might, change is ahead: ‘The self invents itself.’*

It’s bountiful.

(*From Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist.)
(**See Steve Peters’s The Chimp Paradox, Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, and Chip and Dan Heath’s Switch.  These three sources don’t necessarily sit tidily with each other.)
(^From Ken Robinson’s Finding Your Element.)

make that pure

18 it appears

[Benvenuto] Cellini hated veneers. … It had to be pure, so that things would look like they are.’*

‘Wisdom is the art of living well.’**

Whatever the metal, goldsmith and sculptor Benvenuto Cellini wanted it to be what it was: let brass be brass and gold be gold.  Don’t lay gold over brass.

For good or ill, it appears that Cellini lived without veneer.^

Personal purity involves removing impurities too, the things that get in the way of being who we choose to be.  This is complex.  It’s not only about being who we are most of all now, but also who we can be in the future.  To this end, we need to remain open to the more that comes from outside of us – from our world, from others who are not like us, even from the universe itself: the kind of things that open up more possibilities, providing us with greater choice:

“I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise …”^^

Freedom to be what others need us to be is further complexity.  This towards their flourishing is one of the greatest gifts we can bring into the world.  Somehow, something that is fulfilling and satisfying to us and meets the needs of others  is one of the most joyful things in the universe.  When we can trust our urge, then:

‘Whatever excites you, go do it.  Whatever drains you, stop doing it.’*^

These are purifying practices, letting go of all that gets in the way in order to do what we feel we are made to do: to be the wing, the torch, the promise for others.

Two things to help your pondering.

The following words came to mind when I was thinking of this pure, good thing inside every person; it is followed by the truth that you have enough to begin right now:

“And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things …”^*
‘It’s not the lack of resources but the lack of resourcefulness that most people suffer from.’⁺

(*From Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.)
(**From John Ortberg’s All the Places.)
(^See Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.  Benvenuto Cellini certainly lived a life of great diversity: ‘Born in Florence in 1500, Cellini was variously imprisoned for sodomy and the father of eight children; an astrologer, poisoned deliberately [twice] …; the murderer of a postman; a naturalised French citizen who loathed France; a soldier who spied for the army he fought against; … the catalogue of such amazing incidents is endless.’)
(^^Dawna Markova, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(*^Derek Sivers, quoted in Austin Kleon’s Show Your 
(^*From Gerard Manley Hopkins God’s Grandeur.)
(⁺From Michael Heppell’s How to be Brilliant.)

scarce or what?

17 what to do?

Today is enough, just as it is.

This is the alternative to scarcity.

Not-enoughness can lead us to dark places.  Enoughness leads us to more places than we can presently imagine.*

Enoughness, being able to do more than we imagine right now, is alive with Ed Catmull and George MacDonald’s advice:

‘Protect the future, not the past.’**

“If people would do what they have to do,
they would always find themselves ready for what came next.’^

This future is not waiting for us; we’re creating it.  This way or that way, by the choices we make.  By the worldview we hold.  Scarcity or abundance?

Look within.  You have more than enough to do what you must do:

‘In the neglected crevices and corners of your evaded solitude, you will find the treasure you have always sought elsewhere.’^^

Maybe you’re waiting for someone else to act.  For something to happen that will change things for you.


Something more appears when you take the time to understand “what is in your hand.”


‘An inner alignment starts to develop that can release extraordinary energy and creativity, qualities previously dissipated by denial, inner contradictions, and unawareness of the situation and oneself.’*^

There is richness and beauty within people.

Our life situation is presented to us in John Ortberg’s observation of the simple but complex fact of life: ‘Life is facing and solving problems.’^*

I need to eat and clothe myself, so I work.  A transportation system solves the problem of how to get to work in time.  Shops along the route offer me solutions to my feeding and modesty needs.  Books and the internet solve my problems of needing to learn more … 

Asking someone, “What’s your problem?” is akin to asking “What do your care about?”

And what you care about includes hope for the future, so we must be careful not to set our goals for the future too soon, in what we presently know, but according to what we will know tomorrow.

You will hope for more tomorrow: protect the future.

(*We also have to recognise that some people really don’t have enough, though many have more than they know.)
(**From Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc..)
(^George MacDonald, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(^^From John O’Donohue’s Anam Cara.)
(*^From Peter Senge’s The Necessary Revolution.)
(^*From John Ortberg’s All the Places.)

life is not a cliché

16 what you are capable of

‘As a mirror held up to ourselves, in loco parentis is both an inspiring and unsettling image of fatherhood: the guild master had a clear role as a father figure, one that expanded a child’s horizons beyond the accidents of birth.’*

I am not holding some romantic view of the medieval practice of surrogate parenting involved in an apprentice learning the skills of their trade, but there is something excitingly hopeful about the influence and inspiration a person can bring to another that witnesses horizons being expanded.

We’re living in a time of great choice in learning and work, one that has the potential to even blur the line between employment and the rest of our lives.  Herein lies the problem faced by many today: What to do?  More choice leads to less choosing:

‘But having too many choices does not produce liberation; it produces paralysis.’**

Part of the problem is that we believe choice means easy.

I think people are amazing, but my message is not “You’re amazing.  You can do anything you want. Name it and claim it.”

There’s a lot of this kind of noise being today:

‘An adage worth repeating is also halfway to being irrelevant.  You end up with something that is easy to say but not connected to behaviour.’^

Choosing what we want and must do with our lives is hard: it’s hard to know, hard to embed, and hard to act upon.  Practice, focus, fail, starter, but it’s not impossible.

Now we have some hope.

(*From Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.)
(**From John Ortberg’s All the Places.)
(^From Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc..)

you can always be a goldsmith

15 who would true valour

‘The goldsmith’s role was to tell the truth about disguised substances, as well as to smelt gold from raw ore.’*

Richard Sennett writes about how the wandering mediaeval goldsmith turned his back on the hierarchy of the guilds, in order to search out new opportunities, through skill and character.

Here is a working metaphor for those who long to pursue their own creativity by enabling others to mine and purify their own goodness towards a noble purpose.

Ed Catmull tells of how Steve Jobs was this kind of goldsmith to him:

‘He had made me more focused, more resilient, smarter, better.’**

We all need such people.

Some set themselves aside for such a purpose.  Believing that everyone is worth their weight in gold, they make opportunities available, seeing gold where others only see dirt.

(*From Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.)
(**From Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc..)

our greatest achievements

14 and the greatest of all

‘Can a broken robot break a child?’*

‘Apple was his first and most heralded professional achievement; Pixar was a place he could relax a little and play.  While he never lost his intensity, we watched him develop the ability to listen.  More and more, he could express empathy and caring and patience.  He became truly wise.  The change in him was real, and it was deep.’**

Whether we’re fermenting, processing, or manufacturing, humans are makers par excellence from the raw materials we find in our world, but our greatest achievements are our inventions of love.

Twelve year old Estelle is upset by a malfunctioning Kismet, believing that the robot does not like her.  Leon is the same age, but is over-the-moon with a responsive Cog: “He heard me!  He heard me!”*  We are making robots now, and these two children are telling us, above all, how these robots relate to them is most important of all.

At the end of his book telling the story of Pixar, Ed Catmull wants to  share something about the Steve Jobs he knew: for all his achievements, it was the relational Jobs that he wants to remember above all.

The best of all achievements are about how we learn to regard and serve one another.

(*From Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together.)
(**From Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc..)

happiness can

13 happiness

‘The belief that unhappiness is selfless and happiness is selfish is misguided.  It takes energy, generosity, and discipline … .’*

Happiness is hard work and hard work can produce happiness.  Somehow, this game is built into the universe, and we’re still learning how to play.

Ever felt guilty for being happy when others are not, or have felt your happiness is unsustainable and has to evaporate, you’re not alone.  It is the ‘universal human instinct and seen in nearly all cultures – the dread of invoking cosmic anger by calling attention to good fortune.’*

But what if the universe is set up for engaging in the kind of happiness that can make a difference for others – we do something, we act, we serve?

What we’ll be discovering is how happiness is tied up with skills and talents, with passions and values and experiences, with character and connectedness.

(*From Gretchen Ruben’s The Happiness Project.)

but it never comes easy

12 thriving inhabits

Nothing hopeful ever does.

The young tree bends in the wind, each gust making it stronger.

If only we were like trees, but we’re not.

Consciousness comes with choice, and we can choose to break.

Or we can choose to become super-hard, but there’s little imagination and creativity with super-thick skin and an armour-plated heart.

We can, however, choose to become strong, imaginative, creative, and graceful.

Our characters develop through our struggles, and hope emerges out of our characters when they refuse to be overcome; instead of turning bitter and cynical, we choose to bring something beautiful into the world.

Beauty never comes easy.