a place to hope


‘It is fashionable to espouse the latest cynicism.  If we live in hope, we go against the stream. … It takes courage to act in hope.’*

‘Creating the future does not begin with a plan.  It begins with a dream,  And when someone actions a dream, it begins with a spark.’**

Spaces for hope are never easy or salubrious.  It often is a difficult and hopeless place, yet more than being a physical space, hope is found in action.  Hope loves to try but struggles with boredom and ennui.

Hope is action because it connects us with who we truly are, a connecting with the energy our life is comprised of:

“It was deep calling unto deep – the deep that my own struggle had opened up within being answered by the unfathomable deep without.^

Hope is found, then when we join the inside and the outside of life, my unique “me” with the absolutely everything, creating a field of possibility for what want to emerge: ‘more comes to those who look for the adjacent possible, the asymmetrical.’^^

“The beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore them.  Each new combination opens up the possibility of new combinations.”*^

Sounds hopeful.

(*From Eugene Peterson’s Run with the Horses.)
(**From Alex McManus’s Makers of Fire – eBook version.)
(^A clergyman from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, quoted by William James, and quoted in Alan Lightman’s The Accidental Universe.)
(^^From Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile.)
(*^Stephenb Johnson, quoted in Peter 
Diamandis and Steven Kotler’s Abundance.)



“[P]erhaps, the wild ones among us are our only hope for us calling us forward to our true nature.”*

‘My idea of the modern stoic sage is someone who transforms fear into prudence, pain into information, and desire into understanding.’**

Outside the National Archives building on Washington D.C.’s Pennsylvania Avenue stand two sagely statues with the inscriptions, “What is Past is Prologue” and “Study the Past.”  As it were, it is important to study the past in order to create the future story.

Had I been walking in the opposite direction, I’d have read these inscriptions the other way around: Study the Past … What is Past is Prologue.  This time, I understand while the past is valuable it is past, and there is only the future.

There’s a kind of wildness, or nonconformity, which frees us to explore what is to come.  We need these dreamers to explore life beyond the practical and functional.  These are often perceived as being impractical because of how imagining and dreaming are misunderstood and undervalued; really, they make the future practical to our lives by living it now.

We can avoid wildness by preferring the predictably-practical, learning somehow to cope with the fact that twenty years later we’re in the same place doing the same thing with the same regrets.  Sometimes we go as far as to protect our practical lifestyles by abandoning core principles and practices to be able stay to stay where we are, trading the quality of life by securing some constant or better standard of living.

My friend Alex McManus would say, we’ve lost the art of making fire.  We’ve forgotten how we can take the fuel of artefacts and the oxygen of culture and beliefs, and add a spark of creativity:^

‘You have to break away from the day-to-day, immerse yourself in a new way of thinking about yourself.’^^

Spark people send postcards from the future, sharing something transformative for the present, helping reframe what is into what might be.  When we get to experiment with this, we find we’re quite good at it – we have hidden capacity, we’re regenerative beings.

‘Creativity is a skill and a habit.  You need to learn the skill, which then becomes a habit.*^

(*Joel McKerrow, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.  The original has back instead of  forward.)
(**From Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile.)
(^See Alex McManus’s Makers of Fire for an exploration of the the fire making analogy)

(^^Gary Wilson, quoted in Joseph Jaworski’s Source.)
(*^From Edward de Bono’s How to Have a Beautiful Mind.)

you’re a big help


‘Pure inquiry is difficult because it requires you to suspend as much as possible your prejudices, preconceptions, a priori assumptions, and expectations based on past experiences.’*

They’re being sardonic.  You’re not being a big help.

There’s always an answer.

Our problem is how many more answers we miss by rushing into diagnosis and solution.

The person wanting help wants it fast.

The person offering help wants to be effective.

Pure inquiry, though, opens many more possibilities.

Possibilities mean choice, and choice makes life richer..

(*From Edgar Schein’s Helping.)

close enough to know their name


‘Effective help occurs when the helping relationship is perceived to be equitable.’*

My wanderings in the United States just about over, this burger bar declared itself to be Wanderlust.

For the last two days I had been doodling** with intent (dawdling purposefully), my flanering^ allowing me to meet people a little closer.

One of my last conversations, before heading to Dulles Airport, was with Shahgol (hello if you’re reading this, Shahgol), who told me about her zen-zig-zagging (I had to show Shahgol yesterday’s yesterday’s doodle).

I also learnt from Bailey, yesterday, that gezmek is Turkish for wander and, from someone else, whose name I wish I knew, helped me to identify that girlənmək is Azerbaijani for wander.

Wandering helps us to cross borders.  Flanering is about being open through curiosity and a non-judgemental to encounter cities and experiences and our world more deeply, and, most of all, people.

What we find is, everyone has something within them that will change the world, if only a little.

We need more flanerie.

(*From Edgar Schein’s Helping.)
(**I intend making the doodles from these days available as a colouring pack; watch this space.)
(^Check out my posts from the last few days to find out more about 

talking of flanering


‘Our salon [of scientists and theatre artists] succeeds because we never have an agenda.  At the beginning of each session, one of us will begin talking about some random idea, another person will chime in or change the subject, and miraculously, after twenty minutes, we have zeroed in on a question everyone is passionate about.’*

For two days, I have wandered around Washington D.C., noticing some things and missing others – such as when, yesterday, I twice offered to take a picture of groups so everyone could be in their photo.  The first person said no, the second said yes, and this morning I read this from Edgar Schein:

‘Effective help occurs when both giver and receiver are ready.’**

Spot on.

We don’t have to wander a city almost 4,000 miles from our home, though, we don’t even have to wander our home town (though it’s a good thing if we do); we can engage in flanerie in our conversation with others.  Open to the twists and turns of everyone’s contribution, we can come upon something which intrigues and fascinates us together.  We begin by factually sharing and listening, then we notice we’re empathically listening, getting excited about something, and the conversation takes off excitingly for everyone.  We may even move on to generative flanering, when an idea emerges that the group will put into practice.

‘Ideas are going to continue to be more valuable.’^

These are the ideas that possibly will change the world.

Flannelling is the use of evasive language.

Flanering is the use of engaging language.

(*From Alan Lightman’s The Accidental Universe.)
(**From Edgar Schein’s Helping.)
(^From Seth Godin’s Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?)

you belong here – now where is here?


‘At some point in the future, new stars will cease being born. … Solar systems will become planets orbiting dead stars.’*

‘To act on behalf of the future requires a deep sense of responsibility and selflessness.’**

We live in an impermanent universe, our own sun having some five billion years left.  Buddhism names this impermanence annica, teaching that attachment brings suffering (dukkha).

I found myself wondering about the nature of existence, and just how is this far richer when we belong to another and others and our world (eco) rather than believing these things belong to us (ego)?

To know who we are within the life of another, including the life of our planet, is a precious thing – I can say this even as an introvert.  When we live with humility, gratitude, and faithfulness, we’re opening ourselves up to this possibility of belonging within others.

This complexity of relationships are made possible by the human skill of helping, through which most things happen in our world; and though helping can often go wrong, yet out of even this some of the most beautiful and magical expressions of human life occur.

(*From Alan Lightman’s The Accidental Universe.)

(**From Joseph Jaworski’s Source.)

reimagining flanerie


I’m going to be wandering into Washington D.C. At the end of some work over here, to see what I can see and imagining the new direction I’m taking  and doing some doodling.

I am going to be a flaneur (female: flaneuse).

My friend Charlotte had sent me an article on flanerie and this seemed to be the perfect time to read it – which is an act of flanerie in itself.

The French flaneur first appears in the late sixteenth century.  There’s also a Scandinavian flana (a person who wanders) from which the French term may have been derived.  This article outlines one way in which flanerie, and particularly the flaneuse is being reimagined:

‘Flanerie, [Pierre-Alexis Dumas] explained, is not about “being idle” or “doing nothing.”  It’s an “attitude of curiosity … about exploring everything.  It flourished in the nineteenth century, he continued, as a form of resistance to industrialisation and the rationalisation of everyday life … .’*

As I read this, I found myself reimagining flanerie as being about actively taking oneself off the well trodden path, out of the familiar environment, to follow curiosity and to be open to more.  But more than this, the aim of this wandering is to expand the capacity of our hearts towards taking a new direction and finding ourselves in new activities and pursuits, particularly wrapped around being a helpmate to those we may meet along the way.

Flanerie is an antidote to the same old same old of life that has the effect of contracting rather than expanding our hearts.

it’s just dawning on us


‘Oblivious to our human yearnings for permanence, the universe is relentlessly wearing down, falling apart, driving itself to a condition of maximum disorder.’*

Though the universe is what it is, it unwittingly throws out to us a new beginning every day, a dawn of possibilities, light to walk into with imagination and creativity.

Some understand that we live in just such a universe of complexity and contradiction, and are alive to making it possible for more and more to enter into the beauty of it all.

(*From Alan Lightman’s The Accidental Universe.)



‘The stuff it takes to be intimate is authenticity, vulnerability, and a belief that other people are about as good and bad as we are.’*

We tend to think of confession as the admittance of bad things, but what it was about confessing good things?  To share the full self of who we are with others in an act of communion and service?

Yesterday, I found myself sharing with the leader of Corrymeela, a community of peace in Northern Ireland, and he was telling me how they use confession positively, and I loved this.  It connected with my understanding about how humility, gratitude and faithfulness open up a bigger self and greater life:

Humility and gratitude and faithfulness burn away everything but the generative self, our crystallising intent.

(*From Donald Miller’s Scary Close.)
(Today’s doodle was provoked by this comment from Carlos, who served me my cortado on the Potomac waterfront.)

the language of our lives


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

I am spending this week with people from more than thirty countries, with many languages and cultures.  We’ve been identifying the difficulties we can have when different languages meet, such as how we might even use a term and concept in one language that doesn’t even exist in another.

Reflecting on this crucial nature of language, I found myself thinking about how we each have a prime need to develop and learn the language of our own lives, so that we might communicate with ourselves and better communicate with others.

For those who do not do this, there will always be the danger of using another person’s language for their life – ignoring their own passions and needs, missing the uniqueness of their talents and abilities, and misinterpreting the value of their own experiences.

When we learn the language of our lives, we are also in a better place to listen to the language of each other’s lives, appreciating each of us is ‘an ever-changing being that is becoming and will never arrive, but has opinions about what is seen along the journey.’**

What each person sees is so critical to our development as Human Becomings.

(*Frederick Buechner, quoted in the Northumbria Community’s Morning Prayer.)

(**From Donald Miller’s Scary Close.)