the honest and the artificial

‘Friendship is the sweet grace which liberates us to approach, recognise and inhabit the adventure.’*

I’d pencilled a note in my journal yesterday to be pursued today: “what relationships help us to see”

It’d been the following words from cosmologist Sean Carroll that prompted me not to lose track of this dimension of seeing:

‘We don’t know how the universe began, or if it’s the only universe.  We don’t know the ultimate, complete laws of physics.  We don’t know how life began, or how consciousness arose.  And we certainly haven’t agreed on the best way to live in the world as good human beings.’**

It was the last sentence that intrigued.  In this universe where we know so little, we think we know the best way to live and yet there’s a universe of relationships to explore.

I’d these words from Roz and Ben Zander in mind – from my best read of 2016:

‘The action in a universe of possibility may be characterised as generative, or giving, in all senses of that word – producing new life, creating new ideas, consciously endowing with meaning, contributing, yielding to the power of contexts.  The relationship between people and environments is highlighted, not the people and things themselves.  Emotions that are relegated to the special category of spirituality are abundant here: joy, grace, awe, wholeness, passion, and compassion.’^

Perhaps these words describe what we hope for as “good human beings,” but the interesting thing pointed out by the Zanders is that these emotions exist in the relationships between.  It’s not so much that we join up our seeing but some new seeing comes into existence between two people.  Dan Ariely shares from his work of researching motivation:

‘As people feel connected, challenged, and engaged; as they feel trusted and autonomous, and as they get more recognition for their efforts, the total amount of motivation, joy, and output for everyone grows much larger.’^^

It’s some words from the world of brickcraft that cause me to wonder whether what we have to do is turn up in honesty.  In the 18th century, with literacy on the rise, writings on many crafts began to appear, including brickcraft.  Richard Sennett reflects on this 18th century form of honesty:

‘”Honest” brick […] evokes a building surface in which the brickwork is exposed rather than covered over: no cosmetics, no “pots of whore’s rouge” have been applied to its face.  One reason for this shift was that masons were beginning to be aware of, and feel engaged in debates about the meaning of naturalness as opposed to artifice {…}.’*^

Artifice was the disguising of what lay beneath the surface – it connects with our sense or understanding of what is artificial.  This comment on craftsmanship connects me with Maria Popova’s comment on poetic naturalism:

‘The craftsmanship of meaning amid the unfeeling laws of nature invariably calls us to use human tools like ethics and art to answer questions of what is right and beautiful.’^*

Popova is considering Carroll’s words about what makes a good human being.  We are not only producers of utility but we are also crafters weaving meaning with our artisanship.  We are seeing more.

(*From John O’Donohue’s Anam Cara.)
(**Sean Carroll, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Existential Therapy from the Universe.)
(^From Rosalind and Benjamin Zander’s The Art of Possibility.)
(^^From Dan Ariely’s Payoff.)
(*^From Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.)
(^*From Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Existential Therapy from the Universe.)

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