tsundoku

“I draw from the absurd three consequences, which are my revolt, my freedom, and my passion.”*

‘”That is the disquieting place where people must always find us.”**

Writing at the close of the Second World War – absurdity in its most extreme form – Albert Camus’ observations ring true when it comes to the lesser absurdities.

Our passion involves revolt – the rejection of other things and ways being implicit. There is also freedom from comparisons and competitions with the things and ways of others.

If I do not know my freedom then my passion is at risk, my revolt half-hearted.

It is these three things together that make it possible to live in the disquieting place.  Another term for this is curation.  In order to highlight certain things, others must be overlooked or rejected.  None of us can do everything.  Only comparisons and competition keep us in such a diverting arena.

This less is more, the simplicity on the far side of complexity:

‘In order to prosper we’ll start to appreciate the value of less, of simplicity in a complex world.’^

Tsundoku is the Japanese word for buying books but never reading them.  I use it as a term for wanting what others have and not getting on with what it is we ought to be doing.  The solution:

‘In Tokyo’s Ginza district there is a bookshop that sells one book at a time.  It’s a start.’^

What is your one book through which you might live out your revolt, passion, and freedom?

(*Albert Camus, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Albert Camus on the Three Antidotes to the Absurdity of Life.)
(**William Brodrick, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(^From Michael Bhaskar’s Curation.)

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now you’ve gone too far

Really?

Maybe it’s not far enough?

The Big Bang set in motion a journey outwards and we find this movement in evidence in each of our lives – this expanding universe is also within us.

Whilst there are many calls for us to settle down, there are many who think an unsettled life is a maturing life.

Walt Whitman wandered and noticed many things.

Throughout his days Whitman walked and saw and thought deeply.  He noticed the wonder in the smallness as well as the vastness of the universe:

‘I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journeywork of the stars,
And the pismire is equally perfect, and the grains of sand and the egg of
the wren,
[…]
And the running blackberry would adorn the parlours of heaven,
And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery’.*

Here he enjoys the wonder of a human being:

‘I hear the sound of a human voice … a sound I love,
I hear all sounds as they are tuned to their uses … sounds of the city
and sounds out of the city … sounds of the day and night’*

There feels a oneness or presence in Whitman with what he observes.

Frans Johansson asks an interesting question of what we considered to be well-ordered and sorted:

‘What if all of the well-planned and well-executed strategies people have told of us about are really the result of unplanned meetings and encounters, random moments and events, serendipity and plain luck.’**

Here’s another way of looking at presence, one requiring us to be open to what is happening around us.

Furthermore, Martin Seligman connects presence to our wellbeing when he writes:

‘Positive mental health is a presence: the presence of positive emotion, the presence of engagement, the presence of meaning, the presence of good relationships, and the presence of accomplishment.’^

If being present – in our journeying, discovering and makings – is important to out wellbeing, we have to be concerned about how the way we use technology is hindering rather than helping.  Reflecting on how we can check our various messages up to 150 times a day, Bernadette Jiwa expresses this concern:

‘We’ve stopped taking time to notice and to ask questions, to think and reflect and just to be.’^^

Jiwa goes on to encourage us to be ‘waist-high and elbow-deep in the stuff that invites our curiosity and ignites our imagination’.^^

To tweak some words from Seth Godin – in what I hope is a legitimate way:

‘[Personal] identity is an emotional reaction to a complicated world.’*^

Have we gone far enough?  I don’t think so.

We all have promising future possibilities.  Mine are different to yours, yours are different to those around you.   But what we are living in is an age of seeing more and just how far we can go:

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

(*From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.)
(**From Frans Johansson’s The Click Moment.)
(^From Martin Seligman’s Flourish.)
(^^From Bernadette Jiwa’s Hunch.)
(*^From Seth Godin’s blog: My side, right or wrong.)
(^*T. S. Eliot, quoted in Eugene Peterson’s Run With the Horses.)

wildly ocellating

‘perhaps the wild ones among us are our only hope in calling us back to our true nature’*

“If I were to wish for anything I should not wish for wealth or power, but for the passionate sense of what can be, for the eye which ever young and ardent sees the possible.”**

Perhaps it’s more about being called forward to our true nature – what we can become.  How often have we thought, I can do better than this.

Seth Godin tells me the word “ocellate” means eyelike.  In another place Godin writes:

‘Once you break the components down you can put them together into something brand new.’^

This is real alchemy: solve et coagula.

Rebecca Solnit states that the fossil evidence for hominids shows, when it came to brain development or walking upright:

‘Walking came first.’^^

I can only begin to imagine what walking made possible for seeing and brain development.

Jonah Lehrer writes about Paul Cezanne’s contribution to what we know about how the brain and eyes interact, how there are ten more connections going from the brain to the eyes than the eyes to the brain:

‘We make our eyes lie.’*^

There’s a blind spot at the centre of our seeing and the brain fills in the missing information:

‘But we are blind to our own blind spot: our brain unfailingly registers a seamless world.’*^

It’s only a metaphor for seeing wildly, the possibilities of the future being there for us to imagine, but I wonder what is out there for those who bring their thinking, seeing, and walking together.

Bernadette Jiwa highlights the growth of “in-ground traffic lights” for pedestrians who’re getting run over because they’re not looking up from their smart phones.  We trust too much in our technology, when maybe getting out there walking, seeing, and thinking will open up more:

‘We’re getting worse at looking where we’re going at every turn. […] Technology is hijacking our minds.  As a result we’re seeing less and missing more.  We’re throwing away the chance to think and reflect.’^*

(*Joel Mckerrow, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**Soren Kierkegaard, quoted in benjamins and Rosamand Zander’s The Art of Possibility.)
(^From Seth Godin’s Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?)

(^^From Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust.)
(*^From Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist.)
(^*From Bernadette Jiwa’s Hunch.)

when we laugh together

‘For it really is quite unreasonable to grant every other of life’s professions opportunities for fun, but to allow no fun to all the scholars.  What if the jokes bring with them some serious ideas?’*

‘We have contradictory desires.  We want to be seen and we want not to be seen.  We want to be known and we want not to be known.’**

I happened on these two quotes as I was rereading Sherry Turkle’s thoughts about how we’re expecting more from technology and less from people.  Specifically, how her research uncovered people interacting with robots and websites as a means of getting things out that allow them to say sorry without apologising:

‘Each act makes the same claim … . […] In each, something less than a conversation begins to seem like a conversation. […] Sheryl’s online confessions do not lead her to talk to those she has wronged or to try to make amends.  She goes online to feel better, not to make things right.’^

There feels to be an over-seriousness here at how we see ourselves, reminding me of Eckhart Tolle’s identifying of the ego as being the place of the false self, wherein resides our painbody.  This is the part of us that wants to be upset and hurt by others because it confirms what we think about them, and, perhaps worse, what we think about ourselves.^^

In identifying the ego, we’re beginning to disarm it because it doesn’t want to be noticed.  Perhaps, then, by learning to laugh at ourselves when confronted with many of the things people say or do to us (but not the more serious affronts and attacks), we’re releasing ourselves from some of the horrible things that play upon our minds and hearts.  Instead of being preoccupied with these or carrying them around, we instead allow something greater to grow.  Our future self is freed to wonder, be amazed, and to play in deep gladness.

Hugh Macleod writes about how those who are willing to fail are best able to innovate.  I connect this here, because when we take ourselves too seriously, we find it harder to admit our failings and struggle to engage in the kind of innovation failure makes possible.  Laughing at ourselves doesn’t guarantee that we flip this, but it does mean we can relax into exploring the possibilities.

Seth Godin finishes a blog with these words, which I think fit well here:

‘He’s a jerk, a two-timer, a double-crosser. He deserves everything you throw at him, your cutting remarks, your sarcasm, your enmity. […] The thing is, it’s not clear that we benefit from carrying around all that vitriol. All the time we spend hating is time that we’ve given away to someone who hasn’t earned our time. […] Teaching someone a lesson is often overrated.  Doing the lesson teaching in your head helps no one.

What happens if we walk away and make something magical instead?‘*^

(*From Roger Clarke’s translation of Erasmus’ Praise of Folly.)
(**From Kio Stark’s When Strangers Meet.)
(^From Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together.)
(^^See Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth.)
(*^From Seth Godin’s blog: He deserves it, but do you?)
(^*For the doodle, I had Paul McCartney’s Frog Chorus: We All Stand Together in mind as I drew We’ll All Laugh Together.)

there’s always the other

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

Whatever you’ve accomplished, someone else has been involved.

We depend on relationships, the thing that happens or occurs in the space between us.  Whether it be a person in realtime, or an idea or an image or a sound from someone, whether it’s a book or podcast or video we’re engaging with.

Today’s my birthday and I “decided to celebrate” (not!) by knocking over a full bottle of Quink Permanent Black Ink.  (Who said using a fountain pen isn’t dangerous!)   It was the drip drip drip that told me something was wrong – down the wall, all over the carpet.

Enter Christine with her superpowers.

She’d remembered something a carpet salesman had told her more than thirty years ago!  I couldn’t even remember the carpet-fitter.

Dab stains with kitchen roll, use warm water.  Keep dabbing and wetting, dabbing and wetting.  

It worked.

Christine’s superpowers had been passed on to her by someone else.  There’s always the other.  We need them.

Anne Lamott confesses this need to depend on the other is hard to deal with:

‘That’s the hard part, not taking but receiving.’**

This is simply an invitation to be grateful for the others in our lives, whether the ones we live in dynamic relationship with at a moment of ink-crisis at a distance of more than thirty years, or those we live in dynamic relationship for many years.

I think the others help us become more, and I believe the relationship is more than the sum of itsparts.

(*From Eugene Peterson’s Run With the Horses.)
(**From Anne Lamott’s Hallelujah Anyway.)

seen enough?

A couple of days ago, a friend and I found ourselves having a conversation about non-judgemental learning.  This feels really important for a world in which we make our minds up about people and things in seconds, heuristically.

It also feels very difficult to do.

“I see” can mean I am opening to something for the first time.  It can also mean, I’m judging what I am seeing by a particular way of understanding.

This needn’t be bad.  It can lead me to say, Show me more, as well as, I’ve seen enough.

One way of seeing is fast – intuitive, the other is seeing slow – wondering what may come into view if we keep looking.

We need both of course, but I wonder whether we too often say to ourselves, or to others, We’ve seen enough, when there’s no good reason to stop looking.

One is more anchored in the past, the other, more anchored in the future.

As long as we know; it may be important.

 

our greatest venture?

‘Acts of selecting, refining and arranging to add value – my working definition of curation – help us overcome overload.

[…]

We solved the problem of insufficiency, only to find it was replaced by abundance.  As a result we’ll have to curate far more effectively.  In order to prosper we’ll start to appreciate the value of less, of simplicity in a complex world.’*

In a Huffington Post article published at the end of 2016, Otto Scharmer names ours as an Age of Disruption, characterised by three fundamentalisms.

The first fundamentalism, Scharmer argues, was cultural and religious in nature, highlighted in 2001 by the attacks of 9/11.

The second took the form of the social-economic fundamentalism witnessed in the financial collapse of 2008.

2016 brought to the fore the techno-political, the political upheavals being experienced, and how these were reported and spread by social media:

‘The rise of Trump in the US and the rise of the far right globally has put on display another key vulnerability of our democracies—namely, that any democratic system is only as good as the political discourse that comes with it.  In 2016, the political discourse—the public conversation—took a sharp downward turn, as if in a race to the bottom.’**

Fundamentalism stands in whatever form or sphere, as a voice crying out, This is how it was and is – one truth, one body, one action or behaviour.

Nothing is changeless, though, in a world constantly moving from ignorance to knowledge – what we do with our knowledge is, of course, another thing.

There is a need, more than ever, for cultures and religions, for societies and economics, and for technology and politics to learn and practice openness.  Where the aim is not to judge quickly or win but to remain open to one another for as long as possible.  To provide the chance we need to discover that all people are, as Roz and Ben Zander point out, ‘remarkably generative, prolific, and creative,’ especially those we disagree with.^  Such generativeness on the part of the human species means we’ll produce more, so one thing openness needs to bring to the fore is curation.

Michael Bhaskar’s words about curation which open this post, perhaps helps us to see the following practices, encouraged by Scharmer, as  curation:

‘If you want to be an active participant in co-shaping where the future takes us, here are five concrete actions to consider:

  • Adopt a practice of intentional stillness—a moment of 5–15 minutes every day when you tune out everything that isn’t essential and focus on your true intention, on what matters most to you.
  • At least once a day, listen deeply to someone who is very different from you. The more different, the better.
  • Create a circle or holding space with a few of your closest friends or fellow travelers in which you support each other in these difficult times. The more disruption we experience, the more we need each other’s support. A small number of people (5–7) meeting in person is best; but in the u.lab we have also found that meeting virtually (via Skype or Zoom) can also be very effective.
  • Find ways to link your networks with platforms that promote dialogue and function as a network of networks. Doing so will help to align your efforts on a larger scale.’**

All of this allows me to let you know that enrolment for the U.Lab 2017 course is now open.  This thirteen week online course which allows anyone and everyone to explore Otto Scharmer and MIT’s Presencing Institute’s thinking is free; it will provide the opportunity of meeting with others with whom you might well embark on some adventure to change the world for the better.

(*From Michael Bhaskar’s Curation.)
(**From Otto Scharmer’s Huffington Post article: 2017-Trump-Are We Ready To Rise?)
(^From Benjamin and Rosalind Zander’s The Art of Possibility.)