when life isn’t useful

“Listen to your life.
See it for the fathomless mystery that it is.
In the boredom and pain of it
no less than in the excitement and gladness:
touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it
because in the last analysis all moments are key moments,
and life itself is grace.”*

In his essay Time for the Stars, Alan Lightman expresses a concern that applied science is given precedence over pure science.  He’s already warned in the essay Nothing but the Truth:

‘In science, as in other activities there is a tendency to find what you’re looking for.’**

Life is full of what we have no idea exists.  This is true for inner science as well as outer science.  Our opening words from Frederick Buechner are feeling their way towards this science of our lives.  We often come upon these things by accident, simply by happenstance, especially when we’re “out there” searching, exploring for “we don’t know what.”

Seth Godin notices a dangerous direction in businesses and technology – I think it spoils over into our personal lives, especially social media:

‘Dumber is an intentional act, a selfish trade for mass.  It requires us to hold something back, to avoid creating any discomfort, to fail to teach.  Dumber always works in the short run, but not in the long run.’^

When we’re inquiring into our lives, searching and wondering what’s in here, we find a different direction to dumber, here identified by Erwin McManus:

‘This path is not only a promise of adventure, it is the promise of wholeness. […] It is here where the synergistic interplay of courage, wisdom and generosity make us most creative.’^^

It was a happenstance conversation with Erwin, whilst on a trip to the United States that was full of inquiry, that a whole new way of seeing myself and others opened up.

Yesterday, I closed with these important words from Anne Lamott about what maps can make happen for us:

‘Maps can change a life, a person, returning us to dreams, to our childhood, to the poetic, to what is real.  They can move us forward to what we didn’t even know were looking for.  A map can change a god-awful day or month,  ruin a rut, give us directions home and to everywhere else, near and far, to the golden past and today, to the centre and back to the periphery, to our true selves, our lost selves, the traveller, the mystic, the child, the artist.’*^

What Erwin McManus is pointing us to, though, goes beyond maps, to setting out into the unknown with a compass to be creators of maps.

Maps feel more applied, compasses feel purer.

“Things change when you grab whatever you love and give it everything.”^*

(*Frederick Buechner, quoted in the Northumbria Community’s Morning Prayer.)
(**From Alan Lightman’s Dance for Two.)
(^From Seth Godin’s blog: Toward dumber.)
(^^From Erwin McManus’ Uprising.)
(*^From Anne Lamott’s Hallelujah Anyway.)
(^*Student Amanda Burr, quoted in Rosalind and Benjamin Zander’s The Art of Possibility.)

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