“If you want to live life free
Take your time, go slowly,
If you want your dream to be
Take your time, go slowly.”*
‘Just at that moment, something miraculous happens. You realise there is actually further depth to the quality you are pursuing. There is a breakthrough, or the production of something completely different.’**
Seth Godin names TV, specifically TV advertising, as the engine of our discontent – and social media is ‘TV times 1,000.’^ We want another person’s life. That’s how advertising works. And we forget the life we have.
The Jesuit way was to send a novitiate away for thirty days to figure out with his God what the purpose was he had to give his life to. What if we were to somehow take thirty days in solitude to see one’s life for what it is rather than to compare it with what others have and are doing?
Ken Mogi explores thinking small as a pillar of ikigai, the Japanese way to finding purpose in life. With the identification of our kadawari no ippin – our “signature dish.” there is the possibility of small improvements. If I might mix metaphors out of Mogi’s illustrations: we are able to cultivate a rare fruit. Small improvements have been used to develop exquisite and expensive fruit in an area of Japan – a slice of a certain mango might cost you £80. But you have to eat it to appreciate it, or, as Mogi points out:
‘In other words, you need to destroy it, in order to appreciate it.’**
This means we have to be present in the moment. As Mogi points out, we are unable to take a taste-selfie.
I take this as a picture of the improvement of our lives over a lifetime, the beauty of our lives. Of human beauty, Ursula Le Guin asserts:
“The beauty ideal is always a youthful one.”^^
The most important ideal is to know where we begin and end in space and time, and that this is different to where others begin and end:
“It’s not that I’ve lost my beauty — I never had enough to carry on about. It’s that that woman doesn’t look like me. She isn’t who I thought I was.
We’re like dogs, maybe: we don’t really know where we begin and end. In space, yes; but in time, no.”^^
The real movement doesn’t come from imagining something, though I totally honour Steven Covey’s notion that to imagine something is the first creation, but to “turn our hand to something” is where the wonder of a human life is to be found:
“The hand is the window on to the mind.”*^
“It is not the hand that is perfect, but the whole nervous mechanism by which movements of the hand are evoked, coordinated, and controlled.”^*
What is in the m ind only shapes us so far; what is in the hand shapes us further. Which is to say, pursuing the small ideas that come to us opens up life to us.
(*Donovan Leitch, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From Ken Mogi’s The Little Book of Ikigai.)
(^From Seth Godin’s blog, The engine of our discontent.)
(^^Ursula Le Guin, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Ursula K. Le Guin on Ageing and What Beauty Really Means.)
(*^Immanuel Kant, quoted in Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.)
(^*Frederic Wood Jones, quoted in Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.)