When Thin|Silence is a notecard

I thought you might like to know that I was commissioned to doodle some simple Thin|Silence for ten themes that have now been turned into notecards.

These are available in pack of five for £2.99, plus postage and packing: follow this link to Methodist Publishing if you’d like to have some for yourself.

I will have some news to share about a colouring book soon.

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Omnipresence

I’m not thinking of the kind of omnipresence that means we can be everywhere at the same time.  This is the sort that means we can be fully present wherever we happen to be, with whoever we happen to be with.

I’m still practising.

Here!  Now!  O! Three words Brian McLaren offers as expressions of the Season of Simplicity.  Simplicity is followed by the seasons of Complexity, Perplexity, and Harmony, so this is a starting point.  When we are fully here, now, then wonder can follow: O!*

Joseph Campbell claimed here-ness and now-ness for his hero:

‘The hero’s sphere of action is not the transcendent but here, now, in the field of time, of good and evil – of the pairs of opposites.’**

The hero is the one who is pushed or has to jump from the familiar into the unfamiliar in order to find what is necessary: a purpose, a solution, a missing person, safety … . They appear to belong nowhere but really have to belong everywhere if they are to survive:

‘The lesson is to know your motivations.  That way, you’ll keep going even if no one else cares.’^

We are fully capable of being present to our need, our self, our surroundings.  Technology appears to offer this possibility to be present but Alan Lightman is right to question this, to put fully before us our incredible capacity to be fully present with whoever and whatever:

‘Using technology, we have redefined ourselves in such a way that our immediate surroundings and relationships, our immediate sensory perceptions of the world, are much diminished in relevance.  We have trained ourselves not to be present […].  We have marginalised our direct sensory experience.’^^

Three expressions I believe can help us in our presensing are humility, gratitude, and faithfulness.

Here, now: I am me and you are you.  We notice things we have which speed does not allow us to see and we are grateful.  We consider the many ideas and possibilities possible because of who we are and what we have that allow these things to take form and come alive.

You may have noticed, what this means is life is unfolding, we don’t know where it will take us next, or with whom.

In this way, we do not know our own story.

(*See Brian McLaren’s Naked Spirituality.)
(**Joseph Campbell in Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)
(^From Chris Guillebeau’s The Happiness of Pursuit.)
(^^From Alan Lightman’s The Accidental Universe.)

The average trap

‘An effective [life] is far more valuable than a much-noticed one.’*

I changed one word in this quote from Seth Godin.  I swapped life for ad.  It seemed to work.

We live in a world that measures everything, including people.  One of these measurements is averages.  We’re either average, below average, or above average:

‘Odds are that you and I will fall at the average.’**

I get why, this is a finite game we sometimes have to play.  But we need to understand that we’re all part of an infinite game too, where the only average that’s important is the one that compares me with me and you with you.

How are you doing?  Pushing on to above average with that thing you must do with your life before it’s all over?  Others can inspire us, can provide us with ideas and ways of seeing that we hadn’t come across before, but then it’s over to us.  What are we going to do?

Here’s another quote from Seth Godin with none of the words changed:

‘An artist is someone who brings new thinking and generosity to his work, who does human work that changes another for the better.’^

That would be you.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog Stuntvertising.)
(**From Erwin McManus’ The Last Arrow.)
(^From Seth Godin’s Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?)

An element of scarcity

‘there is an element of scarcity in what you do and how and why you do it, a combination of your story and your superpower’*

‘Desire leads to conception and conception leads to birth.  This is the efficacy of desire.’**

You knew it all along but didn’t do anything about it.

Now you suspect it’s too late.  People your age don’t do anything like what you’re imagining.

Who told you that?

Bring your scarcity, the thing you see and no one else does.

(Here’s an offer: if you want to be helped in progressing your idea, get in touch.)

(*From Bernadette Jiwa’s Make Your Idea Matter.)
(**From Philip Newell’s The Rebirthing of God.)

Exiguous: it’s how you see it that counts

I needed to look up the word exiguous.  It turns out to mean:

Very small in size or amount.

It perhaps describes how we can see our lives.  The word is used by Iris Murdoch not long after she’d written these words about us:

‘I assume that human beings are naturally selfish and that human life has no external point or telos.  That human beings are naturally selfish seems true on the evidence, whenever and wherever we look at them, in spite of very small number of apparent exceptions.’*

Darn the exceptions.  

Murdoch sees self-contained lives and wonders whether what we call good is just our little goods and we can disagree over these when we meet each other.  But what have others found that the many, in Murdoch’s mind, haven’t?

Frederick Buechner had opened my day with this thought:

‘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.’**

I am grateful to so many who have opened my eyes to see more.  Some of these I have met: Erwin McManus, whose latest book The Last Arrow I’ve opened for the first time today, and his brother Alex.  Others I have not met: Seth Godin and Hugh Macleod have altered the trajectory of my life with a gracefulness.  I came upon these words in Godin’s latest blog:

‘If you have a safe place to sleep, reasonable health and food in the fridge, you’re probably living with surplus. You have enough breathing room to devote an hour to watching TV, or having an argument you don’t need to have, or simply messing around online. You have time and leverage and technology and trust.’^

It’s a different way of seeing the same stuff we had yesterday in new way today, we now become actors rather than being acted upon:

‘For many people, this surplus is bigger than any human on Earth could have imagined just a hundred years ago.

What will you spend it on?

If you’re not drowning, you’re a lifeguard.’^

Today’s doodle contains the words of Bernadette Jiwa^^ – someone Godin connected me with because he is always telling of the amazing work others are doing.  The scarcity is the gift is what we have received from – well, sometimes we’re not sure where – and we have to personalise it and pass it on.  Lewis Hyde comments on this gift:

‘A gift, when it moves across a boundary, either stops being a gift or abolishes the boundary.’*^

Which sounds to me like: our gift risks everything to be shared with another.

It’s so small, though; how can it count or matter?

It just so happened that Hugh Macleod shared these words about Godin on the same day as Godin was writing about our surplus:

‘The media loves to write stories about the big guys. The big CEOs running the big companies, with billions of dollars changing hands and thousands of employees doing their bidding.

And yet, here are people like our old friend Seth Godin, who has zero employees, and just runs his not-insignificant empire, mostly by himself from a wee loft, an hour North of Manhattan.’^*

In one sense, Godin is exiguous but what does that matter?  Macleod continues:

‘What does that tell us?

It tells us that size is irrelevant. That you can have an amazing career with or without scale.

It just depends on you. It just depends on the size of your heart; what matters to you and what’s worth doing.

People matter, love matters, size is unimportant.’^*

What if we knew this in our families?  What if they taught it in our schools?  What if businesses allowed space for it?  I find myself wondering whether people would appear less selfish because they have been encouraged and enabled to see themselves and others differently, the scarcity of their lives we need to have shared with us.

(*From Iris Murdoch’s The Sovereignty of Good.)
(**Frederick Buechner, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(^From Seth Godin’s blog: What will you do with your surplus?)
(^^From 
Bernadette Jiwa’s Make Your Idea Matter.)
(*^From Lewis Hyde’s The Gift.)
(^*From gapingvoid’s blog What’s love got to do with it.)

A wandering mind

‘For not letting my mind wander and roam, I must blame myself.’*

Capitalism and technology don’t always help us use our imaginations.  Often they get in the way.  Some years ago, I read Jack Welch’s encounter with someone who’d worked for many years in General Electric.  Under Welch’s leadership GE had instigated innovative time for people in its companies. The worker had said For twenty five years you have paid for my hands; all that time you could have had my brain for free.**

The world is better when we let our minds wander.  We can take our advancements and do good and beautiful things with them.  There’s often a separation between technology and the common good but the opening of the mind for imagination can produce more.

‘Our role is to help uncover and release the promise of union that is in all things.

[…]

Jung observes that the marriage of opposites leads to pregnancy’.^

A rebirthing of human ingenuity.

Wander on.

(*From Alan Lightman’s A Sense of the Mysterious.)
(**From either Jack Welch’s Straight From the Gut or Winning.)
(^From Philip Newell’s The Rebirthing of God.)

Gifted or what?

‘Between the time a gift comes to us and the time we pass it along, we suffer gratitude.  Moreover, with gifts that are agents of change it is only when the gift has working in us, only when we have come up to its level, as it were, that we can give it away again.

[…]

Once a gift has come to us it is up to us to develop it.’*

Whether we see this day as a gift from the universe or god, there is something about it that is true.  It is incomplete, it will not lay things out to us as if on a plate.  It doesn’t need to.  We must be or do something with it, to it, in it.  Thankfully, the human life comes with imagination, an ally of human curiosity.

It is why a day isn’t all that it appears to be and can be what we imagine it to be:

‘And I hope there will always be an edge between the known and the unknown, beyond which lies strangeness and unpredictability.’**

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