More than we know

“While revering the mystery of others, our individuation summons each of us to stand in the presence of our own mystery, and to become more responsible for who we are in this journey we call life.”*
(James Hollis)

‘The challenge, then, is not only to find our authentic voice but also to enlarge it.’**
(Harriet Lerner)

When we remember something, we extract a memory from our past and make it part of our present.  We may then relive it or we may do something different with it; the ability to do the latter is a skill we can learn.

The discontinuity of this is something writer Eudora Welty saw so well:

“The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order, a timetable not necessarily – perhaps not possibly – chronological.  The time as we know it subjectively is often the chronology that stories and novels follow: it is the continuous thread of revelation.”^

The format of the story makes it possible for us to live a life larger than its constituent parts, greater than the sum of its incidents:

‘The frame through which I viewed the world changed too, with time.  Greater than scene, I came to see, is situation.  Greater than situation is implication.  Greater than all of these is a single, entire human being, who will never be confined in any frame.”^

We’re not fixed in time, living out the implications of our past.  We are weavers of stories and, so, changers of our futures.  When I work with people around the development of their identity and contribution, it is important to focus on talents and passions, and also experiences – nothing in our lives is wasted:

“Writing a story or a novel is one way of discovering sequence in experience, of stumbling upon cause and effect in the happenings of a writer’s own life.  This has been the case with me.  Connections slowly emerge.  Like distant landmarks you are approaching, cause and effect begin to align themselves, draw closer together.   Experiences too indefinite of outline in themselves to be recognized for themselves connect and are identified as a larger shape.   And suddenly a light is thrown back, as when your train makes a curve, showing that there has been a mountain of meaning rising behind you on the way you’ve come, is rising there still, proven now through retrospect.”^

I took time to write all Welty’s words in my journal and found myself thinking about the power that exists in being able to tell our story well.  I recalled my friend Steve’s exploration for a year of inviting people to tell their story to a small group of others.  This “audience” could ask the storyteller questions and at the close write encouraging words for the storyteller.  It was a really helpful vehicle for the storyteller, though, to reflect upon their story and how they wanted to tell it.  Those who create the space for us to tell our stories are special.  They provide us with a gift – something that comes from beyond us.  We all need such gifts, something from beyond.  Lewis Hyde writes about the power of the gift:

‘Gifts are best described, I think, as anarchist property.’^^

We receive the gift from someone and we also give gifts to others.  In words that feel as though they connect with James Hollis’ opening words for today’s post, Hyde proffers:

‘Individualism in a gift economy inheres in the right to decide when and how to give the gift.’^^

When we are able to tell our story, we are bringing our best (though developing) self to others and we are also saving ourselves from others telling our story their way – and even if they they still try and do this, the affect is dissipated.

(*James Hollis, quoted in Brené Brown’s Rising Strong.)
(**From Harriet Lerner’s The Dance of Connection.)
(^Eudora Welty, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: The Continuous Thread of Revelation.)
(^^From Lewis Hyde’s The Gift.)

Just different

Just different is enough.  With just different come all kinds of possibilities, that is, if we see this as a journey and not a destination.

We have become just different enough through thousands upon thousands of small decisions and choices.  These lie behind our skills and our dreaming.  Today, all those choices and decisions are preparation for what you will now see, feel and do.  There’s today or, if we recognise who we have become and what our contribution can be, there is today with a few more conscious decisions thrown in.

We can rue the past, how we decided this rather than that but it’s impossible to know where that rabbit hole might have taken us.  We only know this is where we are.

What matters more than where we are is how we will see, feel and act here – all of these come from the inside.  Something we take with us no matter where we go.

You can focus on getting to the right place, being with the right people and having the right resources or you can focus on where you are, who you are and what you can bring to others.

The imposter


The only kind of imposter we can be is an imposter to ourselves.  No one is an imposter.  Everyone belongs here.

If Alan Lightman is right and our technology is getting in the way then we need the remedy of face to face, open conversations in which people are able to explore the deeper possibilities of their lives.

‘When so much of our interaction with other people and with our environment is mediated by the invisible, the visible seems less worthy of our attention.’*

Otto Scharmer describes a greater hope in simple but generative conversations:

‘at the end of the conversation, you realised you are no longer the person you were when you started the conversation. […] You have connected to a deeper source of who you really are and to have a sense of what you are here’.**

(*From Alan Lightman’s The Accidental Universe.)
(**From Otto Scharmer’s Theory U.)

Choice and rediscovery

‘To be human is to unfold in time but remain discontinuous. […] It is, after all, nothing but a supreme feat of storytelling to draw a continuous thread between one’s childhood self and one’s present-day self, since hardly anything makes these two entities “the same person” […].’*
(Maria Popova)

‘You are not thrown to the winds … you gather certainly and safely
around yourself,
Yourself!  Yourself! Yourself forever and ever.’**
(Walt Whitman)

We are fascinated by the self, how it is that we have an understanding of self … and yet, here we are.

Maria Popova’s words lead me into two thoughts.

Although I am a discontinuity, I am unable to jump from my discontinuity into yours, and vice versa.  Whatever this thread is or isn’t, I am held within it.

The second thing is, if it is a story that holds the unfolding and discontinuous together, then I can change the story.  I have choice and maybe by moving, by walking through this story, I am more rediscovering than discovering:

‘Leave it all, and let your self just slip back into the rhythms of your intimate wildness.  You will be surprised at the lost terrains, wells and mountains that you will rediscover, territories which have been buried under well meaning but dead names.  To go beyond confinement is to rediscover yourself.’

Is the future the past?  Or has the past been more our future than we realised, and as we grew up we lost this and must rediscover it.

To say “This is who I am” and try to remain this person is, in the light of what Popova says, perhaps the most difficult thing of all.  To know this and to keep moving would, then, increase our understanding of choice.

We keep moving.  I close with the concluding sentences from Rebecca Solnit’s excellent history of walking – connecting story and walking:

‘Walking has been one of the constellations in the starry sky of human culture, a constellation whose three stars are the body, imagination, and the wide-open world, and although all three exist independently, it is the lines drawn between them for cultural purposes – that makes them a constellation.  Constellations are not natural phenomena but cultural impositions; the lines drawn drawn between stars are like paths worn by the imagination of those who have gone before.  This constellation called walking has a history, the history trod out by all those poets and philosophers and insurrectionaries, by jaywalkers, streetwalkers, pilgrims, tourists, hikers, mountaineers but whether it has a future depends on whether those connected paths are travelled still.’^^

(*From Maria Popova’s Brain Picking’s: The Continuous Thread of Revelation.)
(**From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.)
(^From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(^^From Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust.)

Thank you

I just want to make this opportunity to say thank you for finding your way into the Thin|Silence and signing up to receive the daily posts.

This is much appreciated.

The things I explore here are then moved into the journeys I take with people as they explore their talents and purpose, as individuals and as groups.

Thank you, again.

The making of imagination

Before we make, we must imagine.

To imagine, we have to avoid judgement – It won’t work!

This is the first of three movements: judgement to openness.  The others are cynicism to compassion and fear to courage – we must care about what we have imagined and we must make it happen.

‘As I recall, space first appeared in a minuscule round bubble that sat quietly in my mind.’*

‘We want to close the gap between what we are – our experiential state, our actuality – and what we imagine we can be – our dream state, our possibility.’**

(*From Alan Lightman’s Mr g.)
(**From Alex McManus’ Makers of Fire.)

The tracker and the tracked

Where are the footprints headed?  Who do they belong to?

You follow.

Sometimes they seem to stop and you wonder what the owner of the footprints was looking at.

At different points they merge with others.  So many different footprints, all different, each set leaving a different impression, different weight distribution, different shapes.

Then the prints you’re tracking re-emerge and you follow them once again.

They turn this way and that way and you keep following, only to find yourself where you began and your realise these are your footprints.

You know them better now, having seen where they stopped and wondered, seen the others interacted with, seen where they slowed down, seen where they speeded up and where they turned, where they were heavy and were light.

Your qualities, your talents, your experiences all making them exactly what they are.

Through life we are tracking and finding ourselves, tracking others and helping them find themselves.

“But when I began tracking lost people, what had begun as an eccentric habit – following footprints on the ground – quickly matured into an avocation. … I now commonly walk toward a single goal: to meet the person at the other end of the tracks.”

(*Hannah Nyala, quoted in Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust.)

The big sleep

“On the temple bell
Perching, sleeps
The butterfly, oh.”*

‘Environmentalists are always arguing that those butterflies, those grasslands, those watershed woodlands, have an utterly necessary function in the grand scheme of things, even if they don’t produce a market crop.  The same is true of meadowlands of imagination; time spent there is not work time, yet without that time the mind becomes sterile, dull, domesticated.’**
(Rebecca Solnit)

How about some marauding?

Or perhaps that ought to be amaurauding – apparently marauding means to “go about in search of things to steal or people to attack.”  We can maraud for other things, though.  Harry Potter’s Marauders’ Map allowed him to see both where he might go and others were.  As Fred and George Weasley explain, in order to open the map Harry would have to say, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good,” and to close it “Mischief managed.”

The kind of marauding I have in mind flips no good into goodness and kindness.  I borrow this thought from Brian McLaren who describes our mission, ‘should you choose to accept it,’ as being ‘to plot goodness and foment kindness wherever you may be.’^  This can be very mischievous work.

Marauders don’t conform.  Awakened from her previous sleep state, she realises that she has just escaped a slumber that was growing deeper and deeper, and she has no desire to go back to this.  Erich Fromm writes on how we can be so unaware:

‘Most people are not even aware of their need to conform.  They live under the illusion that they follow their own ideas and inclinations that they are individualists, that they have arrived at their opinions as the result of their own thinking – and that it just happens that their opinions are the same as those of the majority.’^^

Hugh Macleod reminds me why I’ve been so encouraged and enabled by him since discovering his doodling and thinking.  He writes about the wee voice that will not go to sleep:

‘Your wee voice doesn’t want you to sell something.  Your wee voice wants you to make something. […] Go ahead and make something.  Make something really special.  Make something amazing that will really blow the mind of anybody who sees it.’*^

At first we may have no idea what the wee voice wants, only that it isn’t going to ask us to conform in any kind of sleep state life – that’s why it won’t be quiet:

‘Your wee voice came back because your soul somehow depends on it.  There’s something you haven’t said, something you haven’t done, some light that needs to be switched on, and it needs to be taken care of.  Now.”*^

The marauder has awakened and won’t again be seduced by sleep again.  Marauding is about movement and marauders keep moving – some of the concerns about modern life have to be the possibilities of sleepwalking into a life lacking movement and contact with others.  A San Francisco Chronicle article, presumably from the end of the last century, wonders:

“We’ve all heard of that future, and it sounds pretty lonely.  In the next century, the line of thinking goes, everyone will work at home, shop at home and communicate with their friends through videophones and e-mail.  It’s as if science and culture have progressed for one purpose only: to keep us from ever getting out of our pyjamas.”**

Rebecca Solnit, whose words lead us into today’s post and who also quotes the piece from the San Francisco Chronicle, connects wandering in thought with wandering through space: we need to move through the meadowlands of imagination to stay awake.

Technology blurs lines: is it a phone, is it a TV, is it a computer, is it a watch, is it a newspaper or book?  Is that idea ours or did it come from someone else?  Am I conforming or bucking the trend?  Yet there is the wee voice, the whisper from deep within that won’t be quieted.  Maybe it is asking three things of us:

Am I living as freely as I am able to?
Am I living imaginatively and creatively?

Am I living for a greater purpose than myself?

If yes, then you are a marauder.  If no, then time to wake up and get to some maraudering.

(*Buson, quoted in Kosuke Koyama’s Three Mile an Hour God.)
(**From Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust.)
(^From Brian McLaren’s We Make the Road by Walking.)
(^^From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving.)
(*^From gapingvoid’s How to be creative.)

Time, meaningless and meaningful

“I was blessed.  I was told I only had three months to live.”*
(Eugene O’Kelly)

In their book on the power of moments, Chip and Dan Heath include the powerful story of Eugene O’Kelly who, on discovering he only had three months to live due to a rare cancer, set out to “beautifully resolve” the relationships in his life.  What followed was a change in his time perspective:

“I experienced more Perfect Moments and Perfect Days in two weeks than I had in the last five years, or than I probably would have in the next five years, had my life continued the way it was going before my diagnosis.”*

To live life as moments and days is telling.  I had reread Alan Lightman outlining the kind of distances and time involved in travelling to the nearest star after our own:

‘If we set out for the nearest star beyond our solar system at [500mph], it would take five million years to reach our destination.  If we travelled in the fastest rocket ship manufactured on Earth, the trip would take one hundred thousand years, or at least a thousand human lifespans.’**

There’s no point in measuring space travel like this in anything less than years, but this way of measuring time and distance means little to us on Earth – our challenge is to live in moments and days.  We can do far more with these than we often imagine, but it will take effort.  The Heath brothers are quick to point this out when they articulate the reason for writing their book:

‘We want to build your determination.  It’s going to be way harder than you think to create peaks.’^

The peaks are the moments that are memorable and remarkable for us.  Again, these skew time, as O’Kelly testifies to experiencing in his goodbyes to those who mattered most to him in his life:

“I felt like I was living a week in a day, a month in a week, a year in a month.”*

Brené Brown describes how the protagonist in their story – and we all live in stories – has to come to terms with the path they must take being a difficult one:

‘The protagonist looks for every comfortable way to solve the problem.  By the climax, he learns what it’s really going to take to solve the problem.  This act includes the “lowest of the low.”^^

Brown is describing Acts 2 of three acts for facing up to our personal stories.  First there is the reckoning in which we come face-to-face with our reality.  And finally there’ll be the revolution or breakthrough.  In-between, though, there is Acts 2: the rumble.  The lowest of the low is a telling description for where O’Kelly found himself, in his final days living through each of the acts.  He turns towards his readers to ask some questions:

“Look at your own calendar.  Do you see Perfect Days ahead?  Or could they be hidden and you have to find a way to unlock them?  If I told you to aim to create 30 Perfect Days, could you?  How long would it take.  Thirty days?  Six months?  Ten years?  Never?  I felt like I was living a week in a day, a month in a week, a year in a month.”*

O’Kelly’s story helps us to see that here is something within the long reach of most of us; when we add moments and days to our lives, things change.

And when we make moments and days count for ourselves then it’s highly extremely probable likely they’ll begin to count more for others too.

I close with some words from Lightman, from a protagonist in another of his books exploring how the Big Bang changed everything, followed by some words I was pondering this morning, from Frederick Buechner:

“Frequently, I had no particular destination in mind, but was merely following a natural curiosity to understand how the Void had been transformed by time.”*^

“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.”^*

(*Eugene O’Kelly, quoted in Chip and Dan Heath’s The Power of Moments. O’Kelly tells his story in his book Chasing Daylight.)
(**From Alan Lightman’s The Accidental Universe.)
(^From Chip and Dan Heath’s The Power of Moments.)
(^^From Brené Brown’s Rising Strong.)
(*^From Alan Lightman’s Mr g.)
(^*Frederick Buechner, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)

Beyond the beyond the beyond

“If you must be heard, let it be like the babbling brook, laughing over the rocks.”*
(Kerry Hillcoat.)

There’s something in these words speaks to me of exemplifying our true self, to be nothing more and nothing less than who we are.  When we’re free in ourselves then we are a whirling, intimate, glorious and creative movement, leading to who know what’s next?  Something Alan Lightman captures when he writes in his wonderfully explorative book of essays The Accidental Universe:

‘Real people are unpredictable, I said.  A character who always acts rationally is a fraud.  Any character you fully understand is as good as dead.  Is that clear.’**

This is who we are – if we take the brakes off.  We are moving towards an ever changing horizon and we are capable of changing as we move.

We need and are thoroughly capable of “beyondness.”  If there is a here there must also be a there as Kosuke Koyama points out:

‘Some kind of “beyond” is inseparable from “here.”^

To only live here is to live in danger of stodginess.  Here and there are about more than distance.  People can travel the globe and still live a stodgy life – a brief escape and then back to the norm.  But to live the sparky life is to touch everything with beyondness.  I love Roald Dahl’s words on sparkiness:

‘When you grow up and have children of your own do please remember something important: a stodgy parent I no fun at all.  What a child wants and desires is a parent who is SPARKY.’^^

(*Kerry Hillcoat, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From Alan Lightman’s The Accidental Universe.)
(^From Kosuke Koyama’s Three Mile an Hour God.)
(^^From Roald Dahl’s Danny, the Champion of the World.)