The elegant way

Life is too short not to do something that matters.*
(Hugh Macleod)

Being elegant means developing your ability to describe a concept in a beautiful, simple way.**
(Rohit Bhargava)

Here it is.  Another day to do something that matters.  What this looks like is up to you.

When we take a closer look at our lives and the needs in the world around us, we can trust one another to find something to do that makes a difference and to do this in an artistic.  Not the kind of art that has been separated from the real world but one that owns every human to be artistic, that everyone can do what they do with a swirl and panache.

This is an elegance on the far side of simplicity.  If I tried to do what you do, I’d make a hash of it.  You make it look simple, you may not even see this for yourself and undervalue what you do.

(*From gapingvoid’s blog: Why people are unhappy.)
(**From Rohit Bhargava’s Non Obvious – 2o15 edition.)

This is as far as I can go

It’s not.

We can go further.  We have the capacity.

I think of Walt Whitman’s ‘child who went forth every day,’ open to the “other” ‘with wonder or pity or love or dread’.*

Reality is all there is if we stop moving.  The imagination explored through moving on changes reality.

We have not arrived.

Poverty, racism, illiteracy, gender-violence, environmental catastrophe, conflict and too much more tell us this.

(*From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.)

asking-seeking-knocking people

When people come knocking on our door, when they ask their questions, if they’re looking around for something in our “neighbourhood,” what have we got to give?

It’s the person who themselves keep knocking, keeps asking questions, keeps searching and seeking that will have more to give than they realise.  With a lot of stuff around, this deeper way of going about life guarantees that we have something better to give.  We have a problem when we cannot see what it is we have to offer:

‘Scarcity appears when wealth cannot flow.’*

Walt Whitman provides some beautiful words as he brings his Leaves of Grass to a close, writing about a child that took into himself all that he saw:

‘There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he looked upon and received with wonder
or pity or love or dread, that object he became,
And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of
the day … or for many years or stretching cycles of years.’**

Plants and creatures and people became part of this child as he goes forth each day.  In this child all of these things are passed on:

‘These become a part of that child who went forth every day, and who
now goes and will always go forth every day,
And these become of him or her that peruses them now.’**

Others have been such worlds for us and we become such worlds for others.  Whitman moves closer to the end of his Leaves of Grass identifying wonder:

Is it wonderful that I should be immortal? as everyone is immortal.
I know it is wonderful … but my eyesight is equally wonderful …
and how I was conceived in my mother’s womb is equally
wonderful […].’**

He goes on t see how his growing up and who he ids are all wonderful.  And this thing, this thing happening right now as you read this, is wonderful too:

‘And that my should embraces you this hour, and we affect each other
without ever seeing each other, and never perhaps to see each
other, is every bit as wonderful […].’**

And you, you are wonderful, too:

‘Come I should like to hear you tell me what there is in yourself that is not just as wonderful, […].’**

You are more than worth-while to seek out, to knock on the door of, and to ask some things of.

(*From Lewis Hyde’s The Gift.)
(**From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.)

The narrow way and the broad way

What does work?  Finding something you love and making it your life.*
(Hugh Macleod)

Certainly [Philip Dick] struggled with the market’s demand for low standards and incessant production; but he kept on seeking his own vein, finding it, mining it deeper, till he hit the mother lode with The Man in the High Castle.**
(Ursula Le Guin)

Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate in York points out to me that small streets don’t have to have small names.  Whitnourwhatnourgate, as it was named in Anglo Saxon, means “neither one thing, nor the other.”

This is a broad way.  It’s easy to find, easy to walk along, never too demanding, and never as satisfying as we thought it would be.

The narrow way doesn’t present itself in such appealing ways.  Its entrance is as small as a curiosity we have to squeeze through, opening slowly into a slightly larger space we are interested in, before it begins to open more and more into a way we can walk into and love.

Then something astonishing happens.  Often when the hard work causes us to question the path we’ve taken.  This narrow way leads into something bigger, richer, deeper.  This narrow way is the best way for knowing who we are and what our contribution is, for knowing others, and for knowing our world and universe.

(*Hugh Macleod from a gapingvoid blog I am unable to trace.)
(**From Ursula Le Guin’s Words Are My Matter.)


Recently, these three Thin|Silence canvases were auctioned in support of EducAid, an educational charity working in Sierra Leone.  I have offered two more canvases to further support EducAid.  A 40×30 inch canvas for £100 chosen from the images in my colouring book Slow Journeys in the Same Direction which will be coloured in.  Or a 24×24 inch canvas selected from my Thin|Silence blog, including these from a series on heartedness.

The realigning life

Each has his or her place in the procession.

All is a procession,
The universe is a procession with measured and beautiful motion.*
(Walt Whitman)

‘Struggle against our greediness is a frustrating, yet vitally important, undertaking.’**
(Kosuke Koyama)

There were four of us who had met to walk the Labyrinth in Edinburgh’s George Square.  Labyrinths offer walks of reflection through journeying for anyone.  Each person enters with a different thought or need.

“As the crow flies,” the centre of the labyrinth is not far away but I am always surprised by how far I must walk when following the twists and turns.

I decided to lay two images down as I walked: the first was the U of opening, mind, heart and will, which I overlaid with the three quests: for honour, nobility and enlightenment.  I set off to realign what I hold to be important.

I turned away from my downloaded pride, greed and foolishness – we each have some default setting for these), seeking to open my mind through humility, gratitude and faithfulness.  As the labyrinth twisted and turned in front of me, I began to open my heart to the possibility of integrity without perfection, wholeness without completeness and perseverance without arriving.

Still the centre was far off – I wasn’t sure how far but I felt the need to turn to opening my will, being prepared to act on what I feel and understand my contribution to be, to act with courage not fear, to to push myself to be generous in ways that made sense to who I am and what I have, hoping this means I will live more wisely:

‘Presence is wisdom.  Presence is the one thing necessary, and in many ways, the hardest thing of all.  Just try to keep your heart open, your mind without division or resistance, and your body not somewhere else.’^

I must realign or the procession will move away from me.  Without realignment I am misaligned.

(*From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.)
(**From Kosuke Koyama’s Three Mile an Hour God.)
(^From Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now.)

Profanity and introfanity

In the sphere of material things giving means being rich.  No he who has much, but he who gives much. […] He gives of himself, of the most precious he has, he gives of his life […] he gives him of that which is alive in him: he gives him of his knowledge, of his humour, of his sadness – of all expressions and manifestations of that which is alive in him.’*
(Erich Fromm)

The English word profanity comes from pro (before) and fanum (temple), that is, outside the temple”.**
(Kosuke Koyama)

Let us go in: present continuous.

Here, to be profane means to remain outside the house of human connection – to be separate, insular.

Introfanity, then, is to enter.  Intrafanity would mean we are within the house, but we’re not there yet.  We continue on a journey as individuals, societies, races and nations, each day exploring how we can share ourselves with others and have others share themselves with us.

(*From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving.)
(**From Kosuke Koyama’s Three Mile an Hour God.)


I am because we are

Life and Reality are not things you can have for yourself unless you accord them to all others.*
(Alan Watts)

Art calls us to recognise our pain and aspirations and open our minds to others.  Art helps us […] to realise that we are not alone.’**

It was an evening for supporting a charity involved in the education of young people in a country thousands of miles away.

Stories of some of these young lives were shared in a variety of ways, set within an evening of simple art: poems, songs, photographs, storyboards, doodles and sketches.  Those who had gathered sometimes laughed and sometimes deeply sighed in connection at the sense of profound truth.  We were reminded of ubuntuI am because we are.

This is an experience we’re increasingly alienated from but trying to rediscover:

“We seek a private house, a private means of transportation, a private garden, a private laundry, self-service stores, and do-it-yourself skills of every kind.  An enormous technology seems to have set itself the task of making it unnecessary for one human being to ask another in the course of going about his daily business. […] We seek more and more privacy, and feel more and more alienated and lonely when we get it.”^

Sociologist Philip Slater was writing in 1970 about American society but could have been describing most Western societies.  Almost fifty years later, our worlds are even more separated – our poor rich world:

‘Every social association that is not face-to-face is injurious to your health.’^^

Some believe the next Human age will be one of ubuntu – finding one another.  It will not be easy.

We come across people who are so different to us that we feel we can never find anything in common.  Yet, when we transcend our differences, we find we have more in common than we know – everyone has a deep richness to bring:

‘Whoever is capable of giving of himself is rich.’*^

(*Alan Watts, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: I and Thou.)
(**From Karen Armstrong’s Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.)
(^Philip Slater, quoted in Kosuke Koyama’s Three Mile an Hour God.)
(^^From Nassim Taleb’s The Bed of Procrustes.)
(*^From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving.)

Wonder and dissent

When you wonder, you are drawn out of yourself.*
(John O’Donohue)

when the universe makes me wonder, all is at it should be**

Nothing is perfect.  We can always imagine something better.

The healthiest dissent comes from within and not without, from wonder and not from cynicism.

It all begins within ourselves.

(*From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(*Cirque de Soleil’s Varekai, quoted in Alex McManus’ Makers of Fire.)

You know the way

To create today is to create dangerously.*
(Albert Camus)

You don’t have to strap yourself to a rocket to follow your dreams, unless you dream of heading for Mars.

It’s about identifying and developing the talent or genius that is yours and then holding it out there for others – the dangerous bit.

You know what it is.  Your heart will guide you.

(*From Albert Camus’ Create Dangerously.)

The art of lopsidedness (and finding each other)

This combination of collection and contemplation is central to effectively curate ideas and learn to predict the future.*
(Rohit Bhargava)

[The Miser] remains cold and indifferent to the joys and sorrows of others, even his own […] the memory of past feelings or experiences is the only form in which he is in touch with how own experiences.’**
(Erich Fromm)

For the whisky distiller, the “middle cut” is the flow of alcohol that is taken and casked after the volatile alcohol from the beginning of a distillation run and the bad tasting alcohol at the end of the run has been avoided.  Something really interesting then follows.  The alcohol can be casked in similar containers, stand side-by-side in the same environment, and yet turn out completely differently because of the smallest of influences in the casks.

There are a number of things I take from this as illustrating who we are and what we can be as humans.

We all have more volatile (unstable) and bad tasting characteristics but I believe there is a promising middle cut to all of us.  The way we each then collect from life and reflect upon these things produces very different people.

This is my hope: all of us can find our difference

Youngme Moon writes about how our determination to be like others or more well-rounded will not add but detract from our difference:

‘The truth of the matter is, true differentiation – sustainable differentiation – is rarely a function of well-roundedness; it is typically a function of lopsidedness.  The same can be said of excellence.’^

Instead of looking at others and wishing we were more like them – perhaps this is something Erich Fromm’s miser, we look at them and are glad that they are like them.

Walt Whitman captures something of this when he describes how his mother was captivated by a native American woman calling at their home asking if there is any work for her.  I include it at length simply because of how it illustrates how one person can be so open to another:

‘My mother looked in delight and amazement at the stranger,
She looked at the beauty of her tallborne face and full and pliant
The more she looked upon her she loved her,
Never before had she seen such wonderful beauty and purity:
She made her sit on a bench by the jamb of the fireplace … she
     cooked food for her,
She had no work to give her but she gave her remembrance and

The red squaw staid all the forenoon, and toward the middle of the
     afternoon she went away:
O my mother was loth to have her go away,
All the week she thought of her … she watched for her many
     a month,
She remembered her many a winter and many a summer,
But the red squaw never came more was heard of there again.’^^

The miser cannot see the middle of another nor themselves.  This inability reduces our capacity to imagine the future, which means, a better today.  I haven’t come up with a name of the person who is the opposite to the miser but they are marked by there ability to notice more – including how much they have, to reflect and imagine creatively as a result of what they have, and then the ability to act, to create, to explore as only they can.

Today is not only a sequel to the past but is also a prequel to the future.

(*From Rohit Bhargava’s Non Obvious – 2015 edition.)
(**From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Being.)
(^From Youngme Moon’s Different.)
(^^From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.)


All at Methodist Publishing