Not the feet – the stars, the stars

Look up at the stars and not down at your feet.  Try to make sense of what you see and wonder what makes the universe exist.  Be curious.*
(Stephen Hawking)

I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars.  I cannot count one.  I know not the first letter of the alphabet.  I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.**
(Henry David Thoreau)

We need more than the everyday.  Tania Luna identifies how:

“We feel most comfortable when things are certain, but we feel most alive when they’re not.”^

Nassim Taleb identifies something of the problem with comfort over aliveness when he writes:

‘For so many, instead of looking for “cause of death” when they expire, we should be looking for “cause of life” when they are still around.’^^

Native Australians follow songlines that mirror the stars above their heads.  And Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler offer an insight into what it means to be human when they use the illustration of the mariner – a person I imagine to be following the sun by day and the stars by night:

‘Autonomy is the desire to steer our own ship.  Mastery is the desire to steer well.  And purpose is the need for the journey to mean something.’*^

I need to change the imagery.  Whilst I get what Stephen Hawking is saying about not looking at our feet, they are the means by which we reach for more.  Taking one step after another is intimated in Richard Rohr’s point about moving to the edge:

‘It is ironic that you must go to the edge to find the centre.’^*

What we imagine to be the centre is not where we find the fullness for our lives to be.  We must take a journey, often to where we need to learn new ways of counting and find new words to use.  All of this is a series of steps away, not on some strange planet or possible if we only become a completely different person – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi helps us here:

‘To gain enjoyment over the quality of our experience, however, one needs to learn how to build enjoyment into what happens day in, day out.’⁺

This is what Chip and Dan Heath may well be referring to when they write about breaking the script.  Identifying how most people’s standout memories come from the period in their life when they were aged 15-30 – a time when many first things happened for or to them, experiences that are novelties – the brothers refer to this as a “reminiscence bump.”  They add to this something called the “oddball effect” that occurs when something stands out from the “brown” of life, appearing to have taken up more time but in reality didn’t:

‘Novelty changes our perception of time.’

When we stop looking at our feet and instead look to the stars, we’re breaking the script and living the drama instead.  It’s still the same story but it feels completely different:

‘Learn to recognise your own scripts.  Play with them, poke at them, disrupt them.’⁺⁺

Csikszentmihalyi offers eight components for stepping into our own curiosity (not someone else’s) – the “stars” are this close.  Look for a task that can be completed; be willing to focus and concentrate on it; see clear goals; be open or receptive to immediate feedback; the worries and frustrations of life fade before the deep and effortless involvement; there is a sense of control; the self disappears whilst involved in the task, reappearing at the close but bigger and more complex; and, the sense of time alters.

This is how we break up the script that has become routinised as we’ve grown older and we add novelty for an unfolding drama.

(*Stephen Hawking quoted in gapingvoid’s blog: What makes you amazing.)
(**From Henry David Thoreau’s Where I Lived, and What I Lived For.)
(^Tania Luna, quoted in Chip and Dan Heath’s The Power of Moments.)
(^^From Nassim Taleb’s The Bed of Procrustes.)
(*^From Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler’s Bold.)
(^*From Richard Rohr’s Eager to Love.)
(⁺From Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.)
(⁺⁺From Chip and Dan Heath’s The Power of Moments.)


If you have a group in Edinburgh looking for speakers to come and share something for an hour and would like to hear more about SLOW JOURNEYS IN THE SAME DIRECTION then drop me a line.  We have some fun with doodling and colouring.


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