The relentless voyage

Even though your body is always bound to one place, your mind is a relentless voyager.*
(John O’Donohue)

The earliest artists worked within the outlines they imagined, the later reworked their imaginations.’**
(James Carse)

In our imaginations we are able to play in a plethora of ways.

Because these are not tangible, we possibly don’t pay them as much attention as the here and now of what we can touch, tase, see, smell and hear.  We allow our more imaginative thoughts to flee away, then we forget them, until we catch a fleeting glimpse, but that is all.

If we capture these imaginings, though, if we write them down or make some kind of doodle or drawing of them, something more begins to happen.

They begin to grow and develop, and we get to play them into some experiment or exploration.

Then we get to wondering just how expandable and expansive our imaginations can be.

Beyond writing them down and drawing them out, there’s the importance of sharing them with others: in the to-ing and fro-ing of conversation, a possibility can grow and grow.

(Who knew it before we had the dynamic conversation?)

We must beware belittling imagination, which brings with it the ganger of the acousmatic life – the one spoken over us from out of the frame:

‘All of us have to learn how to invent our lives, make them up, imagine them.  We need to be taught these skills; we need guides to show is how.  Without them, our lives get made up for us by other people.’^

(*From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(**From James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.)
(^From Ursula Le Guin’s Words Are My Matter.)

Earth’s Got Talent

An animateur (from the root animer) is someone who “brings to life” a new way of thinking, seeing, or interacting that creates focus or energy.*
(Peter Senge)

I’ve been trying all my life to find out what my limits are and I have not reached them yet.  But then the universe doesn’t really help, it keeps expanding and won’t allow me to know it entirely.**

The lights are up.

The cameras are poised.

It’s time for action.

The universe, not some or other Simon Cowell, has presented you with a stage and is waiting for you to respond.  And, please, no impressions.  We want to see you.

(*From Peter Senge’s The Necessary Revolution.)
(**Peter Senge’s character J in Aleph.)


Welcome to another day

It is wonderful to behold a person who inhabits their own dignity.  The human body is its own language.*
(John O’Donohue)

If you want to be part of a group that bonds like cement, take on a really demanding tasks that’s deeply meaningful.  All of you will remember it for the rest of your lives.**
(Chip and Dan Heath)

These two statements may appear contradictory or mismatched but there is something that lies deeply within us, something we must search for and understand, that will make it possible to connect to others in what will be some of the most significant and memorable moments of our lives.

Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler imagine what they call DIY communities:

‘A DIY community is a group of people united around a massively transformative purpose (MTP), a collection of the passionate willing to donate their time and their minds to projects they truly believe in.’^

My hope is that these kinds of community hold the possibility of uniting people across the lines that usually divide: political, religious/areligious, educational, gender, et al, towards some greater purpose every day of our lives.

(*From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(**From Chip and Dan Heath’s The Power of Moments.)
(^From Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler’s Bold.)

Great for something

Passion is individualistic. […] purpose is something people can share.*
(Chip and Dan Heath)

I write and talk a lot about passion but Chip and Dan Heath make a good point.  It was Frederick Buechner who pointed out that we find our purpose where our deepest joy meet the world’s greatest need.

Of asking others about what they are doing, the Heaths conclude:

‘You know you’re finished when you reach the contribution.’*

We can’t contribute towards ourselves – that would be to only answer the “Who am I?” question that is important but must be counterweighted by “What is my contribution.”

Which takes us to others with others.

(*From Chip and Dan Heath’s The Power of Moments.)

Living in Lacuna

The only difference between people that matters is the difference between those who allow this space to fill with flow – and those who don’t, or won’t allow it.*
(Richard Rohr)

The proverb announces: “iron sharpens iron”.**  This is about interdependence.  I need you to sharpen me; you need me too sharpen you.  An “iron sharpens iron” world is not competitive but collaborative, the like of which is difficult too imagine because it is about abundance, about valuing everyone, and we have lived too long in a world of scarcity.

I’ve picked up a 1988 edition of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.  In the introduction, Carl Sagan remarks:

‘Except for children (who don’t know enough not to ask the important questions), few of us spend much time wondering why nature is the way it is; where the cosmos came from, or whether it was always here; if time will one day flow backward and effects precede causes; or whether there are ultimate limits to what humans can know.’^^

We have left the world of questions and we are struggling to find our way back, but out is not impossible.

I needed to look up the meaning of the word lacuna after coming across it in Maria Popova’s Two Hundred Years of Blue.  It means an unfilled space or gap.  Here we find new horizons and discoveries.  Here we all know something and none of us know everything:

‘Equidistant from the atoms and stars, we are expanding exploratory horizons to explore the very small and the very large.’^

(*From Richard Rohr’s The Divine Dance.)
(**Proverbs 27:17.)
(^Carl Sagan, from Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.)

Angry is not a place to live

It is egotism that makes us identify with one opinion rather than another, become quarrelsome and unkind, say this could not mean that, and think we have a duty to change other to suit ourselves.*
(Karen Armstrong)

Anger is a powerful emotion but it can be a lazy kind of power when we need it to become smart power.  Needing to become courage and generosity and wisdom, anger often alerts us to something that is not right.

We then need to be asking questions: What’s wrong here?, How can it be changed?

Unless we do this anger can be an ego thing, about me, when it needs to be an eco thing – about us.

Anger doesn’t always spill out.  That’s the message In one of Adam Saddler’s better films Anger Management.  His character doesn’t realise he’s internalising anger and its spoiling his life and the lives of those around him – that is, until he’s set up by his girlfriend to meet an anger management counsellor in the form of Jack Nicholson.

It reminds me, Angry is not where I want to live.

(*From Karen Armstrong’s Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.)

Spelunking and kerplunking

You can’t manufacture “moments of courage.”  But […] you can practice courage so that, when the moment demands it, you’ll be ready.*
(Chip and Dan Heath)

The whole point of climbing is to avoid objective dangers as much as possible, and to eliminate subjective dangers entirely by rigorous discipline and sound preparation.**
(Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

Spelunking and kerplunking may sound quite similar but they are very different endeavours.  Beware taking up an invitation to go spelunking if you imagine you’re going to play a table game, the object of which is to pull horizontal plastic straws out of a drum without letting any marbles fall through.

Spelunking, I discover, can be a derogatory term for stupid and unprepared caving.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi introduces me to the term when he picks out the flow experience of mountaineers which involves eliminating risk rather than inviting it:

‘Rock climbers, for instance, recognise two sets of dangers: “objective” and “subjective” ones.  The first kind are the unpredictable physical events that might confront a person on a mountain […].  Subjective dangers are those that arise from the climber’s lack of skill […].’**

Everyday courage is our ability to turn up as ourselves every day and make our contribution within the familiar and unfamiliar – the flow of our talents, our dreams and our values.  If I want to extend the flow of my own talents, dreams and values, I will need to be more courageous.

Csikszentmihalyi’s point about eliminating subjective dangers by rigorous discipline and sound preparation connects with what Chip and Dan Heath point to: if we want to have more courageous moments in our lives that we can be proud of in the right way, then we need to practise our values, asking questions such as:

What are my values?
What will they mean for different people and how I treat them?
What will I say?
What will I give?
Or receive?

Maybe I will find that, instead of different people and things disrupting my flow, the flow extends to them.

Richard Rohr writes of flow:

‘You just have to walk and breathe and receive and give, and – voilà – you’re in the flow.’^

This might sound like careless or carefree spelunking, but Rohr has to write a whole book to explain how he believes we can live in this way.

I don’t want to play Kerplunk but I don’t want to go spelunking through life either.

(*From Chip and Dan Heath’s The Power of Moments.)
(**From Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.)
(^From Richard Rohr’s The Divine Dance.)