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.)

Won’t change/can’t change?

We don’t get to know who we are because we’re not listening.*
(Keri Smith)

It turns out there is no way to divorce the demands of the head and the needs of the hand from the longing of the heart.**
(Bernadette Jiwa)

The young person had described themselves as stubborn.

Stubborn can be useful until it isn’t.

Will we change your minds?

Can we change your minds?

There’s always a choice, even when we feel we’ve been here so long we can’t get out.  It’s one of the most wonderful things in the world when we do:

‘Part of the wonder of being a person is the continual discoveries that you find emerging in your own self; nothing cosmically shattering, merely the unfathomable miracle of ordinary being: this is the heart of longing which calls us into new forms of belonging.’^

This “ordinary being” moves us from claustrophobic I-in-me to see more, to see the alternative: I-in-it.  Here is Bernadette Jiwa’s “demand of the head,” because we are opening our minds.

From here we find it easier to move towards I-in-You: the “longing of the heart,” which is to open our hearts to the other.

Encouraged, we see the possibility of I-in-Now, which is the “needs of the hand,” to create, but not without you – wherever possible, with you.

Here is the everyday unfathomable miracle of ordinary being open to each of us:

‘The revolutionary force in this century is the awakening of a deep generative human capacity – the I-in-Now.’^^

(*From Keri Smith’s The Wander Society.)
(**From Bernadette Jiwa’s Meaningful.)
(^From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(^^From Otto Scharmer’s Theory U.)

Blue sky thinking … feeling … doing (there’s enough blue sky for everyone)

Mine was a journey of learning to trust not knowing and to stay open to what appears – and help others find their own next steps.*
(Bob Stilger)

When you put the right idea into the world, people can’t unsee it.’**
(Seth Godin)

Before I act, there is the thinking and the feeling, but you probably can’t see these.  After I act, it’s all out there for people to see.

Elle Luna helps meto get honest when she says:

‘If you’re not prioritising the things you say you care about, consider the possibility that you don’t actually care about those things.’^

Bernadette Jiwa causes me to think about what we each care about will be different, and how we need difference in the world when she writes:

‘Disruptive innovators thrive on creating difference first and focus on growth later.’^^

We don’t have to organise difference, it just happens.  because of the way people are:

‘In these stories the hero is ready for the [adventure] he gets. […] The adventure is symbolically a manifestation of his character.’

Joseph Campbell is writing of the hero being the person who lives in the direction of the adventure that is within her.  The reality is then, the more we come to understand ourselves, the more the adventure appears.  This is our contribution..

As Seth Godin reminds us, once it’s seen, it can’t be unseen.

(*Bob Stilger, from Drawn Together Through Visual Practice.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: Before and after.)
(^From Elle Luna’s The Crossroads of Should and Must.)
(^^From Bernadette Jiwa’s Meaningful.)
(*^Joseph Campbell, from Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)

The cyanometrists

Blue skies
Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see*
(Irving Berlin)

So, if young adults no longer have the kind of money to support a life of conspicuous consumption our generation did, what takes its place?**
(Hugh Macleod)

I am increasingly hearing that the the resources enjoyed by the baby boomer generation are not going to be there for the next generations.  The skies in future are not going to be so blue, it seems.

A baby boomer myself, I’ve always been been suspicious of plenty and what it can do to us, and more likely to see consumption as a medical condition.

Maria Popova introduces me to Horace-Bénédict de Saussure‘s cyanometer, an instrument for measuring blueness, especially that of the skies.  Henry David Thoreau writes, as he looks upon a blue Spring sky:

“Where is my cyanometer”?^

Popova remarks:

‘Thoreau’s writings, dancing at the borderline between observation and contemplation, are strewn with his love of blue.’^^

This combination of observation and reflection and blueness fascinates me.

I wonder what happens if I don’t bring humble, grateful, faithful reflection to my life, to who I am and what I have and how I behave?

Robert McKee writes of why we love movies.  In everyday life we live in the experience but in movies we have a chance to experience and to reflect upon it.  I wonder whether we’re moving into a time when we can be more aware of the “movie” our lives are, that we will live our lives as both experiencers and reflectors.

Hugh Macleod answers his opening question:

‘Why, conspicuous production, of course.’**

Instead of going along with the production of others – what consumption is about and a production that is running out of steam – we are witnessing more opportunities to bring some that matters from the centre of our lives.

We can wait for the next blue sky to come along or we can paint our own.

I think it will seems working more and more together, hence cyanometrists only exist in collaboration of various forms, or hues.

(*Ella Fitzgerald sings Irving Berlin’s Blue Skies.)
(**From gapingvoid’s blog: Welcome to the hustle.)
(^Henry David Thoreau, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Two Hundred Years of Blue.)
(^^From Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Two Hundred Years of Blue.)