Whoever belittles another lacks sense, but an intelligent person remains silent.*

As automation increases, people hungry for more personal and authentic experiences begin to put a premium on advice, services, and interaction involving actual humans. […] Humans stubbornly seem to prefer other humans.**
(Rohit Bhargava)

Menneskebiblioteket = Danish for “human library” – an illustration for “human mode..” – another of Rohit Bhargava’s trends for 2018.

I like this idea of checking out real people from a Menneskebiblioteket for a half-hour conversation because it connects with #libraryofawesome, a concept I and a number of others play with from time to time.

What if it were possible to walk off the street into such a library and ask a “librarian” (though we thought they should be called “wizards”) what recommendations are possible for doing something different with their lives.  The wizard would find the resources, including people, to help the person change the direction of their lives.

It’s about life becoming more human-intensive rather than technology-intensive but in a more savvy way.

Every day we can help one another upgrade our lives.

(*Proverbs 11:12.)
(**From Rohit Bhargava’s Non Obvious 2018.)

Every day is a learning day (and what we learn may surprise us)

The adventure is its own reward – but it’s necessarily dangerous having both negative and positive possibilities, all of them beyond control.*
(Joseph Campbell)

It is a very recent disease to mistake the unobserved for the non-existent; but some are plagued with the worse disease of mistaking the unobserved for the unobservable.**
(Nassim Taleb)

If we think we have the answers then we judge everything by them; when we are prepared to live with the questions then even more will open up to us:

‘Choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it requires us to surrender to uncertainty. […] There is a profound relationship – a love affair really – between curiosity and wholeheartedness.’^

To be curious means to take care.  To take care always requires more information and so we ask questions.

Questions lead us into the “Other,” and the Other leads us into ourselves more fully, as Martin Buber alludes to here:

‘The concentration and fusion into a whole being can never be accomplished by me, can never be accomplished without me.  I require a You to become; becoming I, I say You.  All actual life is encounter.’^^

This way of exploring the world, including the worlds of others, through questions rather than through answers, is too difficult for some, as Hugh Macleod has noticed:

Telling people what to do is easy.  Forcing them to do it is easy. […] Building a consensus, selling your idea, gaining friends and followers, and creating a cause people want to join.  That’s hard.’*^

It is hard because, as Buber expresses, we cannot know ourselves apart from others and we cannot know others apart from knowing ourselves, and this, for some, is not a place they want to venture.

(*From Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)
(**From Nassim Taleb’s The Bed of Procrustes.)
(^From Brené Brown’s Rising Strong.)

(^^From Martin Buber’s I and Thou.)
(*^From gapingvoid’s On modern leadership.)

Born to be wild

As the tamed horse
still hears the call of her wild brothers
and as the farmed goose flaps hopeful wings
as his sisters fly overhead,
so too, perhaps,
the wild ones amongst us
are our only hope in calling us back
to our true nature.*
(Joel McKerrow)

Who are the wild ones and who are the domesticated?

Here are two different contributions to the importance of wildness.  The first is prose from Terry Tempest Williams and the second, poetry from Mary Oliver:

‘Humility is born in wildness.  We are not protecting grizzlies from extinction; they are protecting us from the extinction of experience as we engage with a world beyond ourselves.  The very presence of a grizzly returns us to the ecology of awe.’**

“Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
There light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say, “and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.””^

This wildness is not savage but beauty and randomness.

Sherry Turkle tells what may be a more extreme story of our growing dependence on technology, what may be seen as a form of domestication:

‘When a feeling bubbles up, Julia [16] texts it.  Where things go next is guided by what she hears next.’^^

As I reread these words about dependence on technology, I was also reading Rohit Bhargava’s description of a 2018 trend he names “light-speed learning,” noticing, as he had, the revolution in how we are able to learn today online.*^

I love the fact that education is opening up in this way, challenging how traditional institutions of learning make knowledge available, but as I first write these words in my journal, it is with a nibbed pen.  I feel its resistance, slowing me down as I move across the paper.  I hear it, too – the scratching sound of slowness.  We also have a need for slow learning.  Søren Kierkegaard wrote:

“Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.”^*

Kierkegaard was a wanderer, taking a slower approach to life.

I’m not arguing against technology; far from it.  It’s about both technology and slowness, but we are losing the art of slowness, the enjoyment of pen on paper, and what can rise out of this tangible slowness.  Perhaps it is our wildness, our connectedness to everything and what it is we must contribute.  Hugh Macleod describes this well:

‘The hunger will give you everything.  And it will take from you everything.  It will cost you your life and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.  But knowing this, of course, is what ultimately sets you free.’⁺

Let us not hasten past.

(*Joel McKerrow, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From Terry Tempest Williams’ The Hour of Land.)
(^Mary Oliver, quoted in Philip Newell’s The Rebirthing of God.)
(^^From Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together.)
(*^See Rohit Bhargava’s Non Obvious 2018.)
(^*Søren Kierkegaard, quoted in Jay Cross’ Informal Learning.)
(⁺From Hugh Macleod’s Evil Plans.)

The big screen

Whatever the forces are that make people do dumb things, they are powerful, they are often invisible, and they lurk even in the best of environments.*
(Ed Catmull)

Seth Godin writes about when smart phones aren’t so smart:

‘Teaching complicated ideas to people on a phone is like trying to teach geography to a bunch of sugared-up kids who just had a triple espresso, while they are standing on one foot being bitten by a swarm of mosquitos.’**

Mix this with what Rohit Bhargava identifies as the trend of “manipulated outrage” – when information is shared in a way to incite outrage and anger – and you have a very dangerous concoction.  It doesn’t matter whether the information is true or false, its whether people believe it is.

Godin also spots this dangers and his suggestion is to go to a larger screen:

‘There could be a direct correlation between smart phone usage and underinformed mass behavior.

Sometimes it’s worth opening up a laptop and slowing down just a bit.

Yes, opening up a laptop might count as slowing down a bit.’**

There’s also the option of no screen – which is the biggest screen possible, and possibly the one that will make the most difference as we seek to make progress as humans.  It’s also the slowest one, allowing us to listen and watch and interact most carefully and caringly in order to notice the connections to everything and everyone:

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”^

(*From Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc..)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog:  On one foot.)
(^John Muir, quoted in Ben Hardy’s These 20 Pictures Will Teach You More Than Reading 100 Books.)

Belonging we do not see and belonging we choose

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 own opinions as a result of their own thinking – and that it just happens that their opinions are the same as those of the majority.*
(Erich Fromm)

You were sent to the earth to become a receiver of the unknown.**
(John O’Donohue)

Outside my home this morning: twelve magpies pecking around together.  I find myself reminded of the rhyme about magpies, considered to be a bird of ill omen, as well as the children’s TV programme of the same name, ITV’s to rival the BBC’s Blue Peter:

“One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret,
Never to be told.
Eight for a wish,
Nine for a kiss,
Ten for a bird,
You must not miss.”

I am not sure what twelve magpies mean, but here where a dozen birds, all black, white and blue, hanging out together.  We can look out with people who are just the same as us but we don’t have to.

As I read more of Rohit Bhargava’s non obvious trends for 2018 he describes another, that of backstorytelling.  Bhargava is thinking of how companies are increasingly telling their backstories as part of their marketing … and I’m thinking of listening to the backstories of others, how we each got to be here, as a way of breaking out of our ways of understanding and belonging:

‘The hearing ear and the seeing eye—the Lord has made them both.’^

(*From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving.)
(**From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(^Proverbs 20:12.)


All the time in the world

Because without time, there could be no reactions to actions, no consequences.  Without time, decisions need not be considered for their implications and effects.  We had all been drifting in a comfortable Void without responsibilities.*
(Alan Lightman)

There’s an awful lot of time in the world, it’s just that it isn’t all ours.  We, do, however, have a little of it.  Maybe eighty years or so.

As I think Alan Lightman is alluding: time helps us to act, to make a difference.

Time helps us to pursue autonomy – to be in control of our own lives, mastery – to be skilful at something, and, have purpose – to produce meaning.

This sense of time allows us to try and fail and learn and develop and try again. :

‘If you show up and show up and show up, and care enough to learn to connect, you will have a skill for life.’**

Seth Godin is writing about what a salesperson is really about but the sense of his words fit well with anyone wanting to make the most of their time.  In another place, Godin writes about the importance of attempting things around what it is we want to do:

‘The person who fails most wins.’^

In his fifteen trends for 2018, Rohit Bhargava identifies “brand stand,” the trend produced by companies marketing what they believe in.  The five elements Bhargava goes on to identify as effective for this also help us make more of our time on a personal level: relevance means what we live for is helpful to others, timeliness increases its impact, proactivity means we don’t wait to be invited to contribute, meaning ensures we never lose sight of why we are doing this, and, commitment means we get up each day looking to take what we are about further.^^

(*From Alan Lightman’s Mr g.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: The born salesperson.)
(^From Seth Godin’s What to Do When it’s Your Turn.)
(^^From Rohit Bhargava’s Non Obvious 2018.)

The friendly planet

Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin.*

Humans are slow animals […] and what we excel at is distance, sustaining a pace for hours or days.**
(Rebecca Solnit)

We know we can be great at relationships when we set our mind to it.

(*Proverbs 18:24)
(**From Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust.)

Boundaries and borders

Only when an organism shares in the ordered relations of its environment does it secure the stability essential to living.*
(John Dewey)

I think we’re realising quiet is important, and we need silence; that silence is not a luxury, but it’s essential.  It’s essential to our quality of life and being able to think straight.  When we become better listeners to nature, we become better listeners to each other.**
(Gordon Hempton, Sound Tracker®)

Boundaries say, “we are here, you are there,” “that is yours, this is mine.”

They are firm and they define who we are:

‘”Mental models” are deeply ingrained assumptions, generalisations, or even pictures or images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action.’^

Mental models, though, are not set in stone; we can change them, and we begin at the borders.

Borders are more hopeful: “you have that, I have this – let’s trade.”

In their most extreme extreme forms, borders are where new things emerge, where transformation occurs.  An experience is one thing.  We enter into something for a while and then we leave.   Transformation means something changes for ever.

James Carse would probably encourage us to employ playfulness in order to move from boundaries thinking to borders thinking:

‘To be playful is not to be trivial or frivolous. […] On the contrary, when we are playful to each other we relate as free persons and the relationship is open to surprise.’^^

Boundary thinking can witness several sides looking on the same intractable problem and employing the same old solutions.  Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber see this in action in universities, helping us to see how boundary thinking sees the other as something to use for our own benefit:

‘Conversation is instrumentalised and colleagues are turned into “either resources or hindrances.”*^

Border imagines the different sides working together to come up with new solutions:

‘There’s no shortage in today’s world of wicked problems wrapped around beautiful questions – meaning that somewhere deep inside that thorny issue, embedded at the core lies an undiscovered question of great value.’^*

See you at the border.

(*John Dewey, quoted in Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.)
(**Gordon Hempton, quoted in Rohit Bhargava’s Non Obvious 2018.)
(^From Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline.)
(^^From James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.)
(*^From Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber’s The Slow Professor, quoting Frank Martela.)
(^*From Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.)

“Before” is the new “after”

When we thoroughly know how good we are, we can readily (and creatively) think well about how to improve.  It is as simple as that.*
(Nancy Kline)

There’s a link between appreciation and thinking better.

Appreciation enables blood to flow to our brain, making it possible to improve our thinking:

‘Thinking needs blood, and blood needs Appreciation.  Lovely.’*

We’re all capable of having better ideas and better ideas are what we need for a better world; as James Carse says:

‘Finite players play within boundaries, infinite players play with boundaries.’**

Perhaps we are more able to become those whom Richard Rohr refers to as ‘seers of alternatives.’^  Instead of waiting for something to happen and react or respond to, we’re initiating possibilities.  These ‘seers of alternatives’ create space for others to explore as they’ve forward by influencing events and inspiring people’:

‘Somebody said that what the world needs is not more geniuses but more genius makers, people who enhance and don’t diminish the gifts of those around them.’^^

Anne Lamott and Ben Hardy help me to see that appreciative people and environments will be marked by kindness and mercy and faith:

‘Pope Francis says the name of God is mercy.  Our name was mercy, too, until we became more productive, more admired and less vulnerable.  We tend to forget it’s still there.’*^

‘Faith is action, and thus also power.  Faith and fear cannot co-exist in the same person at the same time.  Thus action (i.e., faith) and inaction (i.e., fear) are opposites.  Do what you love.  Do it more.  Output all the time.’^*

When we get things this way around, we’re exploring more of what it means to be human.

Before and after pictures are used to provide us with powerful images for how we have moved on.  But the after is not it in the appreciative world, it is the new before.

The best answers will always open up bigger questions.

(*From Nancy Kline’s More Time to Think.)
(**From James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.)
(^From Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now.)
(^^From John Ortberg’s All the Places to Go.)
(*^From Anne Lamott’s Hallelujah 
(^*From Ben Hardy’s article: These 20 Pictures Will Teach You More Than Reading 100 Books.)

Fake truth

Mihaly Csikszentmihayi proffers our next challenge as humans as he closes his iconic book on how achieving flow (‘joy, creativity, the process of total involvement with life’*).

Flow is about differentiation – basically to know who I am as different to who you are, to know what my contribution is compared to yours.

Now, he says, we must explore how my flow merges with your flow,  with the flow of the universe from which we have emerged, else we face increasing alienation:

‘But complexity consists of integration as well as differentiation.  The task of the next decades and centuries is to realise this under-developed component of the mind.  Just as we have learned to separate ourselves from each other and the environment, we now need to learn how to reunite ourselves with other entities around ys without using our hard-won individuality.’*

We notice how, as we grow up, we move from dependence to independence – when our motivation and goals come from within us.  Now we live in a world where personal independence has never been so powerfully expressed – as individuals, societies, nations.  We need to move from independence to interdependence:

‘Recognising the limitations of human will, accepting a cooperative rather than a ruling role in the universe, we should feel the relief of the exile returning home.  The problem of meaning will then be resolved as the individual’s purpose merges with the universal flow.’*

Rohit Bhargava labels one of the cultural trends he has noticed for 2018 as truthing:

‘As a consequence of eroding trust in media and institutions, people are engaging in a personal quest for the truth based on direct observation and face-to-face interaction.’**

Truthing makes no sense, though, unless we use it on ourselves as well as others.  Otherwise, we may become our own fake news, that is, fake truth.  It’s why the end of the journey is not about knowing something, or feeling something, but doing something, not just once, but repeatedly and in a developing way.  Only as this serves others, however, will we see the kind of reality Csikszentmihalyi hopes for, perhaps expressed here by Roz and Ben Zander:

‘The WE appears when, for a moment, we set aside the story of fear, competition, and struggle, and tell its story.’^

Some more reading about this development from the self to the we, from dependence to interdependence can be found in Tribal Leadership from Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright, and Seth Godin’s Tribes.

(*From Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.)
(**From Rohit Bargava’s Non Obvious 2018.)
(^From Rosamund and Benjamin Zander’s The Art of Possibility.)