Menneskebiblioteket

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

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.)

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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.*
(Proverbs)

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.)