Our must (and our chance of wisdom)

The way to find your happiness is to keep your mind on those moments when you feel most happy, when your really are happy – not excited, not just thrilled, but deeply happy.  This requires a little bit of self-analysis.  What is it that makes you happy?  stay with it, no matter what people tell you.  This is what I call “following your bliss.”*
(Joseph Campbell)

If you must […].**
(Kerry Hillcoat)

Everyone must.

Everyone has a must, what mythologist Joseph Campbell refers to as “bliss.”

Here we find our wisdom, too.  This life of must or bliss emerges from our humility – that is, our true self (not thinking too high or too low of ourselves); our gratitude – our growing appreciation of all that we have and all that is around us; and our faithfulness – daily seeking ways of living who we are and what we have into some or other expression.  Wisdom is what we know and imagine, and also what we do and give:

‘Activity and reflection should ideally complement and support each other.  Action is blind, reflection impotent.’*

Wisdom cannot be grown in simple systems, either.  It isn’t about repeating, but moving and developing.  Like the sprinter when the gun has fired, human consciousness has taken our hands away and we have to run ourselves upright or stumble and fall.

This must is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi would call our authentic project, meaning it comes from within:

‘Authentic projects tend to be intrinsically motivated, chosen for what they are worth in themselves; inauthentic one are motivated by external forces.’^

While must or bliss will produce our systems, the inauthentic project depends on external systems to operate well in order to gain the maximum benefit from it.  The authentic, however, doesn’t wait on the external but is always moving forward.  It produces its own wisdom, whilst at the same time, fully appreciating what it has to receive from those who have gone before, as Csikszentmihalyi reminds us:

‘To discard the hard-won information on how to live accumulated by our ancestors, or to expect to discover a viable set of goals all be oneself, is misguided hubris.’^

Wisdom is the result of each person’s journey of activity and reflection: via activa and via contemplativa as they were once understood and practised.  When we discover and invent ways of bringing this together then we are exploring what David Weinberger is imagining in the delightful long subtitle to his book Too Big To Know, which ends with:

and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room’.^^

(*From Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)
(**Kerry Hillcoat, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.
(^From Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.)
(^^From David Weinberger’s Too Big to Know.)

It all begins with gratitude

“You should just be grateful.”

Gratitude isn’t an end, it’s only a beginning, like a seed planted.

Gratitude grows into wholeness, a sense that we have enough – maybe not everything, but enough.

And wholeness is generative, allowing us to see al manner of possibilities for giving all we are and have to others.

And when others are grateful for this, more seeds are sown.

Of course, other worlds are available …



Ah.  So you spend the first two decades of your life being told that you’re special, that the future belongs to you.

Then, SPLAT!  You hit the real world and realise JUST how low on the totem pole you are.*
(Hugh Macleod)

The term [autotelic] literally means “a self that has self-contained goals,” and it reflects the idea that such an individual has relatively few goals that do not originate within the self.**
(Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

Hugh Macleod reflects how some, on realising they are not the centre of the universe, find themselves set free:

‘But for a lucky few, it comes as a moment of joyous, amazing liberation.

Because now you don’t have to pretend anymore.  Because all that’s left is for you is do, is to find something genuinely useful for other people, or face starvation.’*

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi identifies three practices employed by autotelic people to set themselves from from the ego self and become people able to transform their situations and circumstances.  They practice unselfconscious self-assurance; focus their attention outwardly upon the world; and, are open to discovering new solutions

This brought to mind for me, Richard Rohr’s five elemental truths, gleaned from the rites of passage from traditional cultures (hence my doodle).  They shout as loudly today as they ever have.  Their intent is not to put people down but to liberate them to live life fully:

Life is hard;
Your are not as special as you think;
Your life is not abut you;
You are not in control; and,
You are going to die.

These are saying, Okay, got that?  Now we’re ready to live:

‘they are not self-centred; their energy is typically no bent on dominating their environment as much as finding a way to function within it harmoniously’.**

Philip Newell points to life being richer where things happen between people rather than in people:

‘We find our true centre not within the limited confines of our own individuality, family, or nationhood but within the connections between us.’^

There’s a difference between just wanting stuff and needing to provide for the mission we’re on.

There is nothing contradictory between this and Csikszentmihalyi’s self which claims the autotelic person’s goals mostly originate within her or him:

‘A person who pays attention to an interaction instead of worrying about the self obtains a paradoxical result.  She no longer feels like a separate individual, yet herself becomes stronger.’**

(*From gapingvoid’s blog: Where’s my trophy?)
(**From Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.)
(^From Philip Newell’s The Rebirthing of God.)

What’s that in your hand? (the recyclers)

You may think there is something else you need when you already have enough to begin.

The very thing you love is the place to look more closely.  Hugh Macleod says it simply:

‘The more you love, the harder you work.’*

Love not only provides you with what you need but also to take it further for the benefit of others, providing you with the sensitivity to find your way through the thing that stands in your way.  As Richard Sennett sees this, how instead of cursing something, to treat it as something to love:

‘when something takes longer than you expect, stop fighting it […] The identification a good craftsman practices is selective, that of findings the most forgiving element in a difficult situation’.**

It is your love for something that will take you through the pain and hurt that will surely come when pursuing the things that matter most to you.

Who’d have thought that love is such a crucial element of making more of what is already in your hand?

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in writing of the flow we seek to find for our lives points to this being where we are most alive, that is, most imaginative and creative as a species:

‘In fact, according to some views of evolution, complex life forms depend for their existence on a capacity to extract energy out of entropy – to recycle waste into structured order. […] all life on earth is ultimately made possible by dissipative structures that capture chaos and shape it into a more complex order.’^

This, we might argue, is one of the most critical challenges for our species today.  We may even see the development of a new hominid species – to take the waste we make and turn it into something hopeful instead of simply living with it.  Stephen Pyne writes of how are relationship with fire is different for us to those who went before us, instead of tending fire, making fire :

‘If tinder were nearby, the toolmaker became a fire maker.  Home erectus would maintain but probably not until Homo sapiens could humanity make it.’^^

Roz and Ben Zander write about the human capacity of turning around what spirals down, transforming it:

‘It is about restructuring meanings, creating visions, and establishing environments where possibility is spoken – where the buoyant force of possibility overcomes the pull of the downward spiral‘*^

When it comes to what is in your hand – the thing that allows you to recycle the chaos, what Richard Sennett calls ambiguity and the Zander’s the downward spiral – Warren Berger provides us with some helpful questions:

‘What do you want to say?  Why does it need to be said?  What if you could say it in a way that has never been done?  How might you do that?’^*

Csikszentmihalyi offers three practices of people who are able to cope with chaos and transform it into something more hopeful.  They are unselfconsciously self-assured, which I interpret as having humility, a true sense of Self (who they are and what they can do); they focus their attention on the world, which I translate as looking out or have gratitude for what is around them); and they are open to the discovery of new solutions, that is, they initiate (or are faithful for making something new out of what their humility and gratitude brings to them – the practice of letting go and letting come).^

One thing more I will add is that we were never meant to do this alone.  You need to join with others.  It’s a critical step and if you’re not prepared to do this, you may never really appreciate what you have in our hand:

‘It’s time to show up.  Find your people and get your show on the road.’⁺

(*From gapingvoid’s blog: Love is the only driver.)
(**From Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.)
(^From Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.)
(^^From Stephen Pyne’s Fire.)
(*^From Rosamund and Benjamin Zander’s The Art of Possibility.)
(^*From Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.)
(⁺From gapingvoid’s blog: Leaders 4 Leaders.)




What will you make out of this?

Shapes loom out of the darkness, uncertain and unclear: but the hooded stranger on horseback emerging from the mist need not be assumed to be the bearer of ill…

The night is large and full of wonders…*
(Lord Dunsany)

We all are haunted by something deep inside us, and often, a lot of our best work is the result of us trying to come to terms with this.

So what began life as a negative, over time became our greatest creative asset.  If that’s not a primary form of spiritual redemption, I don’t know what is.**
(Hugh Macleod)

Don’t write that person off.  There’s more to them than meets your eye, than meets their own eye.

We all get things wrong, make mistakes, but some of the most valuable things in life can be found among the most difficult experiences, even when we get things horribly wrong:

“The good things which belong to prosperity are to be wished, but the good things that belong to adversity are to be admired.”^

Too soon do we give up on others, give up on ourselves.

It’s a grace thing.

Grace isn’t some magical, pixie-dust thing.  Basically it’s a realisation that there’s nothing to stop us from keeping going: the universe and God aren’t going to get in our way.   No matter what has happened, we can begin again, a kindness we make available to ourselves and to others.

There is more.

(*Lord Dunsany, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From gapingvoid’s blog: Spiritual redemption.)
(^Seneca, quoted in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.)

Believing is seeing

It is so absolutely quiet that each person can hear the heartbeat of the person to his right or his left.*
(Alan Lightman)

When you change the way you see things, the things you see change.**
(Wayne Dyer)

They sat together listening and talking, expecting to find some beauty in each other.

This had been their choice on entering the room.

(*From Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams.)
(**Wayne Dyer, quoted in Ben Hardy’s These 20 Pictures Will Teach You More Than Reading 100 Books.)

And I, I did not know

Until your dreams become emotional, they won’t be powerful enough.*
(Ben Hardy)

I have no special talents.  I am only passionately curious.**
(Albert Einstein)

We can over-focus on where we have come from – where we were born, our education, our looks and speed and height and such.  What about where we are going – our goals, our choices, our imaginations, our transformations and such

Rather than rue the person we are, better to design rites and rituals to become the person we want to be.

Bernadette Jiwa points to three curiosities: diverse, empathetic and epistemic.^  In other words be curious in a wide as possible way, notice the things you are most deeply curious about and turn these into deeper knowledge by trying them out.

It’s never too late to create our own rites and rituals.  The prefix “re” is a great gift to us.  Now we can recommit, return, realign, recapture, relearn.  When overlaid with daily writing, we spot who we are and what we must do:

“Writing organizes and clarifies our thoughts. Writing is how we think our way into a subject and make it our own. Writing enables us to find out what we know — and what we don’t know — about whatever we’re trying to learn.” ^^

There’s a place in the Judaeo-Christian scriptures telling of when Jacob is on the run, before he became renamed (theres another “re”) as Israel.  He goes to sleep and has a dream about a ladder reaching from the earth to heaven.  In the morning he says, “God was in this place and I did not know,” except the Hebrew apparently says, “God was in this place and I, I did not know.”

Now we can all know who we are and what is our contribution.

(*From Ben Hardy’s blog: These 20 Picture Will Teach you More Than Reading 100 Books.)
(**Albert Einstein, quoted in Wilson McNair’s Hatch.)
(^Bernadette Jiwa, quoted in Wilson McNair’s Hatch.)
(^^William Zinsser, quoted in These 20 Picture Will Teach you More Than Reading 100 Books.)

Adventure or escape

Do not search for the answers, which could not be given to you now,
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now.*
(Rainer Maria Rilke)

There is no greater adventure than to explore every day what it means to be human, not as someone else, but as who we are.

Adventure is to enter into something, escape, to leave something.

When we follow our questions, boundaries become borders to be crossed.

While some search for the perfect job, others create their own.

(*Rainer Maria Rilke, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)