Running away

The world would be better for our being here if we started every day with the tension of being missed tomorrow.*
(Bernadette Jiwa)

But what about the rest?  What about the ones […] who can’t even put words to their dreams?**
(Hugh Macleod)

Some people are running away from their past, others are running from their future.

Running from the past may look like we’re running towards the future, but it can be just running.

Running from the future may look like we’re valuing the present, but it can simply be an avoidance of change.

I believe a person’s future can be so many things that it’s not possible to open it all.

Something will be missed because of tiredness or distraction, something will be held back on … just in case something else is going to appear.  We’re not omniscient or omnipresent or omnipotent.  Accepting our limitations will make it possible to open something of our future and this will be more than enough, and I am sure, life will grow bigger.

Another term for what is at play here is indifference.  Not worrying and even ignoring some of the possibilities for the ones that matter most to us.  We need to listen to our bodies, to our lives, hear what they are saying to us.  It’s not just a head-logical-linear thing; it’s whole messy body thing:

‘The philosopher proves that the philosopher exists.  The poet merely enjoys existence.’^

We love certainty, but somewhere between our certainties, we need to get lost.  Here’s a blessing for doing just this from John O’Donohue:

‘May the Angel of Awakening stir your heart
To come alive to the eternal within you,
To all the invitations that quietly surround you.


May the Angel of Wildness disturb the places
Where your life is domesticated and safe,
Take you to the territories of true otherness

Where all that is awkward in you
Can fall into its own rhythm.’^^

Here is the you we will miss.

(*From The Story of Telling blog: Missed.)
(**From gapingvoid’s blog: Deciding who needs a hand.)
(^From Wallace Stevens’ The Necessary Angel.)
(^^From John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space between Us: A Blessing of Angels.)

We’re not done yet

We are human becomings, after all.

Joseph Campbell writes of a story he finds being told in many beliefs and religions through the millennia:

‘Have you been spiritually reborn?  Have you died to your animal nature and come to life as a human incarnation of compassion?’*

It’s a journey of becoming fully human and we do not know what we can become.

Jesuit Bernard Lonergan claims:

‘conversion is the experience by which one becomes an authentic human being”.**

In its most universal form, conversion is moving from this to this, a capability we seem to have in abundance, though we can be held back.

So forgiveness becomes a huge deal when it comes to setting one another and ourselves free from our pasts, hence the doodle today.

The Jesuits also emphasised indifference as a critical attitude towards what we must let go of if we are to move into a brighter future.

Whilst forgiveness can be more about when things go wrong, indifference can be more about letting past successes (or dreams of certain kinds of success) go so we can move on.

The future can beckon in these two forms, too.  There can be thing that is wrong or not working right and we want to do something about it.  There’s can also the dream of something, we don’t know where it comes from, and it seeds itself in our imaginations and we wonder, What if … ?

We’re not done yet.  We’re just beginning.

(*From Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)
(**Bernard Lonergan, quoted in Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now.)


The first day

You’ve got to say yes to this miracle of life as it is, not on the condition that it follows your rules.  Otherwise, you’ll never get through to the metaphysical dimension.*
(Joseph Campbell)

We make our biggest contribution when we dare to do what only a handful will do.  Being one of the few is underrated.**
(Bernadette Jiwa)

I wish that I could describe the blue of the sky that awaited me this morning.

On a crisp, still, icy morning I looked up in awe at the sky that was later than night but not yet morning.  Soon a new day would begin and I couldn’t help but ponder:

What if this were the first day of a new possibility?

A day in which I could whole-mindedly, -heartedly and -bodily invest myself.

What is the story I will tell myself towards this?  Before the other stories kick in?

What will be the thing I do that is different to what others are doing?

It’s true of every day, it’s real for each of us:

‘The most important things in life require that you bring your own urgency.  Passion is the fuel that brings urgency.’^

(*From Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)
(**From The Story of Telling’s blog: One of the Few.)
(^From Erwin McManus’ The Last Arrow.)

Our best imaginations

Yet the imagination gives to everything that it touches a peculiarity, and it seems to me that the peculiarity of the imagination is nobility, of which there are many degrees.*
(Wallace Stevens)

Erwin McManus writes of how we seek three things: honour, nobility and enlightenment.**

Wallace Stevens suggest that the lack or disappearance of nobility is possibly ‘a maladjustment between the imagination and reality.’*

To discover or rediscover our imagination – each person’s tinted by different curiosities and interests – is to step into our peculiar nobility and to recognise one another’s.

Our imaginations are as real a thing as the reality they face.

They not only see something differently but engage the creative self in making this possible, in some way or other.

It is why I feel we will learn to be truly human and survive.

(*From Wallace Stevens’ The Necessary Angel.)
(**From Erwin McManus’ Uprising.)

Did you see that?

The familiar, precisely because it is familiar, remains unknown.*
(Georg Hegel)

Do we measure or weigh our lives by what we have been able to see or by what we have missed?

Hugh Macleod writes about the adventure life is:

‘If you’re lucky, eventually you get to the point when your realise that, while you were here you had an amazing time of things.  What a trip!  What an amazing adventure!


We may not be immortal, and we may not ever be free of suffering.  But we still have tons to be thankful for, thankful for existence itself.’**

What a shame to miss what is right under our noses.

I happened to hear some video game reviewers talking about the amazing reality in the soon-to-be-launched Red Dead Redemption II.  They were wowed about the detail to be experienced in the ordinary mundane things of life which are included in this game.  But this morning, I’d stepped outside to greet the day and, with the Winter approaching, noticed the cold seep through my clothes and bite at my skin.  And in the noticing, I was thankful.

Wallace Stevens writes of the poet:

‘His role, in short, is to help people to live their lives.’^

When we notice something and bring the attention others to it in some way – and the wonderful thing is, all notice something different – then we are acting like Stevens’ poet, helping people to be present to the one amazing life we have, rather than absent.

(*Georg Hegel, quoted in John O’Donohue’s Echoes of Memory.)
(**From gapingvoid’s blog: What are you thankful for?)
(^From Wallace Stevens’ The Necessary Angel.)

Here’s hooping

How much did your organisation spend figuring out its values? […] statistically speaking you have just created a document that will be the source of one of the top five greatest reasons for contempt, demotivation, disloyalty, and turnover in your organisation. […] Organisations list values.  But they don’t live them.  And people hate that. […] They would rather not have organisational values than to see leaders live their opposites.’*
(Nancy Kline)

The ego self is by definition the unobserved self^, because once you see it, the game is over.**
Richard Rohr)

A value that doesn’t lead us into surprise is probably a value not worth having.

When Seth Godin encourages us to make better promises –

‘More generous.  More urgent.  More personal.’^ –

he’s opening up the possibilities for surprising others in a good and healthy way.

I’m re-reading James Carse’s book on finite and infinite games and he writes about how surprise is what the master player of finite games wants to avoid.  Introducing this master player, he writes:

‘It is the desire of all finite players to be Master Players, to be so perfectly skilled that nothing can surprise them, so perfectly trained that every move int he game is foreseen at the beginning.  A true Master Player plays as though the game is already in the past, according to a script whose every detail is known prior to the play itself.’^^

A value seen from the perspective of the finite game’s master player must either have known outcomes or not be allowed to get in the way of the overall outcomes, the only surprise should be their opponent’s:

‘Surprise in finite play is the triumph of the past over the future.’^^

This is not so for the infinite player, with values being their to explore, expand and express:

‘Infinite players, on the other hand, continue their play in the expectation of being surprised.  If surprise is no longer possible, all play ceases.  Surprise causes finite play to end; it is the reason for infinite plays to continue.’^^

So much of what we call learning is in fact training, learning to negotiate the different sizes and colours of hoops:

‘To be prepared against surprise is to be trained.  To be prepared for surprises is to be educated.^^

I hope the reason for the finite player and finite organisation in quashing surprise is only because they’re not finding or making time to notice what is happening and how there’s a better way.  To slow down, to give one another a chance to think and speak and listen, holds out hope rather than hoops and, as Kline points out:

‘Slowing down speeds things up.’*

Here’s a blessing for surprise from John O’Donohue that we can live towards one another:

‘As a bird soars high
In the free holding of the wind,
Clear of the certainty of the ground,
Opening the imagination of wings
Into the grace of emptiness
To fulfil new voyagings,
May your life awaken
To the call of its freedom.’*^

May your life be hoopless.

(*From Nancy Kline’s More Time to Think.)
(**From Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now.)
(^From Seth Godin’s blog: Make better promises.)
(^^From James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.)
(*^From John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us: For Freedom.)

Patiently impatient

Perhaps the life we long for is beyond the point of no return.*
(Erwin McManus)

Some things we have only as they remain lost, some things are not lost only so long as they are distant.**
(Rebecca Solnit)

I took a moment to gaze at the beautiful dark cloud-mottled sky this morning as it waited for the arrival of the dawn.


Wonder cannot be rushed.

We have to slow down to wonder.

I then read these words from John O’Donohue:

‘The sense of wonder can also help you to recognise and appreciate the mystery of your own life.’^

Whether the object of our wonder be without or within, it will not appear quickly:

‘But most of the turns, we don’t even see.  We’ve trained ourselves to ignore the. […] a choice isn’t often easy.  In fact the best ones rarely are.’^^

Choice is freedom and it comes from noticing more.  When we see more, we feel more, and when we feel more, we are able to do more.

Rebecca Solnit’s words, above, come from her reflecting on how the blue of distance disappears as we move towards it.

This blueness is a thing.  And it is not only a physical phenomenon but also a metaphor for our lives as we journey from here to there.

I take a moment to look up from Solnit’s words and the sky is ablaze with colour as the sun fires with orange the underside of the clouds.  I cannot keep this picture alive.  The sun will rise and the colour will evaporate, and will have to turn away and get on with my day.  But for a moment longer I stare.

Alan Lightman catches my attention as he writes about Absolutes.  He has been lying in a boat staring up at the stars:

‘I felt connected not only to the stars but to all of nature, and to the entire cosmos.  I felt a merging with something far larger than myself, a grand and eternal unity, a hint of something absolute.’*^

As a theoretical physicist, Lightman knows what these stars are made of and yet there is more to Absolutes than the physical:

‘Absolutes are rooted in personal experience, but they involve beliefs beyond that experience.  A fascinating feature of Absolutes – in fact, a defining feature – is that there is no way to get there from here, that is, from within the physical world.  There is no gradual, step-by-step path to go from relative truth to absolute truth, or to go from a long period of time to eternity, or from limited wisdom to the infinite wisdom of God.  The infinite is not merely a lot more of the finite.  Indeed the unattainability of the Absolutes may be part of their allure.’*^

I found myself thinking about how, whilst I am able to help people explore their dreams and identify their talents and help them choose the next steps, they will not automatically find their purpose and meaning within the universe.

Perhaps, on the way, something else happens?  If I slow down, if I take time to gaze awhile into the blueness.

I used to describe myself within the organisation I worked for more than thirty years as being patiently impatient.  I wanted things to happen but I was prepared to wait for the right time. Looking back, I don’t think I understood or found the rhythm for this.  Maybe now things are different.

The sunrise and its colourful garments are now passed but maybe something of its wonder has seeped into me, just a little, and maybe it has touched my soul a smidgen – this absolute me.

(*From Erwin McManus’ The Last Arrow.)
(**From Rebecca Slnoit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost.)
(^From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(^^From Seth Godin’s blog: Degrees of Freedom.)
(*^From Alan Lightman’s Searching For Stars on an Island in Maine.)

We’ve already won the lottery

In coils of wave, winding in dance, the sea
is too fluent to feel its own silence,
only for the sure gaze an grip of shore
it would not know itself to the the sea.*
(John O’Donohue)

What would you like to accomplish with the rest of your life?**
(Nancy Kline’s mum)

While some want to win some or other kind of lottery, we miss seeing how just being here is the great prize.

Whether we indebt ourselves to the universe or nature or god or chance, here we are … and here is another day … and what shall we do?

Perhaps many times the things we want to escape by winning some or other lottery are the very things that help us to see that we have Enough and what we need is some way of unwrapping this.

By the way, I’ve not coloured today’s doodle in so that you can whilst pondering the question.

(*From John O’Donohue’s Echoes of Memory: Expectations.)
(**From Nancy Kline’s More Time to Think.)

Back to the beginning

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.*
(T. S. Eliot)

Yesterday, writer and pastor Eugene Peterson died.

Twenty years ago, in his book Under the Unpredictable Plant, Peterson provided me with the words that would help me to set out on a new trajectory, my slow journey in the same direction.

Back then, I would read of how he was ready to give up on the pastoral work he had once felt himself called to, though no longer, and I was ready to give up, too:

‘Every few days or so another pastor gets out of bed and says, “That’s it.  I quit.  I refuse to be a branch manager any longer in a religious warehouse outlet.  I will no longer spend my life marketing God to religious consumers.  I have just read the job description the culture handed me and I am buying it no longer.’**

I think it was Peterson who also introduced me to T. S. Eliot’s words about exploration.

Peterson would agree with his concerned congregation that he would focus on writing and pastoring and they would do everything else.  He was to remain there another twenty years producing some of his richest work.

Here I am at my own twenty year point.  Back then, I had no idea where Peterson’s encouragement would lead me.

I still do not know.

This is not the destination, only somewhere on the journey that is less about geography and more about playfulness with ideas.  (The journey and the exploration is different for everyone.)

It had been a chance encounter, though.  I had been lent the book by friends and I had promptly returned it, but the words and concept remained with me.  More recently, I have read Peterson’s Run With the Horses and A Long Obedience in the Same Direction but it is those original words that have been the most powerful.

There are two things that come from this experience for me.

One is that there’s always an opportunity to take a different direction in life and it’s closer than we think.

The second thing is that I want to hold such a possibility before each person I meet and work with.

This is my simple thank you to Eugene Peterson for putting the words out there so that one day a person like me could trip over them and get up to walk in a different direction.

(*From T. S. Eliot’s Little Gidding.)
(**From Eugene Peterson’s Under the Unpredictable Plant.)

The genesis foyer

Desire leads to conception and conception leads to birth.  This is the efficiency of desire.*
(Philip Newell)

Desire is also at the heart of creativity.  When we engage creatively, we depart from the fixed world of daily routine and grounded facts.  We enter into a kind of “genesis foyer,” where something that not yet is right begin to edge its way from silence into word, from the invisible into form.**

Nancy Kline writes about the people who struggle to enter into her communal thinking environments.  They are driven by, she would say addicted to, the control, urgency and certainty.  Such things are the enemies of creativity, including the encouraging of creativity in others.

They need to be replaced with respect, ease and interest.^

One way leads us into thoughtless make more faster space, the other into the genesis foyer where the things others really need begin to take form.

(*From Philip Newell’s The Rebirthing of God.)
(**From John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us.)
(^See Nancy Kline’s More Time to Think.)