Faithfully does it

May you never be isolated but know the embrace
Of your anam cara.*
(John O’Donohue)

You have a squad, but it’s small and not everyone in your squad is going to agree or do the same thing.  But, truthfully, you hate those kind of squads anyway.**
(Steve Alley)

As I complete an online workshop, one of the things I want to do is connect with a handful of people from among the thousands that have been involved, to talk slowly into the new year about the things we’re trying to make happen.

Anam cara is Gaelic for soul friend, the kind of person who gets what we’re about.  They may be quite unlike us but that’s an important feature in this tribe.

A lot of what we will be doing will find us on our own, but to know there’s a group of people who understand this and are there for us, is huge.

Brené Brown shares this interesting conversation between Maya Angelou and Bill Moyers:

‘MOYERS: Do you belong anywhere?
ANGELOU: I haven’t yet.
MOYERS: Do you belong to anyone?
ANGELOU: More and more.  I mean, I belong to myself.  I’m very proud of that.  I am very concerned about how I look at Maya.  I like Maya very much.  I like the humour and courage very much.  And when I find myself acting in a way that isn’t … that doesn’t please – then I have to deal with that.’**

As we journey into 2019, may we be faithful to who we are and what we must do.

But know there are others out there who would be there for you, if they could be, encouraging you on and thankful for your encouragement of them.  They’re not “yes  people” but they are your tribe, trying to make some kind of dint in the world’s you are.

We don’t go into the new year alone; perhaps finding one another is one of the things the year will include for us.

(*From John O’Donohue’s Anam Cara.)
(**Brené Brown’s husband Steve Alley, quoted in Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness.)
(^From Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness.)

A particular beauty

Presence is about observation, presencing, and realising.*
(Senge, Scharmer, Jaworski and Flowers)

I … a universe of atoms … and atom in the universe**
(Richard Feynman)

Everyone has a different presence to bring.

For a while, a few moments in eternity, we bring our particular beauty into view …. and then it is gone.

It is quite unlike the particular beauties of others, made up of the things we have dropped into our “cluttered drawers” over the years, sometimes purposefully, other times because we don’t know where else to put something.  I borrow “cluttered drawers” from Anne Lamott:

‘But it comes from within, from love, from the flow of the universe; from inside the cluttered drawers.’^

No-one’s drawer is empty; that would be to say it is possible to live without experiencing.  It’s about how and what kind of story we bring together from what we find in the drawer.

(*From Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski and Betty Sue Flowers’ Presence.)
(**Richard Feynman, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: The Universe as an Infinite Storm of Beauty.)
(^From Anne Lamott’s Hallelujah Anyway.)


Every developing human child rests, like all developing beings, in the womb of the great mother – the undifferentiated, not yet formed primal world.  From this it detaches itself to enter a personal life, and it is only in dark hours when we slip out of this again (as happens even to the healthy, night after night), that we are close to her again.’*
(Martin Buber)

We’re all different but it doesn’t just happen.

I read and listen to others every day, noticing how they are different.

I don’t want to be like them; they are helping me to find my different.

It begins with our curiosity, as my friend Alex says, “We are a mystery wrapped in a question.”

Each one of us.

(*From Martin Buber’s I and Thou.)


try to be here.  Which as you know, is the hardest place to be.  Can you be present to this little bit of now?  Get curious …*
(Richard Rohr)

You’re sitting looking at a blank page … space … hour.

How are you going to fill it?

Your mind goes blank.

You look around for some assistance.

Who can help?

What is there to use?

Then your remember.

It’s not what is outside that matters, but what is inside you.

‘If you learn to listen to your curiosity, you will find that you become curious about those things that are different and new. […] Possibilities and the unknown, not the predictable or obvious, make you curious. […] Curiosity pursued is one of the things that allow serendipity to happen.’**

You have overestimated what you need from outside and have underestimated what you carry within, all that has brought you here.

So you bring out your journal, take out your pen and begin to write and to draw:

‘In that special silence, you can hear or see, or get a stronger sense of something that wants to happen that wouldn’t be aware of otherwise.’^

(*From Richard Rohr’s The Divine Dance.)
(**From Frans Johansson’s The Click Moment.)
(^Joseph Jaworki, from Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski and Betty Sue Flowers’ Presence.)

Some things will take a lifetime

They say everyone has a story.  But more than that, everyone IS a story. […] more as an arc, a thing that is becoming a narrative.’*
(Hugh Macleod)

Everyone has a story to tell.  Over the course of a life, we tell so many stories […] We are so used to it that we don’t even think about structuring our stories, or editing parts in or out […] Style, rhythm, panel arrangement, visualisation, structure and even just how do I go through with it anyway?**
(Tom Hart)

Autobiographies don’t have to be written backwards; they are best written forwards.

I think this is going to be my major theme for 2019.

Instead of waiting for circumstances to be just right, exploring and working into the day ahead what we’ve already got to work with.

(*From gapingvoid’s blog: It’s all about the narrative.)
(**From Tom Hart’s The Art of the Graphics Memoir.)

Where is all the scribbling out?

Here are a few things I’ve learned: Everything flows.  All things are relative.  People are good.  The old ways are dying.  Nothing is certain.  Nature knows best.  Control is an illusion.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Not everything goes right; alive with it.  Enjoy the ride.
(Jay Cross)

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)

I was watching a video from Roald Dahl Day 2012 in which the presenter took a camera inside the author’s writing hut, showing all the wonderful things he hoarded, including some pages filled with made up words he was trying out for The BFG, many of them scribbled out because they weren’t going to work.

Scribbling out used to be the thing we did when something was a work in progress, it wasn’t working, or was a mistake, opening up the possibility of moving on and another attempt.  It showed us how we got to where we are.

This no longer physically exists in the eAge.

I enjoyed Jay Cross’ closing words to Informal Learning.  It feels as though there’s a lot of scribbling out in life to arrive at what we want to do.

A little earlier, Cross had written:

“If society lacked deviants and rabble rousers, progress would come to a standstill.’*

These are the people who know they haven’t got it right, but are willing to scribble it out and keep going.  Erich Fromm adds nuance to how we are all heroes with scribblings out:

‘And, actually, every human being is the hero of a drama. […] Hero is a person born with certain gifts, and usually he fails, and his life is a tremendous struggle to make something out of which is born with, fighting against tremendous handicaps.’^

(*From Jay Cross’ Informal Learning.)
(**From Richard Rohr’s The Divine Dance.)
(^From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Listening.)

Specifically unspecific?

When you’re specific, you only find two kinds of people: people who are delighted and the rest.*
(Seth Godin)

Indecision is your greatest threat.**
(Ben Hardy)

Carlos Castaneda wrote about how it doesn’t matter what path you take as long as it has a heart.

If our doesn’t have a heart we must find another path.

This is being specific.  It’s important to know art we must do and do it.  Life is unpredictable, though.  Being able to stick at what we have become able to do is not enough.  What we can do must always be able to move us into what we cannot do yet:

‘When we repeat the same activities day in and day to, we limit our ability to have new experiences.’^

So we wander, we get lost, we explore.  We ways in which we are specific need to be honed in this way.  This is what Richard Sennett insiders as craftsmanship.  It goes deeper, but:

‘As I’ve elsewhere argue, superficiality is put to particular use in modern society.’^^

Sennett is asking, where are the crafts-men and -women today?  I have carried Pamela Slim’s words with me since reading them several years ago: “look for a niche an inch wide and a mile deep.”*^

Why stop at a mile deep, though?

When we are being specific, we find what we are searching for and we keep moving.  In the words of Thomas Merton:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.”^*  

This is being specifically unspecific, when we continue to explore, to get lost on purpose, to step into incompetency, to find possibilities rather than wait for problems:

“When I examine myself and my methods of thought I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.”⁺

This is how we explore the future, the unknown, the unfamiliar, the chaos and randomness of the beyond.

It is where being specific can flourish.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: In search of specific.)
(**From Benjamin Hardy’s article: What Happens When You Take Full Responsibility of Your Life.)
(^From Keri Smith’s The Wander Society.)
(^^From Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.)

(*^See Pamela Slim’s Escape from Cubicle Nation.)
(^*Thomas Merton, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(⁺Albert Einstein, quoted in Jay Cross’ Informal Learning.)


If Procrastes offers you a meal and a bed for the night, politely but firmly decline.

The bed he offers is one of those metal-framed types, and Procrustes wants his guests to fit the bed perfectly, whether they are too tall for it or too short.  So he’ll chop something off his tall guests and stretch his shorter ones – Procrustes means “the Stretcher.”*

Procrustes also goes but the name of Damastes and Polyphemon, so be careful.  Procrustes also hides inside religions and institutions and societies that want you to fit in rather than be who you are; he can even influence parents and teachers and peers and friends to think his way.  Worst of all, his voice speaks inside our heads.

In the wonderful story of a boy and his tree friend Bertolt the little boy is learning how:

‘The only problem is that when you are different, people can laugh at you, or even worse.  Sometime people don’t like what’s different.’**

Anne Lamott offers some hope for letting people be who they are:

‘Kindness towards others and radical kindness towards ourselves buy us a shot at a warm and generous heart, which is the greatest prize of all.  Do you want this, or do you want to be right?  Well, can I get back to you on that?’^

I think the kind of kindness Lamott is describing is about noticing the truth about ourselves and others, the good things and bad, helping each other to navigate the messiness of our lives into something beautiful.

We all struggle with this condition of wanting ourselves and others to fit in, to conform, to get in line, and have to catch our breath, and step back from what we were going to say or do, and help people to be themselves.

Erwin McManus confesses:

‘What I learned from twenty years of indecisiveness is that you will either define yourself or be defined by others.  You will either choose your life or life a life that was never meant to be yours.’^^

Around thirteen years ago, Erwin offered a bed for a few nights of a stay in Los Angeles.  Instead of stretching me or chopping me down, this stay in his home helped me to choose my life in a new way, something I seek to be about every day for myself and others.

(*See Nassim Taleb’s The Bed of Procrustes.)
(**From Jacques Goldstyn’s Bertolt.)
(^From Anne Lamott’s Hallelujah Anyway.)
(^^From Erwin McManus’ The Last Arrow.)

Prints of peace

May you be blessed with good friends,
And learn to be a good friend to yourself,
Journeying to that place in your soul where
There is warmth, and feeling.
May this change you.*
(John O’Donohue)

I found myself thinking of the advantages of a peaceful way.

If we’re always living aggressively with others and ourselves, as in irksomely or at-odds-with, we reduce what we’re able to receive and hold on to and work with and, consequently, what we’re able to give.

Sometimes an “I’ll show them” attitude is just what is needed but not all the time, perhaps not even for very long at all.  It gets us going but then what are we going to do?

Peace is about finding the growing place, releasing our imaginations to roam and capture and open up more possibilities than we can make possible in turmoil.  It doesn’t mean you can’t have edge, you can’t be wild; something John O’Donohue reminds us off in another place:

‘The Irish word “Uaisleacht” means nobility; it also carries echoes of honour, dignity and poise.  A person can be wild, creative and completely passionate and yet maintain Uaisleacht.’ 

(*From John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us: For Friendship.)
(**From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)