You are worthy and so am I

In the vast abyss before time, self
is not, and soul commingles
with mist, and rock, and light. In time,
soul brings the misty self to be.
Then slow time hardens self to stone
while ever lightening the soul,
till soul can loose its hold of self
and both are free and can return
to vastness and dissolve in light,
the long light after time.*
(Ursula Le Guin)

You will never regret offering dignity to others.**
(Seth Godin)

Dignity is not so much something we give to others but recognise in them.

We may think of ourselves as better than others or think that others are better than us but when we zoom out we see how many of the differentiating factors we’ve been noticing are lost.

Erich Fromm confesses for himself and all of us when he writes:

‘There is nothing in the patient that is not in me.’^

We each find ourselves on a journey bringing “the misty self to be.”  We try to be open to see more, feel more and, so we might express our dignity to others, do more:

“Each thing we see hides something else we want to see.”^^

Which feels as though we areliving within a compelling story – something every life is more than able to do.

Wallace Stevens provides us with another way of seeng this, how the artist has the ability to take reality within their imagination.  Not in order to hide or obliterate reality, but for something new and subtle to be shaped, what I am imagining to be our compelling story:

“[The artist] must be able to abstract himself and also to abstract reality, which he does by placing it in his imagination. … It’s imperative for him to make a choice, to come to a decision regarding the imagination and reality; and he will find that it is not a choice of one over the other and not a decision that divides them, but something subtler, a recognition that here, too, as between these poles, the universal interdependence exists, and hence his choice and his decision must be that they are equal and inseparable.”*^

I am coming to see how it is our compelling story that emerges when we interact with all of our environments, as Stevenshelps us to see.

James Carse provides us the means of seeing life as finite and infinite games.  Dignity and worth are part of our infinite games of including as many as possible for as long as possible, wherein, if either of these are threatened by the rules, we change the rules so the game may continue for as many as possible:

‘But since that [infinite] play is always with others, it is evident that infinite player both live and dies for the continuing life of others.’^*

(*How it Seems to Me by Ursula Le Guin, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Neil Gaiman Reads Ursula K. Le Guin’s Ode to Timelessness to his One-Hundred Year Old Cousin.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: Justice and dignity: the endless shortage.)
(^From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Listening.)
(^^Rene Magritte, quoted in Erwin McManus’ Soul Cravings.)
(*^Wallace Stevens, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Wallace Stevens on Reality, Creativity, and Our Greatest Self-Protection From the Pressure of the News.)
(^*From james Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.)

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The playful universe

More than anything, savouring is about gratitude. […] It is about keeping in mind that you live right now, allowing yourself to focus on the moment and appreciate the life you lead, to focus on all that you do have, and not what you don’t.  Clichés?  Absolutely.*
(Meik Wiking)

The universe has produced a playful creature.  Full of imagining and possibility, playing with ideas, making “rough sketches” and then attempting to build what they have seen inside their minds.  There seems no end to what they can see inside their heads and make outside their bodies.

If we lose our playfulness, we lose our future.  Johan Huizinga reminds us that we do not have to chose to be either playful or serious:

‘we must not think of seriousness degenerating into play or of play rising to the levels of seriousness […] civilisation gradually brings about a certain division between two modes of mental life’.**

If we can bring these modes of thinking together again, we’ll find there’s so much more to this moment.

(*From Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge.)
(**From Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens.)

I was made to do it

We often choose to do what feels good above what makes sense.  The ideas that spread, the products that sell and the services that get used, appeal to the thinking, feeling customer.  And so should you.*
(Bernadette Jiwa)

Measure and comparison have fled.  It is up to you how much of the immeasurable becomes reality for you.**
(Martin Buber.)

No one made you do it.  It was your choice.

Knowing ourselves better allows us to make necessary change and, subsequently, better choices.

Taking responsibility for who we are and what we want to make happen are keys to opening a more hopeful future.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi introduced his book on flow in this way:

Flow will examine the process of taking control over one’s inner life. […] “Flow” is the way people describe their state of mind when consciousness is harmoniously ordered, and they want to pursue whatever they are doing for its own sake.’^

This ability to know and to participate fully in what we want to do changes everything.

The next time you feel as though someone or some thing has made you think or behave in a particular way, why not step back, turn your attention to your choice and decide what you really want to do?

(*From The Story of telling blog: The Thinking, Feeling Customer.)
(**From Martin Buber’s I and Thou.)
(^From Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.)

False imagination

The path of least resistance is a poor teacher.*
(Ryan Holliday)

It is important to believe that the visible is the equivalent of the invisible; and once we believe it, we have destroyed the imagination; that is to say, the false imagination, the false conception of the imagination as some incalculable vates within us, unhappy Rodomontade.**
(Wallace Stevens)

It’s not only our thinking that needs to be trained.

At some point we have to move our imagining into making something happen.

Our bodies have to be trained to get in the game, to make them move from here to there, to do this or that.

To take the notebook and open it up to begin writing and drawing out what is in the mind, to write the proposal, to pick up the phone, to schedule some time with the colleague to forward what we have in mind.

Every time we do this we learn something about who we are and what we want to do.

Johan Huizinga would probably tell us that our goals and the necessary moves are all part of a game.

Any imagination that doesn’t move us into the game is false imagination.

(*From Ryan Holliday’s The Obstacle is the Way.)
(**From Wallace Stevens’ The Necessary Angel.)

Life is hard …*

Imagining possible futures is also where we must face both our deepest fears and greatest hopes.*
(Alex McManus)

There is that in me … I do not know what it is ,, but I know it is in me.^
(Walt Whitman)

We become more who we are by leaning into our challenges and the difficulty rather than trying to avoid these.

Beyond these lie possibilities that will never appear through avoidance.

We are also changed, and the imagination is where all of this begins, as Alan Lightman alludes to:

‘One thing I have learned: the mind is its own place.  Regardless of natural conditions and circumstances, even of biological imperatives, the mind can contrive its reality.  The mind can make hot out of cold and cold out of hot, beauty from ugliness and ugliness from beauty.  The mind makes its own rules.’^^

Perhaps the most powerful things we can work upon in our imaginations are our values, what we want the world to be and begin to see the little iterations and steps forward.

In reflective journaling, we have a powerful tool to help us and when we add illustrations to our writing, we stay with the important somethings even longer, as Tom Hart opens for us:

‘Through the process of writing and drawing our story, we can understand ourselves, communicate with parts of ourselves, and sometimes find ourselves face-to-face with our own complexity.  With our own largeness.  Through sharing, we assert our individuality, our expansiveness, and our humanity.’*^

Furthermore, when we become more adept at using writing, and even illustrations, we become more truly what artists essentially.  I use Wallace Stevens words to embrace artists in the widest sense –  meaning, when we find what we love and make this available to others.  By the way, Stevens believed we must bring the power of our imaginations to challenge the pressures of reality:

‘[The artist’s] function is to make his imagination … become the light in the minds of others.  His role, in short, is to help people to live their lives.’^*

(*The first of Richard Rohr’s elemental truths learned in ancient societies by boys moving into manhood, but true for us all.  I think it is needing to be completed: ” Life is hard but …”.  How would you complete this?)
(**From Alex McManus’ Makers of Fire.)
(^From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.)
(^^From Alan Lightman’s Mr g.)
(*^From Tom Hart’s The Art of the Graphic Memoir.)
(^*Wallace Stevens, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Wallace Stevens on Reality, Creativity and our Greatest Protection Against the  Pressure of the News.)

I mean it

And the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps then, someday far in the future,
you will gradually,
without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.*
(Rainer Maria Rilke)

So what don’t we have enough of?  It’s not stuff!  Short answer: Mattering.  Making a difference.  Doing something important.**
(Hugh Macleod)

There’s a lot of talk about whether we ought to pursue our passions and dreams.  A lot of it is polarised.  Hugh Macleod helpfully distils the issue down:

‘the thing you don’t want to do is work at a job that you hate and not prosper in the process.  That is purgatory’.^

He’s right.  It has to be the worst of all scenarios.  Play this out against what Johan Huizinga extracts from his studying of ancient agonistic play.  By the time I read the following words about an earlier age, he’s already pointed out that play preceded civilisation, not only being a part of human life but also that of other species:

‘Our point of departure must be the conception of an almost childlike play-sense expressing itself in various form, some serious, some playful, but all rooted in ritual and productive of culture by allowing the innate human need of rhythm, harmony, change alternation, contrast and climax, etc., to unfold in all richness.’^^

There’re some important words here for our understanding of work and passion, sharpening the focus on whether there is playfulness in what we do.  Playfulness seen in the forms and iterations of rhythm, harmony, change alternation, contrast and climax.  There are more words to add to these.  Huizinga continues to describe this earlier time:

‘Coupled with this play-sense is a spirit that strives for honour, dignity, superiority and beauty.  Magic and mystery, heroic longings, the foreshadowing of music, sculpture and logic all seek form and expression in noble play.  A later generation will call the age that knew such aspirations “heroic.”‘**

Playfulness is how we become more human, if such means we’re exploring honour, dignity, superiority (mastery),beauty, magic, mystery and heroic longings.

Macleod suggests we’re not searching for more stuff but more mattering.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi would probably include success as simply being more stuff:

‘Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it your target, the more you are going to miss it.  For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue … as the intended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.’*^

If you’ve ever seen the Peanuts cartoon in which Charlie Brown paints targets around the arrows he’s already fired into the fence – so he hits the bulls-eye every time – then maybe you’re thinking Charlie didn’t have it all wrong.

What matters to you more than anything else?  What are your questions?  What have you been up to all these years and maybe not noticed everything it comprises?

The inductive life wins over the deductive.  What’s important to you is likely to be already inside you, a story wanting to get out.  Perhaps passion is just the name we give to this when it breaks out.

It’s hard, though.

Humans have returned to explore this in one way or other throughout the millennia – I’ve not blogged about it once or twice but for more than five years with over 1,800 articles.  It takes time and effort – forget anything that promises easy steps:

‘The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.  Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen.’*^

Don’t give up on passion.  Grab your biggest questions and go with them.

(*Rainer Maria Rilke, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From gapingvoid’s blog: Our infinite need to be meaningful.)
(^From gapingvoid’s blog: For the love of work.)
(^^From Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens.)
(*^From Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.)