The difference in today

When love beckons you, follow him.  Though his words are hard and steep.*
(Khalil Gibran)

The larger lesson here is that we can help our friends, our co-workers, our employees, and ourselves when we remember that love and caring matter.**
(Dan Ariely)

Love and caring don’t require a larger budget or more hours to be found.  Indeed, there’s every possibility that existing budgets and hours will reduced because love and caring speeds up our imaginations, collaborations and making.

Erich Fromm writes about how society must not be allowed to separate us from our basic loving nature:

‘Society must be organised in such a way that man’s social, loving nature is not separated from his social existence, but becomes one with it.’^

Our purpose and meaning lie beyond the economic where lives become commodities to trade:

‘All activities are subordinated to economic goals, means have become ends, man is an automaton – well-fed, well-clad, but without any ultimate concern for what which is his peculiarly human quality and function.  If man is to love, he must be put in his supreme place.  The economic machine must serve him, rather than he serve it.  He must be enabled to share experience, to share work, rather than, at best, share profits.’^

We have yet to see what loving and caring can achieve.

We know it well as we count the things that matter most to us, that make life better, that change things, and yet these insights fail to be carried into working places and into our politics.  Yet loving and caring are ways of making the invisible visible, the unimagined tangible.  It’s all around more practical than we allow:

‘As people feel connected, challenged, and engaged; as they feel trusted and autonomous; and as they get more recognition for their efforts, the total amount pf motivation, joy, and output for everyone grows much larger.’**

These words from Dan Ariely connect with what I have read heard from others, including Robert Greene and Peter Diamandis, that we may consider to be about love: what matters to us as humans is to live with autonomy, to do something well and to live for a purpose greater than ourselves.

Such love has implications for more than our species, as Peter Senge helps to make us aware:

‘A regenerative society is about life flourishing, not just human life.’^^

The difference in today is simply you.

“When your mind is filled with love, send it one direction, then a second, a third, and a fourth, then above, then below.  Identify with everything without hatred, resentment, anger or enmity.  The mind of love is very wide.  It grows immeasurably and eventually is able to embrace the whole world.”*^

(*From Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet.)
(**From Dan Ariely’s Payoff.)
(^From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving.)
(^^From Peter Senge’s The Necessary Revolution.)
(*^The Buddha, quoted in Karen Armstrong’s Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.)


The same old story (I get so many things wrong)

What happens to us matters a great deal, but even more powerful are the stories we repeat about what happened.*
(Seth Godin)

Technology, publicity and propaganda everywhere promote the competitive spirit and afford means of satisfying it on an unprecedented scale.**
(Johan Huizinga)

The Christian apostle Paul was probably being compared to super-apostles when he admitted his own weakness, concluding, “When I am weak, then I am strong,” and pointing to the relationship he had with his god.

Perhaps he could have also said of the community he was writing to in Corinth, “When we are weak then we are strong.”

These days, we’re more likely to come together in our projected strengths and rightness:

‘what Aristotle calls alazony: the hyperbole or boastfulness that is nicely captured by the modern term “bigging up”’.^

Brené Brown uncovers some of what we are hiding by this:

‘We’ve sorted ourselves into factions based on our politics and ideology.  We’ve turned away from one another and toward blame and rage.  We’re lonely and untethered.  And scared.  So damn scared.’^^

We’re scared of so many things and seem to find it every more difficult to find one another and to share these things, to admit we’re wrong and to learn more:

‘Some people don’t like to pivot- they think it looks weak. […] The thing is, pivoting isn’t  a sign of weakness. Pivoting is a sign that you learned something today that you didn’t know yesterday.’*^

Yesterday I had the joy of visiting the story hut that is visiting the University of Edinburgh for an alternative learning week.  An old shepherd’s hut, the wheeled space hosts eight people, keeping them cosy with a wood-burning stove and is filled with all kinds of thing to stimulations the senses – instruments from different countries, boxes with questions and objects inside of them, fine carving, old toys (spinning tops), old photos and more objects than I can remember.  I picked up the two centimetre tall model of Pinnochio, finely crafted and had to tell the story of David, someone I knew who worked in printing during the day but made models, rich with detail in his non-work time.

Imagine a space in which we can tell stories to one another, just our very human stories, without the need to “big up,” to be with one another, just as we are, and out of these stories dream a brave new world.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: The repetition of stories.)
(**From Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens.)
(^From Anne Pirrie’s Virtue and the Quiet Art of Scholarship.)
(^^From Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness.)

(*^From gapingvoid’s blog: The one thing to do when things aren’t working.)

Why should I follow you?

The root of the word “education” is e-ducere, literally to lead forth, or to bring out something, that is potentially present.*
(Erich Fromm)

Some people want to be rich.  Some people want to be famous.  Personally, I think you’re better off aiming to find work you love and that you find meaningful, because you can control that. […] Finding work that you love is much more doable.  It takes a little grit and patience.  And if you do manage to pull it off, you suddenly find yourself with superpowers.  Hurrah!**
(Hugh Macleod)

Only follow me if you think the path I am on will help you find your own.

As for me, I have found a path I can play upon, that daily takes me deeper into play.  Because of this, I only hope it will be of help to others.

(*From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving.)
(**From gaping void’s blog: The best way to get famous.)

The concentrated life

A style lives from the same things as play does, from rhythm, harmony, regular change and repetition, stress and cadence.*
(Johan Huizinga)

Most people are products of their time.  Only the rare few are its creators.**

Sometimes I find myself wondering about all the things that do not exist because we cannot yet imagine them.  And yet they are there, lying dormant within millions upon millions of lives, like seeds in the ground, waiting to spring forth, some to try and fail, others to grow into something quite exceptional.

Some playful focus of exploration and experimentation will find our concentrated lives:

‘One cannot learn to concentrate without becoming sensitive to oneself.‘^

(*From Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens.)
(**From Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Ursula K. Le Guin on Spare Time.)
(^From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving.)

The game is on

And some?  Some relentlessly raise expectations, establishing a standard that it’s hard to imagine exceeding.  And then they do.*
(Seth Godin)

Through January, I’ve been reading Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens an exploration of how playfulness was a part of human life before civilisation, how it has become separated from seriousness in our thinking and lost from our daily lives in experience.

Other useful reads alongside Huizinga’s script are James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games and Lewis Hyde’s The Gift.  Then, if we’re really being playful, we’ll add all manner of texts and see what emerges when these thoughts and ideas meet.

We’ll each have different ways of playing with knowledge; my personal set of categories are technology, environment, art, society and entrepreneurship – which I have just noticed forms the acronym TEASE, which even sounds playful.

Sometimes we’re playing but we do not see this as what we are doing.  If we could build on this, make it more a part of our life for how we see things, feel things and make things, then all manner of possibilities would emerge we cannot yet imagine, but then we hold back or don’t value our playfulness as we ought, and we lose.

Playfulness can be both presencing and absencing – this is another of the things Huizinga makes clear in his writing, although he doesn’t name it so.

Presencing means we are opening our minds, hearts and wills to more and are living for the sake of others:

‘No one can play a game alone.’^^

Absencing means we close our minds, hearts and wills and are living for ourselves or a small group of others and is more dangerous than we know.

You are here, though.  You are a player.

Simply being willing to take a second longer look at this possibility is to begin to play.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: Relentlessly lowering expectations.)
(^^From James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.)


What else can you do?

Like Buddha and Jesus, who knew that they couldn’t control our lives, but could infuse lives with their selves, we have been graced with a few people.*
(Anne Lamott)

figuring out your life has become figuring out your job, which is still coming from an industrial revolution mentality’**
(Patrick Dodson)

To be able to do one thing really and noticeably well is something beautiful.

Take a closer look, though, and it’s likely that there’s something else you do really well, something that adds a different dimension to what you do well, that means it will only keep developing, setting you apart.

The great thing is, when it comes to kind of space that exists in our world for remarkable, there’s more than plenty.

Hugh Macleod counsels, then,

‘Be good at two things.’^

Otto Scharmer encourages us to notice:

‘Attend.  Listen to what your life calls you to do.’^^

Patrick Dodson’s remark, above, reminds us that there is a larger world beyond the industrial revolution mindset.  Life is about helping each other to find it.

(*From Anne Lamott’s Hallelujah Anyway.)
(**From Patrick Dodson’s Psychotic Inertia.)
(^From gapingvoid’s blog: Be good at two things.)
(^^From Otto Scharmer’s Theory U.)

The important life

Your problem is not that your are incapable but that you are lazy.*
(Eugene Peterson)

Following a flow experience, the organisation of the self is more complex than it had been before.  It is by becoming increasingly complex that the self might be said to grow.**
(Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

We can be tempted by many things that promise much more than they can deliver, less than what it is we most want to do.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s claims flow frees us from ‘both selfishness and conformity,’** which are our greatest temptations: to get an advantage or to fit in.

Eugene Peterson identifies what it is that falls between the extremes of temptation:

‘We complete our personality only as we fall into place and service in the vital movement of the society in which we live.’*

It is the important thing you must do, for which there are no short cuts, easy ways or glitzy rewards:

‘Where your pain is, there is your life, you might say.’^

(*From Eugene Peterson’s Run With the Horses.)
(**From Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.)
(^Joseph Campbell from Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)

Playing with the unknown

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities but in the expert’s there are few.*
(Shunryu Suzuki)

Wisdom happily lives with mystery, doubt, and “unknowing,” and in such living, ironically resolves that very mystery to some degree.  I have never figured out why unknowing becomes another kind of knowing, but it surely seems to be.**
(Richard Rohr)

We often measure our day by what we have already known and what we are able too imagine.  But life and the universe are very big, unfolding places and how do we measure a day against the things we do not know, neither can we imagine?

Perhaps the gap is another form of measure.

For Umberto Eco this was a library of 35,000 books, most of which he’d never read, a reminder for him of how much he didn’t know.

It will be our playfulness that carries us into what we do not know, playfulness containing seriousness rather than seriousness containing play – just as the infinite carries the finite within it whilst the finite struggles to contain the infinite:

‘The spirit of playful competition is, as a social impulse, older than culture itself and pervades all life like a veritable ferment. […] We have to conclude, therefore, that civilisation is, in its earliest phases, played.  It does not come from play like a babe detaching itself from the womb: it arises in and as play, and never leaves it.’^

We are all players, every one of us.

(*Shunryu Suzuki, quoted in Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.)
(**From Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.)
(^From Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens.)

The best of all worlds

If you see a good deal remarkable in me I see just as much remarkable in you.*
(Walt Whitman)

Because it is the purpose of infinite players to continue play, they do not play for themselves.**
(James Carse)

There are games of presencing, games that take us deep into knowing feeling and acting positively in relationship to others, to our world and to ourselves.

There are also games of absencing.  These also are played in relation to others, the world and ourselves, but in ever smaller, limiting ways, closing our minds, shrinking our hearts, inhibiting our behaviours.

Of course, we can all find ourselves playing one or other game at different times in different places, with different people.  The thing is, we get to choose which game we want to play.  We can switch from absencing to presencing when and if we want to.  One leads us into more, the other into less:

‘a universe of possibility stretches beyond the world of measurement to include all worlds: infinite, generative, and abundant’.^

(*From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.)
(**From James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.)
(^From Rosamund and Benjamin Zander’s The Art of Possibility.)