Listen to your life.
See it for the fathomless mystery that it is.
(Frederick Buechner)

Interiority refers to a richer perceptual universe and awareness of self.
(Peter Senge)

I know and can do some things but do not know and cannot do others – this is humility.

I do not know and do enough but there is so much more out there – this is wonder.

If I live in humility and wonder, more will open – this is grace.

Playing the game of giving and receiving

And as these two strangers moved past, they greeted each other, just a simple greeting.  A remark about the sun in the sky.  One of them said something to the other, they exchanged smiles, and then the moment was gone. […] Was this some kind of love?  I wanted to follow them, to touch them, to tell them of my happiness.  I wanted to whisper to them: “This is it, this is it.”*
(Alan Lightman)

When we give something, we are offering to play.

An item, a question, an action, a gesture.

Then we wait.  We wait to see if the other will play.  If they will receive this and enter into the game that life seems to be made of.

(*The character “Nephew” in Alan Lightman’s Mr g – a story about creation.)

I was wrong

Holiness and play always tend to overlap.  So do poetic imagination and faith.*
(Johan Huizinga)

And in all the seriousness of truth, listen: without It a human being cannot live.  But whoever lives only with that is not human.**
(Martin Buber)

I get things wrong a lot of the time.

I need to admit it.  After that, I need to get back into the game that is life and it takes playfulness rather than seriousness to try again, to reconnect to the story that I want to live rather than how I messed things up.  The universe wants us to get on and play, not to dwell on the bad but to play the good game.

(*From Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens.)
(**From Martin Buber’s I and Thou.)

When anger is attention

To be a moral human being is to pay, be obliged to pay, certain kinds of attention.*
(Susan Sontag)

I have used the word “attention,” which I borrow from Simone Weil, to express the idea of a just love gaze directed upon an individual reality.  I believe this to be the characteristic and proper mark of the active moral agent.**
(Iris Murdoch)

I hope I’m not an angry person but I do get angry.  How about you?

It’s not a good thing to get angry at everything and it’s not good to be angry at nothing.  Our lives become unfocused when to be human asks us to be angry about something.

Nassim Taleb reminds us as even as he is reminding himself:

‘I believe that I need my emotions to formulate my ideas and get the energy to execute them.’^

Anger is an emotion we need in order to focus and act.  Our speed of moving from one to the other is the key:

Why do I feel like this?
What is happening for this person?
How can I turn this around?
How can I bring some good?

When we turn our attention to what we feel angry about then something transformational happens.

In another of his books Taleb offers:

‘when some systems are stuck in a dangerous impasse, randomness and only randomness can unlock and set them free’.^^

Anger is an emotion and anger is also randomness.

I read these words from John O’Donohue, a blessing to a friend who is visited by illness, and thought how helpful they are for bringing our attention to anger, so I’ve replaced the word illness with anger:

‘May you find the wisdom to listen to your anger:
Ask it why it came.  Why it chose your friendship.
Where it wants to take you.  What it wants you to
What quality of space it wants to create in you.
What you need to learn to become more fully
that your presence may shine in the world.’*^

The mention of friendship makes me to think about the thing we are most angry about may be the thing we’re here to do something about.

(*Susan Sontag, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Existential Therapy From the Universe.)
(**From Iris Murdoch’s The Sovereignty of Good.)
(^From Nassim Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness.)
(^^From Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile.)
(*^From John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us: For a Friend on the Arrival of Illness.)

Joc partit

Everything He gives you to do,
you must do as well as ever you can.

That is the best possible preparation
for what He may want you to do next.*
(George MacDonald)

The past and present wilt … I have filled them and emptied them,
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.**
(Walt Whitman)

Joc partit was a game of question and answer, from which we have derived the English word “jeopardy.”  To use Hugh Macleod’s phrase, it is a game played between “wakers”:

‘A waker is someone who is very good at waking someone from their metaphorical slumber, temporary or otherwise.’^

Seth Godin describes one of four elements of entrepreneurship as not being dissuaded from doing things that may not work – and by the way, to be human is to be an entrepreneur, albeit some more reluctantly than others:

‘This one is the most amorphous, the most difficult to pin down and thus the juiciest: They embrace (instead of run from) the work of doing things that might not work.’^^

That doesn’t look good on the C.V., though.  Some prefer to stay put, to repeat their past in the present, rather than open their future and possibly the futures of others.

What will you do next?

(*George MacDonald, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.)
(^From Hugh Macleod’s Evil Plans.)
(^^From Seth Godin’s blog: The four elements of entrepreneurship.)

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.)

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.)