Between the lines

As the Buddhists say, “We don’t see things the way they are, we see things the way we are.”*
(Hugh Macleod)

Life is one big adventure in seeing – and not only physically.

When our seeing goes wrong, life can go wrong.

Take this morning. I began with a visual migraine which usually passes after twenty minutes if I lie down in the dark. What I hadn’t seen was that I’d set the timer for twenty five hours not twenty five minutes!

Here are two things to help us see better.

I beginning a journaling experiment today with my journaling by using a printed book rather than blank notebook. I’m using Keri Smith’s Wreck this Journal, which I’d begun to use over two years ago, though hadn’t really managed together through – now it’s become something quite different.

A book with a lot of white space is obviously best. I’m intrigued, though, to see what I will notice as I use what is on each page of Smith’s book alongside my journaling between the lines.

The second thing to try out involves six steps for improving an idea, proffered by Bernadette Jiwa** and which I use now as six ways to improve my seeing:

Focus: This involves finding a place of attention, free from distraction, perhaps involving solitude and silence.

Notice: Look around, see what there is to see, look slowly and closely, deepen your gaze; you certainly have far more materials and resources than you first believed.

Question: Use humble inquiry to go beneath the surface, to ask how this connects with this, or doesn’t; holding two or more thoughts side-by-side allows them to ask questions of each other.

Discern: What emerges from these steps, signals of some possibility?

Predict: Is there something new, a new thought, a new piece of work that you begin to imagine and can shape and form that you now see, though couldn’t before?

Try and test: Make this new thought happen in some small way, allowing you to see if this is something that can leave a small dent in the world.)

(*From gapingvoid’s blog: Why you watch everyone making the same mistakes … over and over again.)
(**See Bernadette Jiwa’s Hunch.)

Bigger people

Will cannot run very far ahead of knowledge, and attention is our daily bread.*
(Iris Murdoch)

You are good when you are one with yourself. […] In your longing for your giant self lies your goodness: and that longing is in all of you.**
(Khalil Gibran)

Someone close has not had a good experiencing of leaving her work. It got me thinking about how easy it is just to express goodness and kindness to someone. It’s there inside each of us so we must ask, what’s preventing it from coming out?

Khalil Gibran answers someone asking about good and evil in this way:

‘Of the good in you I can speak, but not of evil For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst.’**

We have to feed our goodness. Seth Godin suggests that:

‘when you are bearing a grudge, it’s difficult to open your arms to the possibility that’s all around us’.^

Whether an individual or organisation, not feeding our goodness has other implications. Bernadette Jiwa reflects on the lives of a number of innovative people – Einstein, Jobs, Dyson, Fleming:

Yes, these were smart people, but their discoveries and innovations were born from their prolonged practice of being curious, empathetic, and imaginative.’^^

Crazy. Something that costs us so little, but, when missing, robs us of so much.

Theory U identifies three turnings or thresholds required to arrive at a place of greater imagination, implying that goodness is indeed something we can learn and feed:

When we turn from judgement (closed minds) to openness;
When we turn from cynicism (“it may be important but who cares”) to compassion;
When we turn from fear (“this has implications”) to courage.

Our daily bread, Iris Murdoch suggests, is Attention. Noticing more, more deeply, as Youngme Moon points out:

‘what matters [more is not] what you are looking at, but how you have committed to see’.*^

It’s how we become bigger people.

(*From Iris Murdoch’s The Sovereignty of Good.)
(**From Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet.)
(^From Seth Godin’s blog: You can’t be curious and angry at the same time.)
(^^From Bernadette Jiwa’s Hunch.)
(*^From Youngme Moon’s Different.)

Habits of creativity

There is some effort, apparently, to try and centre one’s life with the centre of the universe […].*
(Bill Moyers)

What does the world need most […] that we are uniquely able to provide?**
(Warren Berger)

Some believe we overuse the word creativity.

I believe we need to look more closely at what we mean, especially at how we sustain this – our habits of creativity.

Creativity means imagining what does not exist and bringing it into being.  Because we are each curious about something different, talented in different ways, creativity is very diverse.  There’s never been an age quite like ours for being able to find some way of expressing ourselves.

This can both mean there’s a load of tosh about as well as valuable creativity.

Around what it is we want to bring into being there needs to be patterns of habits that make it possible.  It won’t be just one or two habits but a creative mesh of habits that hold us to what we want to bring into being and to be able to do this in a sustainable and expansive way.

Taking some time to identify these in order to develop and hone them is in itself an expression of our creativity.

(*Bill Moyers, from Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)
(**From Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.)

Everyone can play

It comes to this, that poetry is a part of the structure of reality.  If this has been demonstrated, it pretty much amounts to saying that the structure of poetry and the structure of reality are one, or should be.*
(Wallace Stevens)

Great art is able to display and discuss the central area of our reality, our actual consciousness, in a more exact way than science or even philosophy can.**
(Iris Murdoch)

When Wallace Stevens places poetry and reality together, he takes me to Johan Huizinga writing about playfulness and poetry, and how playfulness and seriousness are one.

When he goes on to write:

‘the humble are they that move about the world with the lure of the real in their hearts,’*

he is saying to me that everyone gets to play.

It may not be poetry for us  but that doesn’t matter – poetry is not the doorway, humility is.

We each can be humble and chose our playfulness.

(*From Wallace Stevens The Necessary Angel.)
(**Iris Murdoch, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Salvation by Words.)

Sight lines

the humble are they that move around the world with the lure of the real in their hearts*
(Wallace Stevens)

In shaping life beyond the Bubble, many visions will be needed.**
(Peter Senge)

These are the bubbles we can find ourselves living in, the kind that separate us from reality.

Bubbles like, only ten per cent of the world’s measured wealth actually exists in coins and notes and bullion.

Or seeing the world as an environment that we live in and can use like the local shop, when actually we’re part of the environment and everything we do do has implications for ourselves and everything.

There’s another kind of bubble, suggested by Alan Lightman in his novel on creation.  His character Nephew reflects:

“As I recall, space first appeared in a minuscule round bubble that sat quietly in my mind.”^

This kind of bubble is the beginnings of an idea, the power of the imagination required to create something that allows us to live outside the false bubbles we create for ourselves, with a reality that we have taken the time to notice.  It feels like Seth Godin is bringing these things together when he writes about telescopes and microscopes, both means of seeing but in different ways:

‘It pays to look at opportunity with a telescope.  It’s real, but it’s distant.  The telescope brings it into focus and helps you find your way there.  Telescopes are easy to find if you look for them.

And it often pays to look at trouble with a microscope.  Not to get intimidated by the amorphous blob that could snuff out your dreams, but instead to look at the tiny component parts, learning how it is constructed and taking away its power.  Once you realise how it’s built, you can deal with it.’^^

There are three “whispering” exercises that are about seeing, each finds us spending time in reflection – in quietness, stillness, slowness:

Anapana is about gathering, our openness to what is, to more;
Vipassana is about allowing these thing to speak to us, to take form as what wants to be, to find “root-space” in our hearts;
Metta is about extending these imaginations and possibilities into something for others, into something tangible.

(*From Wallace Stevens’ The Necessary Angel.)
(**From Peter Senge’s The Necessary Revolution.)
(^From Alan Lightman’s Mr g.)
(^^From Seth Godin’s blog: Telescopes and microscopes.)

A measured life

“I would like to go around and have each one of us, one at a time, and without questions or interruptions, tell us how you individually would like to be measured and what he concept of measurement means to you.”*
(Ed Schein)

Listening for passion and commitment is the practice of the silent conductor when the players are sitting in the orchestra, in the managementment team, or on the nursery floor.**
(Roz and Ben Zander)

We say, there’s no place like home.

To be at home where we are and with what we do is to be valued above all else.  To be at home in our own bodies, our own lives, is what we ultimately seek to be measured by.

In his blessing To Learn From Animal Being, John O’Donohue reflects on how other species live in our world and how this can be harder for us:

‘Stranded between time
Gone and time emerging,
We manage seldom
To be where we are:
Whereas they are always
Looking out from
The here and now.’^

Human consciousness leads us to many different things; we cannot tell each other what this must be, only help each other find it.

‘If [the teacher] is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.’^^

So we each must find who we are and what it is we must do, and that to be our measurement.  To know this measurement is to find the one universal measurement of love:

‘Love is not something you do; love is someone you are.’*^

I close with more of O’Donohue’s blessing for each of us.

‘May we learn to walk
Upon the earth
With all their confidence
And clear-eyed Stillness
So that our minds
might be baptised
In the name of the wind
And the light and the rain.’^

(*From Edgar Schein’s Humble Consulting.)
(**From Rosamund and Benjamin Zander’s The Art of Possibility.)
(^From John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us: To Learn From Animal Being.)
(^^From Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet.)
(*^From Richard Rohr’s The Divine Dance.)

You have what it takes (and I never knew)

And our goal is nothing less than a complete description of the universe we live in.*
(Stephen Hawking)

Talking to people I’ve never met before is my adventure.  It’s my joy, my rebellion, my liberation.  It’s how I live.  Here’s why.  When you talk with strangers, you make beautiful and surprising interruptions in the expected narrative of your daily life.  You shift perspective.  You form momentary meaningful connections.  You find questions whose answers you thought you knew.  You reject the ideas that make us so suspicious of each other.**
(Kio Stark)

Everyone knows something we don’t know.

Perhaps they don’t even know this about themselves; perhaps only in sharing what they know with another will they discover what they have to bring.

We miss out on the wonder of discovering what one another knows, often because we measure it wrongly:

‘”Offer me something I’m passionate about and I’ll show up with all my energy, effort and care.”  That’s a great way to hide.  Because nothing is good enough to earn your passion before you do it.’^

Or before we hear it.  Allowing ourselves the time and space to listen to the stories of others leads us towards change:

“Narratives that cause us to pay attention and also involve us emotionally are the stories that move us to action.’^^

It’s only in being attentive to another’s story that we know what they have to bring.  It is only in hearing our own story, which may emerge in the telling to someone else, that we find we have something to offer:

‘There’s something you haven’t said, something you haven’t done, some light that needs to be switched on, and it needs to be taken care of.  Now.’*^

Erich Fromm caught my eye when he wrote:

‘Equality today means “sameness” rather than “oneness.”^*

I’m connecting this with Seth Godin’s observation, above.  We want people to be the same as us rather than to discover a dynamic oneness in which each bring their unique knowledge, imagination and ingenuity.

(*From Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.)
(**From Kio Stark’s When Strangers Meet.)
(^From Seth Godin’s blog: Work before passion.)
(^^Paul Zak, quoted in The Story of Telling: The 5 C’s of Story Structure.)
(*^From gapingvoid’s blog: How to be creative.)
(^*From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving.)

Recreating the creation

Listen to your life.
See it for the fathomless mystery that it is.
In the boredom and pain of it
no less than in the excitement and gladness:
touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it
because in the last analysis all moments are key moments,
and life itself is grace.*
(Frederick Buechner)

“Mandala” is the Sanskrit word for “circle,” but a circle that is coordinated or symbolically designed so that it has the meaning of cosmic order.  When composing mandalas, you are trying to coordinate your personal circle with the universal circle. […] Making a manual is a discipline for pulling all those scattered aspects of your life together, for finding a centre  and ordering yourself to it.  You try to coordinate your circle with the universal circle.**
(Joseph Campbell)

We live in a time of flux, having moved away from ancient paths that have guided our ancestor’s lives and only beginning to find new ones.  Add to this the speed and complexity of change that previous generations could not have imagined and we can be left feeling disconnected from ourselves, others, the world and something larger.

I don’t see these paths, what have been traditionally labeled spiritual disciplines, as linear but as patterns.  Some words from Ed Schein on an industrial accident ring true for our personal lives:

‘The problem is that in a [linear] search for a root cause, the organisation is likely to overlook that the situation just before the accident was a complex, messy one and there generally is no root cause, only an unfortunate combination of circumstances.’^

With such complexity and randomness at play, we require patterns of thinking, feeling and doing that allow us to be more than a force to meet these – as Frederick Buechner intimates in our opening words for today.  Patterns provide us with adaptive advantage.

We need to understand how those who have gone before us were not expressing something we don’t need now, but, in their own ways expressing something we all need as humans – perhaps more so than ever.  Bruce Chatwin shares about the the Aboriginal Australians’ ancient longlines:

‘[Arkady Volchok] went on to explain how each totemic ancestor, while travelling through the country, was thought to have scattered a trail of words and musical notes along the line of his his footprints, and how these Dreaming-tracks lay over the land as “ways” of communication between the most far-flung tribes. “A song,” he said, was both map and direction-finder.  Providing you knew the song, you could always find your way across country.’^^

Country … life … times … complexity.  There are ways of finding our way.  Those who have gone before have left us clues to help us.  Chatwin continues:

‘Aboriginals could not believe the country existed until they could see and sing it – just as in the Dreamtime, the country had not existed until the Ancestors sang it.’^^

Which feels like connecting with the universal circle, something each generation must be creative in doing, and which is helpful for every person up to a point, but when complemented by an individual’s personal “recreating the creation,” this becomes even more powerful.

(*Frederick Buechner, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From Jospeh Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)
(^From Edgar Schein’s Humble Consulting.)
(^^Arkady Volchok, quoted in Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines.)

This is what I see and this is what I see

Nobody can predict the future.  That doesn’t mean you can’t feel it.*
(Hugh Macleod)

But when looking at the [humming] bird, suspended in space, I don’t think numbers or gravity.  I just watch and am amazed.’**
(Alan Lightman)

Alan Lightman the scientist has iterated the various numbers relating to how fast a humming bird’s wings move, how fast their heart must beat, but when he observes this tiny creature, he sees something else – something wonderful, amazing.

It is important to notice more but hidden within this information there are also signals.

Those who notice the signals becomes guides to us.  When we attune to the signals, we become guides to others.

(*From gaping void’s blog: How to stay calm in the face of uncertainty.)
(**From Alan Lightman’s Searching For Stars on an Island in Maine.)

Who’s not here?

“Who’s not here?” might be the most important unasked question.*
(Seth Godin)

Every day, we have access to vast amounts of information that we unconsciously collect. […] If we train ourselves to become more observant, if we pay attention – to our surroundings, to other people, to what’s happening that shouldn’t be, or what’s not happening that should be – our most mundane experiences can fuel our boldest and most brilliant ideas.**
(Bernadette Jiwa)

Some of the most important life-changing and planet-changing meetings of people have never occurred.  Right now, there are people who have contributions to make with others that will never emerge because they will not meet each other.

Of course, there are millions upon millions of such possible encounters waiting to happen, or not.  Life seems to be most dynamic in these accidental encounters.  One of the good things about the internet is that it makes more of them possible.

Church is now possible everywhere.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: Who’s in the room?)
(**From Bernadette Jiwa’s Hunch.)