The uninquirer?

Living the same old same old (SOSO) and What You See Is All There Is (WYSIATI) is like trampling back and forth over soil until it becomes so hardened that it is hardly capable of growing anything.

But curiosity and inquiry can break open the most trampled down lives:

I was just barely holding onto the principle that the brain that generates the question usually generates the best answer.*

(*From Nancy Kline’s More Time to Think.)

A broken spirit and a contrite heart

It’s true that how we spend our days is how we end up spending our lives.*
(Bernadette Jiwa)

What if the life we are meant to live requires a broken spirt and contrite heart as we yield to who we are and to what must bring?

Just a thought.

“A dream,” he said, “as it goes whiffling through the night air, is making a tiny little buzzing noise. But this little buzzy-hum is silvery soft, it is impossible for a human bean to be hearing it”**

(*From The Story of Telling: Always, Sometimes, Never.)
(**From Roald Dahl’s The BFG.)

The person who jumped and became a hero

The hero is the person who finds their purpose in life and pursues it.

Some people are pushed and become a hero.

Others jump:

In all these tales, the hero begins by looking around his society and finding that something is missing […] decides to leave home, turn his back on everything safe and find a different answer.*

We don’t want to simply exist, we want to make a difference, for someone or something. There are as many possibilities as there are people. It’s how we move forward:

constant and longterm exchanges between many people may have no “economic” benefit, but through them society emerges where there was none before.**

What’s is it that you notice is missing and you must pursue?

(*From Karen Armstrong’s Twelve Steps To a Compassionate Life.)
(**From Lewis Hyde’s The Gift.)

Complexity to complexity

We use our imagination not to escape reality but to join it, and this exhilarates us because of the distance between our ordinary dulled consciousness and an apprehension of the real.*
(Iris Murdoch)

we transgress not because we build the new but because we don’t allow ourselves to consider what it disrupts or diminishes. We are not in trouble because of invention but because we think it will solve everything**
(Sherry Turkle)

I may have mentioned this before.

I was once involved in setting up a walk-through experience of communication through the ages. Based on Rex Miller’s book The Millennium Matrix, four spaces were created to mark the ages of communication: oral, print, pixels and bits and bytes. In between each of these were liminal spaces marking the transitional times of change.

Seven rooms in all.

I was part of the group of guides helping others to pass through each and pointing out to those who completed the journey that they now knew something others did not – tens of thousands of years of human tradition to call on when understanding and creating the new present.

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) defines competence in this way:

Competence is the ability to meet important challenges in life in a complex world.^

Increasingly complex times means change is happening more rapidly then ever, the liminal spaces appearing greater than those they connect. Yet we are complexity, too. Diverse individuals and communities bringing imagination to bear on reality.

As in all things, this complexity doesn’t express itself without practise, and this is perhaps one of the greatest challenges we face: to utilise our own complexity.

Some of the most important depth we can give to competency is to know something of our human past, how we have faced great challenges and overcome, finding ourselves possible of more than resilience. Rebecca Solnit caught my attention when describing her friend Marine, whose musical competency is deep, providing a metaphor for our imagination and how we hone it:

Marine was too interested in being a musician to be a real three-chord punk rocker, so she gravitated towards the more ornate and les ideological realms of rock and roll proper. She had a surprising knowledge of obscure cultural things, not only the classical music that had been part of her family’s life since a great-grandfather had hung out with great composers. She’d suddenly describe someone as having a beard like De Sade’s, empty an obscure term, wax lyrical about the baroque era or Saint Anthony’s temptations. I remember the delight she took in the profusely illustrated Audubon insect guide she acquired when she was living in Santa Monica, her fascination with the exotic species crawling around that subtropical global crossroads.^^

(*From Iris Murdoch’s The Sovereignty of Good.)
(**From Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together.)
(^The OECD, quoted in Maureen O’Hara and Graham Leicester’s Dancing at the Edge.)
(^^From Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost.)

Amazing technology

In short, the human being of the future, Homo techno, will be part animate and part inanimate, a hybrid of living animal and machine, a heart and soul fused to a computer chip. Everything will be changed. Everything is already changing.*
(Alan Lightman)

In play we may move below the level of the serious, as the child does; but we can also move above it – in the realm of the beautiful and the sacred.**
(Johan Huizinga)

Our journey as humans is not simply into complexity but always towards the simplicity possible on the far side of complexity, endeavouring never to lose ourselves in the machine, resisting becoming technology’s slave, but to be explorers of the beautiful and the sacred in which we feel ourselves most alive.

In the universe’s eyes, you are already the most amazing of “technologies.”

(*From Alan Lightman’s Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine.)
(**From Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens.)

Anyone good at maths?

There are a hundred billion neurons in the average human brain, and each neuron is connected by long filaments to between a thousand and ten thousand other neurons.*
(Alan Lightman)

Those filaments are where we find our individuality and our connection with a bigger world. All the choices we’ve made, the things we’ve been curious about and endeavoured to find out more about, and then getting creative over some things and not over others.

They’re not a fixed number, new ones getting thrown out by neurons and connecting to others all the time.

It’s absolutely amazing and it’s why I keep telling people there’s never ever been anyone else like them in all of human history.

And it all means that thing you feel you must do, that’s unique, too; I just hope you bring it. Perhaps today?

(*From Alan Lightman’s Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine.)

The askesis and the scenius

A sacred space is not a place to hide out. It is a place where we recognise ourselves and our commitments.*
(Sherry Turkle)

[Scenius:] a whole scene of people who are supporting each other, looking at each other’s work, copying from each other, stealing ideas and contributing ideas**
(Brian Eno)

Not to be confused for one another.

Askesis is the inner place where we identify and embrace who we are and what we must do.

A scenius is that one person to many with whom we’ll make a ruckus, as Seth Godin would put it.

Something common to both is listening, not only with ears and eyes but also with hearts. Listening is an art I’m still trying to learn; it involves putting ourselves “one down,” effectively saying to one another “this is about you, not me.”

(*From Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together.)
(**Brian Eno, quoted in Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work.)

In the long run

The essential thing “in heaven and earth” is […] that there should be a long obiedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.*
Frederick Nietzche)

There is a higher truth to all of this. Admitting it will get you laughed at.**
(Hugh Macleod)

Funny how the thing we most want to do is the same thing that gets us into the most trouble, but we know, keeping going along this path is the only way to make sense of life.

(*Frederik Nietzche, quote in Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.)
(**From gapingvoid’s blog: Why the messenger gets shot.)

When apps replace myths

The ancient myths were designed to harmonise the mind and the body. The mind can ramble off in strange ways and want things that the body does not want.*
(Joseph Campbell)

So much of this happens beneath the level of logic and reason. It’s all gut, instinct, memory, sensory information, and fantastically subtle cues. In networked spaces – online, in apps, in games – this all goes to hell. The body is missing.**
(Kio Stark)

Kio Stark is describing what happens when strangers meet.

We can widen this to include connecting with ourselves, with our world and with our god. At the heart of which is listening and generous inquiry.

Listening helps us to find our stories, our myths.

When these are in place, technology may help, but when not, it only get in the way. Jonah Lehrer offers some interesting thoughts about how interaction with our environment changes our DNA:

Our human DNA is defined by its multiplicity of possible meanings, it’s a code that requires context. […] What makes us human and what makes each of us his or her human is […] how our cells, in dialogue with our own environment, feed back to our DNA, changing the way we read ourselves.^

Listening reduces and even removes the barriers between us and our stories, making it possible to hear and capture these more richly:

Intentional silence: Pick a practice that helps you connect to your source.^^

Here are a couple of things to help aid listening: doodling is about listening, slowing down – dawdling to hear more: journaling is a means of curating our story.

(*From Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)
(**From Kio Stark’s When Strangers Meet.)

(^From Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist.)
(^^From Otto Scaharmer’s Theory U.)

A never ending story*

Either by the trials themselves or by illuminating revelations. Trials and revelations are what it’s all about.**
(Joseph Campbell)

Whatever the reasons change comes, when it does, there seems to be three Events that instigate change: Contact with outsiders, Significant events, and Epiphanies.^
(Alex McManus)

The Teacher announces:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away […].^^

The list is a much longer one, recognising life is often experienced most fully between apparent opposites. The largest of these may well be doing and being, the inner world and the outer.

What we find between the apparent opposites is the life of the protagonist, here described by Robert McKee:

We give ultimate value to those things that demand ultimate risk – our freedom, our lives, our souls. This is far more than an aesthetic principle, it’s rooted at the deepest source of our art. We not only create stories as metaphors for life, we create them as metaphors for a meaningful life. To live meaningfully is to be at perpetual risk. […] If, should the protagonist fail, life would go back to normal, the story is not worth telling.*^

I make no attempt to tell you what this protagonist life means for you. It is profoundly unique to every person; I only know it’s there to be discovered and expressed:

That’s why they always have blank pages at the back of the atlas. They’re for new countries. You’re meant to fill them in yourself.^*

(*I had Limahl’s Never Ending Story playing in my mind as I wrote.)
(**From Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)
(^From Alex McManus’ Makers of Fire.)
(^^Ecclesiastes 3:1, 6.)
(*^From Robert McKee’s blog: A Little Risk Goes a Long Way.)
(^*The BFG in Roald Dahl’s The BFG.)