Welcome to Protopia

Protopia is a state of becoming, rather than a destination. It is a process. […] This subtle progress is not dramatic, not exciting. It is easy to miss because a protozoa generates almost as many new problems as new benefits. […] It is a process that is constantly changing how other things change, and, changing itself, is mutating and growing. It’s difficult to cheer for a soft process that is shape-shifting. But it is important to see. […] We are constantly surprised by things that have been happening for 20 years or longer.*
(Kevin Kelly)

[George Eliot] believed that the most essential element of human nature was its malleability, the way each of us can “will ourselves to change.”‘**
(Jonah Lehrer)

For me, a dreamwhisperer, protopia as a state of becoming is rich with possibilities for what we can expect throughout our lives:

Lifelong learning is the mindset of possibility. It is built on the idea that we can grow if we simply show up, ready to learn.^

It’s simply the best place to reinvent ourselves as we must – the world constantly changing around us.

I have met those who hope for some change in their lives, change that is both dramatic and fast, but the process must be slow. As Kevin Kelly points out, it brings new problems as well as solutions.

These problems are important, though, because they often are where we can grow the most.

(*From Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable.)
(**From Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist.)
(^From Seth Godin’s blog:
Lifelong connection.)

Paths of scarcity and abundance

Sharing is something we teach to little kids, but in real life, we’re much busier keeping track of who’s up and who’s down in an endless status game.*
(Seth Godin)

Collaboration is a competition – of us against ourselves. Us being the group – versus ourselves alone. To get the best results, we need to push ourselves past the point of ourselves.**
(Hugh Macleod)

By definition, one path must narrow until only one can walk it, the other path must widen so that many are able to walk together.

In another place Seth Godin writes:

But the effective, just and important thing to do is to help the back of the line catch up.^

I imagine Karen Armstrong adding to the argument:

I was at once impressed by the phrase ‘make place for the other.”^^

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: Toward abundant systems.)
(**From gapingvoid’s blog: How to leverage the laws of nature to build better outcomes.)
(^From Seth Godin’s blog: The real law of averages.)
(^^From Karen Armstrong’s Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.)

Is it working yet?

When these skilled and energetic young people from all around the world started to work together, another virtue of the migrant economy became apparent. Not only did migrants provide skills but they also stimulated creativity. People with different backgrounds and ways of thinking spurred each other on to produce ideas.*
(Douglas McWilliams)

Look Look Look Look Look Look Look! I’m running away with my imagination.**
(Ruth Krauss)

Douglas McWilliams published his book The Flat White Economy a year before the UK’s European Referendum. He suspected but didn’t know how arguing over immigration would play out a year later. He did know that all figures suggested the cost to the UK economy over ten years if immigration were restricted would be far more than £200 billion, the kind of loss that will leave us all 6% worse off.

Something more from what he writes is how you can’t cherry pick when it comes to immigration because, whilst you may know what already exists and needs filling job-wise, you have no idea what will happen when determined, bright, imaginative people find each other and create new things you hadn’t thought of.

Thousands of years earlier the “Teacher” had written of his hope that people would enjoy their food and their work, even if they couldn’t fully understand the past or know the future:

He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover, he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.^

All these years later no one fully understand the past or knows what will happen in the future, but we do know that people can imagine some incredible things and, make just a little part of the future more visible, making a difference for others on the way:

Creating the future does not begin with a plan. It begins with a dream. And when someone acts on a dream it creates a spark.^^

(*From Douglas McWilliams’ The Flat White Economy.)
(**From Ruth Krauss and Michael Sendak’s
Open House for Butterflies.)
(^Ecclesiastes 3:11-13)
(^^From Alex McManus’ Makers of Fire.)

When stories are foundations

Successful brands have a great story long before they have a grand plan.*
(Bernadette Jiwa)

We can have all kinds of fancy plans for the day but before we get anywhere near them it’s not a bad idea to reconnect with our personal story: connecting to who we are (and so, who others are) and to what is our contribution (and recognising the contribution of others), to our world and perhaps our god.

Build on.

(*From The Story of Telling: Good Stories Drive Great Strategy.)

Be careful with that umbrella

But if we understand that the existential challenge is also an existential opportunity, we can turn neurotic defensiveness into transformational learning.*
(Maureen O’Hara and Graham Leicester)

Curation is the ultimate method of transforming nouse into meaning.**
(Rohit Bhargava)

Yes, everything gets wet when it rains, but unless it’s chaotic rain, things also grow.

Christine and I were relaxing and reminiscing with some old friends about a difficult time last evening. As we chatted, I was thinking, I’m really glad for those difficult experiences and that I didn’t try to hide from them because they have been part of me arriving where I am right now, both for who I am and what I am trying to bring as a gift to others.

I love the sunshine but I know most of my growth has resulted from the rain.

(*From Maureen O’Hara and Graham Leicester’s Dancing at the Edge.)
(**From Rohit Bhargava’s Non Obvious 2015.)

The passionate life of seeing

The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change, until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.*
(R. D. Laing)

Seeing is an art that must be learned and relearned.**
(Peter Turchi)

Erwin McManus writes in his book on living life to the absolute fullness:

The most important things in life require that you bring your own urgency. Passion is the fuel that brings urgency.^

When we notice what we’re passionate about, we have a particular way of seeing, a focused way. The thing about passion is that it not only comes with focus but also with momentum, it carries us forward.

Another thing about passion is that it not only helps us to see more clearly what we know but also what we do not know.

(*R. D. Laing, quoted in Maureen O’Hara and Graham Leicester’s Dancing at the Edge.)
(**From Peter Turchi’s Maps of the Imagination.)
(^From Erwin McManus’ The Last Arrow.)

Tripping the light fantastic*

All properties and events in the physical universe are governed by laws, and those laws hold true at every time and place in the universe.**
(Alan Lightman)

I have just googled “the speed of light” and was returned over 2.6 billion results in 0.79 seconds. I am guessing, because I won’t be checking through all the results, that each will state the speed of light to be 299,792,458 metres per second.

At the same time when the laws of the universe come into contact with consciousness, interesting things happen, new energies being generated that we find difficult to articulate and measure, though not impossible. Jesus of Nazerath described himself as the light of the world on at least one occasion and perhaps we can see our lives as being small lights for the world, each bringing something different and, if we were to deny it, but break the fundamental truth about ourselves.

In the end, only we can articulate just what this “light” might be; only we can measure whether it’s offering some light into another person’s darkness. It’s why we’re here.

(*To dance lightly or nimbly, but also a song from Mary Poppins Returns.)
(**From Alan Lightman’s Searching For Stars on an Island in Maine.)

The gardens we are

The portionless, who struggle with no such inherited encumbrances, find it about enough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh.*
(Henry David Thoreau)

Each morning, I step outside the house to stand or sit for a few moments in my garden, to greet the new day before I do anything else.

The garden isn’t large and it’s taken a couple of years to sort out but I enjoy being with these growing things for a little while.

I feel the garden of my life has taken even longer to grow. My slow journey is about who I am becoming over a lifetime – this slowness is me, but I now see I can become, I can choose.

“Terroir” is about the influence of the total environment – soil, topography, climate – on the growing of grapes. No less, the places, the influences, the focus of the gardens of our lives develops a unique terroir that others can benefit from. I know this only too well from what others have made available to me. Though, as the elements of terroir suggest, there is nothing fast about this, it’s something that happens over a lifetime.

(*From Henry David Thoreau’s Where I Lived, And What I Lived For.)

The ins and outs of meaning

We want to build systems and patterns and memories that connect moment to moment to eternity. We long to be part of the Infinite.*
(Alan Lightman)

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.**
(Jesus of Nazerath)

Something appears to happen when we look beyond ourselves – into others, into the world and into space – and when we look into ourselves – into our curiosities and into our peculiar energies.

We find meaning. Or meaning finds us, or both, what Martin Buber is exploring when he writes:

Free is the man that wills without caprice. He believes in the actual which is to say, he believes in the real association of the dual reality, I and You. He believes in destiny and also it needs him. It does not lead him, it waits for him. He must proceed towards it without knowing where it waits for him. He must go forth with his whole being: that he knows. It will not turn out the way his resolve determines, but what wants to come will only if he resolves to do that which he can will, which is unfree and ruled by things and drives, to his great will that moves away from being determined to find destiny. Now he longer interferes nor does he merely allow things to happen.^

Today is a remarkable day. It allows just such venturing outwards and inwards on our part. And the best way? Stay small, young, stay curious, stay open, in these ways moving from our unfree will to our great will:

Crucially starting small is the hall mark of youthful days. When you are young, you cannot start things in a big way. Whatever you do, it does not matter much to the world. You need to start small. And what you have in abundance is open-mindedness and curiosity, the great kickstarters to one’s cause.^^

(*From Alan Lightman’s Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine.)
(**Matthew 13:45-46)
(^From Martin Buber’s I and Thou.)
(^^From Ken Mogi’s The Little Book of Ikigai.)

A perfect day*

Creativity is the product of wasted time.**
(Albert Einstein)

to stay hungry and unsettled is not the conventional wisdom. It clearly psychological demands on the individual. The attraction of the opposite state – satisfaction, expertise and security is almost irresistible^
(Maureen O’Hara and Graham Leicester.)

Perfect days tend not to be free from worry and concern – these are the kind of days that tend to get a little mergy, one looking just like another. A perfect day tends to set us up for something that matters, one that stretches and grows who we are as well as what we are doing. We don’t have to always e dong things either, often this can get in the way. It’s more about a direction.

Have a perfect one.

(*The song in my head when identifying a theme today: Lou Reed’s A Perfect Day.)
(**Albert Einstein, quoted in Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber’s The Slow Professor.)
(^From Maureen O’Hara and Graham Leicester’s Dancing at the Edge.)