Your inaction, inertia, and cynicism removes from the world that part of you that could learn to quell suffering and make peace. That’s not good. […] I have learned through painful experience that nothing is going so badly that it can’t be made worse. This is why Hell is a bottomless pit.*
We can certainly make things worse, even when trying to make things better. Perhaps we shouldn’t be in so much of a rush.
Of course, if we can make things worse, we can also make things better.
Edgar Schein encourages us to see that not-knowing and curiosity are huge resources when it comes to what is best to do:
Allowing your ignorance, or allowing your curiosity to lead you, is often the best guide to what to ask about.**
Curiosity provides us with an antidote to cynicism, and also it siblings of inertia and inactivity.
Something more happens when we are curious, as suggested here by Martin Seligman:
Curious people do not simply tolerate ambiguity; they like it and are intrigued by it. Curiosity can either be specific […] or global, a wide-eyed approach to everything.^
We are prepared to stay longer with ambiguity and, more, to feel alive in its presence:
Curiosity leads us forward on an unknown path […].^^
My specific read for this month is Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World, an exploration of the characters who play around the edges of societies and cultures, finding ways of making change. Towards the close of his first movement of thought, in which he explores Native American tales of trickster, Hyde summarises:
Trickster is the great shape-shifter, which I take to mean not so much that he shifts the shape of his own body but that, given the materials of this world, he demonstrates the degree to which the way we have shaped them may be altered. He makes the world and then he plays with its materials.*^
Which I take as encouragement that we are more enabled to make things better.
(*From Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life.)
(**From Edgar Schein’s Humble Inquiry.)
(^From Martin Seligman’s Flourish.)
(^^From Terry Tempest Williams’ The Hour of Land.)
(*^From Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World.)