Wandering into possibility

When in doubt, scout.*
(Alex McManus)

Individuals who never sense the contradictions of their cultural inheritance run the risk of becoming little more than host bodies for stale gestures, metaphors, and received ideas, all the stereotypic likes and dislikes by which cultures perpetuate themselves. As Carl Andre once said, “Culture is something that is done to us. Art is something we do to culture.”**
(Lewis Hyde)

Alex McManus imagines our age to be like a rushing river and we have to get out of in order to see what is ahead.

Perhaps wandering is another word for scouting. It is about slowing down, but more than that it is about attention overcoming distraction.

The Wander Society refers to those who fail to wander – who’re not paying attention – as “sleepers.” This is the sense of Lewis Hyde’s opening remark.

Ben Hardy adds his own warning:

If you don’t shape your environment, it will shape you.^

Here is Wallace Stevenspressure of reality to which we must bring the power of our imagination.

Our imagination is our truest self, I think, and it forms in a reciprocal relationship with its environments.

It’s a falsehood to say that people either have imagination or not – we could not exist without imagination. Neither is it about our imagination being fixed for life – we do not know how far our imagination can be grown. Imagination needs reality in order to play and develop, to produce its art and artisanship. At the same time it changes reality.

In meeting reality with our imagination, we shape ourselves, the interaction of self and environment being well-described here by Hardy:

When you change your environment, such as surrounding yourself with different people, your thoughts and emotions change. These inner changes then alter your values and aspirations, which requires yo to further alter your external environment. Thus it is by tweaking your conditions that you proactively shape who you become.^

(*From Alex McManus’ Makers of Fire – eBook version.)
(**From Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World.)
(^From Ben Hardy’s Willpower Doesn’t Work.)

The big work

But what if wandering is the real work. In nourishing our bodies, giving space to our minds and hearts to breathe, caring for the soul, and letting the subconscious mind tackle problems, we are doing much more for ourselves and the world.*
(Keri Smith)

The mind articulates newly where roads parallel and roads contrary suddenly converge. The world is suffused with time and space, and therefore fresh speech is always appearing, always being invented. The world us teeming, so mind is teeming, so speech is teeming. There is no end to contingency, and so no end to language.**
(Lewis Hyde)

Erich Fromm writes about how the “routinisation of life” has removed the union necessary between our inner and outer worlds leaving us lazy and ill-disciplined outside our work-jobs:

This very wish for laziness is largely a reaction to the routinisation of life. […] A […] way of attaining union lies in creative activity, be it that of the artist or of the artisan. In any kind of creative work the creative person unites himself with his material, which represents the world outside himself.^

Austin Kleon shares how he daily walks for three miles with his wife and children – in their buggy – because they need to reconnect with their outside worlds”

Art requires the full use of our senses. Its job is to awaken us to our senses.^^

We inhabit such small worlds with their tiny screens when we cannot walk around, look around, read around, talk around. And often we’re the ones stopping us.

All of that changes when we begin wandering, encountering contingency and convergence.

As always for me, art and artisanship means the by-product of a life completely inhabiting its senses:

First of all: when you start out on a career in the arts you have no idea what you are going to do. THIS IS GREAT. People who know what they are doing know the rules, and know what is possible and impossible. YOU DO NOT. AND YOU SHOULD NOT. […] The rules of what is possible and impossible in the arts were made by people who had not tested the bounds of the possible by gong beyond them. AND YOU CAN.*^

(*From Keri Smith’s The Wander Society.)
(**From Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World.)
(^From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving.)
(^^From Austin Kleon’s Keep Going.)
(*^From Neil Gaiman’s Art Matters.)

Speak up

Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.*
(Steven Covey)

Begin. With the humility of stone who’s not sure, and the excitement of someone who know that it’s possible.**
(Seth Godin)

Never underestimate what can happen if you just begin.

The best way to stop something happening is not speaking up – the right moment is now.

These four things make up your true voice: the things that you have talents for, are passionate about, know will make a difference to others and expresses your values.

(*From Steven Covey’s The 8th Habit.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: Beginning is underrated.)

Jointing disjointing rejointing

Art is not only made from things that “spark joy.” Art is also made out of what is ugly or repulsive to us. Part of the artist’s job is to help today up the place, to make order out of chaos, to turn trash into treasure, to show us beauty where we can’t see it.*
(Austin Kleon)

There are two Greek words that can mean “joint.” The first is arthron. “The arthron connecting the hand and arm is the wrist,” says Aristotle. […] The second word, harmos, also means a joint in the body […] but more commonly denotes the joints made by artisans: the mason building a wall, the shipwright fitting planks, the metal worker soldering a seam, the carpenter fastening a door – all these craftsmen are making harmoi.**
(Lewis Hyde)

There are flexible joints and fixed joints, but no joint is permanent, immovable, all can be separated, and tricksters are those who exploit these points.

They’re the ars or artists who work at the joints to create something new, often making things worse first of all – at least for those who want nothing to be tampered with – before finding something new to bring into being.

Not this or that, but the other thing we hadn’t imagined before.

(*From Austin Kleon’s Keep Going.)
(**From Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World.)

Living contradictions

Many powerful organisations fear a truth teller. They work hard to avoid being confronted by an individual who sees the world as it is and by a person who cares enough to change things.*
(Seth Godin)

Inner scorecards are essential for individuals and organisations alike. What are you proud of that others would find unremarkable?**
(Bernadette Jiwa)

There’s a lot of information and knowledge out there that people measure and score in all kinds of ways. And we may not figure in all of this.

What is most important is try to find out more about ourselves and to do something with this.

We overestimate the importance of the things others measure and underestimate what matters to us. The best way is to try it out and see what happens:

Commitment, sacrifice, boldness and confrontation.^

By the way, I’ve just been reminded this morning that we perhaps know about 6% of everything that exists. Something to remember before we get all clever about something out there or in here.

(*From Seth Godin’s What To Do It’s Your Turn.)
(From Bernadette Jiwa’s The Story of Telling Blog: The Inner Scorecard.)
(^Tim DeChristopher, quoted in Terry Tempest Williams’ The Hour of Land.)

The words inside us

Water, that strong white stuff, one of the four elemental mysteries, can be here seen at its origins. Like all profound mysteries, it is so simple that it frightens me. It wells from the rock, and flows away. For unnumbered years it has welled from the rock, and flowed away. It does nothing, absolutely nothing, but be itself.*
(Nan Shepherd)

That’s how you’re going to fix the world – with your own gifts and talents.**
(Ken Sleight)

The words in my doodle are an adaptation of some found in Psalm 119.

The words we have inside us are really important for what follows. It’s why who we are can be more important than what we do because they lead us to a more primal contribution.

When we know who we are, we find our words, and our words guide us.

(*From Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain.)
(**Ken Sleight, quoted in Terry Tempest Williams’ The Hour of Land.)

Art is what art does

Art isn’t painting or canvas or prettiness. Art is work that matters. It’s entirely possible that you’re an artist. Everyone can be, if we choose.*
(Seth Godin)

I don’t think there is any such thing as an ordinary mortal. Everybody has his own possibility of rapture in the experience of life. All he has to do is recognise it and then cultivate it and get going with it. I always feel uncomfortable when people speak pf ordinary mortals because I’ve never met an ordinary man, woman, or child.**
(Joseph Campbell)

New to Edinburgh back in 2006, I began connecting with people and groups in the city. One of these was a group of artists who’d meet together to see what they were up to and how each was doing.

There were poets, painters, script writers, and what did I do? The first thing that came to mind was, I’m a people artist.

I help people to figure out how to live their lives as a form of art.

There’s a little more to art being the output of whatever we take in, but that’s basically it.

We notice something different, get really interested in it, figure out how to make something of this and, through trial and error, produce something artfully that is both useful and beautiful.

That’s art.

Back in 2006, I didn’t know just how true my words would become.

See where your art takes you.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: A useful definition of art.)
(**From Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)

Don’t be so melodramatic

Melodrama is not the result of overexpression but of undermotivation. Not writing too big, but writing with too little desire.*
(Robert McKee)

The call of the wild is not what you hear but what you follow.**
(Terry Tempest Williams)

Robert McKee’s words are true for a story-script because they are true for life.

We all know people who live melodramatically, upset by many small things but unmoved by the big things they could make a difference in. We know because life is about trying not to become melodramatic.

The person who makes no effort to discover and pursue the thing that really matters to them is truly lost, in danger of coming to the end of their days bound up by smallness and full of regret.

Another day without following our wild is forms another cord from which it will be more difficult to escape. Seth Godin reminds us of how helpful today is:

we can begin today on changing the internal limits we place upon ourselves.^

One way to escape these cords comes from noticing and playing with the tears in reality that are all around us, often seen as mess and chaos but are the world as it is:

Perhaps, then, what a lucky find reveals first is neither cosmos nor chaos but the mind of the finder. It might even be better to drop “cosmos” and “chaos,” and simply say that a chance event is a little bit of the world as it is – a world always larger and more complicated than our cosmologies – and that smart luck is a kind of responsive intelligence invoked by whatever happens.^^

I include these words from Lewis Hyde because they connect with what Seth Godin says about changing our internal limits. Our ability to interact with this far-larger-than-we-imagined-world is formed by us. Hyde goes on to write this about people who are able to engage in such a world:

But notice that in addition to having a ready structure of ideas, the prepared mind is ready for what happens. It has its own theories, but it attends as well to the anomaly that does not fit them. We therefore get this paradox: with smart luck, the prepared mind is prepared for what it is not prepared for. It has a kind of openness, holding its ideas lightly, and willing to have them exposed to impurity and the unintended.^^

Developing this openness of mind – a general curiosity to everything and a specific curiosity to something, leads to an openness of the heart and, so, to our motivation, leading to an openness of the will – then we’re moving in the call of the wild.

(*From Robert McKee’s blog: How to Avoid the Curse of Melodrama.)
(**From Terry Tempest Williams’ The Hour of Land.)
(^From Seth Godin’s blog: Approaching the limits.)
(^^From Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World.)

Rehearse as if every day’s your stage

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.*
(William Shakespeare)

Choosing what we rehearse is a way of choosing who we will become.**
(Seth Godin)

I meet people through my work who know what they want to do but are waiting for something to happen.

Every day they could be practising what they love so they’re ready when the moment comes. They would also discover they can be makers of these moments, too.

I know because I found out the hard way.

(*From William Shakespeare’s As You Like It.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: Memories of memories.)

Push pull

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

Adam was asleep at one critical moment in the time of creation. It signifies that Adam cannot establish his own self identity and his place in the cosmos unless he makes important reference to the one who put him into a “deep sleep.”**
(Kosuke Koyama)

Push is about our responsibility to develop the self, to be fit to tackle what we have an inkling that we must.

Pull is allowing ourselves to receive the help we will need make this possible.

We each need to have push and pull in our lives.

To have push with no pull is to be incomplete in what it means to be an interdependent contributor.

To have pull with no push is to have nothing to bring when we arrive.

Lewis Hyde finds manifestations of the Trickster character in different cultures, including Hermes, Loki and Eshu, tearing a hole in our ordered worlds or exploiting those they come upon by accident (they know the accidental is reality). Trickster, then, is:

the gatekeeper who opens the door into the next world.^

When such a person turns up, playing with the lines we form with our words, pictures and ideas, we must be grateful.

Those who are pushing themselves and allowing others to pull them become those who can be the pull for others, opening up new worlds.

(*From Peter Senge’s The Necessary Revolution.)
(**From Kosuke Koyama’s Three Mile an Hour God.)
(^From Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World.)