Et vous voilà, abondance

The posture of generosity and connection replaces a mindset of scarcity, and Lionel [Poilane] modeled this philosophy every day. […] Generosity, abundance and idiosyncrasy in service of craft and community.*
(Seth Godin)

When we take something to heart, we also are helping it to move from scarcity to abundance.

It can feel as though we have something scarce when we have valuable information, but when we take it to heart, becoming curious and inquiring, we find ourselves generating it into all manner of possibilities … and there you are, abundance.

It’s why having tools isn’t nearly as valuable as becoming an adapter or maker of tools.

Seth Godin tells how his friendship with Parisian baker Lionel Poilane altered the arc of his writing. When Poilane and his wife were tragically killed in a helicopter accident, Godin wanted to dedicate a book to him. It turned out to be Purple Cow.

Here’s how this book altered my own arc of work.

This book had been the first I picked up from Godin – I can’t even remember how I became aware of it. I loved the content and the format of the book, so much did it resonate with me about how I wanted to live and work, it led to me reading as much of Godin’s writing as I could afford, including V is for Vulnerable, illustrated by Hugh Macleod.

This in turn led to me reading Macleod’s three books in print at the time. I really loved the doodles as well as the ideas in these, and when it came to contemplating a year of blogging every day for a year, and I needed a degree of difficulty, inspired by Macleod, I decided upon doodling.

Six years on, I’m a dawdler and a doodler, bringing illustrations wherever I can.

When information moves from our head to our heart, all kinds of surprising and wondrous things can take place – we’re on a journey from scarcity to abundance.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: Bread and books.)

The cape of escape

We consume stories to discover life, to use our minds in fresh experimental ways, flex our emotions and add depth to our days.*
(Robert McKee)

All the superhero has to do to make the story great is struggle with count, face their demons, and muster enough strength to destroy the Death Star.**
(Donald Miller)

Robert McKee is asserting that ‘Writing is about archetypes, not stereotypes.’*

Taking these words to heart for life in general, we can say, our lives are not meant to be stereotypical but archetypal:

Deep down you desire the freedom to live the life you would love.^

John O’Donohue is making sense of our desires, how we use these to lift ourselves to reach for and possess something more: specifically more freedom to choose or make our path, more skill in walking it and a path that is not only for us but is also a gift to others.

Brian Maue‘s use of the image of the rocket freeing itself from the gravitational pull of the earth is helpful:

Watching a rocket leave its launch pad gives us an idea. To lift off and escape from our earth’s gravity, a moon-bound traveler requires enough energy to move at speeds of 7 miles per…second!  This “escape velocity” effort and the billowing clouds of energy exhaust seen before a rocket ever starts to rise offers another insight – a lot of energy will be used if we are serious about moving our body to a new reality. A “moonshot” destination, such as an engaging life performing “Greater Good”, also requires effort to find … but once reached, the energy requirements are easier and the sights more enjoyable.^

We have to find velocity and our story is how we can do this. Not a fanciful story but one crammed with information about our values, our talents, and abilities and our enriching and enervating environments.

Part of my work is with the University of Edinburgh’s Chaplaincy. When I research the word chaplaincy, I find that it reaches back to St Martin of Tours and this soldier’s sharing of half of his cloak or cape with a scantily clothed beggar.

The other half of the cappella was eventually preserved in a chapel (the place of the cape), so I like to think of Chaplaincy as a place where we get to identify our superhero cape.

With all due deference to Edna “E” Mode, our cape represents our story, it is how we find our launch velocity to escape the stereotypical and live an archetypal life – which has as many iterations as there are people. It peculiarly involves us facing our doubts and demons and mustering all the strength we can to do what we have come to see we must do.

(*From Robert McKee‘s blog: The Perils of Stereotypical Storytelling.)
(**From Donald Miller’s Scary Close.)
(^Brian Maue, from gapingvoid’s blog: A blast for the better.)

A peculiar imagination

Yet the imagination gives to everything that it touches a peculiarity, and it seems to me that the peculiarity of the imagination is nobility, of which there are many degrees.*
(Wallace Stevens)

We make our biggest contribution when we dare to do what only a handful will do.**
(Bernadette Jiwa)

I may have read her book seven years ago but I still remember Pamela Slim‘s encouragement as if she was saying it directly to me: You need to find a niche an inch wide and a mile deep.

Every person’s niche is peculiar, formed by our curiosity and passion, our talents and abilities, and our experiences of life.

Never underestimate how powerful a thing this will be in the world.

(*From Wallace Stevens’ The Necessary Angel.)
(**From Bernadette Jiwa’s post The Story of Telling: One of the Few.)

Don’t forget to bring your imagination today

About nobility I cannot be sure that the decline, not to say the disappearance of nobility is anything more a maladjustment between the imagination and reality. […] It is not only that the imagination adheres to reality, but also that reality adheres to the imagination and that interdependence is essential.*
(Wallace Stevens)

In his important book Homo Ludens Johan Huizinga argues that playfulness and seriousness should be held together, that is is only civilisations’ growing sophistications that have separated these.

Add to this Wallace Stevens’ assertion that reality and imagination ought to exist in an interdependent state, and you begin to wonder what we are missing out on when it comes to living with each other, our planet and ourselves.

I hope you get a chance to bring some playfulness and imagination into today – because it’s usually these, and not reality and seriousness, that are left out.

Stevens adds a further level of jeopardy when he claims human nobility is at risk. Nobility may seem a fancy concept but it’s a very functional state of being that is grateful for what we have and seeks to be generous. It is all about how we see and treat each other and our world.

(*From Wallace Stevens’ The Necessary Angel.)

I spy with my little eye someone …

The familiar, precisely because it is familiar, remains unknown.*
(Georg Hegel)

The ego self is by definition the unobserved self, because once you see it the game is over.**
Richard Rohr)

In this conversation, the ego is our false self.

It is the self that does not know itself.

It can claim to be bigger and better than the truth, wanting to be the celebrity.

Other times it claims to be less than the truth with nothing to offer, playing the imposter.

In each of us there is also our true self, the person of courage, generosity and wisdom to be grown.

Once we know this, our ego’s control is lost.

(*Georg Hegel, quoted in John O’Donohue’s Echoes of Memory.)
(**From Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now.)

Just a little bit

Changing the way you do routine things allows a new person to grow inside of you.*

In flow, you are asked to do a task that isn’t so easy as to be mindless but isn’t so hard as to be out of your grasp.**
(Sherry Turkle)

When we value those small things which ask a little more of us, we see how every day is not only an opportunity to reconnect with our unique life journey, but our journey is increasingly transformative.

If you had set out on this path a year imagine just imagine where you may be today.

The good news is you can begin to widen your path today, and set a reminder to see just what has happened by the 26th October 2020.

(*The character Petrus, from Paulo Coelho’s The Pilgrimage.)
(**From Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation.)


In coils of wave, winding in dance, the sea
Is too fluent to feel it’s own silence,
Only for the sure gaze and grip of shore
It would not know itself to be the sea.*

(John O’Donohue)

The protagonist in the science fiction novel I was reading used the Buddhist reflective practices of anapana, vipassanā and metta.  Since then, I have used these to add nuance to the Hebrew pause or selah I already use – to be quiet, to be still.

Anapana is about observation and I use it to gather, to be open to all that is around me, including the words I am reading.  

Metta is about loving kindness, which I understand to be extending to others something of what I have gathered.

In between comes vipassanā, a special seeing, to understand, take to heart and find resonance.

This seeing and understanding is our third eye, not seeing the surface or simplicity of something, nor even its complexity, but to see the wholeness of something in a simplicity beyond complexity:

The sense of wonder can also help you to recognise and appreciate the mystery of your own life.**

(*From John O’Donohue’s Echoes of Memory: Expectations.)
(**From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)

Crafts-people all

To be playful is to allow for possibility whatever the cost to oneself.*
James Carse)

I’m spending three days with a group of people exploring how to develop competence in complexity.

We live in “powerful times” and it demands different competencies to those which have served us in the past.

There are many tools on offer at our event, ways and means for exploring and working through complexity, but we know it’s not about the tools alone.  We must become skilful at using these and, largely, this is about becoming the most important tool of all: a crafts-person, one who is a maker of tools.

Each of us has a personal way into becoming a crafts-person for the 21st century and they’re not too difficult to find; the thing we often struggle with is the cost.

(*From James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.)

Have patience, have patience, don’t be in such a hurry

A naive dream is that it’s possible to go on a long bike ride – and enjoy the journey going downhill in each direction. […] The hard work is digging deeper than usual on the up hills – that’s the best chance you have to earn a downhill later.*
(Seth Godin)

The words of today’s title come from a song we used to sing with our children.  It continues:

When you get impatient, you’ll only start to worry.
Remember, remember that God is patient too,
And think of all times when others have to wait for you.**

Being patient doesn’t mean we do nothing, it does mean that we take the time to do the deeper and more significant work in us and around us that will lead to more.  As Seth Godin says elsewhere, patience allows us to ‘choose to pursue something longer term, more resilient, more important.^

Patience allows us to build capacity, within ourselves and with those around us.  The kind of patience, to borrow Edgar Schein’s words:

that will enable you to understand and change what is going on and, in that process, will not only make you a better person, but enable you to make a better world.^^

When we practise patience, we are shaping our art to be its most impactful.

If you rush on, beware, you may actually get what you are running towards, and sometimes having to slow down is a gift in disguise.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: Uphill both ways.)
(**From His and Hernandez Music: Patience.)
(^From Seth Godin’s blog: Up and to the right.)
(^Edgar Schein, quoted in Maureen O’Hara’s and Graham Leicester’s Dancing at the Edge.)

Conversations at the thresholds

It’s possible that you no longer need to get better at your craft. That your craft is just fine. It’s possible that you need to be braver instead.*
(Seth Godin)

But in other cases – as the fir trees – the fragrance is the sap, is the very life itself. When the aromatic savour of the pine goes searching into the deepest recesses of my lungs, I know it is life that is entering.**
(Nan Shepherd)

There are three big thresholds to be crossed, conversations we need to have if we are to move into life-in-all-its-fullness.

The first is between judgement and openness:

You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked.^

The second conversation is between cynicism and compassion. Will we allow ourselves to care about the more we are discovering, around us and within each of us?

The third is the conversation between fear and courage. We know more, we feel more, and will we do more?

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: The limits of technique.)
(**From Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain.)
(^Franz Kafka, quoted in Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation.)