Don’t wait for the crisis to build capacity

[R]eality is not the external scene but the life that is lived in it. Reality is things as they are.*
(Wallace Stevens)

When I ask the participants why they all bring their devices to meetings, they say, “For emergencies.” I inquire further, and they admit that it’s not so much about emergencies – they’re bored, or they see an opportunity to double down on their emails.**
(Sherry Turkle)

Rebecca Solnit reflects on the speed of our technology:

Machines have sped up and lives have kept pace with them.^

What we struggled to notice is what we have lost along the way. Sherry Turkle has shaped her book Reclaiming Solitude on Henry David Thoreau‘s three chairs: one being for solitude, two for friendship, three for community, and Turkle adds a fourth she believes to be true to Thoreau:

Thoreau took his guests into nature. I think of this as his fourth chair, his most philosophical one. These days, the way things have gotten philosophical causes us to confront how we have used technology to create a second nature, an artificial one.**

I’m focusing on the first today, reflecting on how we struggle to be with ourselves, how we’ll sooner go to our email or music or texts rather than spend time in solitude. Yet this is the very place we begin to build our capacity.

When we become people who create time in which to reflect on our inner and outer worlds, what we’re doing is building up our knowledge and practice. Although there are many things we cannot predict when the pressure of reality hits – the largest being how we will react, yet we discover that we do not have to face this naked: we can bring the power of our imagination to what it is we face.

Here are five realities that I often mention:
Life is boring
You are not as special as you think
Your life is not about you
You are not in control
You are going to die.^^

Journaling is one of my personal places for building capacity and I’d noted a year ago Wallace Stevens’ identifying of latent and vital reality, latent being what is ‘taken for granted […] and, on the whole ignored,’ and vital being ‘reality that has ceased to be indifferent,’* as when something is coming to an end and impinges upon us.

In practices such as journaling, we have opportunity to reflect on both latent and vital reality, even our very breathing, if we bring some mindfulness into it, to see what really is, to figure out ways of responding to this. This ability to notice and choose how to respond imaginatively is the most fundamental shaper of capacity.

(*From Wallace Stevens’ The Necessary Angel.)
(**From Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation.)
(^From Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust.)

(^^See Richard Rohr’s Adam’s Return.)

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