The world is a mystery of the dark depths of the unconscious and the dark out of which all has come. […] And the sense of myth is that we all ride on a mystery, and we are manifestations of it, whether it’s the nature world or the human world. They are not apart.* (Joseph Campbell)
The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It’s the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.** (Albert Einstein)
Yesterday I was exploring how we we are unselfed by our openness to beauty in nature and art, moving from the false self of the ego to the true self of the eco.
Art and artisanship puts this within reach of all of us and finding our story or myth helps us to move towards it:
Artisans have their soul in the game.^
Nassim Taleb provides four reasons for this claim: artisans put existential reasons ahead of economic; there is art in their profession rather than industrialisation; they have pride in what they do; and there are things they would never do. This is a describing of “proper” artisanship rather than “improper,” a distinction for art made by Joseph Campbell between art that is a response to the power of nature and art that is for sale:
On the tops of all the hills, there is silence. In the tops of the trees, you feel hardly a breath. The little bird falls silent in the trees. Simply wait. Soon, you too will be silent.^^
I am looking out of my window in an anxious and resentful state of mind, oblivious of my surroundings, brooding perhaps on some damage done to my prestige. Then suddenly I observe a hovering kestrel. In a moment everything is altered. The brooding self with its hurt vanity has disappeared. There is nothing now but kestrel. And when I return to thinking of the other matter it seems less important. And of course this is something which we may also do deliberately: give attention to nature in order to clear our minds of selfish care.* (Iris Murdoch)
Yesterday I was exploring how to find our true voice requires a deep journey to the centre of our lives. I think Iris Murdoch would refer to this as unselfing, to leave the ego behind, specifically through beauty in nature and art.
Friedrich Schiller writes about beauty being the means by which we achieve our potential as humans:
In other words, man should only play with beauty, and he should play onlywith beauty.**
What we have in nature, and in art’s response to nature, is power; they provide us with the opportunity to submit to power, to unself. We become powerful people only as far as we are willing to submit to the great powers, which also means we must submit to the imperfect – there is no perfect beauty, no perfect world, no perfect art, no perfect person.
For my post today, I thought to walk through some thoughts as they developed. Here’s where I began with Jesus of Nazareth encouraging people not to get caught up in the basics of life:
And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.*
We have our happy distractions: we look busy, we feel busy, we make up a lot of meaning around being busy, but it all gets in the way of the daily iterations of the big thing we want to do with our life.
As I was thinking about this, I read Austin Kleon’s blog about starting before were think we’re ready in which he quotes writer David McCullough:
There’s an awful temptation to just keep on researching. There comes a point where you just have to stop, and start writing. When I began, I thought that the way one should work was to do all the research and then write the book. In time I began to understand that it’s when you start writing that you really find out what you don’t know and need to know.**
We need to begin the journey, the whole “we make the road by walking” thing.
Our problem can be we don’t want to fail, or to be seen to fail, and so we wait until we’re pretty sure we won’t, missing the point that some of our best work, choices and growings will emerge from mistakes, errors and failures.
Another word for this is playing. This is a word I hold dearly from reading James Carse and Johan Huizinga. Most recently, I have come upon the word being used by Friedrich Schiller more than a hundred years earlier than Carse and Huizinga. Here Schiller is referring to the two human impulses for change and immutability:
But then what is mere play, once we know that under all conditions of man it is exactly play, and only play, that makes him complete, and begins to develop his dual nature.^
Play provides us with the imaginative and creative space we need not to be doing all the time. If you like, doing nothing is very much a part of our doing, to notice, pay attention listen. I came upon these words from Holly McGee in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings:
Listen to the sound of your feet — the sound of all of us and the sound of me.^^
As I read these words, I felt they connected with some written by Nan Shepherd on widening the domain of being, a capacity to deepen meaning that we each possess:
So, simply to look on anything, such as a mountain, with the love that penetrates to its essence, is to widen the domain of being in the vastness of non-being. Man has no other reason for his existence.*^
Busyness is what gets in our way of this, so I had to smile when I opened gapingvoid’s blog telling me I’m part of the busy people’s club like everyone else, busyness getting in the way of deepening:
You hate your life yet you’ve not read a book in twenty years.^*
In his delightful stories of time behaving differently, Alan Lightman pens these words about a place in which people’s lives are infinite:
The Laters sit in cafés sipping coffee and discussing the possibilities of life. The Nows note that with infinite lives, they can do all they can imagine.⁺
Begin. Don’t wait. The danger is, even with endless time, we may never begin, but when we begin, infinity opens before us.
The most important change in any transformation journey is the change of heart.* (Otto Scharmer)
By heart I mean the place where emotions meet reason, mobilise the will, and shape identity.** (Alex McManus)
Your initiatives are abstractions of what you believe you are are here to gift to others through your life.
They change you from being someone with many opinions on what should and shouldn’t be, to being the one who is changed even as you seek to bring change for others, as Nassim Taleb suggests:
Skin in the game keeps human hubris in check.^
The universe has given every one of us this incredible opportunity to give expression to what matters most to us, and perhaps we’re finally beginning to realise this when we see how everyone has something important to bring without needing to be asked.
Life is most enjoyed when we give ourselves away.* (Erwin McManus)
If we don’t like the story we’re living we can change it.
The best stories, though, will take more time and will not be easy.
We’re almost at the beginning of 2020, a whole year of possibility when it comes to creating a new story
Instead of trying to change your story quickly, why not give yourself an entire year, so that when you come to the 9th December 2020, you’ll be able to look back on a year of astonishing change.
Don’t wait for the 1st January. Use the rest of 2019 to plan how you will go about this.
Here are some things I always find helpful for change.
A daily journal. A mix of books to read slowly. Create a “blog tribe” of people who will help you see differently – I’d be thrilled to be a part of your tribe. Set the goal of identifying your values, talents, and identifying your most enriching and enervating environments. (Begin to doodle.)