At first glance nothing seems to be more contradictory than the tendencies of these two impulses, the one striving for change, and the other for immutability.*
Our conversations invent us. Through our speech and our silence, we become smaller or larger selves. Through our speech and our silence, we diminish or enhance the other person, and we narrow or expand the possibilities between us.**
If we have something to offer, the temptation is to shout louder, to get more glitzy, to gain more attention, but I know that what I do is not for everyone.
Before I seek the attention of others, Seth Godin reminds me to:
Do the emotional work of working on things that others fear.^
Where are you prepared to go and others will not?
When I think about my work, I try hard not to make it a programme or course or process. I call it a journey of conversations for a reason. It’s about living with the risk of not knowing where the next question or idea will come from and yet things happen in the conversation. More story than answers because a quick answer or simple solution will prevent us searching for something more significant – and life seems to be set up for deep significance:
Following your bliss just seems to me to be the clue to believing what might be called the mythologically inspired life.^^
When we’re doing what we must do, it won’t be for everyone. (I know, if I go after everyone, I’ll have to create that course and lose the conversation.)
Here are two thoughts on this I came across this morning. Instead of trying to get everyone’s attention, Seth Godin proffers:
most of us are better off serving the smallest viable audience;*^
and Bernadette Jiwa reflects on why a non-glitzy vegan taco restaurant in her city outlives many that come and go:
it comes down to the fact they know who they’re for.^*
This thing I do – who is it for?
Friedrich Schiller’s opening words help me identify my “audience.” In speaking of the change impulse, it seems to me he is identifying with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s exploring instruction and Christian Schwarz’s dynamic pole. His immutable impulse then accords with Csikszentmihalyi’s conservative instruction and Schwarz’s static pole. All three agree that both are needed for someone to develop their deepest potential.
Schiller ponders the outcomes of firstly giving the powers of the immutable to the change impulse and then transferring power in the other direction:
In the first case he never becomes he himself; in the second he never becomes something other; and so in each case he is neither the one nor the other, and consequently a nonentity.*
My audience, then, comprises those who know there’s something missing in the vital relationship between their being and becoming. They probably don’t use these words but do know there is more to who they are and what they can do, at least, they hope there is. So we work with the questions Who am I? and What is my contribution?
And the best place for this to happen is in the journey of conversations.
(*From Friedrich Schiller’s On the Aesthetic Education of Man.)
(**From Harriet Lerner’s The Dance of Connection.)
(^From Seth Godin’s Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?)
(^^From Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey.)
(*^From Seth Godin’s blog: Attention vs. the chasm.)
(^*From Bernadette Jiwa’s The Story of Telling blog: Exactly Who Do You Serve?)