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.^^

Transcendence is possible everywhere.

(*From Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey.)
(**Albert Einstein, quoted in Alan Lightman’s A Sense of the Mysterious.)
(^From Nassim Taleb’s Skin in the Game.)
(^^Johann Wolfgang von Goethe‘s Wanderer’s Nightong – a rendition by Robert Bly, quoted in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey.)

More powerful than us

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 only with 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.

Read Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain for a life lived in this direction in her beloved Cairngorms:

I have walked out of the body and into the mountain. I am a manifestation of its total life, as is the starry saxifrage or the white-winged ptarmigan.^

(*Iris Murdoch, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: An Occasion for Unselfing.)
(**From Friedrich Schiller’s On the Aesthetic Education of Man.)

(^From Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain.)

Loud voices, deep voices

So the first question we must ask ourselves isn’t how to get our idea to spread—it’s how can we do or say something worth believing in.*
(Bernadette Jiwa)

The whole ideas that you’ve got to bring out again that which you went to recovery the unrealised, unutilised potential in yourself.**
(Joseph Campbell)

Loud isn’t the same as deep.

A loud voice wants to be heard over others.

The deep voice wants to speak with the depths of others.

It requires we journey to the centre of our lives, a desire to know ourselves more completely and to speak only from here.

It is only possible to hear our true voice when we are able to hear the deep voices of others.

(*From Bernadette Jiwa’s The Story of Telling: Believed In.)
(**From Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey.)

Widening the domain of being

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:

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.

(*Matthew 6:27-29.)
(**David McCullough, quoted in Austin Kleon’s blog: Start before you think you’re ready.)
(^From Friedrich Schiller’s On the Aesthetic Education of Man.)
(^^Holly McGee, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: An Illustrated Ode to Attentiveness and the Art of Listening … .)
(*^From Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain.)
(^*From gapingvoid’s blog: Are you part of the busy people’s club?)
(⁺From Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams.)

The initiative

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.

Time to begin:

Time + Space + Materials = Work^^.

(*From Otto Scharmer’s Leading from the Emerging Future.)
(**From Alex McManus’ Makers of Fire.)
(^From Nassim Taleb’s Skin in the Game.)
(^^From Austin Kleon’s blog: Time, Space, and Materials.)

Enlighten me

Obsessively specialise. No niche is too small if it’s yours.*
(Seth Godin)

When in doubt, go outside. Especially when it’s inconvenient.**
(Seth Godin)

We become light when we are deeply curious about something, becoming unlimited learners and profligate makers.

And if you’re in need of some light to be shed on who you are and what you’re doing, get up, “go outside,” and see how the world is full of people who can shed some light.

(*From Seth Godin’s Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: Go outside.)

Your new story

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.)

(*From Erwin McManus’ Uprising.)

Feel free

Therefore, to successfully adapt a novel to screen, you must not only seek to turn the mental into the physical, but also be willing to reinvent. Feel free to cut scenes and if necessary, create new ones. Tell the story in filmic rhythms while keeping the spirit of the original, and ignore the risk that critics may say, “But the film’s not like the novel.”*
(Robert McKee)

It is difficult to tell whether our practical philanthropy is disturbed by the strength of our desires than chilled through the rigidity of our principles; disturbed by the egoism of our senses than by that of reason.**
(Friedrich Schiller)

There’s the “textbook” – be it paradigm, worldview, politics, philosophy, religion, script … .

And then there’s reality.

The two are rarely the same.

The beautiful possibility lies between, in the adaptation that is the product of an open mind, open heart and open will, rejecting rote observance in the one direction and anything goes in the other.

And the best paradigms, worldviews, politics, philosophies, religions and scripts, will always encourage us to adapt and produce something beautiful for others first of all, the best of freedoms will always want to produce form that makes good things available to others.

(*From Robert McKee‘s blog: The Problem with Adaptations.)
(**From Friedrich Schiller’s On the Aesthetic Education of Man.)

Opportunity and possibility

First there was time. Then space and energy. Then matter. And now the possibility of life, of other minds. What would these new minds think? What would they grasp? […] Could they feel the weight of the future, heavy, bristling with possibilities. But I could not see the future.*
(Alan Lightman)

You have to keep finding new and creative things to be grateful for […] . You have to keep looking – hard. Or else your brain just switches to autopilot, and all your blessings start turning to dust in your mind.**
(Hugh Macleod)

A few things about opportunities.

You have already been given the greatest opportunity ever. You are here.

There is no such thing as the perfect opportunity. Don’t wait for it to appear.

You are surrounded by opportunities, even if it is to be pleasant to the person who has been unpleasant to you.

So don’t worry about the size of an opportunity. The smallest can turn out to be quite magical.

The more opportunities you say yes to, the more you will find possibilities opening up.

(*From Alan Lightman’s Mr g.)
(**From gapingvoid’s blog: Count your blessings.)

What kind of attitude do you call that?

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.*
(Viktor Frankl)

the man without form, condemned to laborious effort, can with all his knowledge compel no recognition, move no stone from its allotted place**
(Friedrich Schiller)

Your attitude is critical.

It is the way you bring form to everything in your life, holding the past, being present in the now and imagining the future.

What Viktor Frankl refers to as attitude, Friedrich Schiller calls aesthetics, Otto Scharmer names it as our crystalising intent, Ken Robinson refers to it as our element and Joseph Campbell, our bliss. It’s the framing or forming story we choose for everything we are and do, as well as everything that happens to us:

All you have is what you are and what you give.^

And you have your attitude.

And we need it, for when we each bring our attitude into the world it becomes the space in which others might identify theirs.

(*Viktor Frankl, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Viktor Frankl on Humour as a Lifeline to Sanity and Survival.)
(**From Friedrich Schiller’s On the Aesthetic Education of Man.)
(^Ursula Le Guin’s character “Shevek,” quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Ursula K. Le Guin on Suffering and Getting to the Other Side of Pain.)