The gaze

The stars align when we show up every day to make the most of the opportunity that’s right in front of us**
(Bernadette Jiwa)

For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.**
(Jesus of Nazareth)

Every one has their particular mustard seed, something powerful to be nurtured and grown. (It’s likely that Jesus was thinking of a kind of mustard plant that was banned because it could take over a garden.)

Hugh Macleod doodles:

The most powerful force in the universe is human creativity.^

Not quite, but I get what he means. Pound for pound, humans are quite amazing.

In his book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, Charlie Mackesy includes this conversation between the boy and the mole:

I’m so small, said the mole. Yes, said the boy, but you make a big difference.^^

It’s not about how big and popular and noticed we are, it’s about focusing on what we do best. We might call this our gaze.

What is it that you come back each day to “look” at intently, to ask questions of, to find out more about, to play with, to experiment and fail with, but keep doing something with, every single day?

This is your gaze … and it’s powerful if you encourage it to grow through these ways and means.

I’ve previously shared how I’d been asked by a group of artists what my art medium was; I replied, after pondering, I’m a people-artist:

We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and blood and bones.*^

(*From The Story of Telling: The Daily Opportunity.)
(**Matthew 17: 20-21.)
(^From gapingvoid’s Good ideas don’t care where they come from.)
(^^From Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse.)
(*^Henry David Thoreau, quoted in Ryan Holiday’s Stillness is the Key.)

Blesséd routine and ritual

Routine, done for long enough and done sincerely enough, becomes more than routine. It becomes ritual – it becomes sanctified and holy.*
(Ryan Holiday)

There are two kinds of ritual; those that we develop from the inside-out and those that come to us from the outside-in.

The former provide us the greatest opportunities for developing the kind of routines and rituals that enlarge our worlds and those of others, to constantly stimulate the new.

Every day, I get up at the same time and move through the first moments of the day in the same way, arriving soon at my journal and pen and books and silence.

I am never lost even though the world can spin. Here the ideas are born that I take into my work with others.

A master is in control. A master has a system. A master turns the ordinary into the sacred.*

(*From Ryan Holiday’s Stillness is the Key.)

When are you going to finish it?

Everything we have come to call the arts seems to be in almost every 3-year-old. […] When 3 and 4-year-olds draw, the thing they are drawing can change from one thing into another, surprising them.*
(Lynda Barry)

If you see a good deal remarkable in me, I see just as much remarkable in you.**
(Walt Whitman)

Every day provides an opportunities for us to change who we are and help others to change, too.

Playfulness helps us change.

The artfulness Lynda Barry observes in the drawings of three and four year olds is an expression of playfulness we have once known and perhaps lost. She reflects:

Stories show up on their own when kids draw. The drawing itself propels the story, changing it in a living way.*

Johan Huizinga writes about how our stories contain both play and seriousness until they become civilised:

Living myth knows no distinction between play and seriousness. Only when myth has become mythology, that is, literature, borne along as traditional lore by a culture which has in the meantime more or less outgrown the primitive imagination, only then will the contrast between play and seriousness apply to myth – and to its detriment.^

Barry is noticing living stories in the art and engagement of children and engages with them to try to recover this for herself:

This is the state of mind I’m after when I make comics and spending time working beside four-year-olds has helped me re-learn one of our oldest natural and spontaneous languages. Words and pictures together makes something happen that is more than good or bad drawing.*

We look at children’s drawing and wonder whether they are finished; we may even make the worst possible mistake and judge they are not very good. James Carse helps us to see what we have lost if we are but observers of art:

Finite players stand before infinite play as they stand before art, looking at it, making a poiema^^ of it. If however, the observer sees the poeisis*^ in the work they cease at once being observers. They find themselves in its time, aware that it remains unfinished, aware that their reading of the poetry is itself poetry. Infected by the genius of the artist they recover their own genius, becoming beginners with nothing but possibility ahead of them.^*

Ultimately, we are not trying to produce something that is finished but something that allows us to continue playing and this for others, too, so they may recover their genius and help us grow in ours.

(*From Lynda Barry’s Making Comics.)
(**From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.)
(^From Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens.)
(^^Poiema being a piece of art.)
(*^Poeisis being the spirit or genius of the artist.)
(^*From James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.)

Better or best?

I’m not doing my best and neither are you. Because we’re not optimised algorithms, we’re people.*
(Seth Godin)

In [myth] the line between the barely conceivable and the flatly impossible has not yet been drawn with any sharpness.**
(Johan Huizinga)

It’s hard to know if this is our best. We don’t know how much further we can take this, how far we can take ourselves.

What we often do know is that we can do better than we have just done and this opens up the future possibilities in an incredible way, because when we say kindly tell ourselves we can do better and try again, we find we can.

One thing we’ll have discovered on the way is that we need others to help us do better.

If we refuse others, we refuse ourselves.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: Everyone is doing their best.)
(**From Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens.)

Enough is enough

Enough comes from the inside.*
(Ryan Holiday)

Time does not pass for an infinite player. Each moment of time is beginning. Each moment is not the beginning of a period of time. It is the beginning of an event that gives the time within it its specific quality.**
(James Carse)

Outside of here
Outside of town
Outside of self.

Stillness is stopping
Stillness is being here
Stillness is presence.

Attention to this moment
Attention to the other
Attention to everything.

We are enough.

(*From Ryan Holiday’s Stillness is the Key.)
(**From James’s Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.)

Grateful for limits

To have an impulse and resist it, to sit with it and examine it, to let it pass by like a bad smell – this is how we develop spiritual strength.*
(Ryan Holiday)

gratitude, compassion and altruism broaden our perspectives and break down the barricades we erect between ourselves and others in a vain attempt to protect the frightened, greedy, insecure ego**
(Karen Armstrong)

You’d think if we had access to unlimited resources, we’d be able to make something pretty amazing happen. It often turns out that the opposite comes to pass. Seth Godin here considers the latest Dr Dolittle movie:

Why is the new Dolittle movie so bad? Savaged by critics and viewers, it had:

  • One of the most bankable movie stars in the world
  • A story that had previously been the basis of two hit movies
  • The best CGI houses in the world
  • Unlimited time and money

I think the best way to understand why it failed is to look at the reasons above.^

When we have less – perhaps another word for this is “enough” – we have to slow down some, pay more attention, value what we do have, use our imagination, work with others more collaboratively, benefit from failure, reflect more, get creative, becoming fitter through the experience.

Things we can all do.

(*From Ryan Holiday’s Stillness is the Key.)
(**From Karen Armstrong’s Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.)
(^From Seth Godin’s blog: The Dolittle effect.)

Just picture it

I’m not good at reading [books]. The truth is I need pictures. They are like places to get to in a sea of words.*
(Charlie Mackesy)

We all drew before we could write.

Then we drew our letters before they became letters.

Pictures came before words as playfulness comes before seriousness, and the world is richer when dance join together.

Whatever you get up to in life why not “picture it up” a little?

(*From Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mile, the Fox and the Horse.)