Game-spoilers and tension-makers

You have the freedom to change your story. You can live a different one, one that’s built around those you seek to serve.*
(Seth Godin)

The more entrenched a system of measurement, the more difficult it is for a deviant, and outlier, or even an experimenter to emerge.**
(Youngme Moon)

If we’re being honest, we’d prefer others to change, not us, the external circumstances to be altered rather than those of our inner worlds, and yet changing our personal stories is where our opportunities are to be found:

It is, however, through difficulty and opposition that we define ourselves. The mind needs something against which it can profile and discover itself.^

The deviants, outliers and experimenters comes to our rescue, and, when we are able to be such for others, we create the kind of tension people need to be able to move.

But first we must spoil the game.

Johan Huizinga names these game-spoilers:

apostates, heretics, innovators, prophets, conscientious objectors;^^

and they lead us into liminal spaces, into a:

temporary abolishment of the ordinary world.^^

Now we have the freedom to change our stories.

(*From Seth Godin’s This is Marketing.)
(**From Youngme Moon’s Different.)
(^From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(^^From Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens.)

The real adjustment bureau

It is ironic that you must go to the edge to find the centre.*
(Richard Rohr)

We feel most comfortable when things are certain, but we feel most alive when they’re not.**
(Tania Luna)

Life comes with more than one big choice available to us.

If things aren’t as we want them to be, we can adjust.

Originally from the Latin ad “to” and juxta “near.”

We don’t adjust without a good reason, though; that’s human nature.

It’s not easy. It requires time and energy.

We’re like an Australian land-train, not stopping for anything.

It takes a lot of energy to STOP! and notice the way things really are.

Physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy.

It’s easier to be pushed along our familiar trajectory by the momentum of our story so far.

There’s the cost of admitting we’ve been wrong and probably for a while.

Years and miles of keeping with something when we needed to adjust.

It may be blindingly obvious but every day provides another opportunity to adjust, to move nearer to what we want to do.

That’s the beginning of the good news.

We are also full of astonishing and wonderful things.

Values, talents, passions.

I know this.

It’s my work.

I haven’t yet come across anyone lacking these.

All of which make adjustment possible.

A new direction.

(*From Richard Rohr’s Eager to Love.)
(**Tania Luna, quoted in Chip and Dan Heath’s The Power of Moments.)

The wisdom of nature

No matter what your skill level its when you begin, you can get an “A” in this class. My final grade is based on where you began and where you ended up and what is it that you found.*
(Lynda Barry)

understanding and loving are inseparable**
(Erich Fromm)

Lynda Barry is writing about a comic-making class for adults but she could be writing about wisdom.

How wise can we become?

We won’t know until the very end, if our aim is to be lifelong learners:

The root of the word “education” is e-ducere, literally to lead forth, or to bring out something that is potentially present.^

To stop growing in wisdom jeopardises everything: wisdom shapes our worldview but worldview can shape our wisdom. Seth Godin provides a helpful reminder that:

A worldview is the shortcut, the lens each of us uses when we see the world. It’s our assumptions and biases and yes, stereotypes about the world around us.^^

Wisdom isn’t so much what we know but how we live.

Wise lives like public gardens, open to all and taking a lifetime to establish. They don’t contain everything but they do have themes that can be added to.

They are a labour of love, which brings me to Erich Fromm’s words, included by Maria Popova in blog telling the story in the children’s book The Fate of Fausto about a man who wanted to own the world and who meets a watery end.

Believing he now owns flowers and sheep and trees and mountains, Fausto comes to the sea, vast and unbowing. He declares his ownership over the waters but the sea is silent. Fausto rants and the sea eventually asks how Fausto can own something he does not love, that he could not love her if he doesn’t understand her.

Previously, ranting and stamping his feet has got Fausto his ownership way with others, but it marks his demise when he tries to stomp on water.

Wisdom understands that what we know isn’t “it” but is partial and there is so much more to know and also many things we will never know – which is, by the way, another form of knowing.

How can we own? We are the students and nature our teacher:

I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it has to tach and not, when I came to die discover that I had not lived.*^

(*From Lynda Barry’s Making Comics.)
(**Erich Fromm, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: The Fate of Faust […].)
(^From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving.)
(^^From Seth Godin’s This is Marketing.)
(*^From Henry David Thoreau’s Where I Lived, and What I Lived For.)

Everyone and all

To see people who notice a need in the world and do something about it. … Those are my heroes.*
(Fred Rogers)

Yes, you have a calling: to serve people in a way that they need (or want). The opportunity is for each of us to choose a path and follow that, not for your own benefit, but because of what it can produce for others.**
(Seth Godin)

Who are the people who need you to turn up and do what you do?

Seth Godin encourages me to focus on my “smallest viable market,” not to aim for everyone – which in the end is to aim at no-one:

Organise your project, your life, and your organisation around the minimum. What’s the smallest market you can survive on.**

If I could be there for fifty people in a year, I’d be happy.

Thank you to all those who are there for me.

(*Fred Rogers, quoted in Stillness is the Key.)
(**From Seth Godin’s This is Marketing.)

The infinite game

What’s really happening. What the goal is. And how it is that you’re part of the eternal flow. The important thing is the love affair. The important thing is the dance itself.*
(Richard Rohr)

I’m not rational and neither are you.**
(Seth Godin)

In his latest book This is Marketing, Seth Godin marks the important difference between being market-driven and marketing-driven.

Before you think this is not for you, the reality is we’re all marketers, we’re all selling something, whether it be a belief, a sports team, a political party, an opinion, a product, a dream, a course of action … .

Marketing-driven is basically listening to self and wanting people to “buy” what we have.

Market-driven is listening to what people and providing something they want – allowing for the fact that people may not know what they want and we have to come up with some interpretation they may not have thought about – remember Henry Ford’s suspicion that people would have wanted faster horses rather than what he had in mind.

It is the latter that makes it more possible to keep our eyes on the infinite game – to include as many as possible for as long as possible – the great flow of life we all find ourselves within for around eighty or so years.

(*From Richard Rohr’s The Divine Dance.)
(**From Seth Godin’s This is Marketing.)

Worth the risk

Our awareness has been stretched wider than ever in history, but often at the cost of taking away a lifetime of experiences.*
(Seth Godin)

life is risk**
(Anne Dufourmantelle)

In life there is general risk and there is specific risk.

The general can come to us anywhere and at anytime. Specific risk comes through our particular pursuits of purpose and meaning.

Sometimes these merge, as they did for Anne Dufourmantelle in 2017. Seeing two children in difficulty in the water off a St Tropez beach, Dufourmantelle rushed to their aid but drowned in her effort.

Dufourmantelle’s story is a powerful one of a person reaching beyond belief and feeling into actioning, or, as Ryan Holiday would shape these: Mind, Spirit and Body. Holiday tells Dufourmantelle’s story in his section on Body – skin in the game as Nassim Taleb would call it.

The philosopher had written a book entitled In Praise of Risk and I’ve added another of her books to my wishlist: Power of Gentleness: Meditations on the Risk of Living.

Dufourmantelle’s example is both challenging and inspiring for me; I am reminded of the third elemental truth:

Your life is not about you.^^

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: Awareness vs. experience.)
(**Anne Dufourmantelle, quoted in Ryan Holiday’s Stillness is the Key.)
(^From Richard Rohr’s Adam’s Return.)

Free to give

We are most whole when we are most free to give.*
(Erwin McManus)

Where your pain is, there is your life, you might say.**
(Joseph Campbell)

Some feel they need to take in order to be or make themselves. Others have learnt it is by giving they become one with themselves and have even more to give.

There are more opportunities in life for the latter than the former.

(*From Erwin McManus’ Uprising.)
(**From Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth.)

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.)