The deepest joy

It’s true that how we spend our days is how we end up spending our lives. We can deliberately choose to spend them wisely.*
(Bernadette Jiwa)

A dream,” he said, “as it goes whiffling through the night is making a tiny little buzzing noise. But this little buzzy-hum is so silvery soft, it is impossible for human bean to be hearing it.”**
(The BFG)

To be filled with joy seems to be the richest place we shall ever find ourselves, so may there be many things that give you joy.

Above all, may there be that deepest of joys that gives you capacity to be who you are and bring what only you can bring for joy in others.

(*From Bernadette Jiwa’s The Story of Telling: Always, Sometimes, Never.)
(**From Roald Dahl’s The BFG.)

Go live your strengths: the dreamwhispering project

Technics and wisdom are not by any means opposed. On the contrary, the duty of our age … is to unite them in a supreme humility which will result in a totally self-forgetful creativity and service.*
(Thomas Merton)

I is a dream-blowing giant.**
(The BFG)

I want to share a little more about an idea mentioned earlier this month.

It has been reported that it is the young who are being most affected by unemployment as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, so I’m trying to figure out a way of making a form of my dreamwhispering work available to anyone who would like to explore the depths of their talents and skills towards being better prepared for work in the future.

It’s not HR and it’s not a careers service but it will make it possible to be more aware of what we have and what we can do.

The project will comprise of online sessions and offline reflection and exercises leading to participants noticing, reflecting upon and beginning to express nineteen significant truths about themselves. These include values, talents and the kind of environments we flourish in and perish in.

There’ll be no direct cost involved, but there will be an expectation for each person to be committed to the journey.

I’d really appreciate it if you would help me get the word out. Whilst the headline about young people being made unemployed caught my eye, the project is open to any who have been laid off because of Covid-19.

If you are interested then drop me a line at

It is also possible to support the project. If you are interested to find out what this means then please let me know.

(*Thomas Merton, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Technology, Wisdom and the Difficult Art of Civilisational Self-Awareness.)
(**From Roald Dahl’s The BFG.)

A part of the bigger picture

you want to choose a niche an inch wide and a mile deep*
(Pamela Slim)

Somewhere along the way, you were given some terrible advice: you have to choose a niche.**
(Chris Guillebeau)

“Hitchedness” allows me to make sense of both these statements from two people whose insights I value when it comes to my love and work of helping people to explore their futures:

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.^

John Muir’s insight that everything in the universe is attached to everything else leads us into the richness of life that is abundant and beautiful and, if we conceive of peace as prosperity for the heart, soul, mind and body, peaceful too:

One is constantly reminded of the infinite lavishness and fertility of Nature – inexhaustible abundance amid what seems enormous waste. And yet when we look into any of her operations that lie within reach of our minds, we learn that no particle of her material is wasted or worn out. It is eternally flowing from use to use, beauty to yet higher beauty; and we soon cease to lament waste and death, and rather rejoice and exult in the imperishable, unspendable wealth of the universe, and faithfully watch and wait the reappearance of everything that melts and fades and dies about us, feeling sure that its next appearance will be better and more beautiful than the last.^

Life becomes a lesson – or experiment or adventure – in noticing. We cannot really notice in some hurried or forced way, and it is more than focusing hard. It is, as Nancy Kline allows, about paying attention with ease:

To be its best, Attention, from inside itself it seems, summons Ease. Ease emerges and sweeps and dips and saunters, draping itself around Attention’s focus allowing it dimension greater than focus alone can produce.^^

I can imagine Kline smiling with joy after forming these sentences because they have both truth and beauty.

It appears to be our bent to pay attention, to deeply notice what other species do not, though its ease, as with any art, will only appear though effort. Otherwise we can become distracted by lesser things that lead us into smaller lives, wasting our planet, hoarding, achievement, whilst all the time, waiting for us on the far side of this complexity, lies a wonder that will cause us to gasp and be silent and smile with joy. This joy becoming for us the most precious thing we shall ever possess.

On a personal note, I see how children and grandchild and wonderful ideas and amazing encounters with others and making beautiful things and the glory of the natural world and working with nibbed pens and reading books and playfulness and so, so many more things are all joined together and bring me joy, including these words from Erich Fromm which somehow are dearly comforting:

the highest step to which thought can lead us is to know that we do not know*^.

And all that I know and brings me joy is hitched to all you know and brings you joy, and all everyone has known and felt joy in and knows and feels joy in and will ever know and feel joy in is all tiny part of what Muir described when he saw:

the whole universe as an infinite storm of beauty.^

(*From Pamela Slim’s Escape from Cubicle Nation.)
(**From Chris Guillebeau’s Born For This.)
(^John Muir, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: The Universe as an Infinite Storm of Beauty.)
^^From Nancy Kline’s More Time to Think.)
(*^From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving.)

Facing monsters

After we grew up […] we found out how unreliable these stories had been. The simple, pleasant adult society they had prepared us for did not exist. As we suspected. the fairy tales has been right all along – the world was full of hostile, stupid giants and perilous castles and people who abandoned their children at the forest.*
(Alison Lurie)

From the beginning a curator was somewhere between a priest and bureaucrat, combining the practical with the otherworldly. Either way curators had access to and master over difficult, concealed knowledge.**
(Michael Bhaskar)

There may be more than one path leading out of the darkness.

This is what the best of our religions, myths and fairy stories tell us, often finding a new-norm seeded with meaning.^

Here we must note that it is hard for humans to let go of the past and to take hold of the future. As a result we can miss the nuance which, if we turn out attention to the difficult thing we face, becomes more apparent and with it, possibility – though the path of moving from victim to protagonist is a demanding one.

Like a curator bringing the practical and otherworldly together, we apply the lighter touch of imagination to the hardness of reality:

In fighting against resistance we will become more focused on getting rid of the problem than on understanding what it is; by contrast, when working with resistance we want to suspend frustration at being blocked, and instead engage with the problem in its own right. […] Apply minimum force is the most effective way to work with resistance.^^

It is as we work with the difficult things that different paths appear on the other side.

(*Alison Lurie, quoted in Bruce Handy’s Wild Things.)
(**From Michael Bhaskar’s Curation.)
(^At the moment I am reading J. K. Rowlings’ The Ickabog and Roald Dahl’s The Witches.)

(^^From Richard Sennett’s Together.)

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day*

Figure out what you are meant to contribute and make sure you contribute it.**
(Susan Cain)

The mastery of story demands the invention of far more material that you can use, followed by astute choices of inclusion and exclusion. Why? Because experienced writers never trust so-called inspiration.^
(Robert McKee)

We live in a world that, in its turning around, brings around 29,213 new days to those who make it to eighty years of age. Of course, it’s also a metaphor meaning the total of opportunities for new beginnings goes up. These appear in many forms and through many people.

True inspiration isn’t the lightbulb pinging on. That’s just a starter. Inspiration is what comes when we capture ideas, turn up every day, work with skill and discipline and produce, produce, produce.

What we might term deep-inspiration emerges from selecting the truly important-to-us from all of the contents of our lives.

This is how it is for everyone and what really counts is noticing, paying attention, to what is really valuable to us and allows the other things to fall into the background.

Joseph Campbell helps us to notice the valuable: it’s what makes us feel alive:

We’re so engaged in doing things of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive is what it’s all about.^^

(*Accompanied by Michael Bublé’s Feeling Good – and it’s not even Christmas.)
(**From Susan Cain’s Quiet.)
(^From Robert McKee‘s newsletter: Where to Find Your True Inspiration.)
(^^Joseph Campbell, from Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)


There are three ways to perform a repair: making a damaged object seem just like new, improving it’s operation, or altering it altogether; in technical jargon, these three strategies are restoration, remediation or reconfiguration.*
(Richard Sennett)

Things go wrong in life and we need repair.

Which of these three would you choose if there was the option?

Restoration, so you look just like new?

Remediation, so you have obtained an improvement by learning new ways of dealing with the original problems should they or similar things happen again?

Reconfiguration, so you lean into the issues, learning towards transformation and opening new paths?

(*From Richard Sennett’s Together.)

Anything can happen in the next half hour*

[Complacency] is a cousin to narcissism in expecting experience to conform to a pattern already familiar to oneself; experience seems to repeat routinely rather than evolve.**
(Richard Sennett)

Communities have often been an accident of birth. Built by geography and parentage, you established your identity and your learning long before you went to school. Now, of course, this is changing.^
(Seth Godin)

Complacency requires that we disengage from the unpredictable possibilities of life for the safety of a familiar pattern.

This also means we are in danger of becoming a cliché; what is true for the storywriter is true for each of us:

Like the weeds of repetition, clichés grow in the barren mind of the lazy writer.^^

Clichés work for the storywriter until they don’t; the same is true for us.

The thing about complacency is that it doesn’t want to be noticed. The game is up if we see our lives have become a repeating pattern closed to the unfamiliar and unpredictable.

To read is to take a stranger’s hand and plunge into experiences you want and don’t want, learning all the while to navigate the unexpected places real life will take you.*^

When we read something different, ask questions, experiment outside of the norm then we are disrupting the cliché; Robert McKee’s counsel for the storywriter works for all of us:

To create insightful, original stories, set yourself high standards and never settle for the obvious choice. Indeed, never settle for the first choice. Write it down, sure, then improvise, experiment, pour out as many ideas as your talent can create.^^

(*Thanks to Stingray for the title.)
(**From Richard Sennett’s Together.)
(^From Seth Godin’s blog: A community of practice.)
(^^From Robert McKee’s newsletter: How You Can Win the War on Cliché.)
(*^From Krista Tippett‘s letter to young readers in Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick’s A Velocity of Being.)