The desires of our hearts

[W]e are most poetic when we are most in tune with created Presence – person, place, thing. Which means that we may not divide life into poem and un-poem but see that experience itself may be poetic.*
(M. C. Richards)

Desire paths and desire lines are the names given to the unofficial paths that appear across urban landscapes because they work better than the official ones architects and planners have put in place.

There are desire lines running through our lives, too.

Life comes with many formal or official paths that are put in place by the “architects and planners” of culture and society and all their fractals, many being necessary or well-intended, yet so many aren’t quite in the right places.

Here are some tests to help see if we’ve found our desire lines, which I borrow from Seth Godin; the best desire paths:

Open us to our passions rather than inertia
Create originality and generosity rather than dogma
Encourage service and adventure rather than ease
Follow convictions rather than wilt under criticism
Are willing to apologise rather than blag it
Offer kindness rather than trying to be clever at the expense of others
Find us as builders rather than a cynics.**

(*From M. C. Richards’ Centering.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: Choices.)

A day’s journey from here

Middle English: from Old French jornee ‘day, a day’s travel, a day’s work’ (the earliest senses in English), based on Latin diurnum ‘daily portion’, from diurnus (see diurnal).

Every day’s a journey. A helpful picture of how we’re always moving: perhaps in our thinking, sometimes in our feeling, maybe in our doing.

We are most in motion when we identify our artist or artisanal spirit posits M. C. Richards:

Man as artist is on the move. He is not an institution, but a moving pillar of light.*

This need to be on the move is a desire for creativity, continues Richards:

My hunger for freedom is my hunger for myself, for my creative initiative.*

We notice where we are and knowing this is not the end of journey, we continue:

re-examine all you’ve been told at school or church or in any book; dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the riches fluency not only in it words but in the silent lines**.

Writing to young readers, Anne Lamott see this as the greatest journey we will ever find ourselves on:

Books are paper ships, to all the worlds, to ancient Egypt, outer space, eternity, into the childhood of your favourite musician, and – the most precious stunning journey of all – into your own heart, your own family, your own history and future and body.^

I note that this journey is not only ‘into your own heart’ but also into the lives of others. Richards recognises the kind of human community that forms when people are moving together, beyond institution:

Communitas is built into the spirit of men. They have but to perceive it to create it.*

Such perceiving of the kind of community that forms around an enlivening purpose is itself a journey we find ourselves upon each day.

Perhaps we are not so much moving from the past to the present to the future but from a fixed future to one that is created in journey:

It struck me that the only voice that spoke about the future as the result of a creative act was the one person whose view of reality was not shaped by this fixed view of the future.^^

We have a long way to journey today.

(*From M. C. Richards’ Centering.)
(**From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.)
(^From Anne Lamott’s letter to young readers, in Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick’s A Velocity of Being.)
(^^From Erwin McManus’ The Last Arrow.)

In pursuit of the day

A creative person. Initiating, enacting. Out of personal being. Using his lifetime to find his original face, to awaken his own voice, beyond all learning, habit, thought: to tap life at its source. When the human community finally knows itself, it will discover that it lives at the centre. Men will be artists in their life and labour.*
(M. C. Richards)

Do not rush into the day.

Connect with your joy, follow your curiosity, form your questions.

(* From M. C. Richards’ Centering.)

The artist awakes

The surface of the earth itself acts to transmit the presence of the beloved. The earth vibrates like a wire with his step, and sees the impulse directly into the body of the poet. It is the nature of the earth and of our dust to be in constant contact with the impulses of life. If we listen, we will hear the continuous tread of love, moving up our limbs like sap, like an electric current, impelling us as well to “stir and
step out.”*
(M. C. Richards)

it is the heart that makes us human. The heart is where the beauty of the human spirit comes alive. Without our heart, the human would
be sinister’**

(John O’Donohue)

How do we come to the day?

With our art – artfully, artisanly?

With our “to do” list – functionally?

The former is more demanding, knowing nothing is at it appears on the surface It knows it must ask more, search more, knock more, more conscious, more intentional to the impulses of life:

How much of the beauty of our own lives is about the beauty of being alive? How much of it is conscious and intentional? That is the big question.^

(*From M. C. Richards’ Centering.)
(**From John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us.)
(^From Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyer’s The Power of Myth.)

Where we find hope

Crises tend to accelerate society along.*
(Hugh Macleod)

Will we wake up in a few months and lament that we haven’t made more of this time in isolation? There are two questions we can ask ourselves at the end of each day. What did I do today that I’m proud of? What am I glad I did today?**
(Bernadette Jiwa)

When we went into lockdown, we didn’t leave behind the things that matter to us most, the difference we want to make. These are always with us because they’re part of us. It’s proving to be a testing time for all of us, with extremes for some, but we may be surprised at what comes out of this. Robert McKee encourages writers to take notes whilst in lockdown because there’ll be some intriguing stories to tell:

This will pass. We’ve been through such things before; there have been plagues, the Spanish flu, and more. The important thing is that in time, this will pass. In the meantime, we will discover who the good people are, and which people are evil. People who we thought were selfish and venal might turn out to be heroic and self-sacrificing. People who we thought were loving and selfless might turn out to be greedy. Either way, we will find out who people really are by the way they act in the face of adversity. […] take notes.^

We may not be writers wondering how to work through the lockdown but we can all daily reflect on how we’re responding and what we would like to be about to “accelerate society along” both now and also in the new future.

This is about finding or reconnecting to our true Self, our best response to what is happening, as Frederick Buechner reminds us:

The original, shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.^^

We find hope where the reality of what is meets our imagination.

(*From gapingvoid’s blog: A new remote era unfolds.)
(**From Bernadette Jiwa’s blog: Two Questions For Days Like These.)
(^From Robert McKee‘s newsletter: How Can You Write at a Time Like This?)
(^^Frederick Buechner, quoted in Ian Morgan Cron’s The Road Back to You.

It’s never too late to see

Use your senses. Open your eyes, your ears, your smeller, your taste buds, your skin, your throat, your lungs, your heart, your blood, your interstices. Listen. If we listen, we will not have to ask. If we listen, we will find ourselves at the centre of the entertainment.*
(M. C. Richards)

first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye**
(Jesus of Nazerath)

Normally I begin the day following whatever path emerges from the different things I’m reading. This continues to find its shape as I move it from journal to blog.

This morning, though, I tried to force the path. I wanted to explore the theme of gratitude for something I will be writing with four university colleagues.

Along the way, I slightly altered a closing from John O’Donohue, replacing unforgiven with ungiven:

May all that is ungiven in you
Be released.

May your deepest fears yield
Their deepest tranquilities.

May all that is unloved in you
Blossom into a future
Graced with love.^

That kind of worked but I knew there was so much I was not hearing or seeing about how someone or something wanted to be seen and heard but it was as if I was wearing glasses made out of logs and everything I saw looked like wood.

And doesn’t gratitude begin when we see someone or something simply as they or it wants to be?

(*From M. C. Richards’ Centering.)
(**Matthew 7:12)
(^From John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us: To Come Home to Yourself.)

Openness can be the hardest word

If you spot something interesting, look closer.*
(Rob Walker)

We want our minds to be clear – not so we can think clearly, but so we can be open in our perceptions.**
(M. C. Richards)

We are both free and trapped in our seeing, being able to see so much and yet miss even more.

M. C. Richards writes, ‘the laws of physics are the laws of our nature:’

We can only receive what we already have! We can only become what we already are! We can learn only what we already know. It is a matter of realising potentialities.**

Yet we come to the aid of each other.

Whilst being prepared to see, being present to see what is there and even prescient in seeing what is not there, being open to what others see seems to me to be critical. It is also very difficult because our own ways of seeing try to dominate and yet seeing more through each other is the reality of we are:

We see that it is not a matter of trying to be related but rather of living consciously into the actuality of being related.**

Asking open and generous questions of what each other sees is one of the most helpful ways for developing this openness.

What we also notice, over time, is how our ability to see more is growing.

(*From Rob Walker‘s The Art of Noticing newsletter: Look Out.)
(**From M. C. Richards’ Centering.)

The future of the gift

The future is dynamic, active, interconnected. For some reason many of us would rather know the future than create it.*
(Erwin McManus)

The world is alive, generous,
and waiting patiently for us
to figure it out.**

(Tom De Blasis)

Gifts help us to create the future; they create disequilibrium and wait to see what effects they may have caused.

Everything we are can be used in this direction:

We are only as much as what we can give to others.^

It turns out that when we give ourselves some space and engage our imagination we’re a lot.

It is quite possible that more happens when a gift is not commoditised, when it is able to stay free to not only be the gift, to also contain the spirit of the gift and the community of the gift.

Bring on the future.

(*From Erwin McManus’ Uprising.)
(**From Tom De Blasis‘ letter to you readers in Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick’s A Velocity of Being.)
(From gapingvoid’s Love in the time of coronavirus – part 2.)

The EducAid shop

EducAid runs an educational network comprising of free schools, teacher training, and tertiary programmes in Sierra Leone. We provide distinctive, personalised, top-quality, holistic education and support to vulnerable young Sierra Leoneans. We are a UK registered charity which believes that the education of young men and women is essential to: unlock human potential, overcome poverty, improve wellbeing, build democracy, and that it is the cornerstone of stable development. Our vision is a democratic, dignified and prosperous Sierra Leone, where poverty is eliminated by educated citizens who are able to develop their personal, social and economic wellbeing.*

Covid-19 is hurting everyone and especially the most vulnerable. Schools have closed for an indefinite period in Sierra Leone and EducAid is trying to keep its community of students safe whilst also trying to continue their education in innovative ways. They face massive challenges at the best of times and you can read more about how the charity is coping here.

To help raise funds, I’m selling some of my favourite doodles from the last couple of years to be made up into large canvases for £100 each and are suitable for homes, offices and businesses, depending on the message.

After the cost of printing the canvas, and postage and packing, all monies will go to EducAid. The shape of the doodle determines the size of the doodle but square doodles will normally be 50×50 centimetres and rectangular ones 60×40.

The canvases will be made up on the heaviest frame and delivered to your home by Photobox. The doodles shown here are my suggestions, though you can use my thin|silence blog as a catalogue to order from – just let me have the date of the blog and I can take it from there.**

To order yours, drop me a line at identifying the image and providing your email for the order to be completed.

(*From EducAid’s website.)
(**You can find some more of my favourites here: 1.1.20, 24.1.20, 12.2.20, 23.2.20, 1.3.20, 6.3.20, 11.3.20, 20.3.20.)

Good eyes

A hero sets off in search of something elusive that has the power to change both their life and the world.*
(Chris Guillebeau)

Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.**
(Carlos Castañeda)

The most important path you will ever walk is invisible to everyone but you. (I don’t mean that the path is fixed: it is dramatic and changes as you step out on it.)

Others may think they can see your path but they cannot, just as you cannot see theirs. The guide knows this and comes alongside to help you see what they cannot, to help you have good eyes

The guide knows that good eyes come from opening your mind, your heart and your will; they will help you connect with your values, identify your talents and sense your energy.

The rest is up to you:

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.^

(*From Chris Guillebeau’s The Happiness of Pursuit.)
(**Carlos Castañeda.)
(^Ralph Waldo Emerson, quoted in Martin Amor and Alex Pellew’s The Idea in You.)