The interruption

All that time saved. Now that you’ve got the time back, you get to choose what’s truly important to you. How will you spend it?*
(Seth Godin)

The call to adventure signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual centre of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown. The fateful region of both treasure and danger may be variously represented: as a distant land, forest, a kingdom underground, beneath the waves or above the sky, a secret island, lofty mountaintop, or profound dream state: but it’s always a place of strangely fluid polymorphous being, unimaginable torments, superhuman deeds, and impossible delights.**
(Joseph Campbell)

Add Covid-19 lockdown to the list.

Joseph Campbell’s call to adventure may suggest some Tolkienesque landscape and grand-drama but the key phrase in his description is ‘a zone unknown,’ when the unknown overcomes or interrupts the routine.

Our temptation can be to try and maintain the normal. I’ve certainly found myself trying to do what I’ve always done, but the interruption can often be more, it is a call requiring we let go in order that we can take hold of something new.

We find that we are more than capable and the adventure makes it possible to discover just how; Keri Smith, uses mythological language in her call to simply walk the earth differently:

Let us allow our wild spirits to roam unfettered and unbound. Let us roar and howl and voce our deepest yearnings without caring what others will think about us.^

Interruptions have a way of turning up and spilling us out of the normal, into the discovery that there is far more to our universe and world, the flora and fauna filling these, and, yes, ourselves, too.

If we think we’ve missed our opportunity, it probably means we haven’t, that we’ve only woken up.

Adventure is another word for today.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: What will you do with the time you save?)
(**From Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey.)
(^From Keri Smith’s The Wander Society.)

Open openness

From the beginning I have believed the world an amazing place, full of marvels, unheard of, not yet experienced.*
(M. C. Richards)

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way. As a man is, so he sees.**
(William Blake)

We’ll probably have to go into training to be as open as this wonderful planet requires if we are to see all that it has to offer.

Presence is pure unadulterated openness, necessary for healthy co-creativity, whether with others, the planet and even the hiddenness of ourselves:

The capacity to be present to everything that is happening, without resistance, creates possibility.^

Where there is no openness … same old same old.

There’s the philosophical and anthropocentric teaser: If a tree falls in a forest and there isn’t anyone there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Dur! Yes! If I’m not present then I miss something. We also now know that, in a way, the trees surrounding it “hear” it.

(*From M. C. Richards’ Centering.)
(**William Blake, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: The Cosmic Miracle of Trees.)

(^From Benjamin and Rosalind Zander’s The Art of Possibility.)

Our lives as cartoons

Drawing is so much more THAN GOOD OR BAD. IT IS A language FROM another part of you.*
(Lynda Barry)

When we abstract an image through cartooning we’re not so much eliminating details as we are focusing on specific details. By stripping down an image to its essential “meaning” an artist can amplify that meaning in a way that realistic art can’t. […] Cartooning isn’t just a way of drawing, it’s a way of seeing.**
(Scott McCloud)

Cartooning our lives is a way of being able to see beyond the noise of the less important to what is most essential to us, and often missed.

Whilst cartooning is a more illustrated way, it shares much with curation, here defined by Rohit Bhargava:

Curation is the ultimate method of transforming noise into meaning.^

Bhargava continues, curation isn’t about everything, it’s about particular things:

Museum curators organise collections into themes that tell stories […] the goal of curation is always to take individual items and examples and weave them together into a narrative. Curators add meaning to isolated beautiful things.^

Cartooning allows us to identify and weave on a storyboard the things that matter most of all to us, seeing past the less important things and see what our contribution can be. Another way we can understand this is subtext, so critical to creating a memorable and engaging story; Robert McKee underlines the importance of subtext here:

This principle calls for the writer’s constant awareness, their recognition that everything exists at two levels. In story, the writer must create both text and subtext. […] If a scene contains no subtext, it will seem forced or worse, fall flat entirely. As the old Hollywood expression goes: “If the scene is about what the scene is about, you’re in deep sh*t.” ^^

What we’re looking for is a way of seeing our lives as being more than the sum of its text. When we connect with its subtext something magical happens between ourselves and the world:

When the innerness of man is energised by the innerness of all the outer worlds, we grow strong in the contact.*^

After reading these words from M. C. Richards, I then came upon these from Scott McCloud about cartooning:

All the things we experience in life can be separated into two realms, the realm of the concept – and the realm of the senses. Our identities belong permanently to the conceptual world. They can’t be seen, heard, smelled, touched or tasted. They’re merely ideas. And everything else – at the start – belongs to the sensual world, the world outside of us.**

His argument is that we see ourselves in cartoon form where cartoon means focusing on the essentials. When we are talking with someone, we see their completeness but we are only aware of a few things about ourselves, perhaps our eyes and mouths, like the most basic cartoon. (Try and notice yourself the next time you’re zooming or have that wonderful luxury of meeting someone in person.)

The things that excite me most about all of this is how, in my work with people, we’re aiming to take away the noise and see the most important things – values, talents, environments that are most enriching and enervating.

Our talents are our particular ways for bringing things from the sensual world into our conceptual world. We then work our magic and reach out from our conceptual world with some idea or action and make something real happen in the sensual world, something that will hopefully make a difference.

Say I’m a writer, walking though the countryside, and I come upon a large, beautiful feather. I can bring this into my conceptual world and the feather becomes a quill, a pen, if I add a few cuts to it. I return this into the sensual world as an instrument to write with. It’s magical when you think about it.

How about pulling out a sketchbook and pen and begin to capture the things that are more important to you than anything else, representing these as images: places, people, ideas … . Then begin to put those images together in a storyboard, creating your subtext to your text.

These can be mixed up and re-presented in all kinds of ways. Have fun.

(*From Lynda Barry’s Making Comics.)
(**From Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics.)
(^From Rohit Bhargava’s Non Obvious 2018.)
(^^From Robert McKee‘s newsletter: The Story Within Your Story.)
(*^From M. C. Richards’ Centering.)


When the way is flat and dull in times of grey endurance,
May your imagination continue to evoke horizons.*

(John O’Donohue)

Sometimes we yield to others, giving up our needs or point of view for the sake of another.

Each of us must yield the produce or our lives, each fruitful in a different way.

These two meanings for yield are often connected, in that we have to give up our resistance to something before we can bring forth our best work.

What do you need to stop saying no to and what do you need to begin saying yes to?

(*From John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us: For One Who Holds Power.)

The unlikely places

Some people as they grow up becomes less […]. Other people as they grow up become more.*
(Eugene Peterson)

The wanderer becomes one with himself or herself and the universe. We connect with the energy of all living things. We live according to our inner nature.**
(Keri Smith)

What if, instead of thinking you’re in a hopeless place where nothing will happen, you knew something important is coming to you?

How would you prepare?

Perhaps you’d get yourself into a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual place of wellbeing: exercising, eating and sleeping well; taking more care of your emotions, turning your attention towards them, owning them; sharpening your thinking, reading, journaling; and, connecting with your values, imagining the possibilities.

Then you’d be ready.

It’s always more about who you are than where you are.

(*From Eugene Peterson’s Run With the Horses.)
(**From Keri Smith’s The Wander Society.)


Beyond-ing is about another way of seeing, feeling and doing to our normal.

Similar but beyond.

Beyond what lies upon the surface of our lives.

Beyond the status quo we can feel ourselves held within.

It is a capacity each of us have.

One way for discovering our beyond-ing is to notice the words that are important to us, words for evoking more and take us on a journey.

Each is like a zip file of possibilities.

I am keeping a list of mine as they present themselves and I pay attention to them.

In fact, Attention is one for my list of words beginning with A, taking me to the writings of people like Iris Murdoch, reminding me there is an art to noticing which I need to keep on developing the skills for.

Yours will be different. Have fun capturing your words as you notice them.

Let us begin

May I live this day
Compassionate of heart,
Gentle in word,
Gracious in awareness,
Courageous in thought,
Generous in love.*
(John O’Donohue)

It is here where the synergistic interplay of courage, wisdom and generosity make us most creative.**
(Erwin McManus)

This is where I desire to be each day, the morning calling me to the place of humility, gratitude and faithfulness.

(*From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(**From Erwin McManus’ Uprising.)

For those who would hang around

To say YES YES to what we behold. To what is titles, depraved, ugly, vacant, and to what is graceful, endearing, noble – equally. It will not do to leave out the violence we cannot bear – the intimacy, the banality, the blasphemy, the holiness we cannot bear. It simply will not do.*
(M. C. Richards)

M. C. Richards is inviting us to experience cosmos and so to love all of life:

I think love is fostered by a capacity to experience cosmos.*

Yes Yes is openness.

I must appear witless to some, depraved to others, ugly and certainly sometime vacant, but don’t give up on me. Hang around a while.

It happened that on this same morning I listened to the beauty and wonder held within Marie Howe’s poem Singularity (which I will close with and invite you to experience Howe’s reading of this with a specially commissioned video).

I am arrested whilst following the words from and to

a tiny dot bringing with
is is is is is
All everything home.**

Beauty and wonder in so many ordinary lives, an expression of singularity.

From her own experience as a potter, poet and educator, Richards senses this universe speaking to her as she gives form to what she did not know until allowing it expression. She encourages us to see that in many different things this same universe will speak to each of us:

The pot, the poem, the lesson – the universe speaks in forms that tell us of our own. A vast theatre whose architecture, whose movement and sound, whose episodes have us billed in cosmic roles, speaking lives we cannot memorise for we know them for the first time consciously only when we utter them, developing character and destiny amid what scenery!*

Had I only gleaned one thought from Richards’ entire book, this would have been worth the price, and more. We have all been provided with such an opportunity, none more valuable than another – such measurements are simply lines we draw:

A symphony of soloists playing simultaneously in a composition the structure of which has been given by the composer, but the music of which, the individual sounds of which, are the choices of each performer.*

Yes Yes to all.

Yes Yes to one another.

Yes Yes to Self.

Yes Yes to our world and all its fauna and flora.

Whether composer or singularity appeals more, or both together, we will need to leave the purely functional and practical, and certainly the industrial, and touch the particular and peculiar art that is our response to being here:

Art creates images of that world that moves within the world. And it is this realm which embodies itself continuously. From day to day in our bodies. From page to page in our writing. From canvas to canvas, stone to stone, dust to dust, the pot returneth.*

From his exploring of stories and myths from thousands of years, Joseph Campbell writes for our present times:

One way or another we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life and dedicate ourselves to that.^

Before all of this, though, a recalibration, a resetting, to imagine the world as one tiny expression of endless possibility within a great singularity. Within this world, your life, one tiny expression of endless possibility within a great singularity.

I will hang around to see that.

by Marie Howe

          (after Stephen Hawking)

Do you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity
we once were?

so compact nobody
needed a bed, or food or money — 

nobody hiding in the school bathroom
or home alone

pulling open the drawer
where the pills are kept.

For every atom belonging to me as good
Belongs to you.

There was no   Nature.    No
 them.   No tests

to determine if the elephant
grieves her calf    or if 

the coral reef feels pain.    Trashed
oceans don’t speak English or Farsi or French;

would that we could wake up   to what we were
— when we were ocean    and before that 

to when sky was earth, and animal was energy, and rock was
liquid and stars were space and space was not

at all — nothing

before we came to believe humans were so important
before this awful loneliness.

Can molecules recall it?
what once was?    before anything happened?

No I, no We, no one. No was
No verb      no noun
only a tiny tiny dot brimming with 

is is is is is

All   everything   home

(*From M. C. Richards’ Centering.)
(**From Marie Howe’s poem Singularity quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Singularity.)
(^From Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)

The universe you have always been and we are now discovering

Characterisation denotes a character’s appearance, the sum of all surface traits and behaviours. […] Characterisation alone is not character. But the skilled writer knows how to wield this as a tool in their effort to carve a fully dimensionalised protagonist and supporting cast.*
(Robert McKee)

I would rather wonder than know. […] I think wondering is a way of inhabiting and lingering. There seems to be more dwelling. To dwell, inhabit, and linger. I’m interested in those things. And you can do that when you don’t know. […] I would rather inhabit the question, or dwell. For me, that is the place I want to live in.**
(Mary Ruefle)

Robert McKee’s ideas on how to ‘carve a full dimensionalised protagonist’ help us to imagine becoming fully developing people.

The distinction between character and characterisation makes it possible for the writer to intrigue, to convince and to individualise. Otherwise they create predictable and unengaging characters for their audience.

Mary Ruefle’s words charmed me when I read them as they reminded me of the thing I love most about my work with all kinds of people. There is no end to the wonder to be discovered in people because we can never plumb the depths within each other or ourselves: there is always more.

Wonder causes us to stay, whilst knowledge makes it possible for us to move on to the next thing, the next person. In wonder, we find it possible to integrate our inside and outside worlds: our motivations and passions and heart with our traits and intentions and work:

May the light of your soul bless your work
with love and warmth of heart.
May you see what you do the beauty of the soul^

writes John O’Donohue;

Integrity not only harnesses our passions but focuses our intentions^^

reflects Erwin McManus.

The question is, how might we grow, and help each other to grow, an intriguing, convincing and individualised or unique life?

It is, Ruefle proffers, to dwell, to inhabit and to linger.

Far from finding boring people, we come upon persons of wonder.

(*From Robert McKee’s newsletter: How to Maximise Your Characterisation.)
(**Mary Ruefle, quoted in Austin Kleon’s blog: To Wonder Rather Than Know.)
(^From Joh O’Donohoe’s To Bless the Space Between Us: For Work.)
(^^From Erwin McManus’ Stand Against the Wind.)

Human by design

You’ll ask what would seem to be the obvious, except nobody’s seriously thought about it.*
(Paula Scher)

Read, look into other areas, use different learning mediums, ask better questions, reflect, be open to ideas, be surrounded by learners, and prioritise learning.**
(Michael Heppell)

Ask twenty people what they understand design to be and you’ll get twenty different answers.

Not surprising really given that design is one of the defining features of the human species. We have covered the planet in our designs and would have to travel a long way from home to find somewhere untouched by human design.

Of course, this flags up how design can be both good and bad, and the bad has left us in a predicament; we now know we have to get better at designing if we’re going to survive.

We’re all a part of this because we’re all designers, though we can forget this, thinking that designing is something people called designers do. But design begins with things we can all do: looking and listening, asking the stupid question, followed by the hard work of learning and imagining and making.

Soon enough, you’ll find yourself designing and making possibilities in areas of your own curiosity and interest. There’ll be people who want to collaborate with you, too.

It’s how we change the world.

(*Paula Scher, quoted in Warren Berger’s Glimmer.)
(**From Michael Heppell’s The Edge.)