Wisdom’s fool

To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt.*
(David Whyte)

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.**
(Paul the apostle)

Wisdom is forged in action. Beyond the mind and even the heart, it is both the way and the end. It does not wait for reciprocity. In this it is both vulnerable and unbalancing, though some might say foolish.

We may not be on the receiving end of the kind of treatment named by the Christian apostle Paul – compassion, kindness, humility, weakness, patience, forbearance, love – but we can “wear” them ourselves. Civil activist John Lewis encourages us in these words:

Our actions entrench the power of the light on this planet. Every positive thought we pass between us makes room for more light. And if we do more than think, then our actions clear the path for even more light. That is why forgiveness and compassion must become more important principles in public life.^

If we are to be fools, let us be Wisdom’s fools.

(*David Whyte, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: John Lewis on Love, Forgiveness and the Seedbed of Personal Strength.)
(**Paul’s Letter to the Colossians 3: 12-14)
(John Lewis, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: John Lewis on Love, Forgiveness and the Seedbed of Personal Strength.)

When did I help you to walk, to run, to fly?

The artist is not a special kind of man,
but every man is a special kind of artist.*

(Meister Eckhart)

A lifetime of brainwashing has taught us that work is about measurable results, that failure is fatal, and that we should be sure that the recipe is proven before we begin. And so we bury our dreams.**
(Seth Godin)

We can cause those around us to stumble or succeed when it comes to who they are and what they can do.

Just because they are not like us or we fear that we may be left behind is no excuse.

And it may just be that the person we are most critical of and tripping up is ourselves right now, and we need to sort ourselves out first:

And sometimes I don’t know who I am until I’m down on the page. Oh, there I am.^

An abundant world is one in which we help each other to start, to fail and learn and continue, and to do what it is we must do:

An abundant society can’t be created with a narrative of scarcity.^^

(*Meister Eckhart, quoted in Corita Kent and Jan Steward’s Learning by Heart.)
(**From Seth Godin’s The Practice.)
(^From Austin Kleon’s blog: On solitude, and being who you are.)
(^^From Bernadette Jiwa’s The Right Story.)

Is that wise?

The fool views himself as more unique and others as more generic; the wise views himself as more generic and others more unique.*
(Nassim Taleb)

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm.**

Wisdom is less what we know and more how we live, an attitude of wanting to live out what we know towards goodness, always desiring to know more.

We are, at our best, lifelong learners taking time each day to reflect on how well we are giving expression to the things we know and value.

Richard Rohr identifies four splits we make to create our False Self:

  1. We split from our shadow self and pretend to be our idealised self.
  2. We split our mind from our body and soul and live in our minds.
  3. We split from death and try to live our life without any “death.”
  4. We split from other selves and try to live apart, superior, and separate.^

We’re all prone to these dangers, at times moving towards our False Self, at other times towards our True Self.

Wisdom notices, Foolishness doesn’t.

(*From Nassim Taleb’s The Bed of Procrustes.)
(**Proverbs 13:20)
(^From Richard Rohr’s Immortal Diamond.)

The servant of the year award

I am learning to see. I don’t know why it is, but everything penetrates more deeply into me and does not stop at the place where until now it used to finish. I have an inner self of which I was ignorant. Everything goes thither now. What happens there I do not know.*
(Rainer Maria Rilke)

Because the ego is inherently vulnerable, its predominant mood is one of anxiety.**
(Alain de Botton)

There is in each of us a desire to be acknowledged and recognised and respected for who we are and what we do.

Perhaps it is the False Self, where our ego finds a home, that seems to desire this most of all, more likely to be duped into wanting what it does not really need or find helpful. Our True Self, though, knows the recognition we need comes from the person we are serving, and certain others who make it possible for our contribution to be received by even more besides.

Which all goes to say that when we find our True Self, we can trust it to lead us.

(*Rainer Maria Rilke, quote in David Brooks’ The Second Mountain.)
(**From Alain de Botton’s Religion for Atheists, reflecting on the instructions of a Buddhist retreat.)

A bad case of akrasia

[Christianity’s] theologians have known that our soul suffers from what ancient Greek philosophers termed akrasia, a perplexing tendency to know what we should do combined with a persistent reluctance actually to do it, whether through weakness of will or absent-mindedness.*
(Alain de Botton)

If you’re holding back and looking for a reason why, and that reason is replaced by another reason, then… you might be stalling.**

We’ve all done it.

I’m rather good at it.

We’ve all stalled at some point or other.

We’ve found something else to think about or do rather than what needs to be tackled.

I am prioritising.

Clearing the deck to be uninterrupted.

Waiting for the urge.

Something urgent just came up.

Someone needs my help.

Is that an email?

(I have plenty more good reasons.)

Sometimes what we don’t do tells us what we should do.


(*From Alain de Botton’s Religion for Atheists.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: Are you stalling?)

Growing beyond (#2,500)

You are so fixated on what you see that you can’t see past it.*
(Ben Hardy)

The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what is saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can this, but thousands can think for one who can see.**
(John Ruskin)

To strain to see beyond what we presently can see, to understand more than we presently understand, these are great and worthy quests capable of changing lives, not only your own but also those of others. This has become my own experience.

Today’s Thin|Silence is the 2,500th proffering. At the back-end of 2013, I’d been wondering how I might be able to share some of what I was reading and journaling, something I’d begun fifteen years earlier.

I thought to begin a blog but needed more of a challenge to this. As I had been reading Hugh Macleod’s three books on his own blogging and doodling,^ I wondered about blogging and doodling (I’d never doodled) every day of 2014.

Once having traversed the threshold, the hero moves in a dream landscape of curiously ambiguous forms, where he must survive a succession of trials.^^

The challenge turned into a journey and, with only a few intentional interruptions for holidays, I’ve blogged every day since, and it feels as though it has taken on mythological proportions inasmuch as posing my two central questions: Who is my True Self? and What is my contribution?

The two questions must be held together. Without the first, we are unable to bring our best contribution; without the second, we are unable to find our True Self:

Seeing well is not natural. It is in act of humility. It means getting your own self – your own needs and wishes – out of the way, so that you can see the thing your are looking at as itself, and not just a mirror of your own interests. Seeing well is a skill you learn from others who see reality clearly […].*^

Seeking to grow beyond what I presently see and understand feeds into my work with others, especially in dreamwhispering, but also in doodling, and it is also in the gift in Thin|Silence, my encouragement to keep going, keep seeing, keep understanding, keep growing. May you find your way of ceaseless growth:

It is […] a way of exposing one’s ceaseless growth, the dynamic self that has yet to be. The infinite player does not expect only to be amused by surprise, but to be transformed by it, for surprise does not alter some abstract past, but one’s own personal past.^*

(*From Ben Hardy’s Willpower Doesn’t Work.)
(**John Ruskin, quoted in David Brooks’ The Second Mountain.)
(^These books are Ignore Everybody, Freedom is Blogging in Your UnderWear, and Evil Plans.)
(^^From Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey.)
(*^From David Brooks’ The Second Mountain.)
(^*From James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.)

Wanted: believers

We who draw do so not only to make something visible to others, but also to accompany something invisible to its incalculable destination.*
(John Berger)

There are products you care about beyond reason, and it’s with this lack of reason that you define yourself.**
(Hugh Macleod)

There are many futures that could exist if only someone would believe in them.

Believers will live towards this future no matter what it takes or others may think of them – they may be described as unreasonable.

We have to step beyond reason to believe – beyond opening the mind, to opening the heart and opening the will. Joseph Jaworski’s words fit well:

The process itself is a volitional act of love, enabling new possibilities.^

Our willingness to believe becomes a womb of possibility.

(*From John Berger’s Bento’s Sketchbook.)
(**From gapingvoid’s blog: “We are all weird”.)
(^From Joseph Jaworski’s Source.)

Time for everyone to go out and play

[Corita] taught me not to remember the child I bad been but to nourish the child still alive within me.*
(Jan Steward)

I almost used the title Child sacrifice for this post, the idea being that we can believe we have surrender the child within us in order to grow up or get ahead or be taken seriously.

Robin Wall Kimerer exhorts us,

That kind of deep attention that we pay as children is something that I cherish, that I think we all can cherish and reclaim, because attention is that doorway to gratitude, the doorway to wonder, the doorway to reciprocity. And it worries me greatly that today’s children can recognise 100 corporate logos and fewer than ten plants.**

Noticing, asking questions, playing with thoughts and drawing pictures are all good ways to connect with the ever-present child.

Even an eighty year old is only a child in a fourteen billion year old universe.

(*From Corita Kent and Jan Steward’s Learning by Heart.)
(**Robin Wall Kimerer, quoted in Rob Walker’s The Art of Noticing.)

An assumption of unlikeliness

You were born ready to make art. But we’ve been brainwashed into believing that you can’t trust yourself enough to do so.*
(Seth Godin)

I’m unlikely to be chosen.
There are more likely candidates.
It’s unlikely to work.
It’s unlikely to be noticed.
It’s unlikely to make a difference.
It’s unlikely to get off the ground.

We make assumptions of unlikeliness when it comes to the gift we long to bring into the world and so we stop before we start. It’s why Milton Glaser asserts, while any can be an artist few are:

One of the problems with art is that it is self-anointing: Anyone can be an artist by simply pointing to themselves and saying so. The truth is that there are very few artists. [Making the world a better place through art] is the highest attainment of the socialisation. It is to recognise that it is not all bout you, and that you have a communal function you can serve to help everyone get along. This is important for people to understand, especially in a capitalist society.**

We must find the assumption. All of us are called but few will choose ourselves.

But we can.

(*From Seth Godin’s The Practice.)
(**Milton Glaser, quoted in Seth Godin’s The Practice.)

Liberated

Most of humanity is so enchanted with its False (concocted) Self that it has largely doubted and rejected – or every known – its True Self. And so it lives in anxiety and insecurity. We have put so much time into creating it that we cannot imagine this False Self not being true – or not being “me.”*
(Richard Rohr)

I […] beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.**
(Paul the Apostle)

The apostle Paul was likely writing two thousand years ago about humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance and peacefulness because they were needing to be encouraged amongst his listeners. Jump to the present time and take a look through a sample of tweets, posts, blogs and social streams and you realise some things don’t change, only the technologies.

When we admit the truth about ourselves – we mess up, get things stupidly wrong, act out, don’t know what we’re talking about – we can see how important Paul’s characteristics are for taking us out of ourselves to others.

As he concludes The Second Mountain, David Brooks summarises,

The first mountain is the individualist worldview, which puts the desires of the ego at the centre. The second mountain is what you might call the relationalist worldview, which puts relation, commitment and the desires of the heart and soul at the centre.^

Brooks is observing is the hyper-individualist society in which many of us find ourselves. It is good to know who we are and what we can do, but if we do not commit ourselves to others, it spins off into “Me-centred” world that struggles with and cannot hold onto the kind of characteristics we were thinking about earlier.

Just to be aware of this, to notice it, is what the ego – or False Self as Richard Rohr names it – fears most of all. Becoming people who notice and reflect provides us with the opportunity forwards, to become our True Self.

I do not see us as one or the other, but both at the same time with one or other being in the ascendency; Brooks feels the same:

A committed life involves some common struggles. […] It is, for example, a constant struggle to see people at their full depths. In the business of daily life there is the constant temptation to see the other person as an object and not a whole. […] There is a constant struggle to communicate well. […] There is a constant struggle to live as an effective giver and receiver of gifts. […] Personal being […] is essentially generous.^

I see the Individual and relational needs of humans as two poles. When we are spinning around both we are interdependent beings, but when our lives spin off beyond the individual into Brooks’ hyper-individualism then we are become hyper-independent. The opposite, though Brooks doesn’t mention this, is when we spin off beyond the relational we become hyper-dependent.

We are always trying to know who we are and live towards others, expressing Joseph Campbell’s insistence that we need two myths: a personal and a societal.

The ego or False Self squeezes life small because it never has enough. The eco (self with others) or True Self stretches life large as it finds it always has more than enough because life is always becoming more.

Check out Rebecca Solnit’s excellent retelling of the Cinderella fairytale as Cinderella Liberator to explore more aspects of what it means to become our “truest selves.” Here the fairy godmother speaks in her own way of the second mountain or relationalist worldview:

There is always enough for everyone, if you share it properly, or if it has been shared properly before you got there. There is enough food, enough love, enough homes, enough time, enough crayons, enough people to be friends with each other.^^

(*From Richard Rohr’s Immortal Diamond.)
(**Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 4:1-3.)
(^From David Brooks’ The Second Mountain.)
(^^From Rebecca Solnit’s Cinderella Liberator.)