Coming home

What is needed is only this: solitude, great inner solitude. Going within and meeting no one else for hours – that is what one must learn to attain.*
Rainer Maria Rilke

There are many things that keep us away from the home that is being our truest selves, from being at home with ourselves.

Busyness, hurriedness, fear of what we will find and what we will not find, things we have done to ourselves, things others have done to us … only begin a long list.

The solitude Rainer Maria Rilke writes about, I imagine to be on the far side of interdependence, which itself lies on the far side of independence.

Whilst being dependent is to have no self, independence is to find a self but may also abandon us to our false self.

Being open to others and to all things is to be attentive to the uniqueness of all, including ourselves, in whom we find our home, and out of which we bring our treasures to others.

*Rainer Maria Rilke quoted in Maria Popova’s The Marginalian: Rilke on the Relationship Between Solitude, Love, Sex, and Creativity.

Imperfect is our truth

All work and life exist within an imperfect space. … Imperfect spaces are your friend. … Imperfect is a superpower if you know how to use it.*
David Wolstencroft

Imperfect is my truth, and when I am prepared to own this then I am able to move in the direction of my hopes and dreams.

I do not have to be perfect, the other person does not have to be perfect, the situation doesn’t have to be perfect, the timing doesn’t have to be perfect:

Life is hard
I am not as special as we think
My life is not about me
I am not in control
I am going to die.

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick … begin/keep going.**

*David Wolstencroft, quoted in gapingvoid’s blog: Imperfect is a superpower;
**Or, Check, check, check, check, check … start/keep going.



Your soul is much larger than you! You are just along for the ride. When you learn to live there, you will live with everyone and everything else too.*
Richard Rohr

Wow, we won the lottery.

None of us did anything to get here and yet we have been gifted this astonishing amount of time to express ourselves in a meaningful and significant way.

Taking a cue from my friend Alex, there are six attributes to awaken that will enable us to leave things better than we found them: reflection, anticipation, imagination, synchronisation, design and creation.

*From Richard Rohr’s Immortal Diamond.

About responsibility and freedom

You have come to the sobering and evening discouraging realisation that you have participated in every bad decision you have ever made!*
Sunil Raheja

Sunil Raheja reminds me of the most important thing I did for finding the path I must walk: taking responsibility for what had gone wrong.

It wasn’t a once and for all decision, and I still look around for other people or things to blame when something goes wrong – I don’t like the accompanying feelings of embarrassment, guilt or even shame – but I know, only taking responsibility will free me to keep moving.

Erich Fromm wrote about how no-one is completely free. I can’t find the quote right now, but he was saying, we’re each free to some extent or another and life is about finding out just how free we are.

When we figure out how free we are, we can begin on an incredible journey:

More than ever, more us have the freedom to care, the freedom to connect, the freedom to choose, the freedom to initiate, the freedom to do what matters.**

Responsibility begets freedom begets passion, but we have to make sure its the kind of responsibility we must take and not the kind that is not ours to take.

You may want to spend a little time taking responsibility for some bad decisions you’ve made. Not too long, though, because you also need to make some good decisions, the freedom you have to follow your passions:

Your passion is simply the work we have trusted ourselves to do.^

Work through Seth Godin’s list of freedoms: to care, to connect, to choose, to initiate, to do what matters, naming the things that are your joyful responsibility.

*From Sunil Raheja’s Dancing With Wisdom;
**From Seth Godin’s It’s Your Turn;
^From Seth Godin’s The Practice.

Humble learning

I was sitting in a friend’s study the other day, and noticed that he had hundreds of books I’d never read. … It reminded me of how much is out there, just waiting for us to explore and understand. We have a chance to learn and move forward if we care to.*
Seth Godin

A fundamental belief we have is that ‘nothing changes in the absence of tension’.**
Hugh Macleod

A few of things about learning:

It’s strange, the more we learn, the greater our realisation of what we do not know.

Learning begets tension begets change begets creativity.

We don’t throw out everything we know when we learn something new. It grows and builds, asking what will we do with that?

We need to allow ourselves to pursue hunches, to discover … nonobvious relationships between new information and information already in our memory. … we need to give ourselves time to make new images and move them around inside our heads, and on paper, in new arrangements.^

Best of all, learning changes us, and the good news is, there’s nothing to stop us from learning all the days of our lives (whatever our gender):

Old men ought to be explorers
Here and there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity …^^

*From Seth Godin’s blog: Books unread;
**From gapingvoid’s blog: Change sucks, or does it?;
^From Peter Turchi’s A Muse and a Maze;
^^T. S. Eliot, quoted in Peter Turchi’s A Muse and a Maze.

Did you see that?

This sort of mind-bending awe doesn’t require us to travel off to distant lands or buy a ticket to a local symphony; rather, it requires us to open ourselves up to the wonders of the world in a different way, and to harness the power of our imaginations to evoke moments of awe within us.*
Jonah Paquette

The flâneur instead takes joy in his own anonymity. Only when you pass by unobserved along the streets of Paris can you enjoy complete freedom and breathe the essence of the possible in the air.**
Federico Castigliano

Paris is where flânering was honed developed, but wherever we are, we can engage in it or in its sibling wandering, this to rediscover our world in a new unfamiliarity.

Not seeking to be observed but to observe, the flâneur and flâneuse are seeking to move from the self into the everything, which is also the fullness of self, or the true self.

Martha Beck may be speaking of Danté’s experience as he enters Paradise, but she could easily be speaking of those engaging in flânerie, which can be a journey from the ego into the eco:

First, he no longer feels any separation from anyone or anything. … Second, his personal will (Buddhists might call it his “ego”) begins to dissolve and diminishes the further he goes into paradise.^

What is happening here?

Rainer Maria Rilke says it well when he confesses what learning to see makes possible for him. It is seeing everyone and everything will wide-open eyes, for which we need to put away the old ways of seeing and, with effort, force ourselves to see anew:

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 ow it always used to finish. I have an inner self of which I was ignorant. Everything goes thither now. What happens there I do not know.^^

This is a journey that brings about deep change in us as we ponder the inner self:

[Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson] found that persistent self-contemplation and inquiry turns a temporary brainstate into a permanent, structural trait.^

*From Jonah Paquette’s newsletter The Wise Brain Bulletin: Mind-bending Awe;
**From Federico Castigliano’s Flâneur;
^From Martha Beck’s The Way of Integrity;
^^Rainer Maria Rilke, quoted in David Brooks’ The Second Mountain.

Wandering into our creativity

creativity starts with engaging with the world on our own terms, noticing what others miss, and attending to what matters most to you*
Rob Walker

In the labyrinth of the city, the flâneur makes his own destiny. Walking freely without a specific aim is an affirmation of his autonomy in action and in thought.**
Federico Castigliano

Seth Godin points out that many of us are already wandering, but in unhelpful ways:

digital wandering is mostly a waste. It doesn’t free our imagination, it stifles it … The next time we consider wasting an afternoon clicking on whatever baits us, perhaps it might make sense going for a walk instead**.

Better to put the need to wander in service of something more fruitful. Imagine it as sowing seeds to which there’ll be an attending harvest.

Wander through a city, wander through buildings, wander through woods, wander through books, wander through writing and doodling: open to that thing we will know when it comes to us:

The attentive consciousness can be regarded as the very space of our personalities. We can just as well say that that thing dislodges a certain space in our personalities.^^

*From Rob Walker’s newsletter The Art of Noticing: Useless, and Valuable;
**From Federico Castigliano’s Flâneur (also, check out Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse for a gender-balancing perspective);
^From Seth Godin’s blog; Aimless clicking;
José Ortega Y Gasset, quoted in Maria Popova’s The Marginalian (formerly, Brain Pickings): Whom We Love and Who We Are: José Ortega y Gasset on Love, Attention, and the Invisible Architecture of Our Being

Note to self: don’t stop me now*

Once having traversed the threshold, the hero moves in a dream landscape of curious fluid, ambiguous forms, where he must survive a succession of trials.**
Joseph Campbell

From the disparity between the immensity of the possible and the smallness of the human being there springs the torment and energy of the flâneur. Persecuted by frustration, he is sentenced to a sort of perpetual motion.^
Federico Castigliano

We need to keep moving or our egos will catch us, catch us and hold us fast in what is false about us.

I know it is I who gets in my way.

Therefore, I have to keep moving: opening mind, opening heart, opening will.

When I die, may it be in motion:

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.^^

*Music to accompany this post: Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now;
**From Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey;
^From Federico Castigliano’s Flâneur;
^^From James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.

All souls

Penetralium: An innermost or most secret part or place; the interior of a building.

I have no idea how to get my students to build a self or become a soul … and in the hundreds of faculty appointments and promotions I have participated in, we’ve never evaluated a candidate on how much he or set could accomplish it.*
Steven Pinker

We may enjoy soul-music and refer to lifeless experiences as soul-less, but we’re not so likely to think of ourselves as having souls, and yet, this is what so many are feeling towards when they sense they’re harming or breaking something inside.

*Steven Pinker, quoted in David Brooks’ The Second Mountain