It’s time to begin

won’t you celebrate with me
what I have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model

i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay*

Lucille Clifton

I am grateful for this invisible line drawn between one span of time and another of similar length: 31 December|1 January.

If I desire, it will mark a great difference between what is past and what can be.

Today then becomes my preparation: to buy the book to read, or the journal to write in, or sketchpad to draw in, or some other equivalence: to set these out in the space or time when I will come to them and then, begin.

Lucille Clifton‘s won’t you celebrate with me, from Maria Popova’s Figuring.

My top 5 reads of 2021:
The Practice by Seth Godin
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens;
Personality Isn’t Permanent by Ben Hardy;
Range by David Epstein;
The Way of Integrity by Martha Beck.

A responsibility for more

The ego is you as you think of yourself. You in relation to all the commitments of your life, as you understand them. The self is the whole range of possibilities that you’ve never even thought of. And you’re stuck with your past when you are stuck with your ego.*
Joseph Campbell

Some look backwards for the answers, though I more and more suspect they are to be found by looking forwards.

Eckhart Tolle warns that with the ego comes the painbody: the part of us wanting to feel the wrongs inflicted upon us by people and circumstances, so proving we were right all along.

The True Self is open to the future that shows nothing needs to change to be our fullest self.

*From Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey.

Add-venture and the boxset

Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honour and recognition in case of success.*
Ernest Shackleton

There is in each of us the desire for adventure.

We’re nothing if not inventive as we seek to satisfy this through different ways and means but the fire will not be assuaged by anything less than the venture we are here for.

Sometimes it all begins to emerge when we go slow, alone and silent:

In that special silence, you get a strong sense of something that wants to happen that you wouldn’t be aware of otherwise.**

*Ernest Shackleton, quoted in Maria Popova’s Figuring: the advert may not have existed;
**Joseph Jaworski from Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski and Betty Sue Flowers’ Presence.

Go quietly into the future

The future is not a destination. It’s a direction.*
Ed Catmull

Life is an expression of bliss.**
Joseph Campbell

In her book about learning from nature, Janine Benyus offers four steps for living in tune with and learning from nature which also provide a way of journeying towards the futures: quietening, listening, mimicking, stewarding.

Quietening is to come aside from the rush and noise of life, often alone.

Listening is to be open to the whisperings that come to us in our quietness: whether it be a walk or some reflective exercise, reading, journaling, doodling or other art.

Mimicking as in giving expression to what is presenting in whispers.

Stewards as both preserving and developing these expressions.

Forty five years after Joseph Campbell identified our need for myths if we are to live fully and meaningfully, and following a winter visit to the Artic Circle, Katherine May experiences this for herself, reflecting:

Few of us inherit the rich and complex mythologies that the Sami pass on – the sense of the world alive around us, and of ancestors keeping a gentle watch in the very rocks we stand one, the very wind that buffets us. Most of us have to make our own, if we think to do it at all.^

These mythologies, or stories, offer ways for containing our quietening, listening, mimicking and stewarding, Robert Bly offers a place to begin, picking a myth and seeking to live it out:

the student would choose one myth that attracted him and then spend time in college seeing how far he lived it and how the myth lived him.^^

Have fun.

*From Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc.;
**From Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey;
^From Katherine May’s Wintering;
^^Robert Bly, from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey.

And all things will be made new

I listened while the land spoke, and then I tried to mimic what I heard.*
Janine Benyus

One of the problems with being separated from the seasons is we have lost sight of how all things can be made new. And we all need this newness, the possibility of starting over.

god believes in it: it’s we that have to be convinced.

[O]ne young lady came to me and said, “Oh, Mr Campbell, you just don’t know about the modern generation. We go straight from infancy to wisdom.” I said, “That’s great. All you’ve missed is life.””**

*From Janine Benyus’ Biomimicry;
**From Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey.

Happy Christmas and more

I doodled this card last year when we were in lockdown across the UK. I wanted to share it to say thank you for joining me here across the year.

However you celebrate and recuperate at this time of year, I hope it will be both meaningful and enjoyable.

Thin|Silence is a simple blog, seeking to share some encouragement each day towards exploring your wonderful uniqueness. I look forward to 2022 and the ninth year of Thin|SIlence every day.

Not long now

Here’s a part of my Christmas card design for this year. I doodled it last Christmas Day when we weren’t able to meet with families and friends.

The completed design will be up tomorrow and I’m making the whole black and white design for you to colour in, if you would like to have some mindful colouring to do.

I hand-coloured the doodle this year and, I discovered, there’s a good four hours of relaxation included.

Solitude, light and awe

On balance, it’s where I prefer to be: somewhere in the middle. Certainty is a dead space, in which there’s no room to grow. Wavering is painful. I’m glad to be travelling between the two.*
Katherine May

We are the dawning of the universe upon itself.**
Rebecca Elson

Katherine May is describing her practice of getting up early and lighting a lamp but also a candle at her desk: one light steady, the other wavering.

She reminds me of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s identifying of two impulses: one of homing, the other of exploration. In her solitude May is identifying with these, so I thought to include John O’Donohue’s blessing for solitude and what it brings to us:

May your recognise in your life the presence,
Power and light of your soul.

May you have respect for your individuality and difference.^

There’s the light again, helping us to find our way, and I am reminded of three I hold close to: the light of humility, the light of gratitude, and the light of faithfulness.

Jonah Paquette teaches me that although awe can, on the one hand, arise from vastness, and be either perceptual – perhaps a sunset, or conceptual – perhaps an idea, on the other hand it can be something that transcends understanding and changes us.^^

In your solitude, may you find your guiding lights, and journeying between homing and exploration, be changed from your wonderful glory to more glory.

*From Katherine May’s Wintering;
**From Rebecca Elson’s A Responsibility to Awe;
^From John O’Donohue’s Benedictus: For Solitude:
^^See Jonah Paquette’s Awestruck.

Stories are our home

The myths, when they are translated into rites, organise the field.*
Joseph Campbell

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.**

Shouldn’t we be suspicious of the desires in the hearts of some people? We suspect our own enough.

I wonder, though, whether deep down in every human heart there is a desire to for beauty.

I was arrested by the following story.

A desperate Michelle reaches out to Nick Cave:

Nick. Am Scottish. Am no very well with the alcohol. Rehab soon. 29/7. Please. Nick. I saw you in Prospect Park NY many years ago. Am so scared. I’m not well. Stagger Me! I think the world of you and The Seeds.^

Cave’s Red Hand Files blog is often a place of intimacy for the musician as he respond to messages people have written. I include his whole letter to Michelle:

Dear Michelle,

Time to give up the booze – you know it, you need to. It’s frightening now, I know, but I can only say this, life is better without it. Impossibly better. It’s difficult to understand right now, it’s frightening right now, I know, but without the drink life is better. Just remember that. You’ll see. You’ll be better. You’ll see. Life is good. You’ll see. Life is good. Life is good. Life is good. 

Prepare to be amazed. 

Love, Nick x^

Life is good.

Your life is good. My life is good.

Deep down there are the desires of our hearts to be awakened.

I include Joseph Campbell’s words because our stories are so important for being fully awake. We may think of stories as ways of trying to understand what we’re doing, but perhaps more true is that what we do is a way of trying to understand our stories.

Wherever we are, whatever we are facing, our stories are our home. They help us face our winter and already contain our expectant spring.

Writing out our stories, in some aspect or way, every day helps us to connect with what is most important when the noise and rush of a day can cover it over with activity without reflection.

*From Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey;
**Psalm 37:4;
^From Nick Cave’s The Red Hand Files: #160.