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
Grace makes both the giver and the recipient more beautiful.** Erwin McManus
I love Quentin Blake‘s simple drawing style, something he came upon early in his days cartooning for Punch magazine. With a few lines and a little watercolour, He is able to tell a story. It holds an important truth for us, That when we find the lines and add a little colour, We come alive. These lines include our abilities and values and energies, And then we can make our own lines. Whilst there’s nothing special about the 1st January 2023, It can become defining if we want it to: “From this day, And for the following year, I will …” We all have lines and colours; sometimes what we only need to extend to ourselves and to others is a little grace.
All he wants to do is draw. He is, thank goodness, unstoppable.* Jenny Uglow
[I]t is another language altogether; impossible for adults to speak and arduous for us to understand. We might call that language ‘Childish’: we have all been fluent in Childish once, and it is a language with a billion or more native speakers today – though all of those speakers will in time forget they ever knew it.** Robert Macfarlane
Though unstoppable, He is also 90; He is Quentin Blake. Robert Macfarlane may be right to assert we all lose our fluency, and then, remembrance of that language Childish, But I wonder whether there are some amongst us, like Blake, who retain more than a few “words and phrases” – of curiosity and awe, of wonder and imagination, of questions and playfulness – That they form and shape into that language we might name Childlike, To use garrulously throughout their years.
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
In that special silence, you get a strong sense of something that wants to happen the you wouldn’t be aware of otherwise.** Joseph Jaworski
Here’s a playful exercise, Figuring out how what you do on a day-to-day basis would save the world: What do you want to save the world from? What are your superpowers? Who helps you to do this? Who are you helping? Directly or indirectly, For large numbers or for the one – We can all make the world a better place. Adventures do not require us to risk our lives crossing Antartica, More often, they’re available as we turn up in our very familiar worlds with greater intention as a result of noticing more, inwardly and outwardly.
*Maria Popova’s Figuring: it’s not clear whether Ernest Shackleton actually subscribed to such an advertisement; **Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski’s Betty Sue Flowers’ Presence.
“Oh, Mr Campbell, you just don’t know about the modern generation. We go directly from infancy to wisdom.” I said, “That is great. All you’ve missed is life.”* Joseph Campbell
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.** The Apostle Paul
My father was born in 1909, His father, whom I never knew, was born in 1872. This span of time has provided me a sense of how much has changed across the generations, each having more than the one before. Though I can easily forget, I try to hold on to the wisdom from the past that can help me to become more, rather than to have more, Wisdom I keep before me especially in these lines – Which, counterintuitively, enlarge rather than constrict life: Life is hard, You are not as special as you think, Your life is not about you, You are not in control, You are going to die. Joseph Campbell gave his life to understanding how critical myths are to us, These stories helping us to find our bliss, Enabling us to live larger lives through humility – the world doesn’t revolve around us, and gratitude – we have so much if we bother to notice, and faithfulness – serving one another: Life is an expression of bliss.*
Few of us inherit the rich and complex mythologies that the Sanū pass on – the sense of the world alive around us, and of ancestors keeping a gentle watch residing in the very rocks were stand on, the very wind that buffets us. Most of us have to make our own, if we think to do it at all.^
School and work push us to avoid real dreams. Dreamers are dangerous, impatient and unwilling to tolerate the status quo. Existing systems would prefer we simply fit in. The dreams we need to teach are the dreams of self-reliance and generosity. The only way for us to move forward is to encourage and amplify the work of people who are willing to learn, to see and to commit to making things better.* Seth Godin
Every move an infinite player makes is towards the horizon. Every move made by a finite player is within a boundary. Every moment of an infinite game therefore presents a new range of possibilities.** James Carse
It’s not that some have way more attributes than others, It’s that some know how to make the most of what they have noticed about themselves: They have stepped towards the horizon and the horizon has moved. Seth Godin references the two dreams of self-reliance and generosity; These align with Theory U’s two questions – Who is my True Self? and What is my contribution? – And with Joseph Campbell’s two myths that we need, These being the personal and the social. When we emphasise these in our lives, then something new begins spinning around and between the two: possibility.
Before writing and drawing were separated they were conjoined.* Scott McCloud
Pictures and words together make a third thing.** John Baldessari
It had been suggested that I write something about doodling for a Christmas-time blog at the University of Edinburgh, So I thought that I would share this here – It’s a great time to doodle – So here we are: Twelve good reasons for doodling and twelve doodling things to do – all you need is a black pen and paper. Merry Doodling Christmas!
Day 1 Doodle comes from dawdle, It is a great way to come aside from all the busyness and noise and slow down: Use the doodle alphabet to create an abstract illustration, Filling a 10x10cms square.^ Make it busy.
Day 2 Colouring in a doodle is for relaxing. Slowly use crayons, pencils or pens to colour in yesterday’s doodle, and see how it changes; Notice how you change: Changing what the body does can change our feelings, perception, and thoughts.^^
Day 3 Colouring is for relaxing, Doodling is for listening, But there are six other art-for-learning skills: A means to record, Understand better, Create something, Present something. Add your doodle to the following text by way of illustration: Before writing and drawing were separated they were conjoined.*
Day 4 Doodling is one of the smallest ways of moving, And moving is one way we extend our minds and keep our thoughts moving. Draw an A5 frame on a sheet of paper: You have one line with which to fill this shape – You can’t break contact, so You’ll be able to use all the shapes from the doodle alphabet except the dot: Write the words, “Keep Moving” on your sheet.
Day 5 Doodles and text together take us into the world of semiotics, In this case, Conveying meaning in as few words of possible, Enhancing with a doodle. Try copying this doodle from Hugh Macleod*^
Day 6 We remember more when doodling: One study found that people who were directed to doodle while carrying out a boring listening task remembered 29 percent more information than people who did not doodle, likely because the latter group had let their attention slip away entirely.^^ Write out the following Jean Rhys quote, Create a doodle to go with it The hide this and recall all the objects, Including those you imagined to be present: I got a box of Jnibs, the sort I liked, an ordinary penholder, a bottle of ink and a cheap ink-stand. Now that old table won’t look so bare, I thought.^*
Day 8 There are doodling shapes everywhere. I took a load of pictures of buildings and spaces whilst on holiday in Florence and at a conference in Washington, which I later used to create a colouring book. Why not get out your holiday pictures and use the features of buildings and spaces to create your doodle for today?
Day 9 You can doodle anywhere – All you need is a small notebook and a black pen. Hugh Macleod began doodling on the back of business cards, and still creates images that are this size. Play with small doodles by cutting out some paper or card the size of a bank or loyalty card.
Day 10 You never know where doodling will lead you. I ended up with illustrating requests for books and even a board game. Doodle often, don’t worry about what others think, Don’t look at likes or anything, just doodle. Create a doodle with the text: Doodling with attitude.
Day 11 Everyone can doodle; It’s simply a sad fact that someone, somewhere, told us that we couldn’t draw: How old do you have to be to make a bad drawing?⁺ If you can remember who or when, Create a doodle that has on the left when you stopped drawing and on the right has today’s date – Then go crazy doodling.
Day 12 Doodling is for Christmas; For several years now I have created a Christmas card. Here’s your turn for Christmas 2023 – or Yule or Winter or Solstice or Hannukah or Dongzhi or Shab-e Yalda. Have fun and a great holiday however you celebrate.
*Scott McClooud’s Making Comics; **Austin Kleon’s blog: A brief appreciation of John Baldessari: ^The doodle alphabet comprises a: square, circle, straight line, curved line, wavy line, dot, ellipse, cloud, zigzag, swirl, loop, arch; everything you need to create a doodle; ^^Annie Murphy Paul’s The Extended Mind; *^Hugh Macleod triggered my doodling; copying his work is a great place to develop our own doodling; ^*Lauren Elkin’s Flaneuse. ⁺Lynda Barry’s Making Comics.
We are the dawning of the universe upon itself.* Rebecca Elson
May you recognise in your life the presence, Power and light of your soul. … May you have respect for your individuality and difference.** John O’Donohue
Sometimes we twist and sometimes we stick; Problems begin when we favour one or the other. Mihály Csikszentmihalyi recognised our ‘two contradictory sets of instructions’:^ a tendency for the conservative and another for expansiveness; Almost two hundred years earlier, Friedrich Schiller had noticed the twin impulses necessary for bringing us to “complete being.”^^ One is convergent, the other divergent – What we know and what we do not know; In-between lies the emergent, the possible, Unknown unless we explore. May your life endlessly dawn upon you, Each day a new day.
If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see.*^
genius (n.) late 14c., “tutelary or moral spirit” who guides and governs an individual through life, from Latin genius “guardian deity or spirit which watches over each person from birth; spirit, incarnation; wit, talent;” also “prophetic skill; the male spirit of a gens,” originally “generative power” (or “inborn nature”)
Genius is inseparable from the creative process. The word “genius” is expressive of the capacity to be generative. The genius gives birth to something new. The genius creates. The mark of true genius is that the impossible becomes possible. The unknowable becomes knowable. The invisible becomes visible. The genius speaks the future into existence.* Erwin McManus
Today, we popularly think of a genius as being a standout person of great intelligence, But the reality is that we all have genius, Though I don’t think it’s something set at birth, Rather, I see it as a plasticity to be shaped and manipulated as our curiosities grow, our fascinations lead us, and we begin the hard work. Though some are trampled down and whilst others choose not to explore their depths and many fill their lives with unsatisfying, temporary things, It’s never too late to grow our genius, and to keep on growing.