There’s more than one way to live a life

we live in a culture of compliance, that we are ever more conditioned to accept orthodoxy as normal, and to accept that there is only one way of doing it*
Ursula Franklin

Good to know.hughcards

Look beneath the surface of who you are and what you do and you’ll begin to see your life at a values times talents times energies level. This is where we can make some changes.

*From Ursula Franklin’s The Real World of Technology.

We can learn how to do that

Where one great harmonía joins together nature, society and heaven, trickster meddles with the harmoí. … unmaking old harmonies and sometimes, especially if he has a lyre of his own, singing new ones to fill the ensuing silence.*
(Lewis Hyde)

Inquiry: What’s so brilliant about learning?

Reply: We can learn how to do that?

I’m not aware of being prepared for learning at school, or helped to make much sense of what was happening to me there. School and learning was something that happened to me, as it had been for my parents, born in 1909 and 1919.

There were four surviving children in my immediate family and only one went on to university, and it wasn’t me.

I came to learning much later, in my late thirties, but I will now be a learner until the day I die, and, who knows, maybe beyond.

I had asked my question about the genius of learning to someone exploring their talent themes** and this had been their answer.


The thing is, the more we learn the more we can meddle, leaving things better than we found them.

*From Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World;
**See Gallups’s StrengthsFinder.

Seized by joy

Joy tends to involve some transcendence of self. … Joy often involves self-forgetting. … We can help create happiness, but are seized by joy. We are pleased by happiness, but we are transformed by joy.*
David Brooks

Worry less about making a mark. Worry more about leaving things better than you found them.**
Austin Kleon

Knowing ourselves becomes foundational to opening up life and finding our purpose, which is another way of saying: to make a difference for others.

Robert McKee links knowing ourselves with the ability to create human characters for believable stories, but I hope we can also use them as encouragement for knowing ourselves so that we can produce something valuable for others:

The only self you ever know is yours, and even then there are limits. Self-deception distorts self-awareness, and so you never know who you are as well as you think you do. Self-knowledge is imperfect, but it’s all you have. If you know yourself only in part and other people even less, how can you create original, complex characters?^

I recently shared that I am more okay about being forgotten. Thank you to Lewis Hyde for this.

What I do find myself increasingly wanting is to make a difference for others when it comes to becoming more who they are and can be. Therefore, when David Brooks writes about self-forgetting being an outcome of joy, I am more determined to move into those activities that mean I shall be seized by joy, in making a difference for others but also working its strange alchemy in me for the better.

This is for you.

*From David Brooks’ The Second Mountain;
**From Austin Kleon’s Keep Going;
^From Robert McKee‘s newsletter: The Key to Character Creation.


Someone asked me recently if I could boil down my books into one piece of advice. I thought for a minute and said, “Try sitting in the same place at the same time for the same length of time every day for a month and see if something happens.”*
Austin Kleon

Only the person who has faith in herself is able to he faithful to others, because only she can be sure that she will be the same at a future time as she is today, and, therefore, that she will feel and act as she now expects to.**
Erich Fromm

Every morning, I come to the same place at the same time for around the same amount of time.

I will connect with my story in some way, shape or form. I hope to notice where it can be grown or changed or developed in a good and positive way, and so, I am noticing how I can, grow, change or develop.

I borrowed Austin Kleon’s words from a post on prayer in which he includes these insightful thoughts from Nick Cave for all of us, whether we believe or not:

You need not pray to anyone. It is just as valuable to pray into your disbelief, as it is to pray into your belief. … A prayer provides us with a moment in time where we can contemplate the things that are important to us, and this watchful application of our attention can manifest these essential needs. The act of prayer asks of us something and by doing so delivers much in return — it asks us to present ourselves to the unknown as we are, devoid of pretence and affectation, and to contemplate exactly what it is we love or cherish. Through this conversation with our inner self we confront the nature of our own existence.^

I never “pray” alone, though.

This morning I have been accompanied by John O’Donohue, Austin Kleon, Nick Cave, Beth Pickens, Erich Fromm, Paul Gilbert and “Mr g.”

It will look different for each one of us, but the key word from Mr Kleon is Try.

You may just want to to see what happens.

*From Austin Kleon’s blog: On praying, whether you believe or not;
**From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving; I have altered the gender to make it a little more inclusive;
^Nick Cave, quoted in Austin Kleon’s blog: On praying, whether you believe or not.

Well, bless me!

because world and body are meant to pattern one another, when he reimagines his body he reimagines his world*
Lewis Hyde

For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is a problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self.
Thomas Merton

John O’Donohue’s collections of blessings for different experiences and environments intrigue and encourage me with the possibility that we are each capable of being a blessing to one another.

Just how is connected with our values and our talents.

Perhaps surprisingly, then, the place to begin is with ourselves.

Lewis Hyde’s trickster character, changes his or herself in order to manipulate the world to their desires, but in so doing only helps us to imagine the kind of trickster who changes in order to bless the world.

So we give ourselves the times and spaces in order to discover what we have to give.

We needn’t worry about Thomas Merton’s use of what appears to be religious language, he knew there is more to all of us than we allow. More concerning is, if we are unable to reimagine ourselves towards our true self, we will more likely be unable to reimagine our worlds.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell speaks of the transformative powers shown by people towards their environments throughout the ages:

To claim the land. To turn the land where they lived into a place of spiritual relevance. … One should find the symbol in the landscape itself of the energies of the life there. That is what all traditions do. They sanctify their own landscape.^

Change within begets change without.

*From Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World;
**Thomas Merton, quoted in Ian Morgan Cron’s The Road Back to You;
^From Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.


Walking is a way to find possibility in your life when there doesn’t seem to be any left.*
Austin Kleon

Non-wanderers are called “sleepers.”
Keri Smith

When was the last time you felt really excited and engaged in the thing you are trying to bring into the world for others?

It may be the time to wander into new places, people, reading, activities. To get your heart beating fast, the spirit surging around your body.

Wandering is more than taking a walk. It’s about observation and presence:

When in doubt, scout.^

*From Austin Kleon’s Keep Going;
**From Keri Smith’s The Wander Society;
^From Alex McManus’ Makers of Fire – eBook version.


Origin of replenish: late Middle English (in the sense ‘supply abundantly’): from Old French repleniss-, lengthened stem of replenir, from re- ‘again’ (also expressing intensive force) + plenir ‘fill’ (from Latin plenus ‘full’).

When we fall short, it will be because of our own limitations, not because we had an inadequate ideal.*
David Brooks

My colleague Harriet Harris began a wonderful new initiative supporting students and staff at the University of Edinburgh towards thriving rather than depleting: The Abundant Academy.

I’ve just completed the image for the first of three courses; they are Replenish, Reconnect and Realise. I thought to share this because there’s never been a better time to find the resources that help us to thrive. When we find each other then we are on our way to creating our own academies.

When we were exploring the possible themes for The Abundant Academy, the team of us working with Harriet loved the richness of replenish, a place of supplying abundantly.

Let me know if I can help in your replenishment.

*From David Brooks’ The Second Mountain.

If not yesterday then tomorrow, beginning today

Our possibilities are perhaps not limitless, but they are at least infinitely above our present possibilities of imagination.*
Frank Laubach

My hope for you is that you will first identify your fears, and then welcome them in for consideration. Then, radically accept all of them, knowing that acceptance isn’t condoning or embracing bit simply acknowledging the existence of your fears.**
Beth Pickens

We may carry many fears, disappointments and regrets.

There are many things I wish I had known and had done when I was a young husband, parent, minister … .

Opportunities now gone.

Time running away.

Though the past has gone the future is here, today.

Things that haunt becoming the fuel of hope and determination.

You and I, we can change, we care more than yesterday.

Begin. With the humility of someone who’s not sure, and the excitement of someone who knows that it’s possible.^

*From Frank Laubach’s Letters By a Modern Mystic;
**From Beth Pickens’ Make Your Art No Matter What;
^From Seth Godin’s blog: Beginning is underrated.

Sensitivity to wonder

The best stories and novels lead the reader not to an explanation, but to a place of wonder.*
Peter Turchi

Understanding is not inherited, nor can it be laboriously acquired. It is something which, when circumstances are favourable, comes to us, so to say, of its own accord. All of us are knowers, all the time; it is only occasionally and in spite of ourselves that we understand the mystery of given reality.**
Aldous Huxley

To have knowledge is not the same as understanding.

Understanding comes when we allow that knowledge into ourselves so that it becomes a part of who we are, one way or another.

But we can never fully know, so there also seems to be part of knowing and understanding that means we dwell within this larger world we don’t, and perhaps can never, full know, though must continue to explore.

Here are three wonderful things that need more exploration.

Richard Sennett writes about the callouses obtained by craftspeople increasing their sensitivity:

By protecting the nerve ending in the hand, the callous makes the act of probing less hesitant. … the callous both sensitises the hand to minute, physical spaces and stimulates the sensation at the fingertips.^

The more we probe, the more sensitive we become.

I wonder at the sensitivity scientific researchers In Malawi have shown in digging into the land surrounding and beneath Lake Malawi, uncovering how humans were using fire to shape their world over 85,000 years ago.^^

And Mary Reckmeyer identifies four indicators of budding talent in children calling us to look more closely: yearnings, rapid learning satisfaction and timelessness. These also work for identifying the wonder within.

It’s a wonderful life in a wonderful world inviting us to greater sensitivity.

*From Peter Turchi’s A Muse and a Maze;
*Aldous Huxley, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Love Is the Last Word: Aldous Huxley on Knowledge vs. Understanding and the Antidote to Our Existential Helplessness;
^From Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman;
^^From Futurity’s article: Team Finds Earliest Signs of Humans Changing Ecosystem With Fire;
*^From Mary Reckmeyer’s Strengths Based Parenting.

Across a lifetime and into a day

Our deepest calling is to grow into our authentic selfhood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be.*
Parker Palmer

I think my life is increasingly being marked by slowness.

Yesterday, when sharing aspects of my work with some new students to the University of Edinburgh, I found myself joining up dreamwhispering, mindful doodling and the wander society.

Dreamwhispering involves slowing things down so we see ourselves and others more completely.

Doodling derives from dawdling, slowly paying more attention.

Wandering, when connected with flanering, becomes observation with purpose.

The means I use are also slow: conversations, paper, pens, walking.

Slowness allows us to see self-growth across a lifetime, in turn making it possible to bring the richness of our lifetime into a day.

*Parker Palmer, quoted in Ian Morgan Cron’s The Road Back to You.