After the mastery, the mystery continues

I’ve never had time to watch a tree before. […] That, in a way, is very much how I feel about my life. Whether it will ever be recognisable by anyone else I don’t know, but I feel that great things are happening very quietly inside me. And I know these things have a way, like a maple tree, of finally bursting out in some form*
(*Corita Kent)

To see your possibilities, watch the trees grow.

(*Corita Kent, quoted in Austin Kleon’s Keep Going.)


Wandering into possibility

When in doubt, scout.*
(Alex McManus)

Individuals who never sense the contradictions of their cultural inheritance run the risk of becoming little more than host bodies for stale gestures, metaphors, and received ideas, all the stereotypic likes and dislikes by which cultures perpetuate themselves. As Carl Andre once said, “Culture is something that is done to us. Art is something we do to culture.”**
(Lewis Hyde)

Alex McManus imagines our age to be like a rushing river and we have to get out of in order to see what is ahead.

Perhaps wandering is another word for scouting. It is about slowing down, but more than that it is about attention overcoming distraction.

The Wander Society refers to those who fail to wander – who’re not paying attention – as “sleepers.” This is the sense of Lewis Hyde’s opening remark.

Ben Hardy adds his own warning:

If you don’t shape your environment, it will shape you.^

Here is Wallace Stevenspressure of reality to which we must bring the power of our imagination.

Our imagination is our truest self, I think, and it forms in a reciprocal relationship with its environments.

It’s a falsehood to say that people either have imagination or not – we could not exist without imagination. Neither is it about our imagination being fixed for life – we do not know how far our imagination can be grown. Imagination needs reality in order to play and develop, to produce its art and artisanship. At the same time it changes reality.

In meeting reality with our imagination, we shape ourselves, the interaction of self and environment being well-described here by Hardy:

When you change your environment, such as surrounding yourself with different people, your thoughts and emotions change. These inner changes then alter your values and aspirations, which requires yo to further alter your external environment. Thus it is by tweaking your conditions that you proactively shape who you become.^

(*From Alex McManus’ Makers of Fire – eBook version.)
(**From Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World.)
(^From Ben Hardy’s Willpower Doesn’t Work.)

The big work

But what if wandering is the real work. In nourishing our bodies, giving space to our minds and hearts to breathe, caring for the soul, and letting the subconscious mind tackle problems, we are doing much more for ourselves and the world.*
(Keri Smith)

The mind articulates newly where roads parallel and roads contrary suddenly converge. The world is suffused with time and space, and therefore fresh speech is always appearing, always being invented. The world us teeming, so mind is teeming, so speech is teeming. There is no end to contingency, and so no end to language.**
(Lewis Hyde)

Erich Fromm writes about how the “routinisation of life” has removed the union necessary between our inner and outer worlds leaving us lazy and ill-disciplined outside our work-jobs:

This very wish for laziness is largely a reaction to the routinisation of life. […] A […] way of attaining union lies in creative activity, be it that of the artist or of the artisan. In any kind of creative work the creative person unites himself with his material, which represents the world outside himself.^

Austin Kleon shares how he daily walks for three miles with his wife and children – in their buggy – because they need to reconnect with their outside worlds”

Art requires the full use of our senses. Its job is to awaken us to our senses.^^

We inhabit such small worlds with their tiny screens when we cannot walk around, look around, read around, talk around. And often we’re the ones stopping us.

All of that changes when we begin wandering, encountering contingency and convergence.

As always for me, art and artisanship means the by-product of a life completely inhabiting its senses:

First of all: when you start out on a career in the arts you have no idea what you are going to do. THIS IS GREAT. People who know what they are doing know the rules, and know what is possible and impossible. YOU DO NOT. AND YOU SHOULD NOT. […] The rules of what is possible and impossible in the arts were made by people who had not tested the bounds of the possible by gong beyond them. AND YOU CAN.*^

(*From Keri Smith’s The Wander Society.)
(**From Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World.)
(^From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving.)
(^^From Austin Kleon’s Keep Going.)
(*^From Neil Gaiman’s Art Matters.)

Speak up

Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.*
(Steven Covey)

Begin. With the humility of stone who’s not sure, and the excitement of someone who know that it’s possible.**
(Seth Godin)

Never underestimate what can happen if you just begin.

The best way to stop something happening is not speaking up – the right moment is now.

These four things make up your true voice: the things that you have talents for, are passionate about, know will make a difference to others and expresses your values.

(*From Steven Covey’s The 8th Habit.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: Beginning is underrated.)

Jointing disjointing rejointing

Art is not only made from things that “spark joy.” Art is also made out of what is ugly or repulsive to us. Part of the artist’s job is to help today up the place, to make order out of chaos, to turn trash into treasure, to show us beauty where we can’t see it.*
(Austin Kleon)

There are two Greek words that can mean “joint.” The first is arthron. “The arthron connecting the hand and arm is the wrist,” says Aristotle. […] The second word, harmos, also means a joint in the body […] but more commonly denotes the joints made by artisans: the mason building a wall, the shipwright fitting planks, the metal worker soldering a seam, the carpenter fastening a door – all these craftsmen are making harmoi.**
(Lewis Hyde)

There are flexible joints and fixed joints, but no joint is permanent, immovable, all can be separated, and tricksters are those who exploit these points.

They’re the ars or artists who work at the joints to create something new, often making things worse first of all – at least for those who want nothing to be tampered with – before finding something new to bring into being.

Not this or that, but the other thing we hadn’t imagined before.

(*From Austin Kleon’s Keep Going.)
(**From Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World.)

Living contradictions

Many powerful organisations fear a truth teller. They work hard to avoid being confronted by an individual who sees the world as it is and by a person who cares enough to change things.*
(Seth Godin)

Inner scorecards are essential for individuals and organisations alike. What are you proud of that others would find unremarkable?**
(Bernadette Jiwa)

There’s a lot of information and knowledge out there that people measure and score in all kinds of ways. And we may not figure in all of this.

What is most important is try to find out more about ourselves and to do something with this.

We overestimate the importance of the things others measure and underestimate what matters to us. The best way is to try it out and see what happens:

Commitment, sacrifice, boldness and confrontation.^

By the way, I’ve just been reminded this morning that we perhaps know about 6% of everything that exists. Something to remember before we get all clever about something out there or in here.

(*From Seth Godin’s What To Do It’s Your Turn.)
(From Bernadette Jiwa’s The Story of Telling Blog: The Inner Scorecard.)
(^Tim DeChristopher, quoted in Terry Tempest Williams’ The Hour of Land.)

The words inside us

Water, that strong white stuff, one of the four elemental mysteries, can be here seen at its origins. Like all profound mysteries, it is so simple that it frightens me. It wells from the rock, and flows away. For unnumbered years it has welled from the rock, and flowed away. It does nothing, absolutely nothing, but be itself.*
(Nan Shepherd)

That’s how you’re going to fix the world – with your own gifts and talents.**
(Ken Sleight)

The words in my doodle are an adaptation of some found in Psalm 119.

The words we have inside us are really important for what follows. It’s why who we are can be more important than what we do because they lead us to a more primal contribution.

When we know who we are, we find our words, and our words guide us.

(*From Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain.)
(**Ken Sleight, quoted in Terry Tempest Williams’ The Hour of Land.)