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
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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

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Devoted

To work, play, see, touch, laugh, cry, build, and use it all – even the painful parts, and survive with style: that’s what Corita taught.*
Jan Steward

Consecration is the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service. The word consecration literally means “association with the sacred”. Persons, places, or things can be consecrated, and the term is used in various ways by different groups.**

We all need some devotion and consecration in our lives: the point of giving ourselves to something that is so important to us that we will give everything.

Words like devotion and solemnity allow us to feel the significance of what is beginning, a solemn moment for each of us when we commit and take the first step.

What is it that you have been thinking about and need to begin, but have resisted so far?

Perhaps now is the time to give yourself to this. Write it down, feel the weight of possibility, and the excitement of beginning.

Within our ordinary there is extra-ordinary, the extra being devotion.

*From Corita Kent and Jan Steward’s Learning by Heart: of Corita Kent;
**Wikipedia.

Defence against the dark arts

You were born ready to make art. But you’ve been brainwashed into believing you can’t trust yourself enough to do so.*
Seth Godin

When a challenger really bothers us, it’s because that person believes things about us that aren’t true – but shards of those same beliefs are still inside our own self-concept, hanging out in our blind spots.**
Martha Beck

When we take the path we must, there will be pushbacks along the way: challenges, obstacles, attacks, pitfalls: moreso than any other path.

The best way to improve our defence against the things that come to waylay us, and be able to get on with the things that we must, is our True Self.

When we allow ourselves to be prey or victim to the difficult things, we can find our “painbody” shows up. We wallow in our hurt, in what it affirms about this person or situation, but the painbody belongs to our ego or False Self.^

The challenges, obstacles, attacks and pitfalls end up actually helping us, because they encourage us to reconnect with our truth so we can get moving again.

*From Seth Godin’s The Practice;
**From Martha Beck’s The Way of Integrity;
^From Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth.

Go to your enough

There is always enough for everyone, if you share it properly, or if it has been shared properly before you got there.  There is enough food, enough love, enough homes, enough time, enough crayon, enough people to be friends to each other.*
Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother

Most of humanity is so enchanted with its False (concocted) Self that it has largely doubted and rejected – or ever known – its True Self.  And so it lives in anxiety and insecurity.  We have to put so much time into creating it that we cannot imagine this False Self not being true – or not being “me.”
Richard Rohr

I really like the word enough

It is such a comforting and promising word: to have a sufficiency.

Of course, if we don’t know how to find our enough then we can’t value it and use it. We may end up in some chase for more.

The irony is, we’ll most likely discover that we have more than enough.

One place to discover enough is by identifying your energies.

Notice when you are really energised by something. Normally this will be just before or just after engaging in some activity or other because while you are engaged you are fully in the flow.

When you have two or three things, look more closely at what you were doing (this will show you your skills), why you were doing it (this will indicate you values), who you were doing it with or for (this will reveal your relationships), and when you were doing it (e.g., starting or finishing, which will show you your priorities).

Enjoy your enough.


*The Fairy Godmother, from Rebecca Solnit’s Cinderella Liberator;
**From Richard Rohr’s Immortal Diamond.

Where I live and what I live for

Which is better? Feeling like you were right the first time or actually being correct now?*
Seth Godin

For some thirty five years I worked at something I thought to be the right fit for me.

I now feel that I wasn’t being entirely honest with myself or with others.

Not that I think the thirty five years were a mistake. They feel more like a place of preparation, like a wilderness.

All of this proves to me that it’s never too late to find our way.

The wilderness is still my address in many ways, where others can find me and dance with the questions:

Who is my True Self?
What is my contribution?

*From Seth Godin’s blog: The right answer.