I am wrong but in a different way to last time

What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves?*
(Thomas Merton)

Seek out people who aren’t afraid of making mistakes and who, therefore, do make mistakes […] they are precisely the kind of people who change the world.**
(Paulo Coelho)

As Seth Godin brings his Bootstrappers Workshop to a close, he offers the advice “always be wrong.”  Godin is saying, be willing to look at the things you get wrong because this will lead you to getting things right.  When we don’t pay attention then we’ll keep getting the same things wrong.  It becomes an endemic condition.

These are a few words about looking at what’s wrong in us and what’s right.  The two go together, strangely.

Anne Lamott ‘s candour sets us free on this journey as she reminds us that when it comes to being human, there’ll always be something broken:

‘Almost everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, scared, and yet designed for joy. Even (or especially) people who seem to have it more or less together are more like the rest of us than you would believe. I try not to compare my insides to their outsides, because this makes me much worse than I already am, and if I get to know them, they turn out to have plenty of irritability and shadow of their own. Besides, those few people who aren’t a mess are probably good for about twenty minutes of dinner conversation.’^

To ignore this, to try and avoid it, to short-cut this leads us in the opposite direction to some of the most interesting and hopeful things we will ever come upon:

‘If you’re merely following [shortcuts], you probably won’t get anywhere interesting.  It’s the detours that pay off.’^^

Which brings me to journaling.  Every journal time is a detour.  I have no idea where my exploring will take me.  Richard Sennett’s description of a flamboyant worker facing their mistakes also describes the person who is willing to look at the worst and the best of who they are; spot the detours in his description:

‘A “flamboyant” worker, exuberant and excited, is willing to risk losing control over his or her work: machines break down when they lost control, whereas people make discoveries, stumble on happy accidents.’*^

See here how the good in us can overcome the bad, as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes our engagement in the things which lead to our enjoyment:

“At the moment it is experienced, enjoyment can be both physically painful and mentally taxing; but because it involves a triumph over forces of entropy and decay, it nourishes the spirit.’^*

I thought to include these because we must be honest about how the best in life can be the most difficult to obtain, can demand the most from us.  It’s why Thomas Merton’s words, with which I open this post, ring true for us, yet when we break it down, we find that it can become a number of small things that we can bring our physical and emotional energy to.  Here Albert Espinosa’s character George advises thirteen year old Dani how to stop the world for three days:

“Read good books, watch good movies, and above all, enjoy good conversation with someone who inspires you.”⁺

These are some of the the environments in which detours happen to us.

Eugene Peterson captured my attention in this direction once again when he wrote:

‘As the scholastics used to say: “Homonon proprie humans sed superhumanus est” – which means that to be properly human, you must go beyond the merely human.⁺⁺

This is not possible to only some but to all.

(*Thomas Merton quote in Dan Pallotta’s TEDtalk: The Dream We Haven’t Dared to Dream.)
(**From Paulo Coelho’s Aleph.)
(^From Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Against Self-Righteousness.)
(^^From Seth Godin’s blog: Actual shortcuts often appear to be detours.)
(*^From Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.)
(^*Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, quoted in Jay Cross’ Informal Learning.)
(⁺George in Albert Espinosa’s If You Tell Me to Come, I’ll Drop Everything, Just Tell Me to Come.)
(⁺⁺From Eugene Peterson’s Run With the Horses.)


The school for slow learning

One way to utilise spacing is to change the definition of a learning event to include the connotation that learning takes place over time – real learning doesn’t usually occur in one-time events.*
(Will Thalheimer)

From the early nineteenth century on, the whole and single universes from pre-industrial societies changed to a multiverse, and the pace of change increased continually.’**
(Ursula Le Guin)

Seth Godin writes about how we’re all increasingly winging things in life:

“We’re winging it.  All of us.  The world goes faster and faster, and so people are finding themselves unable to read the bill before they vote on it, listen to the entire album before they review it or keep up with the best in the field before they do their work.’^

It may look like we’re getting lots done, but fast and super-busy for someone means the wrong kind of slow for someone else:

‘On every other occasion that I’d attended [ante-natal] waiting times had been over an hour, often two.  The long wait was accepted as a fact of life.  Doctors just run late.  And yet, that day I was being seen immediately.   The nurse took me into a side room, weighed me, took my blood pressure, tested my urine and documented the time I’d ‘been seen’ in her paperwork.  Then she brought me back into the waiting room where I sat for another two hours before the obstetrician finally called me in.’^^

What are we missing in all the speed?  What is someone else missing because of our speed.

Richard Leider is a “student of the second half of life.”  He found for those living their second half of life there were three things they would do differently if they could live the first half of their life over: they would spend more time in reflection, they would be more courageous in love and work, and they live with more purpose and make a difference in the world.*^

I was around thirty-five when I began wondering what I ought to be doing to live and work in a more focused way, rather than fulfilling a role.  The speed of this was not something on my mind.  It has taken quite some time to figure this out.

I will be sixty years old at my next birthday – definitely in the second half of life – and one of the things I have come to notice, and to value, is the slowness of my learning through these last twenty five or so years.

Every day I get up for school, in the widest possible way, to open my mind, to open my heart, and to open my will:

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.  It’s the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”^*

(*Will Thalheimer, quoted in Jay Cross’ Informal Learning.)
(**From Ursula Le Guin’s Words Are My Matter.)
(^From Seth Godin’s blog: I didn’t do the reading.)
(^^From Bernadette Jiwa’s blog: What Does Success Look Like?)
(*^From Jay Cross’ Informal Learning.)
Einstein, quoted in Alan Lightman’s A Sense of the Mysterious.)

Not afraid of needing others

It’s not simply that people have this shared space.  It’s that the shared space becomes the medium through which they are working.*
(Marcia Conner)

Instead of measuring success by numbers, you measure it by the amount of connection and *gratitude* you feel about your ability to do something that matters with people who you genuinely respect.**
(Hugh Macleod)

My hope for the hour I spend with someone in a dreamwhispering conversation is that I’m somehow providing an opportunity for them to explore their strongest and best self.

This is the simplest of spaces we can provide for the flourishing of others – and they are often spaces for mutual flourishing.  This scales up for teams that understand it’s not only what they produce but who they are becoming together on the way.

Roz and Ben Zander see how our individual capacity for imagining and creating are the means for making this possible:

‘With our inventive powers, we can be passionately for the whole living world around us.  We need never nae a human being as the enemy.’^

The world and the universe become larger to us because, through what each person brings, our understanding and our feeling and, ultimately, our doing grow and multiply.

(*Marcia Conner, quoted in Jay Cross’ Informal Learning.)
(**From gaping void’s blog: Thank you for being amazing.)
(^From Rosamund and Benjamin Zander’s The Art of  Possibility.)

Energy, my energy your energy

“We are all made of energy,” he said […].  “And energy is the only thing I see in this world.  Each of us has a different kind of energy.  Each person has a kind of energy that floods into you when you see them, or hear them, or desire them, or tell them you love them.  And their energy can help you to find your path through the world.  You can’t fake energy, it is what it is.  It can help you find your future, it can take you back to your childhood or adolescence.  I’m always looking for energy.”*

George sounds like a dreamwhisperer: noticing the things that really, really energise and the things that really, really de-energise.

These energies lie beyond competencies – the things we’re usually noticing – calling us to go further, to produce and give more.

I find it in these words from Seth Godin that I’ve read again today:

‘To be an artist is to be on the hook, to take your turn, to do the things that might not work, to see connection, to embrace generosity first, to change someone, to be human.’**

To see life as art, to do things that may not work is to move beyond competency in the service of our art, beyond what we can do right now because we have to to make some kind of difference somewhere, in someone’s life.

Our energies are all different but either we’re connecting with it or not.  When we do, things happen that we sometimes can’t explain; when we don’t things just don’t happen beyond the normal, the predictable, the expected and anticipated:

‘Energisers think about both task and relationship; de-energisers are all task driven.’^

What is your energy?

Not your competency, your energy.

(*The character George in Albert Espinosa’s If You Tell Me To Come, I’ll Drop Everything, Just Tell Me To Come.)
(**From Seth Godin’s What To Do When It’s Your Turn.)
(^From Jay Cross’ Informal Learning.)

Where life is most holy

We are hardwired with curiosity inside us, because life knew that this would keep us going even in bad sailing … Life feeds anyone who is open to taste its food, wonder, and glee – its immediacy.*
(Anne Lamott)

the practice of science is a human affair, complicated by all the bedraggled but marvellous psychology that makes us human**
(Alan Lightman)

Imagination can be grown.

We feed our imaginations with our curiosity.

With curiosity and imagination we come upon the holiness or otherness of life.

We stop being a “Later” person and become a “Now” person:

‘The Laters sit in cafés sipping coffee and discussing the possibilities of life.  The Nows note that with infinite lives, they can do all they can imagine.’^

(*Anne Lamott, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Against Self-Righteousness.)
(**From Alan Lightman’s A Sense of the Mysterious.)
(^From Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams.)

Prototyping dreams

So long as the gift is not withheld, the creative spirit remains a stranger to the economics of scarcity.*
(Lewis Hyde)

The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about thirty kilograms of flour until it worked all through the dough.**
(Jesus of Nazerath)

The thing about yeast is that it has to be worked through the dough methodically, with effort and dexterity, allowing itself to be totally consumed if the magic is to happen.

Seth Godin writes of the linchpin – a yeast-like person:

‘The goal of the Linchpin is to make things better by making better things. To dance on an edge, to see what’s possible, to create and contribute, to learn and to ship.’^

Here again we see, when we give ourselves completely to what we must do, then the magic happens.

Godin has been reprimanded for his earlier blog on linchpins by a teacher at the York Community College:

“Encouraging anyone to become a Linchpin is seriously bad advice for an individual to pursue and for a company to allow …. think these things through before you put them out there.”^

Here are the economics of scarcity at play that Lewis Hyde finds himself needing to remark upon.  The teacher is reinforcing the idea that not everyone can explore something to the nth degree and be remarkable, but, as Erwin McManus points out, we shouldn’t hold back:

‘Life is most enjoyed when we give ourselves away.’^^

My resolve only increases because helping people to notice how they can be remarkable is my dream, and one thing I have realised about a dream is that you have to become seriously-playful with it.  The best way to do this is to create playful spaces of inquiry in which we prototype with effort and dexterity until the magic occurs.  We are more human when we are more playful:

‘We ventured to cll the category “play” one the most fundamental in life.’*^

(*From Lewis Hyde’s The Gift.)
(*Matthew 13:33 NIVUK.)
(^From Seth Godin’s blog: False limits.)
(^^From Erwin McManus’ Uprising.)
(*^From Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens.)

Roll up, roll up

It’s the greatest show on earth and I am grateful to those who help me to see the magic and the material: Rebecca Solnit, Annie Dillard, Alex McManus, Alan Lightman, John O’Donohue, Terry Tempest Williams, Maria Popova, Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau, to name a few.

Lightman lives up to his name as he casts light on the wonder we find in the material world:

‘As did Thoreau in Concord, I’ve travelled far and wide on Lute Island.  I know each cedar and poplar, each clump of beach rose, Rosa rugosa, each patch of blueberry bushes and raspberry brambles and woody stems of hydrangeas, all the soft mounds of moss, some of which I touch on my ramblings today.  The tart scent of raspberries blends with the salty sea air.  Early this morning, a fog enveloped the island so completely that I felt as if I were in a spaceship afloat in outer space – white space.  But the surreal fog, made of minuscule water droplets too tiny to see, eventually evaporated and disappeared.  It’s all material, even the magical fog – like the bioluminescence I first saw as a child.  It’s all molecules and atoms. […] It’s a paradox.’*

In the paradox I sense an invitation to the greatest show on earth, in the universe even.

The most wonderful story.

Beyond showing up …

doing what is expected of us …

ignoring the unnecessary …

passing on the opportunities.

Instead, to enter the paradox.

(*From Alan Lightman’s Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine.)