Light matters

Perhaps most awe-inspiring of all, our brain allows us to imagine.*
Jonah Paquette

Imagination is not light per se.

We have shown only too often that imagination can be darkness.

We have all been gifted this choice: to increase the light or increase the darkness through noticing,, caring, and making ourselves available.

*From Jonah Paquette’s Awestruck.

True to true: it’s the future

I am touched only if I respond from my own centre – that is, spontaneously, originally. But you do not touch me except from your own centre, out of your own genius. Touching is always reciprocal. You cannot touch me unless I touch you in response. The opposite of touching is moving. You move me by pressing me from without toward a place you have already foreseen and perhaps prepared. It is a staged action that succeeds only if in moving me you remain unmoved yourself.*
James Carse

James Carse’s thoughts are worth working with though they have a denseness about them. He continues:

This means that we can be moved only by persons who are not what they are; we can be moved only when we are not who we are, but are what we cannot be … .*

We realise that we’re always in danger of trying to move someone from our falseness rather than our trueness.

When we truly meet with someone, it is as if we enter a portal of possibility and we don’t know what’s going to happen there: we have no plan or agenda. When we try to move others we spoil possibility, but when we seek to touch an other something magical happens, that is, something neither I nor they could premeditate.

When I say this, I am aware of how uncommon this is.

*From James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.

It’s everywhere and everyone

The challenge is to keep doing something different, something harder and scarier in every way than the thing you did before … to do something more difficult each time.*
Francine Prose

Now all that is needed is more. More time. More cycles, more bravery,, more process. More of you. Much more of your idiosyncrasy, more genre, more seeing, more generosity. More learning.**
Seth Godin

I don’t want less as I grow older. I want more.

The opposite is boredom, as Raph Koster defines here:

Boredom is the opposite of learning. When a game stops teaching us, we feel bored. Boredom is the brain causing about for new information. It is the feeling you get when there are no visible patterns to absorb.^

We’re not meant to give in to boredom. It’s something to push against. If we don’t, Nassim Taleb’s warning is pertinent:

Decline starts with the replacement of dreams with memories and ends with the replacement of memories with other memories.^^

It’s not that I want more for myself. I want more for you and others.

I enjoyed reading the Book of Acts account this morning of people’s experience of the Holy Spirit:

No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.*^

It’s not in certain places with a few people, though some people would prefer it this way.

No, it’s everywhere and everyone, including you.

Time to bring your more.

Here’s a soundtrack to get going.

*Francine Prose, quoted in Austin Kleon’s blog: Stepping into the portal;
**From Seth Godin’s The Practice;
^Raph Koster, quoted in Austin Kleon’s blog: Stepping into the portal;
^^From Nassim Taleb’s The Bed of Procrustes;
*^Acts 2:16-18.

It’s all risk

Here’s a simple test to apply to any story. Ask: “What is the risk?” What does the protagonist stand to lose if she does not get what she wants?*
Robert McKee

Awe requires time, focus and effort, all of which we could be using for the thousand other things that need to be done. It feels risky.

People may well misunderstand and criticise when we want to take a little time aside and be present to something we are seeing or reading or thinking about, but we know something important about having time for awe.

Awe promises transcendence, the possibility of life itself being altered, and without which we may be left exactly where we are.

Robert McKee continues:

More specifically, what’s the worst thing that will happen to the protagonist if she does not achieve her desire? … For example, if the answer is “Should the protagonist fail, life would go back to normal,” this story is not worth telling. What the protagonist wants is of no real value.*

There are risks involved in opening ourselves to awe, but there are also, and possibly greater, risks when we do not.

Jonah Paquette offers us some ways to begin opening to awe: linger, slow down, connect with our senses, notice our breathing.

*From Robert McKee‘s newsletter: How Risk Creates a Meaningful Story.

Awe and beauty

I knew I had been hungry for blessing.*
John O’Donohue

Powerful moments of awe can help reconnect us to our values, remind us of what truly matters, and put our lives into a great cosmic perspective.**
Jonah Paquette

I know I can feed my hunger and desires with junk.

What I am really hungry for is awe and beauty:

Our deepest self-knowledge unfolds as we are embraced by Beauty.*

*From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
**From Jonah Paquette’s Awestruck.

Awe it could be

Wonder is the heaviest element on the periodic table. Even a tiny fleck of it stops time.*
Diane Ackerman

To get a different output, sometimes you need a different input.**
Rohit Bhargava

It seems we may have underestimated the value and effects of awe.

We’re now researching why and how awe is a part of being human.

It turns out that just a few minutes of contemplating something awe-inspiring appears to have benefit in three ways:

Among the different ideas that have been proposed, three explanations stand out today: awe strengthens our social bonds, makes us kinder and more generous to others, and fosters a sense of curiosity about our world.^

Maybe this is worth a little experiment, adding a little awe with our cereal in the morning for a more inspiring start to the day?

*Diane Ackerman, quoted in Jonah Paquette’s Awestruck;
**From Rohit Bhargava’s Non Obvious 2019;
^From Jonah Paquette’s Awestruck.

A wider life

awe truly is all around is, if only we take the time to look*
Jonah Paquette

Most of us then default to one of a handful of temples and filters for all their experiences; everything gets pulled inside what my little mind already agrees with.**
Richard Rohr

I sense there exists a critical link between awe and integrity.

If I open myself to and connect myself with the larger world around me and beyond, and do the same with others, and give my true self more attention too, I give myself a chance of growing connectedness: that is, the larger perspective of integrity, out of which I I’ve myself the chance of making better choices, as Richard Rohr points out:

the opposite of contemplation is not action – it is reaction^.

*From Jonah Paquette’s Awestruck;
**From Richard Rohr’s The Divine Dance;
^From Richard Rohr’s Immortal Diamond.

Preparing for an awe-full year

a key effect of awe is that we feel a sense of connection to other people and to something larger than ourselves … awe … diminishes the ego, and links us to the greater forces that surround us in the world and the larger universe*
Jonah Paquette

Much of our life we are trying to connect the dots, to pierce the heart of reality to see what is good true, and beautiful for us. We want something lasting and transcendent.**
Richard Rohr

I said to Christine on our trip around the northwest of Scotland that I simply couldn’t take another beautiful view, another surprise around the next corner.

Nature, stories, ideas, people’s imagination and creativity are all possible sources of wonder.

Not only are we recipients of awe, we are also able to make it happen for each other: awe is an exceptional human gift.

Something magical happens right where we are when we connect our sense to our heart: to see, to hear, to touch, to taste, to smell. We don’t even have to travel great distances and pay out large amounts of money, so it just gets better and better. I’ll leave the final words for Jonah Paquette:

awe spurs us to be kinder and more compassionate. It makes us happier, healthier, and less concerned with materialism. Experiences of awe spark curiosity within us ad help orient us to what matters i our lives. In short, awe changes us in the most incredible ways.

May our new year adventure begin.

*From Jonah Paquette’s Awestruck;
**From Richard Rohr’s Immortal Diamond.

It’s time to begin

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

I am grateful for this invisible line drawn between one span of time and another of similar length: 31 December|1 January.

If I desire, it will mark a great difference between what is past and what can be.

Today then becomes my preparation: to buy the book to read, or the journal to write in, or sketchpad to draw in, or some other equivalence: to set these out in the space or time when I will come to them and then, begin.

Lucille Clifton‘s won’t you celebrate with me, from Maria Popova’s Figuring.

My top 5 reads of 2021:
The Practice by Seth Godin
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens;
Personality Isn’t Permanent by Ben Hardy;
Range by David Epstein;
The Way of Integrity by Martha Beck.

A responsibility for more

The ego is you as you think of yourself. You in relation to all the commitments of your life, as you understand them. The self is the whole range of possibilities that you’ve never even thought of. And you’re stuck with your past when you are stuck with your ego.*
Joseph Campbell

Some look backwards for the answers, though I more and more suspect they are to be found by looking forwards.

Eckhart Tolle warns that with the ego comes the painbody: the part of us wanting to feel the wrongs inflicted upon us by people and circumstances, so proving we were right all along.

The True Self is open to the future that shows nothing needs to change to be our fullest self.

*From Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey.