If we persist

What you have exists in the present, but what you hope for exists only in the future.*
(Erwin McManus)

We’re only as much as what we can give to others.**
(Hugh Macleod)

Faith may sound like a religious word, but it isn’t.

It’s definitely human, the ability to see something that exists in the future and to bring that future into the present.

As I’m pondering it today, to see who we can be and what we can make happen.

We can often make things complicated (“I don’t want to talk about it; it’s complicated”) but this will ask us to move into complexity: connecting to one another and to the world and universe and, yes, ourselves. Because after doing all the interconnecting with everything around us, we are not the same people.

It will not be easy, it may take a lifetime: we must persist.

Don’t give up becoming.

It’s worth everything.

(*From Erwin McManus’ The Way of the Warrior.)
(**From gapingvoid’s eBook: Love in the Time of Coronavirus 2.)

The shores of the universe

The way we store energy is through our desires, values, passions, hopes, dreams, and aspirations, and ultimately our greatest capacity for energy storage is through what we love.*
(Erwin McManus)

Yes, there’s a great deal of resistance to what you offer, but the same universe containing the Higgs boson, galaxies and black holes also produced the beauty of your imagination, the possibilities only you can dream of:

when it’s over,
I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement,
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited the world.**

Stay close to what you must do, don’t give up exploring the universe within: all the wonders you contain that provide you with the nearest shore to set out from in exploration:

The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.^

(*From Erwin McManus’ The Way of the Warrior.)
(**Mary Oliver, quoted in Philip Newell’s The Rebirthing of God.)
(^From Neil Gaiman’s Art Matters.)

The gatherers

Could the psychological state of mastery – the opposite of helplessness – somehow reach inside and strengthen the body?*
(Martin Seligman)

We must be gatherers if we are going to be givers.

It is the daily work and wisdom of noticing what we are noticing.

What we’re gathering is energy; we need to notice what fuels us.

Yesterday, on what I am trying to make a daily walk, I came across a beautiful patch of reeds and bulrushes and regretted coming out without a camera on me, so I returned today.

I had to wait …

for the sun to appear, because this happens:

The leaves lit up as if they were thousands upon thousands of green lights; it’s a picture of noticing what we notice.

We all notice different things. The BFG notices and catches dreams:

‘Here is the dream-catcher,’ he said, grasping the pole in one hand. ‘Every morning I is going out an snitching new dreams to put in my bottles.’**

When we notice what we notice, we’re gathering the energy we need to be creative – not just to be thinking human beings, not even thinking and feeling human beings, but thinking and feeling and creating human beings:

To be a thinking, feeling, creative individual in a mass society too often unthinking and unfeeling in its conformity is to find oneself again and again at odds with the system yet impelled to make out of those odds alternative ends – to envision other landscapes of possibility, other answers, other questions yet unasked. ^

Here is the mastery Martin Seligman is pondering, the opposite of which he says is helplessness. Again, here is the opening of mind, heart and will I mention so often.

Malaka Gharib writes about her practice of drawing,*^ but she could be describing what happens for us when we notice what we notice and move into our creativity:

when I create, I feel like it clears my head. It helps me make sense of my emotions. And, somehow, it makes me feel calmer and more relaxed.^^

Mastery, creativity – it’s all about energy. When we gather the things that we notice it’s difficult to hoard – something Annie Dillard felt about her gathering for writing:

Spend it all, play it, lose it, all right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good … for another book … . The impulse to save something for a better place later is the signal to spend it now.^*

There’s an itchy “I must do something with this” feeling that comes with gathering what we’re noticing. I call it zing.

(*From Martin Seligman’s Flourish.)
(**From Roald Dahl’s The BFG.)
(^Maria Popova from her Brain Pickings: W. E. Auden on the Political Power of Art.)
(^^From Malaka Gharib’s article: Feeling Artsy.)
(*^Girija Kaimal’s research has shown that art helps us imagine a more hopeful future, activates the brain’s reward centre, lowers stress, and allows us to focus deeply – quoted in Malaka Gharib’s article: Feeling Artsy. What’s not to like?)
(^*Annie Dillard, quoted in Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life.)

I admit to believing in goodness*

Looking at technology as practice, indeed as formalised practice, has some quite interesting consequences.**
(Ursula Franklin)

The spirit of playful competition is, as a social impulse, older than culture itself and pervades all life like a veritable ferment. […] We have to conclude, therefore, that civilisation is, in its earliest phases, played. It doesn’t not come from play like a babe detaching itself from the womb: it arises in and as play, and never leaves.^
(Johan Huizinga)

I tend to think of technologies as being the things we make but they are, more largely, encompassing all we imagine and then practise.

We share our playfulness with many species but there are things that only humans have brought into being through their developed play.

I’d happened to begin today pondering the difference mercy, grace and justice make in our world, how they are technologies we use, the exploration of which allows us to grow and develop and and inhabit a larger life:

We complete our personality only as we fall into place and service in the vital movement of the society in which we live.^^

The more we engage our imaginations playfully and then make happen what we see in our minds, the more we grow:

After each episode of flow a person becomes more of a unique individual, less predictable, possessed of rarer skills.*^

Rather than thinking of mercy, grace and justice being jobs other people do, instead understanding them to be technologies we playfully live within, what might mercy mean for someone we met, or grace, or justice?

(*From Alex McManus‘ unpublished Blue Moments.)
(**From Ursula Franklin’s The Real World of Technology.)
(^From Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens.)
(^^From Eugene Peterson’s Run with the Horses.)
(*^From Mihály Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.)

Let us serve one another

Service doesn’t sound very glitzy but just about everything humans do can be understood as providing service to one another.

When we are mindful – and heartful – of this, then we can approach greatness.

Service isn’t one size, one shape, one colour. It is as diverse as we are; the highest expression of our lives, it’s where we find meaning – I should say, where we make meaning: an expression of our freedom, mastery and purpose.

Great artists help people to look at their lives with fresh eyes.*
(Austin Kleon)

They are dreamwhisperers who awaken hope. They connect meaning to action. They craft narratives that release human energy. They make new maps that guide us into places where there are no paths.**
(Alex McManus)

Service changes lives, including the lives of those who serve. When we see this impact of what we uniquely do, we can take it from a skill to an art. Service is the surest way to greatness, rather than the fame we may have mistaken it for. Fame requires others to see, greatness only requires the one we serve to be present.

Erwin McManus makes the point that ambition and humility have become separated, but,

What we must do is bring the two universes of ambition and humility together since they were never intended to exist separately.^

Humility is the path to answering the question Who is my true Self? Ambition is the way we walk to hone this into service that is impactful.

There is a title we can wear with joy and pride: Servant.

(*From Austin Kleon’s Keep Going.)
(**From Alex McManus’ Makers of Fire – eBook version.)
(^From Erwin McManus’ The Way of the Warrior.)

The little shop of slowness (established 1959)

boutique/buːˈtiːk/Learn to pronouncenounnoun: boutique; plural noun: boutiques

1. a small shop selling fashionable clothes or accessories.
2. a business or establishment that is small and sophisticated or fashionable.”California’s boutique wineries”


mid 18th century: from French, ‘small shop’, via Latin from Greek apothēkē ‘storehouse’. Compare with bodega.

There is that in me … I do not know what it is … but I know it is in me.*
(Walt Whitman)

What if there were such a thing as a shop of slowness where time behaves differently? Where the slowness means we hear and see and feel more because there isn’t some distraction or other rushing up to carry us away?

I think this is the kind of shop I am, the boutique I provide: some dreamwhispering, some doodling, and some dawdling.

For more than thirty years I was responsible for “shops” I had not established and that dealt in so many “goods.” I was employed to run something I had no idea how to make.

More lately, I have begun my own little shop, stocking a few crafted items – mostly rarities not found anywhere else.

I believe this is how it can be for all of us, each capable of uncovering and developing and offering something that is quite unique.

What kind of shop are you? – even if you’re employed by a bigger “shop” that wants what you do on their “shelves.”

(*From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.)

Life with limitations

To the warrior, greatness is not the product of ego but of service. If you live for yourself, you can settle for less. If you live for others, it requires all of who you are.*
(Erwin McManus)

Being of any reasonable sort appears to require limitation. Perhaps this is because Being requires Becoming, as well as mere static existence – and to become is to become something more, or at least something different.**
(Jordan Peterson)

Life comes with limitations.

I have often mentioned what I see to be the most critical of these – five elemental truths:

Life is hard
You are not as special as you think
Your life is not about you
You are not in control
You are going to die.

We can take these at face value and hunker down for a life of being who we are.

Or we can use them as they are meant to be used, limitations that help us to become who we can be.

Between our limitations and our dreams lies an adventure for every day:

It remains the dream of every life, to reach out and lift oneself up to greater heights. A life that continues to remain on the safe side of its own habits and repetitions, that never engages with the risk of its own possibility, remains an unlived life.^

(*From Erwin McManus’ The Way of the Warrior.)
(**From Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life.)
(^From John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us.)

Obligation and intention

When you live a life of obligation, it steals from you your strength. Wisdom allows you to harness your strength.*
(Erwin McManus)

One of the sad things today is that so many people are frightened by the wonder of their own presence. […] This identity may be totally at variance with the wild energies that are rising inside their souls. Many of us get very afraid and we compromise. We settle for something safe, rather than engaging the danger and wildness that is in our own hearts.**
(John O’Donohue)

If you have a problem or challenge or situation or opportunity, who do you want to turn up day after day until it’s sorted or met or overcome for realised?

The person who comes out of obligation or the one who turns up with intention?

(*From Erwin McManus’ The Way of the Warrior.)
(**John O’Donohue, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: A Gentle Corrective.)