The setup and the …

Transcience turns everything to air. You look behind and see no sign of a yesterday that was so intense. Yet in truth, nothing ever disappears, nothing is lost. Everything that happens to us in the world passes into us. It all becomes part of the inner temple of the soul and it can never be lost.*
(John O’Donohue)

I am, however, animated and in love and gushy about really great writing. That’s what sustains me and makes me all tingly.**
(Anne Trubek)

What are you animated in love and gushy about?

For me, it’s lively conversations with people discovering the wonder of the content of their lives and how it all fits together into a compelling story.

Anne Trubek is reflecting on where she is from, not a place or region, but something she is animated and in love and gushy about.

Where we are from and where we are matters less than the things our lives have been unfolding us into.

Rainer Maria Rilke writes in this vein:

I want to unfold. I don’t want to stay folded anymore, because where I am folded , there I am a lie.^

Understanding that nothing from our past has been lost but is somehow a part of who we deeply are brings us to the brink of the possibility of exploring these depths.

As it were, what life has set us up for.

Robert McKee writes,

A setup is a cause hidden in the past. … Setups are nothing without …^^

The word McKee sets us up for is … payoff.

What are we going to make happen?

This is our aliveness, and as Joseph Campbell points out,

We save the world by being alive.*^

Which is another way of saying, we all get to enjoy your payoff.

*From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
**From Anne Trubek’s blog: I am not from here;
^Rainer Maria Rilke, quoted in Anne Lamott’s Hallelujah Anyway;
^^From Robert McKee‘s How Setups Can Drive Your Story;
*^Joseph Campbell, quoted in Keri Smith’s The Wander Society.

Stadtluft macht frei

Stadtluft macht frei (‘city air makes you free’)*
(Richard Sennett)

Dating from the late Middle Ages, this German adage is suggesting that a different environment makes all the difference to who we can be, specifically when it came to moving around within the stultifying social order of that period.

Environments are all important to our development, as M. C. Richards proffers here:

The child takes in his world as if it were food. And his world nourishes or starves him. Nothing escapes his thirst; secrets are impossible. He identifies with his surroundings, and they live with him unconsciously … .**

It’s been measured how the number of questions a child asks reduces as they grow older and are force-fed the answers to questions they hadn’t asked.

I’m not sure how much this may play a part in what we’re interested in as we grow older, but we certainly come to enjoy some environments over others, with all their “fauna and flora.” What is enervating may be enriching for us and vice versa.

Understanding there are some environments that feed us more than others is critical to growing as true and fulsome as we have the potential for: something I see extending throughout our years.

It is possible to identify both the ones that feed us the most and those that starve us.

There’s another element to this, as identified by Erwin McManus:

the world within you will create the world around you^.

Not only are we fed by our environments, but, when we are living faithfully to who we are and what we have, we are able to affect change on our environments. Our enriching ones will respond the most, but even enervating ones will benefit from the person who has turned up with their bespoke alacrity.

Today is yet another day for developing our values, talents and energies, and playing with ways of making these available to others.

*From Richard Sennett’s Building and Dwelling;
**From M. C. Richards’ Centering;
^From Erwin McManus’ The Way of the Warrior.

Foundational flaws

Psychology tends to over-identify the flaw with deficiency. The unknown is not simply our there, outside us. The unknown dwells in the recesses of the human heart and becomes especially explicit in our flaws; consequently the true language of the self is hesitant, shadowed and poetic.*
(John O’Donohue)

we must persistently shed light on those aspects of ourselves that we prefer not to see in order to build our mental, emotional and spiritual capacity**
(Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz)

I wonder whether I am now ready to face truths about myself that I have so far overlooked, ignored, avoided or rejected.

My mind has been taken back to a moment in ministerial training college when the principal remarked how I was too quiet and may struggle leading in church life, and perhaps my graduation should be held up for a year.

In the end, it wasn’t and I didn’t struggle to speak up, but I would now want to weigh the worth of all those words.

I have come to understand how I enjoy quietness, listening, questioning and reflecting before having to speak.

What was suggested to be a deficiency perhaps was a flaw because I had left it unobserved and undeveloped, but it now feels like a defining strength for the work I do today.

There is a lot more to uncover and more possibilities to imagine and grow towards.

Facing the truth frees up energy and is the second stage, after defining purpose, o becoming more engaged. Avoiding the truth consumes great effort and energy.**

*From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
**From Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s The Power of Full Engagement

Stranger than fiction

An individual is a carefully fashioned, unique world. The shape of the flaw that each person carries is also different. The flaw is the special shape of personal limitation; angled at a unique awkwardness to the world, it makes our difficulty and challenge in the world different from that of others.*
(John O’Donohue)

Look at the person sitting to the right of you. And if there’s no person on the right, look at the person to the left. That person and you differ at over a million locations in your DNA.
(Lee Silver)

Wabi is the Japanese word for the flaw that deepens the beauty and character of a thing.

In other words, flaws are to be valued – though not blindly.

No matter how much we try to bring our character and personality into the light, there will always be a part of us that dwells in shadow, though.

To embrace this, to seek integrity with our superpowers demands we also seek integrity with our flaws – is not the same as excusing: we can be without pretense and guile, and be strong:

Your soul will not want to neglect the regions of your heart that do not fit the expected. When you trust yourself enough to discover and integrate your strangeness you bestow a gift on yourself.*

A critical part of embracing and connecting with this strangeness is to live closer still to our values:

Values hold us to different standards for managing energy.^

Perhaps harnessing our strangeness, weirdness, flawed-ness, is what someone in the world is waiting for.

*From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
**Lee Silver, quoted in Mary Reckmeyer’s Strengths Based Parenting;
^From Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s The Power of Full Engagement.

Born in doodle

When you discover something new about yourself, you become more grounded and free. It is delightful when you find out more of your hidden light, when the radiance inside you glimmers through in new unexpected colours.*
(John O’Donohue)

*From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty.

Doodle dream do

When copies are super-abundant they become worthless. Instead, stuff that can’t be copied becomes scarce and valuable.*
(Kevin Kelly)

I swapped around the sequence from my doodle on Thursday.

Doodle derives from dawdle, so slow things down so you can take more in.

Out of this, allow more time for dreaming of possibilities emerging from your new input.

Move into doing something anything, experimenting, failing, our of which comes innovating and making.

Repeat each day.

*From Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable.

Walk in the way and do not turn from it

It is interesting to ask: what are the limits you have set for your life? Where are the lines of these limits? Why do you think you cannot go beyond them? Did you construct these limits out of anxiety and fear?*
(John O’Donohue)

The path of our creativity and beauty is greater than the place we find ourselves:

The awakening of the beauty of your creativity can totally change the way you view limits.*

John O’Donohue writes about how our creativity changes the way we see.

Instead of being barriers stopping us they are thresholds to cross:

When you see the limit not as a confining barrier but as a threshold, you are already beyond.*

Our path of creativity comes with passion and imagination to carry us farther than we might ordinarily imagine.

As I read O’Donohue’s mention of thresholds, I consider their larger nature, as liminal spaces.

These are often uncomfortable and unfamiliar to us.

They make ignorant, incompetent, noviciates: all experiences we have sought to leave rather than arrive at:

We are confronted with an unattractive direction that we have to take. For weeks or months we have to travel through limbo; the comfort and security of our familiar belonging lies far beyond us. Where we will belong next has not yet become clear.*

Such experiences also offend our need to move and arrive quickly, but life in our universe seems to be set up differently to how our cultures frame it. There is much to valued in a slow journey in the same direction.

Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz offer a different understanding of direction and purpose which includes three movements:

Purpose becomes a more powerful and enduring source of energy in our lives in three ways: when its sources moves from negative to positive, external to internal and self to others.**

These movements allow us to both consider and measure the path we are on, so that if we find it incapable of accommodating these movements then we will find another path.

But if it is truly a path of imagination, creativity and beauty then we will begin to see the possibilities:

The beauty of imagination helps you to see the limit as an invitation to venture forth and view the world and your role in it as full of beautiful possibilities in how you think feel and act … possibility is the gift of creativity.*

*From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
**From Jim Loehr and
Tony Schwartz’s The Power of Full Engagement.

The beauty of I am

The who-ness of someone can never be finally named, known, claimed, controlled or predicted.*
(John O’Donohue)

We are all capable of great beauty in not only the things we make but also the person we are becoming.

Beauty despite all we have gone through.

Beauty because of all we have gone through:

The beauty that emerges from roundedness is a beauty infused with feeling; a beauty different from the beauty of landscape and cold beauty of perfect form. This is a beauty that has suffered its way though the ache of desolation until the words or music emerged to equal the hunger and desperation at its heart.*

How can we get our stuff together?

With imagination that comes with grace – imagination being one of the first victims in our worlds of scarcity devoid of kindness:

No one sets limits to the flow of grace. … Grace is the permanent climate of divine kindness.*

Whether we believe in god or not, playing in grace is available to all of us:

God has no why, but is the why of everything to everything: deus non habet quare sed ipsum est quare omnium et omnibus.**

Grace has no agenda and rekindles imagination for us towards being able to say I am.

And that is enough.

*From John O’ Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
**Meister Eckhart, quoted in John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty.

Here I am, there I go

Mortals must do what they are here to create or they will become cranky.**
(Seth Godin)

The awakening of individuality is a continual unfolding of our presence.*
(John O’Donohue)

The most important doings are to be found in moments of presence.

To ourselves, to the context and those within it.

There will appear something we must do and at that moment life is stirred becoming richer with the promise of beauty.

Robert McKee writes,

Every writer must strive towards this ideal: include no scene that doesn’t turn.^

Be present, find your turning.

The words in the doodle are the inscription my daughter Charlotte wrote in the gift of a journal for Fathers’ Day 2016.

*From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
**From Seth Godin’s Tales of the Revolution;
^From Robert McKee‘s newsletter: Why Your Story Needs Meaningful Change.

Curating transcendence

you have to believe your life belongs in a poem … Glimpsing your life in this frame, like seeing yourself in a beautiful photograph, will help you view your experience freshly and value it more.*
(Kate Clanchy)

All through your life your soul takes care of you. Despite its best brightness, your mind can never illuminate what your life is doing.**
(John O’Donohue)

compressed within a poem’s lines,
life becoming bigger, brighter, more beautiful,

this curation of words and pictures
forging more from less,

earth’s ordinary magic altering and
deepening perspective

measuring life by the weight of a soul
more than titles and chattel,

this vessel through the stars,
this kosmos I am and you are,

not some science fiction tract but

*From Kate Clanchy’s How to Grow Your Own Poem;
**From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty.