Unintentional limits

This is how the world works: first we tell ourselves a story then we dream our way inside it as a way of bringing it to life. It’s why we have to be careful about the narratives we evoke or create, because they are bound by (or bind) the limits of what we can imagine, the limits of our ability to think.*
(David Ulin)

(*From David Ulin’s The Lost Art of Reading.)

We can be the light

Spiritual energy is sustained by balancing a commitment to others with adequate self-care.*
(Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz)

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

To be the light requires that we shine and replenish. It’s a both/and. On then hand:

You can’t keep giving without taking in: Fundamentally, spiritual energy is a powerful source of our motivation, perseverance and direction.*

But you can’t go to the source of your light and keep it to yourself.

One of the discoveries Viktor Frankl made and shared in the Nazi work- and death-camps was to live for something bigger than ourselves:

What was needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.^

Whilst our values, talents and energies are important sources, so too are the disciplines of humility, gratitude and faithfulness. Put simply, to grow stronger in who we are, be aware of and open to all we have in our lives and seek ways to put these into action in small ways that repeat and evolve.

When we get this right, the hope is there’ll be more and more light and less darkness in the world.

(*From Jim Loehr and and Tony Schwartz’s The Power of Full Engagement.)
(**From Seth Godin’s Tales of the Revolution.)
(^Viktor Frankl, quoted in Jim Loehr and and Tony Schwartz’s The Power of Full Engagement.)

Sawubona

Sawubona, a Zulu term, means, “I see you.” Not just your face, of course, but your hopes, your dreams, where you came from and where you’re going. It’s not something we’re good at, and I need to do it better.*
(Seth Godin)

We cannot see in this way in a hurry.

Perhaps we cannot do it from where we are now and we need to move.

We cannot be distracted and do this, we need to be present.

Neither will we be able to see if we bring our preconceptions and judgements, be they about roles or cultures or from the confines of past experiences.

Beyond our individual and collective achievements, to truly see each other will be our greatest.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: Are we part of us?)

The exception to the rule

Today truly is a wide-open frontier. We are all becoming. It is the best time ever in human history to begin. You are not late.*
(Kevin Kelly)

Keep your eyes open for exceptions to the rules. They are always interesting.

Perhaps it’s the new data that won’t fit with what we know, or the needs of the individual who’s going to change things for everyone, or the future that is wanting to emerge, the exception may be something wanting to begin.

(*From Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable.)

The wonderful thing about specks

Only by connecting our own birth, our own existence, to that of everything and everyone we know, to the birth of the universe itself, can we confidently and genuinely say with [Walt] Whitman, who called himself a “Kosmos,” that “every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.*
(Maria Popova)

The top story is the one that informs our narrative, and our narrative informs our future.**
(Seth Godin)

Marion Dane Bauer’s poem from the heart of science The Stuff of Stars is now on my wishlist of books. Illustrated beautifully by Ekua Holmes, your readers, and not so young, are transported back to when all that is was a speck floating through nothing:

In the dark,
in the dark,
in the deep, deep dark,
a speck floated,
invisible as thought,
weighty as God.
There was yet no time,
there was yet no space.
No up,
no down,
no edge,
no centre.^

Nothing:

No Earth with soaring hawks,
scuttling beetles,
trees reaching for the sky.
There was no sky.
No you.
No me.
Only the speck,
waiting,
waiting…^

Even after the big bang it would be billions of years before anything recognisable to us would take shape:

Again and against
stardust
gave birth
to stardust.^

We were not aware of any of this until another speck takes form:

Then one day…
in the dark,
in the dark,
in the deep, deep dark,
another speck floated,
invisible as dreams,
special as Love.
Waiting,
waiting,
dividing,
changing,
growing.
Until at last,
YOU burst into the world.^

Our lives will be tested by the wonder of it all.

We find it so easy to forget this or dismiss what is the top story. We lose track of how we, together with all flora and fauna, are the stuff of stars. We separate and separate from, and sometimes fight, each other.

Our lives can stop moving while our planet continues to hurtle through space. We make up rules that benefit us over others and have little to do with the wonder.

But, again, when we’ve allowed the story of wonder to be our top story, oh my!

And there is more to come, far more:

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.^^

Whether we look out into space or into each others lives we see what a speck can become: a cosmos of glorious wonder.

Eugene Peterson captures something of this as he writes:

God’s first language is full-spectrum light, clear water, deep sky, red squirrel, blue whale, grey parrot, green lizard, golden aspen, orange mango, yellow warbler, laughing child, rolling river, serene forest, churning storm, spinning planet.*^

May we be led deeper into the wonder of it all, the stuff of stars:

You
and the velvet moss,
the caterpillars,
the lions.

You
and the singing whales,
the larks,
the frogs.

You,
and me
loving you.
All of us
the stuff of stars.^

(*From Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: The Stuff of Stars.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: Our top story.)
(^Marion Dane Bauer‘s The Stuff of Stars, quoted in maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: The Stuff of Stars.)
(^^An African saying, quoted in Erwin McManus’ The Last Arrow.)
(*^From Brian McLaren’s We Make the Road by Walking.)

Out of linearity, into oscillation

close the gap between who you are and who you want to be – between how you manage your energy now and how you want to manage your energy to achieve whatever mission you are on*
(Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz)

This may be counterintuitive, but we develop and grow when we rest and recover following stressful activity.** Peter Senge writes about what happens in quietness and solitude, helping us see more of what’s happening in recovery:

An inner alignment starts to develop that can release extraordinary energy and creativity, qualities previously dissipated by denial, inner contradictions, and unawareness of the situation and oneself.^

If we just keep going in a straight line of stress, be it physical, mental, emotional or spiritual – it’s usually a mix of all four – then the only thing we’re likely to be developing is an illness, or worse:

There is […] considerable evidence that highly linear forms of behaviour – too much eating, too little sleep, too much hostility, too little physical activity, too much continuous stress – lead to a higher incidence of illness and even early death.

Karoshi is the Japanese term for death by overwork because it’s a thing.

Short of the worst, there’s the likelihood of a higher at-rest heart rate and blood pressure, poor sleep, irritability, emotional instability, loss of motivation and increased injury and illness.

When we’re busy, we can try to conserve energy in order to keep going. What Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz are saying is the best thing to do is to increase stress and then recover, just like a physical muscle:

We grow at all levels by expending energy beyond our normal limits, and then recovering.*

They call this antidote to the linearity of stress, oscillation. It’s important not to have too much linearity in recovery as well as too much stress. What we’re trying to do is build energy capacity.

Curation in its widest sense is creating new possibilities out of the vast resources available to us through specking, arranging and enhancing. As such it is a dynamic activity. Yet within its dynamism lies the original meaning of the word which is to care:

Curation that doesn’t have the sense of taking care, preserving, nurturing is more likely to lead to negative outcomes.^^

In my university work, I’m collaborating with others on an idea intended to release abundance rather than be imprisoned within scarcity. The word we are using for recovery is replenishment, to supply abundantly, from plenir, to fill.

I haven’t got it figured out yet but I’ll keep both working and wandering at it. As I mentioned earlier, it’s where the good things begin to happen.

(*From Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s The Power of Full Engagement.)
(**Have you noticed how your best ideas come to you when you’re not trying to come up with your best idea?)
(^From Peter Senge’s The Necessary Revolution.)
(^^From Michael Bhaskar’s Curation.)

The power of curiosity in a familiar world

Talking to people I’ve never met before is my adventure.*
(Kio Stark)

A designer does not have the luxury of cynicism. A cynical designer? That shouldn’t exist. That’s a joke.**
(Bruce Mau)

The familiar looks different to unfamiliar eyes, The School of Life naming children, travellers and artists amongst those who possess such eyes:

One of the things it’s easiest to forget about children is that they are aliens recently descended from another planet. In the way they look at everything around them, in the wide open stares they give to ways of living and being that have grown utterly familiar and therefore invisible to our eyes, they may as well have stepped off a galactic aircraft in an unobserved corner of a wheatfield. Coming from so far away, everything on our earth is to them new, interesting and worthy of examination. Nothing is to be taken for granted. There are so many questions to ask. The whole world is, via their as yet unmarked minds, born anew.^

The world becomes a bigger place when with curiosity we appear as learners, discovering everything and everyone is a teacher.

Humble openness allows us to see something outside our ken, is open to seeing this for what it is, and does not desire to own it.

This is wisdom, humility uncovering simplicity on the far side of complexity:

There is an elegance and beauty to wisdom. She brings simplicity out of complexity.^^

(*From Kio Stark’s When Strangers Meet.)
(**Bruce Mau, quoted in Warren Berger’s Glimmer.)
(^From The School of Life’s article: How to be Curious.)
(^^From Erwin McManus’ Uprising.)

The desires of our hearts

[W]e are most poetic when we are most in tune with created Presence – person, place, thing. Which means that we may not divide life into poem and un-poem but see that experience itself may be poetic.*
(M. C. Richards)

Desire paths and desire lines are the names given to the unofficial paths that appear across urban landscapes because they work better than the official ones architects and planners have put in place.

There are desire lines running through our lives, too.

Life comes with many formal or official paths that are put in place by the “architects and planners” of culture and society and all their fractals, many being necessary or well-intended, yet so many aren’t quite in the right places.

Here are some tests to help see if we’ve found our desire lines, which I borrow from Seth Godin; the best desire paths:

Open us to our passions rather than inertia
Create originality and generosity rather than dogma
Encourage service and adventure rather than ease
Follow convictions rather than wilt under criticism
Are willing to apologise rather than blag it
Offer kindness rather than trying to be clever at the expense of others
Find us as builders rather than a cynics.**

(*From M. C. Richards’ Centering.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: Choices.)

A day’s journey from here

Middle English: from Old French jornee ‘day, a day’s travel, a day’s work’ (the earliest senses in English), based on Latin diurnum ‘daily portion’, from diurnus (see diurnal).

Every day’s a journey. A helpful picture of how we’re always moving: perhaps in our thinking, sometimes in our feeling, maybe in our doing.

We are most in motion when we identify our artist or artisanal spirit posits M. C. Richards:

Man as artist is on the move. He is not an institution, but a moving pillar of light.*

This need to be on the move is a desire for creativity, continues Richards:

My hunger for freedom is my hunger for myself, for my creative initiative.*

We notice where we are and knowing this is not the end of journey, we continue:

re-examine all you’ve been told at school or church or in any book; dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the riches fluency not only in it words but in the silent lines**.

Writing to young readers, Anne Lamott see this as the greatest journey we will ever find ourselves on:

Books are paper ships, to all the worlds, to ancient Egypt, outer space, eternity, into the childhood of your favourite musician, and – the most precious stunning journey of all – into your own heart, your own family, your own history and future and body.^

I note that this journey is not only ‘into your own heart’ but also into the lives of others. Richards recognises the kind of human community that forms when people are moving together, beyond institution:

Communitas is built into the spirit of men. They have but to perceive it to create it.*

Such perceiving of the kind of community that forms around an enlivening purpose is itself a journey we find ourselves upon each day.

Perhaps we are not so much moving from the past to the present to the future but from a fixed future to one that is created in journey:

It struck me that the only voice that spoke about the future as the result of a creative act was the one person whose view of reality was not shaped by this fixed view of the future.^^

We have a long way to journey today.

(*From M. C. Richards’ Centering.)
(**From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.)
(^From Anne Lamott’s letter to young readers, in Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick’s A Velocity of Being.)
(^^From Erwin McManus’ The Last Arrow.)