Where we find out care

Voice lies at the nexus of talent … , passion … , need … , and conscience … .*
(Steve Covey)

Everybody says you should serve a cause larger than yourself, but nobody tells you how.**
(David Brooks)

One of the biggest enemies when it comes to caring is not whether we want to, but finding the time in rush and push of every day.

When we make the time to notice what are talents are, the things we’re passionate about and what it is we want to do something about, then we find our care and we can go exploring:

We use the tools of instinct, intuition, and experimentation.^

It’s what dreamwhispering is all about – you’re welcome to get in touch to find out more: geoffrey@thinsilence.org.

(*From Steven Covey’s The 8th Habit.)
(**From David Brooks’ The Second Mountain.)
(^From Keri Smith’s The Wander Society.)

Excuse me a moment – I’m just going to step out of the noise and into the silence

I may be a while.

Our possibilities are perhaps not limitless, but they are at least infinitely above our present possibilities of imagination.*
(Frank Laubach)

Begin. With the humility of someone who’s not sure, and the excitement of someone who knows what is possible.**
(Seth Godin

The past is so noisy,
the present, too;
so I go to the silence
of the future,
to listen for the whisper of
new possibilities.

(*From Frank Laubach’s Letters By a Modern Mystic.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: Beginning is underrated.)

On callousness

By protecting the nerve ending in he hand, the callous makes the act of probing less hesitant […] the callous both sensitises the hand to minute, physical spaces and stimulates the sensation at the fingertips.*
(Richard Sennett)

Prescriptive technologies constitute a major social invention. In political terms, prescriptive technologies are designs for compliance.**
(Ursula Franklin)

Callous can often mean insensitive, but it may also mean the exact opposite.

Richard Sennett writes about the hard skin at our fingertips but his insight can be translated to whatever skill we have practised and honed.

A callous is then a mark of much practise and experience, and possibly something that matters to us greatly and can potentially make a difference in the life of another.

A musician and a silversmith develop callouses but so does the person who uses questions to help and support others, for instance.

Ursula Franklin’s reflection on prescriptive technologies is concerned with acculturation, how our skills can be subsumed into a larger system. What then might happen is restriction of the development of our callouses, but, whether we work for ourselves or for others, these callouses are ours and the responsibility for developing them is ours too and we often evolve them in quite remarkable ways:

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.^

We might, then, understand callousness to be an attitude as much as a mark of talent.

(*From Richard Sennet’s The Craftsman.)
(**From Ursula Franklin’s The Real World of Technology.)
(^Albert Einstein, quoted in Ben Hardy’s These 20 Pictures Will Teach You More Than Reading 100 Books.)

Our love song for the earth

I need a day with fields in it.

In that time [3.8 billion years], life has learned to fly, circumnavigate the globe, live in the depths of the ocean and also the highest peaks, craft miracle materials, light up the night, lasso the sun’s energy, and build a self-reflective brain.*
(Janine Benyus)

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save? Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous—therefore judgement comes forth perverted.**
(Habbakuk the prophet)

A day with fields in it is my shorthand for somehow connecting to nature. This has been one of the powerful experiences of the lockdown for so many, finding places of connection to nature: gardens, parks and beyond.

Even when we struggle to find a tree, we can look up:

Till, lying on your back
There is no mountain
Only sky,
Only a cloud
Running.^

The world’s oldest living tree is to be found in Sweden – more than 9,500 years old. Just think of all that has happened in human history since this tree emerged from a spruce seed. It had been around for around 4,000 years when the first Egyptian dynasty was established or Stone Henge was constructed.

Janine Benyus’ words capture something of the wonder of nature that she argues we now need to learn from and mimic when it comes to designing the future. What has taken billions of years to develop, we are undoing in two hundred or so industrial years and sixty or so years of ignoring the facts.

Reading Habbakuk’s words today, I imagined them focusing on what we are doing to our world, resulting in eliminating 60% or so of all species and one million species making up an endangered list – never mind rising carbon dioxide levels, poisoning of seas and oceans and clearing ancient forests.

We live in a critical moment of human history. Covid-19 has shown us that we are not all-powerful, but it has made it possible to see that we can do things differently if we have to. Not far behind having to is being able to do things differently because we want to:

One of our main tasks now – especially those of us who are not sick, are not frontline workers, and are not dealing with other economic or housing difficulties – is to understand this moment, what it might require of us, and what it might make possible. Change is not only possible, we are swept away by it. We ourselves change as our priorities shift, as intensified awareness of mortality makes us wake up to our own lives and the preciousness of life.^^

This is a desperate time, but it is also an exciting one for those who want to see just how far things can be made better through our imaginations and resourcefulness. Yesterday, I quoted Ken Sleight because of what he believes of our gifts and talents:

That’s how you’re going to fix the world – with your own gifts and talents.*^

This connects with some words I often recall from Frederick Buechner: we will find our purpose where our deepest gladness meets the world’s greatest needs. In this I see the possibility of deep respect and love and connection with our world that will also make it possible for the human species to flourish in a story of becoming:

Our greatest calling his to grow into our authentic selfhood, whether or not it conforms to some age of who we ought to be.^*

(*From Janine Benyus’ Biomimicry.)
(**Habakkuk 1:2-4)
(^From Rebecca Elson’s A Responsibility to Awe: Frattura Vecchia.)
(^^Rebecca Solnit, quoted in David Leser’s article: Call of the Wild: listen up, people, time is running out.)
(*^Ken Sleight, quoted in Terry Tempest Williams’ The Hour of Land.)
(^*Parker Palmer, quoted in Ian Cron Morgan and Suzanne Stabile’s The Road Back to You.)

No regrets

That’s the crucial way to tell whether you are on your first or second mountain. Where is your ultimate appeal? To self, or to something outside of self? If the first mountain is about building up the ego and defining the self, the second mountain is about shedding the ego and losing the self.*
(David Brooks)

That’s how you’re going to fix the world – with your gifts and talents.**
(Ken Sleight)

Which comes first?

The good choice or the difference it makes in us?

Looking back, my best choices have also been the hardest ones to make. They were – and are – choices about who I want to become. In turn, who I am becoming has made for more hard choices because there are more possibilities.

To refine David Brooks’ definition, I would say that the second mountain we climb involves shedding the ego for the eco – connection with others – and the false self for the true Self.

When it comes to these things there will be mistakes, I will be misunderstood and even overlooked, but there will be no regrets.

(*From David Brooks’ The Second Mountain.)
(**Ken Sleight, quoted in Terry Tempest Williams’ The Hour of Land.)

Lifelong learners

“Taking” lessons. What an accurate and horrible term. […] Learning is different. Learning is something we get to do, it’s a dance, an embrace, a chance to turn on some lights.*
(Seth Godin)

Just about everything important in our lives will have been gained through a degree of difficulty demanding our presence, dexterity, persistence, time and love.

We discover life is artistic and we want more:

Art isn’t painting or canvas or prettiness. Art is work that matters. Art is the work we do because we must.**

Hard as a noun is overtaken by hard as a verb.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: “Taking” lessons.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: A useful definition of art.)

Energy like you

It’s the “or don’t” part of this statement that is a real tragedy.

The flow experience, like everything else, is not “good” in an absolute sense. It is good only in that it has potential to make life more rich, intense and meaningful; it is good because it increases the strength and complexity of life.*
(MIhaly Csikszentmihalyi)

Interiority refers to a richer perceptual universe and awareness of self.**
(Peter Senge)

We’re born with basically the same amount of energy: our body, brain, the mysterious-heart sizes are roughly the same, as too the potential lengths of our lives – no-one has grown to twenty feet tall with a twenty-five pound brain and lives two hundred years.

Yet, although we are roughly the same from a distance, when we get up close to people – really close so we can touch their thoughts and their passions – we can see how this energy provided by the universe looks so different. There are not two people alike. Understanding and growing this is what Peter Senge is referring to as interiority and what it leads to is flow.

But there’s still that “or not” hanging menacingly over so many. Many are learning to focus there energy so it looks like so much more while others don’t focus it and it looks less.

We learn to focus our energy through being open to one another’s. Those we see with high amounts of energy have likely been supported by at least one other – perhaps something they’ve read or a special person in their lives. It means that, unless more of us turn up in our energy, we won’t know what we can be capable of individually or together.

The good news is, it’s never too late to begin.

(*From Mihály Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.)
(**From Perter Senge’s The Necessary Revolution.)

Inside the chrysalis

It’s September but I still spotted small brown butterflies as I passed through the neighbouring park for my morning walk. I think they were probably Speckled Wood butterflies.

Nature , in the form of this butterfly, was reminding me of an important life experience.

What you experience in the universe outside of you also exists in the universe within you. The universe literally flows through you. […] The universe has one intention: to create life.*
(Erwin McManus)

What a caterpillar is doing, in its self–imposed quarantine, is basically digesting itself. It is using enzymes to reduce its body to goo, turning itself into a soup of ex-caterpillar — a nearly formless sludge oozing around a couple of leftover essential organs (tracheal tubes, gut).**
(Sam Anderson)

I’m sorry if that was a little messy but, in essence, the chrysalis is an image for a place of confinement in which we can imagine new possibilities and experience transformation.

Sometimes we are flung into the chrysalis-state by something that happens to us, other times, we enter voluntarily. The caterpillar enters the chrysalis once, but we will probably need to enter many times because, unlike the butterfly, we can turn back into caterpillars.

It is a place for facing ourselves because the biggest issues we have in the world lie with ourselves:

The warrior faces their great adversary when they have to face themselves.*

I’ve just got hold of a copy of David Brooks’ The Second Mountain and came upon these words about those who have come to realise there is a more than one mountain to climb in their lifetime:

They want to want the things that truly worth wanting. They elevate their desires. The world tells them to be a good consumer, but they want to be consumed by a moral cause.^

That sounds very much like the experience within the chrysalis, the possibility of a larger life awaiting us.

It turns out that for the wannabe butterfly, the key elements in the chrysalis goo are “imaginal discs,” the elements that feed on the proteins to become the important structures of the butterfly.

In terms of what we’re thinking about for ourselves, these are our values, talents, and our energies that we notice and feed. The butterfly is our new story to live. (Everything from the old, caterpillar story is still present, but in a radically different way.)

(*From Erwin McManus’ The Way of the Warrior.)
(**Sam Anderson, quoted in Austin Kleon’s blog: Advice from a caterpillar.)
(^From David Brooks’ The Second Mountain.)