The rise of the hero

But eventually everybody, I believe, needs to set an example. Either to your kids or to your friends or to your spouse or to your peers or to the world in general.

Everybody needs to stand for something. Something that matters.*
(Hugh Macleod)

The ultimate aim of the quest must be neither release nor ecstasy for oneself, but the wisdom and power to serve others.’**
(Joseph Campbell)

Two stories caught my attention on the radio yesterday.

The first was exploring people’s stories of video game addiction.  The second was a plea from a children’s writer for time to be made for daydreaming in schools.  They are not unrelated.

The universe is energy, and for a while – maybe eighty years or so – each of us is provided with some of this energy to give free expression to.  We’re all aware of this energy because we’re all made of it – it’s just a case of having the time to find out how to uniquely channel it.  Kelvy Bird describes it this way:

‘Source.  Life force.  Around us, in us, a wellspring of energy to tap into at any moment.’^

We can end up in the technology cul-de-sac, though.  Technology for the sake of technology is a dead end.  We have to develop our human capability to imagine, to imagine the difference we can make.

This isn’t about a technology-free future.  Humans produce technology, it goes with the territory  It is about being free to explore who we are and what is our contribution.  Technology can enhance this.  It can also hide it.

(*From gapingvoid’s blog: What does real leadership mean?)
(**From Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)
(^From Kelvy Bird’s Generative Scribing.)



A consumerist system creates a belief in the “scarcity within,” the belief that we need material goods to invoke the imagination, that we are incapable of constructing our own lives out of whatever we have at our disposal than only others can provide us with the things needed to live.*
(Keri Smith)

This is about “being.”  To know who we are and that we have all we need to begin.

The questions Who am I? and What is my contribution? help us to find our being.

One way of doing this is to see the picture that develops when you look closely at your values, talents, dreams, and notice when you are most energised and de-energised.  Although this may look as thought it’s very ego-centric, it’s the opposite.

By doing this, we’re asking questions of others: Who are you? and What is your contribution?

Now it’s becoming really interesting because we can push on into further questions which touch on what we might term as “interbeingness.”

We may be able to ask Who are we? and What is our contribution?

Imagine where you might be today if you’d been able to begin this journey a year ago?

Here’s looking to the 11th June 2019 and another opportunity.

(*From Keri Smith’s The Wander Society.)

Messy learning

We persevere in the confidence that we ourselves are being transformed.  Perseverance produces character, and character hope.  And hope, we will discover is the ultimate gift gained in wisdom.*
(Erwin McManus)

Workers learn more in the coffee room than in the classroom.  They discover how to do their jobs though informal learning: talking observing others, trial and error, and simply working with people in the know.  Formal learning – classrooms and workshops – is the source of only 10 to 20 percent of what people learn at work.**

When we fail and mess up it doesn’t mean we’re failures.

But it can mean we’re learning.

The kind of learning that flows through us, changes us at a fundamental level, attunes us to what is happening around us, to where we have come from and where we are headed:

‘There, there, he said.  The new universe is not all suffering and ssadness.  There is much happiness in the thing.  There is joy, and there is music, and there is spirit.  Yes, I said, all these things.  It is a beautiful universe.’^

(*From Erwin McManus’ Uprising.)
(**From Jay Cross’ Informal Learning.)
(^From Alan Lightman’s Mr g.)

The creativity lounge

There’s always someone ready to give us advice but the valuable people in our lives are those who provide us with the presencing question.

They become a space in which we can explore through being fully present and fully open, a creativity lounge of possibility.

This is the most basic creativity lounge,  Others may include more people and inhabit particular spaces but it all begins here.

Building 20

Nobody would have guessed and nobody tried to guess either.  The hodgepodge of Building 20 was the result of simple expedience and neglect.  Where did MIT put disciplines that didn’t fit, researchers who had no clout, projects that made no money, student hobbyists, and anything and anyone else that just didn’t seem to matter?  In the cheapest, nastiest space they could find.  If Building 20 hadn’t been a mess, these strange collaborations might never have happened.*
(Tim Harford)

Building 20 had seen the development of some of the most amazing radar technology during World War II.  Designed and built quickly, it was full of design and safety problems and was to be torn down at the end of the war.  But a stay of demolition led to it becoming the skunkworks for technologies from video games to Bose and it was only finally demolished more than fifty years later.

There’s no denying that it was an ugly, ungainly building.  And there’s no denying these were still very smart people who were to later inhabit its spaces.  We are, though, provided with a powerful metaphor or story for what can happen when people find a place to quietly get on with the things they love doing in proximity to people who do different things with similar passion.

We may think those in control know what they’re doing.  That’s why they are in control, right?  Often, though, they may have unwittingly paid their dues to the machine, to the system, and they are in all the way to their souls.

The rest of us keep quiet when really we ought to be finding our Building 20.

Viktor Frankl, survivor of Nazi labour camps and death camps wrote:

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances but only by lack off meaning or purpose.”**

We find the same sentiment in Paulo Coelho’s Aleph pondering life without a cause:

“After all, a life without a cause is a life without effect.”^

Building 20 found itself being crammed full of meaning and purpose and therefore with effect.

(One place we can find an expression of Building 20 is in the Presencing Institute’s U.Lab.  You can check out what this is about here but part of the experience is to connect to a local hub and/or coaching circle.  Interestingly, it’s also based at MIT.)

(*From Tim Harford’s Messy.)
(**Viktor Frankl, quoted in Dan Ariely’s Payoff.)
(^From Paulo Coelho’s Aleph.


The genius of longing

Some only live in the good and never face the bad.

Others live in the bad and struggle to face the good.

An accurate picture of “what is,” and what we hope for provides a place to move on from, to be instigators of “what can be.”

Rebecca Solnit writes beautifully about the “blue of longing” and, for me, opens up a world of possibilities:

“We treat desire as a problem to be solved, address what desire is for and focus on that something and how to acquire it rather than on the nature and the sensation of desire, though often it is the distance between us and the object of desire that fills the space in between with the blue of longing.  I wonder sometimes whether with a slight adjustment of perspective it could be cherished as a sensation on its own terms, since it is as inherent to the human condition as blue is to distance?”*

It seems to me that when we take Solnit’s counsel and turn our attention towards the blue of longing, we’re noticing there is more to us than we knew, than the simple rush we make to something in the distance and find that something is not what we wanted at all:

“For something of this longing will, like the blue of distance, only be relocated, not assuaged, by acquisition and arrival, just as the mountains cease to be blue when you arrive among them and the blue instead tints the next beyond.”*

This blue, then, is a deeper experience, a possibility imagined that can be grown, a liminal space that is the spring of our being:

“Show me the hidden things, the creatures of my dreams, the storehouse of forgotten memories and hurts. Take me down to the spring of my life, and tell me my nature and my name.  Give me freedom to grow, so that I may become that self, the seed of which You planted in me at my making.

Out of the depths I cry to You … “**

These words from George Appleton are spoken to his god but whether we allow there to be a god or not, we’re each capable of turning our attention towards the blue, holding our deepest longings and what might be that may not the destination we had thought life would be:

‘Yes, the cards are unfairly stacked against too many people.  Yes, there are too many barriers and not enough support.  But no, your ability to create and contribute isn’t determined at birth.  It’s a choice’^

I think that choice becomes visible and available in the blue.

I intend these words to be blue.  They’re intended not as a destination but simply be a space in which you may find yourself able to imagine and dream and then create because you’ve allowed yourself to long for something.  It is as Hugh Macleod sees:

‘What you love to do will grow with you, so long as you stay true to who you are and allow yourself to change and develop freely.’^^

(*Rebecca Solnit, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Two Hundred Years of Blue.)
(**George Appleton, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(^From Seth Godin’s Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?)
(^^From gapingvoid’s blog: Life without dissonance.)

Sacre bleu

For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that colour of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away.  The colour of that distance is the colour of an emotion, the colour of solitude and of desire, the colour of there seen from here, the colour of where you are not.  And the colour of where you can never go.  For the blue is not in the place those miles away at the horizon, but in the atmospheric distance between you and the mountains. […] Blue is the colour of longing for the distances you never arrive in, for the blue world.
(Rebecca Solnit)

I have just entered sacre bleu into a French to English translator and it comes up with Damn it!  (My learning of French ended at the age of 14 having followed the adventures of the Marsaud famille in Longmans Audio Visual French)

It’s fascinating how sacred and blue, when put together, come out with something quite different.  Or is it?

In these two words we have an expression of how the sacred and holy can also be the ordinary and down-to-earth.

I find myself pondering more and more how the best way to refer to life is in terms of sacredness and holiness, beginning with how we see each other:

‘To engage in a reverential way is to maintain a sense of proportion and balance.  You acknowledge that there is a depth pf presence in every person that should never be reduced to satisfy your own selfishness and greed.’**

We don’t have to be religious to understand life in this way; indeed, those possibly free of religion can speak of this life in ways more rich and lively:

‘Must is both the journey and the destination, the upward journey of our lives that guides us toward that higher place, the oneness of all things, the ultimate source of Must.’^

We need the sacred blue.

Of course, from the perspective of another looking at us across a distance, we are enwrapped by the blue.  We just can’t see it ourselves.  The down-to-earth stuff we are right in the middle of is, at the same time, the sacred blue.

(*Rebecca Solnit, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Two Hundred Years of Blue.)
(**From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(^From Elle Luna’s The Crossroads of Should and Must.)