Internal life

‘Find something you love to do and then excel at it.’*

‘Find something you feel deeply passionate about creating.  Second, choose something the crowd is passionate about coming into existence.’**

It’s fascinating to see when someone finds something they love, they often find something that impacts the life of another.

There’s a power in everyone to be connected with.  True power is about what we can give to others, not what we take for ourselves.

(*From gapingvoid‘s blog: How the movie making model can help drive better business.)
(**From Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler’s Bold.)


The technology dilemma and the future of together

‘Stop worrying about technology.  Start worrying about people.’*

In a conversation yesterday, a friend was telling me how they’d recently realised the word “companion” is someone with whom we share bread.

Before a company became a business it was a group of people who would sit down and break bread and share a meal together.

There’s a gap being created as technology accelerates at an incredible speed whilst meaningful connecting with one another is diminishing.

We’re mesmerised by our ability to build more faster:

‘”Progress” is some kind of ordained imperative of our species, an abstract conception of evolution, and inevitable development like the increase in entropy, the future.’**

We build it because we can, though these words from Alan Lightman has the theoretical physicist and fabulist confessing that he’s lost something of his inner self.  There’s something similar to be said about the sense of who we are together, and there’s a need for the gap that’s growing ever larger to be filled with people coming together in all manner of way where they are able to think and talk and share about all the stuff they’re up to, enabling a sense of where the common good lies in and through it all, as well as the good for the other species with whom we get to share this planet.

There’s no one way of doing this.  Just lots of ways that you are able to come up with.


(*From gapingvoid’s blog Give the people what they want.)
(**From Alan Lightman’s A Sense of the Mysterious.)

I knew that!

“And there’s an ideal beauty that is harder to define or understand, because it occurs not just in the body but where the body and the spirit meet and define each other.”*

I wonder whether there are three basic forms of knowledge: general, specific, and deeper.

General knowledge is what we are picking up throughout our lives, it includes everything we take in from the people and world around us; its higher forms includes reading and writing and numeracy.

Then there is specific knowledge made up of the kind of information and skills which we apply to life in roles and and careers.

Deeper knowledge is when all of the general and specific knowledge is brought together into something that embracers the complexity and perplexity of ourselves and others and our relationships with all things, through space and time.

What Ursula Le Guin expresses in the opening words for today suggests to me a way of touching our deeper knowing: where the physical and spiritual (non-physical) meet and define each other.

Philosopher Rebecca Goldstyn captures something of this when she claims:

“a person whose one loves is a world, just as one knows oneself to be a world”.**

Maria Popova brings out how important our mortality is for understanding ourselves and others, claiming:

‘it is death that illuminates the full spectrum of our beauty’.^

Perhaps it is for our knowledge too that death with be the definer.  Le Guin tells of the beauty of her mother’s life beyond her painful experience with cancer of the spleen:

“I see her rocking, weeding, writing, laughing — I see the turquoise bracelets on her delicate, freckled arm — I see, for a moment, all that at once, I glimpse what no mirror can reflect, the spirit flashing out across the years, beautiful.

That must be what the great artists see and paint. That must be why the tired, aged faces in Rembrandt’s portraits give us such delight: they show us beauty not skin-deep but life-deep.”*

Rembrandt’s mother

In the presence of such beauty we might reflect how, for all there is so much general knowledge and even specific knowledge, it can be skin-deep compared to the deeper knowledge that creates life as a work of art.

We cannot go back.  We cannot unknow.  There’s only forwards.

I read more from Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together, as she identifies what she names the “nostalgia of the young”:

‘We have seen young people walk the halls of their schools composing messages to online acquaintances they will never meet.  We have seen them feeling more alive when connected, then disoriented and alone when they leave their screens.  Some live more than half their waking hours in virtual places.  But they also talk wistfully about letters, face-to-face meetings, and the privacy of pay phones.  Tethered selves, they try to conjure a future different from the one they see coming by building on a past they never knew.  In it, they have time alone, with nature, with each other, and with their families.’^^

Here is an illusion of deep knowledge.  At the same time, Alex McManus senses that we are deepening our knowledge at least in knowing something is wrong and we’re trying too put it right – whoever right means:

‘Yes, we are broken, but at the same time we are awakening to our brokenness.’*^

It is to be seen whether our burgeoning personal technology will help or hinder us.  At the moment it seems we do not know how to live with it, Alan Lightman describing the world it offers as a prison:

‘I believe I have lost something of my inner self.  By inner self I mean that part of me that imagines, that dreams, that explores, that is constantly questioning who I am and what is important to me.  My inner self is m true freedom.  My inner self roots me to me, and to the ground beneath me.  The sunlight and soil that nourish my inner self are solitude and personal reflection.  When I listen to my inner self, I hear the breathing of my spirit.  Those breaths are so tiny and delivcate, I need stillness to hear them, I need aloneness to hear them.  I need vast, silent spaces in my mind.  Without the breathing and the once of my inner self, I am a prisoner of the world around me.  Worse than a prisoner, because I do not know what has been taken away from me, I do not know who I am.’^*

There’s a deeper knowing in all of us waiting to be discovered.

Michelangelo Buonarroti


I have spoken many times of the power of Michelangelo’s unfinished statues for me, four huge figures straining to be released from their prison of stone.

The four unfinished captives

Irving Stone’s Michelangelo, in his biographical novel The Agony and the Ecstasy is asked, “How did you make that astonishing figure of Night?”:⁺

“I had a block of marble in which was concealed that statue which you see there.  The only effort involved is to take away the tiny pieces which surround it and prevent it from being seen.  For anyone know how to do this, nothing could be easier.”⁺

Michelangelo’s Night

This same sense of knowing lies in Carl Jung’s remark:

“The treasure lies in the depths of the water.”⁺⁺

Philip Newell, who is quoting Jung, reflects how:

‘When Jung speaks of our consciousness, he is referring to what we already know, to what we are aware of or fully conscious of.  By the unconscious, on the other hand, he is referring  to what we do not yet know or what we have forgotten.  He is pointing to that vast realm of unknowing, the the world upon worlds within us that have yet to emerge into the light of awareness.’⁺*

A life-deep wisdom is waiting to emerge.

(*Ursula Le Guin, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Ursula K. Le Guin on Ageing and What Beauty Really Means.)
(**Rebecca Goldstyn, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Ursula K. Le Guin on Ageing and What Beauty Really Means.)
(^From Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Ursula K. Le Guin on Ageing and What Beauty Really Means.)
(^^From Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together.)
(*^From Alex McManus’ Makers of Fire – eBook version.)
(^*From Alan Lightman’s A Sense of the Mysterious.)
(⁺The protagonist Michelangelo, in Irving Stone’s The Agony and the 
(⁺⁺Carl Jung , quoted in Philip Newell’s The Rebirthing of God.)
(⁺*From Philip Newell’s The Rebirthing of God.)

Sweet expectations

“Live the questions now.”*

‘Stay curious.  Never settle.  Amen.’**

Of high expectations, Seth Godin remarks, ‘nothing will be good enough,’ and of low expectations he says they are ‘sad indeed’.^

It’s thought there are only three starry bowls in existence.  These yon tenmoku were valued by shoguns more than anything else and remain national treasures for Japan.  They’re possibly the accident of a certain kind of pottery production but there are those who are seeking to replicate the process and, they hope, the bowls.  They are searching for a particular answer.

In Jean-Pierre Siméon and Olivier Tallec’s wonderful story This is a Poem that Heals Fish, the protagonist Arthur must discover what a poem is so he can save his fish Leon from boredom.  He asks bike shop owner Lolo what a poem is:

‘- A poem, Arthur, is when you are in love
and have the sky in your mouth.’^^

Arthur can only reply:

‘ – Oh…? Okay.’^^


Arthur continues his quest.

Mrs. Round the baker tells Arthur:

‘- A poem?
I don’t know much about that.
But I know one, snd it is hot like fresh bread.
When you eat it, a little is always left over.

-Oh…?  Okay.’^^

Arthur asks Mahmoud ‘who comes from the desert andwters his rhododendrons every morning at 9 o’clock’:

‘Mahmoud replies without hesitation:
– A poem is when you hear
the heartbeat of a stone.’

– Oh…?  All right.’^^

(More from Arthur’s quest come.)

Questions can contain such sweet expectation.

(*Rainer Maria Rilke, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From gapoiingvod’s blog: Stay curious.)
(^From Seth Godin’s blog The trouble with high expectations … .)
(^^From Jean-Pierre Siméon and Olivier Tallec’s This is a Poem that Heals Fish.)

30 days

“If you want to live life free
Take your time, go slowly,
If you want your dream to be
Take your time, go slowly.”*

‘Just at that moment, something miraculous happens.  You realise there is actually further depth to the quality you are pursuing.  There is a breakthrough, or the production of something completely different.’**

Seth Godin names TV, specifically TV advertising, as the engine of our discontent – and social media is ‘TV times 1,000.’^  We want another person’s life.  That’s how advertising works.  And we forget the life we have.

The Jesuit way was to send a novitiate away for thirty days to figure out with his God what the purpose was he had to give his life to.  What if we were to somehow take thirty days in solitude to see one’s life for what it is rather than to compare it with what others have and are doing?

Ken Mogi explores thinking small as a pillar of ikigai, the Japanese way to finding purpose in life.  With the identification of our kadawari no ippinour “signature dish.” there is the possibility of small improvements.  If I might mix metaphors out of Mogi’s illustrations: we are able to cultivate a rare fruit.  Small improvements have been used to develop exquisite and expensive fruit in an area of Japan – a slice of a certain mango might cost you £80.  But you have to eat it to appreciate it, or, as Mogi points out:

‘In other words, you need to destroy it, in order to appreciate it.’**

This means we have to be present in the moment.  As Mogi points out, we are unable to take a taste-selfie.

I take this as a picture of the improvement of our lives over a lifetime, the beauty of our lives.  Of human beauty, Ursula Le Guin asserts:

“The beauty ideal is always a youthful one.”^^

The most important ideal is to know where we begin and end in space and time, and that this is different to where others begin and end:

“It’s not that I’ve lost my beauty — I never had enough to carry on about. It’s that that woman doesn’t look like me. She isn’t who I thought I was.


We’re like dogs, maybe: we don’t really know where we begin and end. In space, yes; but in time, no.”^^

The real movement doesn’t come from imagining something, though I totally honour Steven Covey’s notion that to imagine something is the first creation, but to “turn our hand to something” is where the wonder of a human life is to be found:

“The hand is the window on to the mind.”*^

So wrote, Immanuel Kant.  Frederic Wood Jones took this further, though, looking beyond the hand to what is actually happening:

“It is not the hand that is perfect, but the whole nervous mechanism by which movements of the hand are evoked, coordinated, and controlled.”^*

What is in the m ind only shapes us so far; what is in the hand shapes us further.  Which is to say, pursuing the small ideas that come to us opens up life to us.

(*Donovan Leitch, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From Ken Mogi’s The Little Book of Ikigai.)
(^From Seth Godin’s blog, The engine of our discontent.)
(^^Ursula Le Guin, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Ursula K. Le Guin on Ageing and What Beauty Really Means.)
(*^Immanuel Kant, quoted in Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.)
(^*Frederic Wood Jones, quoted in Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.)


Gait: a manner of walking, stepping, or running.

“Too many people, guilt-stricken, wounded,
walk in regret,
feeling bad about failing,
apologise even for breathing.”*

A dramatic walk is a walk full of sensing – that is, open to more, presensing – open to what the more is bringing from the future; and, realising – making something happen with this more.  Every time different.

A theatrical walk is scripted, perhaps by others, perhaps by self, as a way of controlling, or providing predictability, or both.  Repeatable.

In Maria Popova’s article on Ursula Le Guin’s writing about true beauty, Le Guin marks the differences between cats and dogs. including how dogs don’t know their true size: imagine the chihuahua taking on a caucasian shepherd dog because it thinks it’s the same size or the same shepherd dog snuggling down on your lap because it thinks its just the right size. Cats, though,  know how big they are, how, if they are attacked, they need to make themselves look bigger – turning side-on and puffing themselves up to look twice the size.  They also know where they look best – just look at where they pose themselves.

Le Guin imagines people to be like dogs and cats:

“A lot of us humans are like dogs: we really don’t know what size we are, how we’re shaped, what we look like. The most extreme example of this ignorance must be the people who design the seats on airplanes. At the other extreme, the people who have the most accurate, vivid sense of their own appearance may be dancers. What dancers look like is, after all, what they do.”**

Of a dancer observed, Le Guin remarks:

“He inhabits his body as fully as a child does, but much more knowingly. And he’s happy about it.”

Popova considers what’s happening here.  This is not about wanting to look perfect but to be satisfied within one’s life:

‘What dance does, above all, is offer the promise of precisely such bodily happiness — not of perfection, but of satisfaction.’^

My twenties were long ago – and I’ve never been able to dance.  What hope for someone in their late fifties?  What we can all have is a deeper satisfaction making it possible to take a dramatic and not a theatrical walk.  Eugene Peterson perhaps senses this when he writes:

‘Life is ambiguous.  There are loose ends.  It takes maturity to live with the ambiguity and the chaos, the absurdity and untidiness.’*^

When we’ve found our way of walking, are comfortable in the dramatic walk that is right for us and which continues to unfold throughout our lives, then we can be about some of our most creative wor.  It is made up of our unique talents and passion and experience, and alchemy therein:

“I’m a firm believer in the chaotic nature of the creative process needing to be chaotic.  If we put too much structure on it, we will kill it.”*^

(*Andy Raine, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**Ursula Le Guin, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Picking’s Ursula K. Le Guin on Ageing and What Beauty really Means.)
(^From Maria Popova’s Brain Picking’s Ursula K. Le Guin on Ageing and What Beauty really Means.)
(^^From Eugene Peterson’s Run with the Horses.)
(*^Liindsey Collins, quoted in Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc..)

Different scales

‘there is a sweet spot, between the known and the unknown where originality happens; the key is to be able to linger without panicking’*

Theoretical physicist Alan Lightman writes about how we know we are progressing as a species:

‘One measure of the progress of human civilisation is the increasing scale of our maps.’**

I would add, another way of knowing is the decreasing scale of our personal maps to show up the incredible detail there is in each and every life, indicating talents, passions, experiences, and relationships. showing how everything relates to everything to make us uniquely who we are.

Somewhere between the increasing scale and decreasing scale maps of our lives something wonderful takes shape.

“When a great moment knocks on the door of your life,
it is often no louder than the beating of your heart,
and it is very easy to miss it.”^

(*From Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc..)
(**From Alan Lightman’s The Accidental Universe.)
(^Boris Pasternak, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)