Are we wise yet?

The final movement of a ballet, the coda of a symphony, the couplet of a sonnet, the last act and its story climax – these culminating moments must be the most gratifying, meaningful experiences of all.*
Robert McKee

I am sixty-one, and I am also four, and twelve, and fifteen, and twenty-three, and thirty-one, ad forty-five, and … and … and … If we lose any part of ourselves, we are thereby diminished. If I cannot be thirteen and sixty-one simultaneously, part of me has been taken away.**
Madeleine L’Engle

Are we there yet?
Hopefully not,
For as long as we are travelling we can be
curious,
And as long as we are curious we create
tension,
And tension open up a place within
for something to happen,
The possibility of growth,
The possibility of creativity.
Wisdom is not what we know,
Though we can never know too much;
Wisdom is a beautiful expression of all that we are and
all that we know,
And awaiting lies another
intensity.

Old men should be explorers
Here and there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity.^

*Robert McKee‘s newsletter: Why You Must Save the Best For Last;
**Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water;
^T. S. Eliot, quoted in Peter Turchi’s A Muse and a Maze.

Unobserved

I am learning to see.  I don’t know why it is, but everything penetrates more deeply into me and does not stop at the place where until now it always used to finish.  I have an inner self of which I was ignorant.  Everything goes thither now.  What happens there I do not know.*
Rainer Maria Rilke

in indigenous ways of knowing, we understand a thing only when we understand it with four aspects of our being: mind, body, emotion, and spirit**
Robin Wall Kimerer

I am happy to get out of the way;
To be unnoticed but noticing,
Unobserved but observing,
Is to be free,
Is to be open to awe –
Found in others
and all of the world:

This sort of mind-bending awe … requires us to open up to the wonders of the world in a different way, and to harness the power of our imaginations to evoke moments of awe within us.^

And then,
If I may,
I will bring to you what I find.

*David Brooks’ The Second Mountain;
**Robin Wall Kimerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass;
^Jonah Paquette’s The Muse Brain Bulletin: Mind Bending Awe.

And it was good, possibly very good

The attentive consciousness can be regarded as the very space of our personalities.*
José Ortega y Gasset

creativity starts with engaging with the world on our own terms, noticing what others miss, and attending to what matters most to you**
Rob Walker

Bernadette Jiwa poses the question,
What would you do if you could not fail?,^
Then replaces it with a better one:
What would you do even though you might fail?^
It is far more likely that the second question will help us
identify what it is we most want to do
with our lives.
gapingvoid adds further nuance by suggesting
this will be something that is marked by goodness, that:

doing good was our greatest source of happiness^^.

When it comes to the thing that we’re noticing most of all in life,
You may want to spend a little more time with it
and see how you can bring it alive for someone else.

*Maria Popova’s The Marginalian: Whom We Love and Who We Are: José Ortega y Gasset on Love, Attention, and the Invisible Architecture of Our Being;
**Rob Walker’s The Art of Noticing: Useless, and valuable;
^The Story of Telling: On Doing the Work That Is Calling To Us;
^^gapingvoid.com: The Quest for our higher self.

What I read, and what I read for

It is … a way of exposing one’s ceaseless growth, the dynamic self that has yet to be. The infinite player does not expect only to be amused by surprise, but to be transformed by it, for surprise does not alter some abstract past, but one’s own personal past.*
James Carse

Once inside the imagination all manner of inexplicable things occur. Time gets loopy, the past presses itself against the present, and the future pours out its secrets.**
Nick Cave

It certainly isn’t always so,
But sometimes,
When I am reading,
I slip out of chronos time
with all of its linearity,
Into kairos time
with its significant, transformative
moments.
In these times,
What the author wrote and
what I read
generates something new
in me
that I must share.

If a reader cannot create a nook along with the writer, the book will never come to life.^

*James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games;
**Nick Cave’s The Red Hand Files: #156;
^Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water.

Some of my favourite reads from this year:

Awestruck (Jonah Paquette)
Benedictus (John O’Donohue)
Building and Dwelling (Richard Sennett)
Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul (Philip Newell)
Almost Everything (Anne Lamott)
Four Thousand Weeks (Oliver Burkeman)
The Art of Self Improvement (Anna Katharina Schaffner)
Several short sentences on writing (Verlyn Klinkenborg)
Figuring (Maria Popova)
The Hero’s Journey (Stephen Gilligan and Robert Dilts)
From Strength to Strength (Arthur Brooks)
Hero On a Mission (Donald Miller)
Atomic Habits (James Clear)
Grit (Angela Duckworth)
Life Is In the Transitions (Bruce Feiler)

Outside in and inside out

I have no idea how to get my students to build a self or become a soul … and in the hundreds of faculty appointments I have participated in, we’ve never evaluated a candidate on how well he or she could accomplish it.*
Steven Pinker

The flâneur move through the city with neither a map nor a plan. He has to feel himself free and alone, ready for the imponderable.**
Federico Castigliano

We must take what is out side of us
inside,
And then take what we find forming inside of us
outside;
Not forgetting that a soul take a
lifetime to grow.

*David Brooks’ The Second Mountain;
**Federico Castigliano’s Flâneur.

The call

You were born to make art. But you’ve been brainwashed into believing you can’t trust yourself enough to do so.*
Seth Godin

bring new skills to an old problem, or a new problem to old skills**
David Epstein

You must not think that you
can only do this or
only do that.
It is more than possible that you can bring something
others cannot,
And being truly humble –
For there is also a falsely humble –
This is made even more powerful,
So if you hear the call,
If I were you,
I’d say yes.
I trust you to take nothing for granted,
To be fully present and
Charged with alacrity.

To be someone, as an artist, means: to be able to speak to one’s self.^

*Seth Godin’s The Practice;
**David Epstein’s Range;
^Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters on Life.

Lexicons of possibility

When language becomes exhausted, our freedom dwindles – we cannot think; we do not recognise danger, injustice strikes us no more than “the way things are.”*
Madeleine L’Engle

All we need do to impoverish life is to reduce
our vocabulary;
We need more words to describe
our world, people, god, ourselves,
The past, the present, the future.
Here are two lists I find myself keeping:
The words that are special to me,
Raising my heart-rate and serving as
portkeys
to multitudinous destinations;
The words I write down as I’m reading –
Some I do not know,
Others I haven’t come upon in a long while
(I share some below).
I mention these
only because i wonder what your important words may be
and what they encourage you to bring into the world.

From my list of words unknown to me:
inspiratrice
monads
analysands
adumbration
metonymy
trifecta
palimpsest
sumptuary
thelemic
prolix
afferent
negatios
lensatic
connubial
pusillanimous

(There are 13 of my favourite words in the word search; I’ve highlighted the first, and you’re welcome to try and find the others.)


*Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water.

You’ve changed your story

Which is better? Feeling like you were right the first time or actually being correct now?*
Seth Godin

We have become a generation of unstorytellers, which is a reason we’re a generation of malcontents.**
Bruce Feiler

When I came upon Seth Godin’s words a year ago,
I reflected on how I am now in the right place
doing the right things;
I was also able to admit that
this has not always been so.
I’ve changed my story.
In the past I was sure that I was doing the right things –
And perhaps I was …
For then …
And perhaps
in the future
I’ll look at now in a similar way.
One thing I know is
the more I’ve seen my life as a living story
the more I have
overcome the problems and have
moved towards the things I want to
fill my days with.

*Seth Godin’s blog: The right answer;
**Bruce Feiler’s Life Is In the Transitions.