The calling and the hearing

you’ve simply had enough
of drowning
and you want to live and you
want to love and you will
walk across any territory
and any darkness
however fluid and however
dangerous to take the
one hand you know
belongs in yours*

David Whyte

Everyone is called.

Not everyone hears.

We may carry romantic notions of calling, but the hearing involves doubt, distraction and discouragement.

Yes this is where we find life-in-all-its-sfullness.

Here’s David Whyte’s full poem (I recommend listening to Whyte reading The Truelove):

There is a faith in loving fiercely
the one who is rightfully yours,
especially if you have
waited years and especially
if part of you never believed
you could deserve this
loved and beckoning hand
held out to you this way.

I am thinking of faith now
and the testaments of loneliness
and what we feel we are
worthy of in this world.

Years ago in the Hebrides,
I remember an old man
who walked every morning
on the grey stones
to the shore of baying seals,
who would press his hat
to his chest in the blustering
salt wind and say his prayer
to the turbulent Jesus
hidden in the water,

and I think of the story
of the storm and everyone
waking and seeing
the distant
yet familiar figure
far across the water
calling to them

and how we are all
preparing for that
abrupt waking,
and that calling,
and that moment
we have to say yes,
except it will
not come so grandly
so Biblically
but more subtly
and intimately in the face
of the one you know
you have to love

so that when
we finally step out of the boat
toward them, we find
everything holds
us, and everything confirms
our courage, and if you wanted
to drown you could,
but you don’t
because finally
after all this struggle
and all these years
you simply don’t want to
any more
you’ve simply had enough
of drowning
and you want to live and you
want to love and you will
walk across any territory
and any darkness
however fluid and however
dangerous to take the
one hand you know
belongs in yours.

*From David Whyte‘s The Truelove, quoted in Maria Popova’s The Maginalian: The Truelove: Poet and Philosopher David Whyte on Reaching Beyond Our Limiting Beliefs About What We Deserve.

Responsible originality/original responsibility

Don’t aim at success – the more you make it your target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue … as the intended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than yourself.*
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Story is about originality, not duplication. … True originality is the meeting of content and form. … As writers, you must make distinctive choices of subject and find your unique shaping of the telling.**
Robert McKee

In the most transcending moments of our lives, we understand ourselves to have a responsibility.

It’s a moment of awakening.

We can only take up our own responsibility: I cannot take up yours, nor you mine: each responsibility is unique, crafted and formed with a unique life-setting.

I can help, mind, and I will help you as much as I can.

Here are a few tests for our calling to responsibility: success is not guaranteed, some will hate it, it’s more important than life itself, it will be transformative. Oh, and it will also be filled with beauty, goodness and love.

*From Mihály Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow;
**From Robert McKee‘s newsletter: Why You Must Strive for Originality.

The refined soul

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.*
Carl Sagan

A refined soul is in general one with the gift of transforming the most limited task and the most petty object into something infinite by the way in which it is handled.**
Friedrich Schiller

To be more grateful is to lay down a path into awe.

Gratitude is a choice that we make the invisible visible, opening a greater world: more colourful, bigger, filled with wonders:

The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a bad of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.^

*Carl Sagan, quoted in Jonah Paquette’s Awestruck;
**From Friedrich Schiller’s On the Aesthetic Education of Man;
^Henry Miller, quoted in Jonah Paquette’s Awestruck.

At the beginning of the day

You step into a kind of magic circle when you start writing, and you step into a magic circle when you start reading. … You step into the portal to discover what you didn’t know you were looking for.*
Austin Kleon

I enter the portal every morning not sure of what is going to happen, and I struggle to be open through reading and writing and doodling.

I’ve been coming here, in some shape or form, for almost twenty four years and it’s never exhausted as a space for possibility.

Indeed, if anything, it is growing in its fecundity.

And hopefully, god willing, I will come out a little changed.

*From Austin Kleon’s blog: Entering the portal.

Light matters

Perhaps most awe-inspiring of all, our brain allows us to imagine.*
Jonah Paquette

Imagination is not light per se.

We have shown only too often that imagination can be darkness.

We have all been gifted this choice: to increase the light or increase the darkness through noticing,, caring, and making ourselves available.

*From Jonah Paquette’s Awestruck.

True to true: it’s the future

I am touched only if I respond from my own centre – that is, spontaneously, originally. But you do not touch me except from your own centre, out of your own genius. Touching is always reciprocal. You cannot touch me unless I touch you in response. The opposite of touching is moving. You move me by pressing me from without toward a place you have already foreseen and perhaps prepared. It is a staged action that succeeds only if in moving me you remain unmoved yourself.*
James Carse

James Carse’s thoughts are worth working with though they have a denseness about them. He continues:

This means that we can be moved only by persons who are not what they are; we can be moved only when we are not who we are, but are what we cannot be … .*

We realise that we’re always in danger of trying to move someone from our falseness rather than our trueness.

When we truly meet with someone, it is as if we enter a portal of possibility and we don’t know what’s going to happen there: we have no plan or agenda. When we try to move others we spoil possibility, but when we seek to touch an other something magical happens, that is, something neither I nor they could premeditate.

When I say this, I am aware of how uncommon this is.

*From James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.

It’s everywhere and everyone

The challenge is to keep doing something different, something harder and scarier in every way than the thing you did before … to do something more difficult each time.*
Francine Prose

Now all that is needed is more. More time. More cycles, more bravery,, more process. More of you. Much more of your idiosyncrasy, more genre, more seeing, more generosity. More learning.**
Seth Godin

I don’t want less as I grow older. I want more.

The opposite is boredom, as Raph Koster defines here:

Boredom is the opposite of learning. When a game stops teaching us, we feel bored. Boredom is the brain causing about for new information. It is the feeling you get when there are no visible patterns to absorb.^

We’re not meant to give in to boredom. It’s something to push against. If we don’t, Nassim Taleb’s warning is pertinent:

Decline starts with the replacement of dreams with memories and ends with the replacement of memories with other memories.^^

It’s not that I want more for myself. I want more for you and others.

I enjoyed reading the Book of Acts account this morning of people’s experience of the Holy Spirit:

No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.*^

It’s not in certain places with a few people, though some people would prefer it this way.

No, it’s everywhere and everyone, including you.

Time to bring your more.

Here’s a soundtrack to get going.

*Francine Prose, quoted in Austin Kleon’s blog: Stepping into the portal;
**From Seth Godin’s The Practice;
^Raph Koster, quoted in Austin Kleon’s blog: Stepping into the portal;
^^From Nassim Taleb’s The Bed of Procrustes;
*^Acts 2:16-18.

It’s all risk

Here’s a simple test to apply to any story. Ask: “What is the risk?” What does the protagonist stand to lose if she does not get what she wants?*
Robert McKee

Awe requires time, focus and effort, all of which we could be using for the thousand other things that need to be done. It feels risky.

People may well misunderstand and criticise when we want to take a little time aside and be present to something we are seeing or reading or thinking about, but we know something important about having time for awe.

Awe promises transcendence, the possibility of life itself being altered, and without which we may be left exactly where we are.

Robert McKee continues:

More specifically, what’s the worst thing that will happen to the protagonist if she does not achieve her desire? … For example, if the answer is “Should the protagonist fail, life would go back to normal,” this story is not worth telling. What the protagonist wants is of no real value.*

There are risks involved in opening ourselves to awe, but there are also, and possibly greater, risks when we do not.

Jonah Paquette offers us some ways to begin opening to awe: linger, slow down, connect with our senses, notice our breathing.

*From Robert McKee‘s newsletter: How Risk Creates a Meaningful Story.

Awe and beauty

I knew I had been hungry for blessing.*
John O’Donohue

Powerful moments of awe can help reconnect us to our values, remind us of what truly matters, and put our lives into a great cosmic perspective.**
Jonah Paquette

I know I can feed my hunger and desires with junk.

What I am really hungry for is awe and beauty:

Our deepest self-knowledge unfolds as we are embraced by Beauty.*

*From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
**From Jonah Paquette’s Awestruck.

Awe it could be

Wonder is the heaviest element on the periodic table. Even a tiny fleck of it stops time.*
Diane Ackerman

To get a different output, sometimes you need a different input.**
Rohit Bhargava

It seems we may have underestimated the value and effects of awe.

We’re now researching why and how awe is a part of being human.

It turns out that just a few minutes of contemplating something awe-inspiring appears to have benefit in three ways:

Among the different ideas that have been proposed, three explanations stand out today: awe strengthens our social bonds, makes us kinder and more generous to others, and fosters a sense of curiosity about our world.^

Maybe this is worth a little experiment, adding a little awe with our cereal in the morning for a more inspiring start to the day?

*Diane Ackerman, quoted in Jonah Paquette’s Awestruck;
**From Rohit Bhargava’s Non Obvious 2019;
^From Jonah Paquette’s Awestruck.