It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day*

Figure out what you are meant to contribute and make sure you contribute it.**
(Susan Cain)

The mastery of story demands the invention of far more material that you can use, followed by astute choices of inclusion and exclusion. Why? Because experienced writers never trust so-called inspiration.^
(Robert McKee)

We live in a world that, in its turning around, brings around 29,213 new days to those who make it to eighty years of age. Of course, it’s also a metaphor meaning the total of opportunities for new beginnings goes up. These appear in many forms and through many people.

True inspiration isn’t the lightbulb pinging on. That’s just a starter. Inspiration is what comes when we capture ideas, turn up every day, work with skill and discipline and produce, produce, produce.

What we might term deep-inspiration emerges from selecting the truly important-to-us from all of the contents of our lives.

This is how it is for everyone and what really counts is noticing, paying attention, to what is really valuable to us and allows the other things to fall into the background.

Joseph Campbell helps us to notice the valuable: it’s what makes us feel alive:

We’re so engaged in doing things of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive is what it’s all about.^^

(*Accompanied by Michael Bublé’s Feeling Good – and it’s not even Christmas.)
(**From Susan Cain’s Quiet.)
(^From Robert McKee‘s newsletter: Where to Find Your True Inspiration.)
(^^Joseph Campbell, from Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)

Upgrade⁺

There are three ways to perform a repair: making a damaged object seem just like new, improving it’s operation, or altering it altogether; in technical jargon, these three strategies are restoration, remediation or reconfiguration.*
(Richard Sennett)

Things go wrong in life and we need repair.

Which of these three would you choose if there was the option?

Restoration, so you look just like new?

Remediation, so you have obtained an improvement by learning new ways of dealing with the original problems should they or similar things happen again?

Reconfiguration, so you lean into the issues, learning towards transformation and opening new paths?

(*From Richard Sennett’s Together.)

Anything can happen in the next half hour*

[Complacency] is a cousin to narcissism in expecting experience to conform to a pattern already familiar to oneself; experience seems to repeat routinely rather than evolve.**
(Richard Sennett)

Communities have often been an accident of birth. Built by geography and parentage, you established your identity and your learning long before you went to school. Now, of course, this is changing.^
(Seth Godin)

Complacency requires that we disengage from the unpredictable possibilities of life for the safety of a familiar pattern.

This also means we are in danger of becoming a cliché; what is true for the storywriter is true for each of us:

Like the weeds of repetition, clichés grow in the barren mind of the lazy writer.^^

Clichés work for the storywriter until they don’t; the same is true for us.

The thing about complacency is that it doesn’t want to be noticed. The game is up if we see our lives have become a repeating pattern closed to the unfamiliar and unpredictable.

To read is to take a stranger’s hand and plunge into experiences you want and don’t want, learning all the while to navigate the unexpected places real life will take you.*^

When we read something different, ask questions, experiment outside of the norm then we are disrupting the cliché; Robert McKee’s counsel for the storywriter works for all of us:

To create insightful, original stories, set yourself high standards and never settle for the obvious choice. Indeed, never settle for the first choice. Write it down, sure, then improvise, experiment, pour out as many ideas as your talent can create.^^

(*Thanks to Stingray for the title.)
(**From Richard Sennett’s Together.)
(^From Seth Godin’s blog: A community of practice.)
(^^From Robert McKee’s newsletter: How You Can Win the War on Cliché.)
(*^From Krista Tippett‘s letter to young readers in Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick’s A Velocity of Being.)

Life is better with focus

The spin lies in whether we identify with others in their particular circumstances and sufferings, or with others as though everyone is like ourselves; the first is a window, the second a mirror.*
(Richard Sennett)

Worry takes a lot of effort. And worry, unlike focus, learning or action, accomplishes nothing of value. […] Waiting is, sort of be definition, a waste of time. But time is scarce, so wasting it is a shameful act.**
(Seth Godin)

Withdrawing from people and activities has very much become a part of our experience in lockdown, though it was a part of normal life, too.

There are two basic kinds of withdrawal – one is positive and we withdraw in order to do something, the other is negative because we’re trying to get away from something or someone.

Richard Sennett warns that the latter can become narcissistic: in protecting ourselves we lose connection with the other.

Positive withdrawal, however, is about growing ourselves in order to then reach out to others.

Seth Godin writes about the opportunity we have to focus, learn and action something in these times of enforced withdrawal. Not in using every extra moment afforded to us by the lockdown in some kind of activity – there’s something really important in slowing down apart from the rush and busyness of pre-coronavirus. But we have been provided with a gift that may well produce something very important to us post-lockdown.

Slowing down and focusing allows us to see more. It is what artist and nun Corita Kent would do:

I don’t think of it as art – I just make things I like bigger, assuming that if I like them some other people might too. Some do. Some don’t, and that’s ok too.^

Austin Kleon remarks on this artist who is so important to him:

She taught her students to learn to see by looking at the world one piece at a time.^^

Kent’s rules for art class at the Immaculate Heart College look as if they would transfer well to our period of lockdown.

A little focus make life bigger.

(*From Richard Sennett’s Together.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: Waiting and worrying.)
(^Corita Day, quoted in Austin Kleon’s blog: Corita Day.)
(^^From Austin Kleon’s blog: Corita Day.)

It’s that zing-thing

We use our imagination not to escape reality but to join it, and this exhilarates us because of the distance between our ordinary dulled consciousness and an apprehension of the real.*
(Iris Murdoch)

The effective person is the combiner of knowledge and power, and ability to turn understanding into action.

This is not the kind of power attached to titles and roles but that found in personal integrity.

By integrity I mean connection, to others, to the world, to one’s true self and, if a person of faith, connection to god.

It’s quite something just how these connections not only allow more possibilities to take form in our imaginations, they exist because we have been exerting and building up our power

Iris Murdoch reminds us how imagination isn’t about escaping reality but is our way of joining with it.

We may be able to imagine big things but this isn’t always a good place to start. Power is something we build over time as we engage in the things we’re imagining. Instead of imagining something big and trying to start there, continue with your imagining, but this time come up with the smallest iteration of what you’re seeing.

Feel how much stronger you feel when you’ve accomplished this!

The zing-thing is how I describe connecting what we personally are most curious about and must explore, our talents and abilities, our energies or passions, and then add action.

(*From Iris Murdoch’s The Sovereignty of Good.)

What is my contribution?

I settled on a game called I am a contribution. Unlike success and failure, contribution has no other side. It is not arrived at by comparison.*
(Ben Zander)

The world is waiting, not to be held captive, but to be captivated by new voices – for the hopeful messages and stories, each of us has to tell.**
(Bernadette Jiwa)

In my dreamwhispering work with people there are two questions being explored:

Who am I?
What is my contribution?

These cannot be fully answered apart from one another. Richard Rohr describes humans as interbeings, his faith seeing everything that is in this way:

We, exactly like the Trinity, are interbeings. We are also created by interface.^

The very work I do would not exist without tens of thousands of conversations with more than six hundred people, never mind all that I’ve read and heard from others, all contributing to the shaping of who I am.

Directly and indirectly, I am then sum of many people’s contributions, and this person I am is what I return as my contribution.

Ours is an amazing life full of honour, nobility and enlightenment when we make others, rather than ourselves, the centre of attention.

(*From Benjamin and Rosamund Zander’s The Art of Possibility.)
(**From Bernadette Jiwa’s The Story of Telling blog: The Captive Vs. The Captivated.)
(^From Richard Rohr’s Eager to Love.)

The common thread

Curation is where acts of selecting and arranging add value. […] At its broadest curation is a way of managing abundance.*
(Michael Bhaskar)

Will you bring all of your gifts and talents out into the open and be grateful for them?

You have so many.

Some you have focused on and others are already dismissed. Yet more are of little or no interest and they have almost disappeared into the background. But there are some you haven’t even noticed, possibly because you, or others, don’t have the right words for them.

Curation makes something magical happen to all of them, selecting and arranging and bringing new value – another word for which is story, a common thread full of possibility.

This is my work and I want to make it available to others at this most difficult of times, especially young people facing unemployment. I can’t offer a job centre or careers service but I can help you to explore all the gifts and talents that you are and help you in your imagining of what may be possible.

I’ll be posting more about this in coming days, but if you are interested to find out more then drop me a line at geoffrey@thinsilence.org.

(*From Michael Bhaskar’s Curation.)