A shock to the system

But extraordinary contribution is rare.  It’s when we surprise the system, and perhaps ourselves, by showing up with something unexpected, fart beyond the common standard. […] Extraordinary contribution changes no just the recipient but the giver as well.*
(Seth Godin)

Pain and joy, belief and unbelief, agony and ecstasy go together.

When something really good comes along, it is likely that it not only changes things for those who are open to it but has already radically altered the person bringing it.

It’s what makes life life.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: What is extraordinary contribution worth?)



Personalisation is telling one another a bit of our story of who we really are, where we have come from, and where we are going. […] Personalisation is a process that can only occur in degrees, and it can become dangerous.*
(Ed Schein)

In a world where data is king, it’s more important than ever to remember that what we measure becomes the thing we’re compelled to act on.**
(Bernadette Jiwa)

We see many things up close in each other that we could not see from a distance.  It’s like noise and signals.  There’s a lot of noise but the noise is unimportant,.  The signals, though, are what our lives really are, the stories of who we are, how we got here, where we hope to go.  We take the risk of being known and knowing because no-one is perfect and at the same time are pretty amazing.

(*From Edgar Schein’s Humble Consulting.)
(**From The Story of Telling: We Value What We Measure.)


But email, in my view, also contributes to the haste, he thoughtlessness, and the artificial urgency that increasingly characterise the world. […] We are suffocating ourselves.  We are undercutting out contemplative powers.  We could even be, ironically, impeding progress. […] Modern technology is racing forward with little examination or control.*
(Alan Lightman)

You might not need more exposure to the new.  Instead you might pay to see what’s already around you.**
(Seth Godin)

Anxiety is on the up, the dis-ease, some say, that will characterise the 21st century.

Once upon a time, people would worry about sowing their crops and whether someone – some bandit or invading army – would come along and take the crop for themselves.  Peace was to be able to enjoy the fruit of their own labours, to sit beneath their vines and fig trees.

Most of us in the West today don’t have to worry about such things and yet our anxieties remains and, we’re told, are increasing.

Rebecca Solnit writes about how the Industrial Revolution broke up families as it institutionalised and fragmented labour, and even our leisure activities can be industrial:

‘the gym is now doing the same thing, often in the same place, for leisure.’^

We have industrial spaces for getting fitter faster and further with machines that take us beyond who we presently physically are, away from the sunshine, fresh air, natural surroundings with all its diversity that we used to think of as being good for us:

‘Build of your imaginings a bower in the wilderness ere you build a house within the city walls. […] Have you beauty, that leads the heart from things fashioned of wood and stone to the holy mountain?  Tell me, have you these in your houses?’^^

Solnit’s observations help us to see that was has been happening to us has been happening for some time.

It’s not something we’ve recently invented with our latest technologies: social media and communications that make it possible to be tethered everywhere and at all times,  bending the human body and lifestyle to suit it rather than the other way around – yet possibly most dangerous because of its incredible speed and growth.

We’ve lost much more than the outside world, though.  We’ve also lost the inside world with the kinds of disciples, rituals, patterns and habits that allowed us to know both ourselves and what we can do and to feel as though we can develop these.

We feel rushed along by the technology – what Alan Lightman points to in his remark about our inability to examine or control – so we say we have no time for these things that may allow us to connect what is disconnected in our lives.  Technology is insidious; it is so much a part of our lives that it is hard to know where it begins and ends when it comes to being invisible and controlling our lives

Slow habits and practices allow us to develop an important counterweight so we may become who and what we are at our best: contemplating creatures:

‘Deep down you desire the freedom to live the life you would love.’*^

At the moment, I’m working on an idea that might be the beginning of the counterweight we need to bring to the digital life.  If you would like to know more about this in the form of an online course – one way technology can be brilliant – then drop me a line at geoffrey@geoffreybaines.com.

(*From Alan Lightman’s Dance for Two.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: What do you see?)
(^From Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust.)
(^^From Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet.)
(*^From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)


Big gods and small stages

Big truth must be presented on small stages for humans to get it.*
(Richard Rohr)

The “gods” know nothing,
they understand nothing.
They walk about in darkness;
all the foundations for the earth are
(Psalm 82:5)

Though we perhaps do not think of ourselves as gods yet we can act as though we are … when we see how far we have come, when we take stock of all that we have, when we compare ourselves with others.

Denis Diderot and his companions wanted to record the dignity and worth of people of all rank and skill:

‘In the Encyclopedia, Diderot and his colleagues celebrated the vitality rather than dwelled on the suffering of those deemed socially inferior.  Vigour was the point: the encyclopedistes wanted ordinary workers to be admired, not pitied.’^

In so doing, they were perhaps opening themselves to becoming more human, to join passions in some encyclopaedic way is to become compassionate:

‘A great being stays with what she loves; she’s patient, she forgives, and she allows what she loves to develop.  She overlooks its mistakes, and in this sense she suffers for and with reality.  This is the deepest meaning of passion: patior is the Latin verb meaning to suffer or to undergo reality as opposed to controlling it.’*

Which sounds more godlike.

(*From Richard Rohr’s The Divine Dance.)
(**From Psalm 82.)
(^From Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.)

Where does wisdom come from?

It should be obvious that those who live enlightenment lives have demonstrated a unique ability to learn from everyone and everything around them.*
(Erwin McManus)

There are the sensory impulse and the formal impulse, both of which aim at truth, and neither of which get there without the other.**
(Friedrich Schiller)

The phrase “to pay attention” is an interesting one.  To be attentive costs us not only in time but especially in energy; it’s why it is so hard to give.  And yet, attention or openness is critical for the attainment of wisdom.

So is knowing, the accumulation of information about people and the world and things.

Between our dynamic openness to the new and our static body of knowledge lies wisdom as graceful expression: openness increasing knowledge, knowledge demanding openness.

Wisdom cannot exist when one or other is absent.

(*From Erwin McManus’ Uprising.)
(**Friedrich Schiller, quoted in Harriet Harris’ The Epistemology of Feminist Theology.)


Heavy energy

One cannot live in the pure present: it would consume us if care were not taken that is overcome quickly and thoroughly.  But in the past one can live; in fact, only there can a life be arranged.  One only has to fill every moment with experiencing and using, and it ceases to burn.  And in all the seriousness of truth, listen: without It a human being cannot live.  But whoever lives only with that is not human.*
(Martin Buber)

When we only live in the present, without reflecting on the past or imagining the future, we never fully discover our heavy energy.

Heavy energy is more than the sum of our atoms and molecules, it cannot be measured in pounds or kilos of joules but is found where our deepest joy meets the world’s greatest need.

This will mean something different for each person, that’s the wonder of this life:

‘You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the should of the earth
I say to you that when you work you fulfilled a part of earth’s furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born […].’**

(*From Martin Buber’s I and Thou.)
(**From Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet.)


By our openness

You may ask, “Who actually is doing the changing?”  And the answer is the relationship.  Because in the arena of possibility, every thing occurs in that context.*
(Roz and Ben Zander)

Building a relationship is a process that begins in the initial contact that the helper has with the client.**
(Ed Schein)

If we desire to create spaces of possibility with others asking open questions can be the best place to begin: “What do you want?”

Knowing ourselves allows us the confidence to be open in such a way as this, without agenda – agendas being one of the killers of spaces of possibility:

‘A positive attitude makes it easier to trust people, makes it easier to find collaborators,  makes it easier to say “Let’s give this a go and see what happens.”‘^

Ed Schein reminds me how important commitment, curiosity and caring** are to helping others – and when you think about it, just about everything that happens between humans is helping, whether we do this at what Schein identifies as level one – contractual, professional, level two – more personal because this person matters, or level three – more intimately for those who are closest to us.

Our openness of mind and heart helps us to more fully see one another and what each brings:

‘Naming oneself and others as a contribution produces a shift away from self-concern and engages its in a relationship with others that us an arena formalising a difference.’*

(*From Rosamund and Benjamin Zander’s The Art of Possibility.)
(**From Edgar Schein’s Humble Consulting.)
(^From gapingvoid’s blog: Let’s give this a go and see what happens.)