Alternatively …

I draw from the absurd three consequences, which are my revolt, my freedom, and my passion.*
(Albert Camus)

All products are windows into other possible worlds …**
(Hugh Macleod)

As long as there remains the diversity of human curiosity, this will never be it.

Though, to find what Albert Camus describes as our revolt, freedom and passion within our peculiar curiosity will require our willingness to become lost, moving from what we know to what we do not know. Not only to be lost on the outside but on the inside too.

Some are willing to accommodate the former but not the latter.

There is always more and the important thing is to choose the path that keeps unfolding, taking us to new places and people and possibilities we hadn’t imagined.

This is the journey which will take us from judgement to openness, from cynicism to compassion, from fear to courage.

To remain where we are becomes absurd.

(*Albert Camus, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: On the Three Antidotes to the Absurdity of Life.)
(**From gaping void’s blog:
What is your alternate reality?)

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Why don’t you throw something over there and see what it hits?

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.*
(T. S. Eliot)

For wherever you are, there is somewhere further you can go.**
(Tim Ingold)

We hang around just to see what happens, we read a book, catch the TEDtalk, take the free online course, connect with others … and then we throw something and watch to see what it hits.

(*T. S. Eliot, quoted in Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist.)
(**Tim Ingold, quoted in Anne Pirrie’s Virtue and the Quiet Art of Scholarship.)

In praise of beauty

If I were to wish for anything I should not wish for wealth or power, but for the passionate sense of what can be, for the eye which ever young and ardent sees the possible.*
(Sören Kierkegaard)

The recognition of beauty was one of the most significant events in the evolution of human consciousness. The feelings of joy and love are intrinsically linked to that recognition.**
(Eckhart Tolle)

We have the saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Whilst everyone sees beauty differently, Jonah Lehrer reminds us:

‘We make our eyes lie.’^

Our brains are telling us what to see, filling in what we cannot see:

‘But we are blind to our own blind spot: our brain unfailingly registers a seamless world.’^

Perhaps we need to doubt what we see as beautiful and not beautiful, to be open to each person’s beauty. Khalil Gibran’s prophet, speaking to the people of Orphalese, encourages them to see the beauty around them and also their own beauty:

‘People of Orphalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.
But you are life and you are the veil.
Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.^^

The beauty in these words is disruptive, causing us to stop and notice more. As Anne Pirrie points out, reflecting on the words on the words of poet Alistair Reid:

‘we need to face up to the fact that it is not curiosity that will cause is to die, but the lack of it.’*^

It is not only about being open to more knowledge, even about one another, but what we then do with this:

‘it is not merely a question of what one knows (despite previous references to a well-stocked mind) but of how one knows, or rather how one manifests understanding’.*^

Beauty grows in many different ways when following opening our minds with the opening of our hearts, we then open our wills, becoming producers of beauty for whoever may see.

(*Sören Kierkegaard, quoted in Rosamund and Benjamin Zander’s The Art of Possibility.)
(**From Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth.)
(^From Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist.)
(^^From Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet.)
(*^From Anne Pirrie’s Virtue and the Quiet Art of Scholarship.)

Stranger things and the otherwise life

You are awake. When you interact with a stranger you’re not in your own head, you’re not on autopilot from here to there. You are present in the moment. And to be present is to feel alive.*
(Kio Stark)

Things are coming alive around you all the time. There is a life pouring into the world, and it pours from an inexhaustible source.**
(Joseph Campbell)

We do not only want to breathe; we want to breathe deeply.

We want to know we’re awake and that life is something not only acting upon us but being acted upon by us.

For this we need stranger things – the new, the different, the unfamiliar, some incompetence – for this to be.

When Walt Whitman writes about immortality it feels like being fully awake:

‘I swear I think there is nothing but immortality!
That the exquisite scheme is for it, and the nebulous float is for it,
And all preparation for it … and identity is for it … and life and death are for it.’^

It is here, too, in the words of Peter Altenberg:

“Little things in life supplant the “great events.”^^

How else might we see and value the little things save that we are fully awake?

Whatever life has been on autopilot, we are invited to live otherwise.

(*From Kio Stark’s When Strangers Meet.)
(**Joseph Campbell, from Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)
(^From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.)
(^^Peter Altenberg in the Paris Review: In Praise of the Flaneur.)

The collager

The egocentric person in reality is a person who does not love himself, and so he is greedy.*
(Erich Fromm)

Collagers tell themselves a better story with what they have.

It’s the glass half-full or half-empty thing. The stories we tell ourselves influence us greatly one way or another, this way or that.

Anne Pirrie explores collage rather than college as an educational experience:

‘Collage provides a useful metaphor for some of the qualities that are crucial to both good education and good thinking: rapid tearing, shredding, unusual juxtapositions, the subversion of the temporal order of things, a quickness and nimbleness of thought.’**

To become skilled at taking what we have and putting it together in a different way promises a better story, too. Our lives don’t only have to be lived this way, they can also be lived out this way, or this way, or even this way – the collager has adjacent possibilities.

It also feels that the collager has an understanding of playfulness, remembering Johan Huizinga’s work on play when he asserts:

‘genuine play is one of the main bases of civilisation,’^

then going on to suggest:

‘Play may rise to heights of beauty and sublimity that leave seriousness far beneath.’^

(*From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Listening.)
(**From Anne Pirrie’s Virtue and the Quiet Art of Scholarship.)
(^From Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens.)

Between the lines

As the Buddhists say, “We don’t see things the way they are, we see things the way we are.”*
(Hugh Macleod)

Life is one big adventure in seeing – and not only physically.

When our seeing goes wrong, life can go wrong.

Take this morning. I began with a visual migraine which usually passes after twenty minutes if I lie down in the dark. What I hadn’t seen was that I’d set the timer for twenty five hours not twenty five minutes!

Here are two things to help us see better.

I beginning a journaling experiment today with my journaling by using a printed book rather than blank notebook. I’m using Keri Smith’s Wreck this Journal, which I’d begun to use over two years ago, though hadn’t really managed together through – now it’s become something quite different.

A book with a lot of white space is obviously best. I’m intrigued, though, to see what I will notice as I use what is on each page of Smith’s book alongside my journaling between the lines.

The second thing to try out involves six steps for improving an idea, proffered by Bernadette Jiwa** and which I use now as six ways to improve my seeing:

Focus: This involves finding a place of attention, free from distraction, perhaps involving solitude and silence.

Notice: Look around, see what there is to see, look slowly and closely, deepen your gaze; you certainly have far more materials and resources than you first believed.

Question: Use humble inquiry to go beneath the surface, to ask how this connects with this, or doesn’t; holding two or more thoughts side-by-side allows them to ask questions of each other.

Discern: What emerges from these steps, signals of some possibility?

Predict: Is there something new, a new thought, a new piece of work that you begin to imagine and can shape and form that you now see, though couldn’t before?

Try and test: Make this new thought happen in some small way, allowing you to see if this is something that can leave a small dent in the world.)

(*From gapingvoid’s blog: Why you watch everyone making the same mistakes … over and over again.)
(**See Bernadette Jiwa’s Hunch.)

Bigger people

Will cannot run very far ahead of knowledge, and attention is our daily bread.*
(Iris Murdoch)

You are good when you are one with yourself. […] In your longing for your giant self lies your goodness: and that longing is in all of you.**
(Khalil Gibran)

Someone close has not had a good experiencing of leaving her work. It got me thinking about how easy it is just to express goodness and kindness to someone. It’s there inside each of us so we must ask, what’s preventing it from coming out?

Khalil Gibran answers someone asking about good and evil in this way:

‘Of the good in you I can speak, but not of evil For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst.’**

We have to feed our goodness. Seth Godin suggests that:

‘when you are bearing a grudge, it’s difficult to open your arms to the possibility that’s all around us’.^

Whether an individual or organisation, not feeding our goodness has other implications. Bernadette Jiwa reflects on the lives of a number of innovative people – Einstein, Jobs, Dyson, Fleming:

Yes, these were smart people, but their discoveries and innovations were born from their prolonged practice of being curious, empathetic, and imaginative.’^^

Crazy. Something that costs us so little, but, when missing, robs us of so much.

Theory U identifies three turnings or thresholds required to arrive at a place of greater imagination, implying that goodness is indeed something we can learn and feed:

When we turn from judgement (closed minds) to openness;
When we turn from cynicism (“it may be important but who cares”) to compassion;
When we turn from fear (“this has implications”) to courage.

Our daily bread, Iris Murdoch suggests, is Attention. Noticing more, more deeply, as Youngme Moon points out:

‘what matters [more is not] what you are looking at, but how you have committed to see’.*^

It’s how we become bigger people.

(*From Iris Murdoch’s The Sovereignty of Good.)
(**From Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet.)
(^From Seth Godin’s blog: You can’t be curious and angry at the same time.)
(^^From Bernadette Jiwa’s Hunch.)
(*^From Youngme Moon’s Different.)