Your (My) True Calling

I had so much success with last year’s projects prompted by Quest 2016, that I’ve decided to do it again. Join us at http://quest2017.com.

Today’s prompt is from Krista Tippett (1). As the host of On Being, she challenges us regularly to consider the mysteries of human existence.

“What is your vocation, your sense of callings as a human being at this point in your life, both in and beyond job and title?”

In 2009, when I started this blog, it was titled, “On The Quest: A Woman in Love with The World” (or something to that effect). But the world is a difficult thing to love. It is messy, and complicated, and prone to violence. People are even harder, especially in groups.

For a long time, I doubted. I wrote sideways, and obliquely, and worried that people would think I was daft, or naive, or merely uninformed. But I still have this deep pull in my heart toward what Charles Eisenstein calls, “The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know Is Possible.”

I was, to be honest, in love with The Universe, in the abstract, more than the world in all its complexity. With cosmology, with physics, with philosophy. I love ideas. I love an elegant turn of phrase, and the challenge of grappling with a new worldview.

you-are-here

Yet I also came to know that people don’t experience the world in the abstract. We experience it subjectively, through bodies and minds that are entangled with the messiness, but trying to make sense of it at the same time. It is beauty and pattern, chaos and connection, tragedy and ecstasy, all at once. Sometimes, everything lines up, and sometimes it all comes crashing down around you.

And meanwhile, you still have to eat.

For the last couple of years, my subtitle has been, “Experiments in Living with Uncertainty.” I’ve adopted many many worldviews over the years, because to truly understand something (even if I ultimately reject it), I felt that I needed to see what the world looked like from inside this perspective.

I’ve been on an exploration of spiritual practices, while, in parallel, trying to figure out the question of Right Livelihood. This is an astonishingly difficult problem, this livelihood (especially in the light of spiritual practices). How do we make something of ourselves, maintain our ability to eat and stay warm, participate in our communities, flourish rather than merely survive, and do so in ways that don’t adversely impact the ability of others to access their own deep paths?

In the midst of this prompt, fearing that this blog post would take the rest of my week, I recorded this video:


I may not know you (yet), but I want your life to be amazing.

I want you to feel fulfilled, and connected, and loved. I want you to look in the mirror and see the beauty of creation. I want the trees in your yard to bear abundant fruit, the air in your community to be clean, and the water in your rivers to sparkle. I hope for your relationships to be replenishing, and your quest for meaning to be just challenging enough.

I want you to be whole.

I want to be whole. I want to live in a world full of people who are whole. I want to live in a Whole World. I want to do everything in my power to bring that about.

 


1. who happens to have the same last name as my paternal grandmother, and the great-grandmother after whom I was partially named, and therefore I wonder whether we are related

Two Stories

Quest2016 Prompt #12
What’s the story you most desire to bring to life in 2016?
What’s the story your just-right client most desires to bring to life in 2016?
Where do your two stories overlap?
Today’s (okay, technically last month’s) prompt comes via Jen Louden, a wise sage, and generally helpful for providing guides to living.

The story I most desire to bring to life in 2016 is one in which I step back into my teaching role, and bring my Technologies of Peace framework into the conversation about how each of us decides where to use our personal energies to make differences in the world.

My just-right learner/client/thinking companion cares deeply about the impact of their work.

They have thought long and hard about the meaning of life, and are dissatisfied with the mainstream answers they have been offered. They have probably gone down a number of different rabbit holes in search of answers and may need help (probably from a group of people) turning them into a coherent whole.

They want to hang out with more with other (deeply thoughtful) people, to meet them, work with them, and to make a living from the passions of their lives, not by merely supporting the existing structures. (They also are not satisfied with disruption for its own sake; it has to be focused on solving real problems. Social entrepreneurs, perhaps?) They are concerned with forming community, and ways in which their work can best benefit the people they touch. They want to use their powers for awesome.

Overlap: we both are looking for the same things. I have both technical and interpersonal skills to contribute to their development: I can easily shift gears from talking 20th century philosophy to configuring a mail server, from debugging code to supporting a friend through an emotionally challenging situation, and from making dinner for my family to teaching a yoga class tailored to a particular sport… I am multifaceted, and understand the (time, organizational, and emotional) needs of the multifaceted. (That impacts both my writing and my software design.)

(I also believe that we are all profoundly multifaceted and it is just our stories that make us forget that, especially about one another… but that is another post, entirely.)

Maybe It Isn’t A Race?

It takes bravery to know your strengths and operate diligently within them. Are you running your race, or someone else’s?
#Quest2016 from Tracking Wonder Quest. Today’s prompt from Todd Henry, author of Die Empty.

Oooh. Ouch.

Let me take a sideways wander here, over into the land of board games. My family and many of my friends love playing complicated high end (mostly German) board games with complicated rules and bazillions of tiny pieces. They are all about optimizing, and there are very clear outcomes, points awarded for X, Y, Z and Q.

I am bad at these games. Or rather, the way that I enjoy playing (with) them is not the way that they are designed. I wind up (through a complicated set of interior narratives) being a sore loser, and have to limit how much and how often I play (also, I can only play with people who love me enough to forgive me.)

The problem with the board games is that I start out holding my own intentions (running my own race, as it were). Presented with a box full of tiny wooden animals, (plastic) rubies, fields, and rooms to build, I’m excited about the possibilities. Gleeful, you might even say. I resolve to enjoy the process, play with the pieces, and focus on building the cutest farm (with cuddle room for extra sheep). But the mechanics of the game kick in; I can’t get another sheep because somebody else scooped up all the wood and I have as many as I can keep without a fence. The game is designed to make you optimize something else, and trying to play some other way, I eventually fall so far behind that I can’t even keep myself from going into debt.

At this point, I concede my intention, focus back on the rules as prescribed, and, starting from way way behind, try to run the race I was assigned.

This is a recipe for misery.

My kids, on the other hand, get out the game and start playing. Actually playing: lining up the animals, making up stories, exchanging rubies as favours, refusing the premises and structures that make it a game. There is no need to prove who is smarter, more clever, faster at understanding how to optimize. There is plenty for everybody, and if you need one more donkey to make a square number, it will probably be provided on purely aesthetic grounds. Everybody loves a good symmetry, even if, for some bizarre reason, no games ever give points for symmetry.

(Why don’t games give points for symmetry? It’s one of my favourite things.)

Herein lies the problem. I define my own terms of success, but I remain acutely attuned to external markers. It is astonishingly difficult for me, who cares so keenly about feedback and group wisdom, to also hold my own values. I am conflicted, wanting to run my race, (assemble a cute farm, make interesting symmetries, have lots of donkeys (imaginary donkeys))… but panicking at the last moment, realizing that I have forgotten the point of it all.  As if somebody else, out there, has special insight that I should use to override my own desires, interests, and aesthetics. As if there were some objective point to life… and I’ve forgotten what it was.

(I would like to point out, as a final hand-waving, metaphorical position, that the game at the top of this post is actually co-operative, and the whole team either wins or loses. If you lose, an elder god eats the world. No pressure.)