I’ll find the specifics of it later. But I was listening to an interview with Stephen Jenkinson this morning, and he said something that struck me. The interviewer asked him a question of some sort, and he said something along the lines of, “Your thinking is exposed through your language, through the words you use. From that I can see how you see the world.” I wanted to jump up and down when he said this. I was driving, though.
Our language is imbued with meanings. Meanings far beyond the words that we are using. It tells us so much about how we move through the world, what we believe. Not to mention what we feel — what are we afraid of? What are we avoiding? When we are talking about our experiences, we often use the word you instead of I. Tell me, what was it like being in that traffic accident? “Well, things begin to slow down and you can feel your heart beat. It’s like you have the ability to see into the future.” A basic and fictional example, but the power of the turn of attention from I to you can be seen.
I’ve just over-simplified something that was happening in this particular podcast, as Jenkinson sought to guide the interviewer toward something profound and deeply disruptive. There is a zero percent chance that I could duplicate what he did here, let alone anywhere. But the point remains: we’ve come to use our language to relay certain things about what we believe the world is, and how we see and experience it. What would it mean to interrigate this? What would it mean to question ourselves at that level? I want to suggest that we try.
One place to start is in using what in some circles is called I language. I suspect you can figure that out on your own.
Friends, we can’t do this alone. None of it. From the very, very hard lift of ending racism and all forms of oppression to working day-to-day in our jobs/careers. From our intimate relationships to organizing a potluck. There is no such thing as going it alone. There is no such thing as self made.
We can be lonely, but we can’t be alone. We can be autonomous, but we can’t be autonomous on our own island. I promise you this.
So, it seems, the reach is one of the most important tools that we have. Let’s use it.
Nothing gets made in a vacuum. It’s not going to drop out of the sky, fully formed. Anyone who believes that is following themselves. No, things get made one step at a time. One experiment after another. We string together words and an idea forms. One idea upon another and there is a piece of work. Eventually.
Let’s not kid ourselves into believing that we can ever create a complete piece of work by sitting down and channeling it through. Let’s just do the thing that must be done: stack the blocks, move them about, create as you go. Step. By step.
What are they, exactly? For years, I’ve thought of the beginning of the year as a great time to set intentions. Mornings are also a nice time to put an intention into the center of the day. But what are they really? I found myself reflecting on this question this morning. Here is what came to me: intentions are prayers that we make to our future self. A prayer that asks that self to hold what is sacred in this moment as sacred when their turn comes.
An intention — a prayer — that emerges from the heart is imbued with vales. Meaning, it has value. The opportunity, as we move through our day, our year, is to meet the prayer again and again anew. To meet it with practice.
This led to another thought: practice is the conversation between the prayer and our values. This is the path of integrity.
I’m noticing that the posts I’ve put up here so far in 2020 are largely unfinished thoughts. Indeed, some of have been identified as such. Well, that’s just how it is at the moment, I suppose. I’m currently in an inquiry around this project, and with the whole writing project as a whole. I’m sure there will be more on that at some point. In the meantime, this is what (and how) it is.
- Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about.
- Kurt Vonnegut, How to Write With Style
Care can propel us far. To care is to invest, to let the rest of the world fall away, to sink into something that moves you. To care is to be engaged. To be a citizen of the world. A full citizen. To care is to be alive. We all care…about something.
It’s easy to assume we know what we care about. I’d argue, however, that we often have to slow down to really understand what that is. They say that if you want to know what someone values, look at how they spend their time (or money). I might change that to if you want to know how someone is avoiding being with their pain and discomfort look at how they spend their time (or money).
Often, what we care about was slapped out of our hands — out of our hearts.
I’d suggest we look for not just what brings us pleasure, but what brings us unadulterated joy. What makes us feel alive. What lights us up.
It’s funny how often we seek it. It’s funny how often we believe we’ve achieved it. It’s one of those things that we don’t realize we missed until it becomes clear that, well, we did. Perhaps instead of trying to get folks to understand something, we should be trying to understand what it is that they believe. Indeed, perhaps we’re the ones who were unclear the whole time.