I recently switched the system I'm using for my writing. Along with these technology changes, I'm circling back to the purpose of my public writing and what form will best support this purpose.
My mind has been immeasurably expanded by the writing of others, and I believe firmly in the power of considered writing to open new worlds for people.
As Wittgenstein said, "the limits of my language are the limits of my world".
Writers point to things, and most of what is needed to have a meaningful and extraordinary existence is directly in front of us if we know where to look.
In the midst of a global pandemic and the ensuing social upheaval, what should we be looking at? Or perhaps the more appropriate question here is, what am I suited to help people see?
An emerging conclusion is that discernment and care are both critical capacities to be cultivated in our time and capacities that I have an inclination for thinking and writing about.
Over time I want to expand on what I understand discernment and care to mean, but for now I'll give a brief sketch.
Discernment is about the choices we make and whether or not they are effective. Do our actions have the consequences we intend? Is what we intend actually in our best interest? It's the interaction of choosing the right direction to go in, and then taking actions that actually bring us in that direction.
This may sound simple, but it is difficult in practice. Especially because we're doing this orienting in an ever-changing environment, with a set of purposes and concerns that are evolving and at times contradictory.
Care, in this context, is about taking responsibility for our lives and our actions. It's about raising the stakes for our existence. Do I care enough to persistently engage in the difficult process that is developing good discernment? It's also about expanding the dimensions of our care to include more and more of life. Do I take on the challenging work of considering wider and wider circles of impact that my actions have, thereby making my discernment more complex and bewildering?
Anyone that tells you there are easy answers in life is either not paying close enough attention or is not thinking on a big enough scale of time and space. This is why discernment is needed, and why we need to care enough about the impact of our actions to keep pushing the boulder up the hill.
The spirit of what I want to work towards with my writing is well summarized by the philosopher A.G. Sertillanges. He says:
Do you want to have a humble share in perpetuating wisdom among men, in gathering up the inheritance of the ages, in formulating the rules of the mind for the present time, in discovering facts and causes, in turning men's wandering eyes towards first causes and their hearts towards supreme ends, in reviving if necessary some dying flame, in organizing the propaganda of truth and goodness?
Yes, this is what I want.
Now, as to the form my writing will take to fulfill this purpose. My plan is to send out a note like this each quarter with an update from me and resources that are supportive to a discerning and caring life. Between issues of Explorations I will share essays as I complete them.
Thank you for your engagement with me so far. I'd love to hear any thoughts you have about what I've shared here.
Awakening from the Meaning Crisis
I started this lecture series recently and am enthusiastic about it. John Vervaeke is an excellent lecturer and offers a powerful set of lenses for making sense of being alive in 2020. I appreciate his use of gesturing to get his meanings across.
My partner has been teasing me because I've become such a fanboy of Schmachtenberger lately. He's definitely a genius and is a role model for the cultivation of wide and deep competence. Here are a few things of his that have been engaging me this season:
- Thoughts on our "damaged information ecology"
- Guidelines that tend to support the quality of dialogue
- Things he learned from his dad about being a man
- Questions to guide explorations of life direction
I encourage the practice of deep listening to music. The gist is to gather as much undivided attention as you can muster and bring it to the music. A whole-body sort of attention. Let it shape you. Here are some songs that reward deep listening.
- Revelations 19:1 - Sunday Service Choir: This song is rapture inducing. The intensity really builds about halfway through, so wait for it. God is a complex topic. For the purposes of appreciating this song, let it be whatever you stand in awe of. As I see it, this song is a kind of celebration of the immensity and grandeur of reality. It puts me in right relationship with reality, a relationship in which I am but a small part of all this. We'll die, and when we do, all this will go on without us as it has gone on before us. It's so much greater than any one of us. "Hallelejuh"
- Oh My Love - Riz Ortolani: This stirs a place in me that hopes. Hopes for renewal. For the washing away of traumas and the triumph of light over dark. "And from nature we should learn / that all can start again / As the stars must fade away / to give a bright new day"
- I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free - Nina Simone: While written in the context of the civil rights movement in the 60's, this song captures a timeless and fundamental human experience of being limited or constrained. Nina Simone's earnestness epitomizes the power of art to transform us, to connect us to the wellspring of our own humanity. "I wish I could give all I'm longing to give / I wish I could live like I'm longing to live / I wish I could do all the things I can do"