5 poetic steps for exiting a Catch 22

Пробка на Космодомианской набережной в Москве.

Catch 22! Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Have you ever been caught in a situation where you cannot move forwards and you cannot move backwards? It is like getting caught in a traffic jam. If you barge forward, you won’t be popular, and you won’t succeed. If you do nothing, nothing will change.

Chill?

Now sometimes, we do have to ‘sit tight’. The police are on their way and they will clear the jam bit by bit. It is best to chill.

Or change one thing at a time ~ strategically?

But sometimes that isn’t the choice. Sometimes if we sit and do nothing, that is where we will stay.

But what if there are cars to the left of us and cars to the right of us; cars ahead and cars behind. What can we do?

Obviously, we have to start just like the police will: with one car at a time. And we have to be strategic.

Remember those kids games?

Did you have one of those games when you were a kid ~ they had 8 squares in a 9 square space and you had to move them around? And at first it looked as if there was no solution?

That is what we have to do: unravel the situation like those games.  Move one square at a time. Patiently, and strategically.

This is easier said than done though, particularly when our emotions are involved.

Kids’ games prepared us for life

Corporate poet, David Whyte writes about a cyclical pattern in our lives where we come periodically to a place which is ‘a traffic jam’. Our task, in such times, is to find the smallest possible thing to ease, not just ourselves, but everyone around us, out of the impasse.

I have picked FIVE quotations from David Whyte’s poems to illustrate the process.

1. The beginning. “anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you” (Sweet Darkness)


2. The call. “You are not a troubled guest on this earth, you are not an accident amidst other accidents, you were invited . . .” (What To Remember When Wakening)


3. Reawakening. “When your eyes are tired, the world is tired also. When your vision is gone, no part of the world can find you” (Sweet Darkness)

4. The departure. “Start close in, don’t take the second step or the third, start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take” (Start Close In)


5. Begin the conversation. “”Your great mistake is to act the dream as it you were alone . . . Everybody is waiting for you.” (Everybody Is Waiting For You)

How long will we delay the first step – recognizing that there is a situation to be dealt with?


In more prosaic terms, our first step is always to notice we are in a jam, and rather than bluster and curse, consider the best thing to do about it. It is amazing how often we delay this simple first step.

How long will we take to recognize that the situation is not going away just because we don’t like it?

Our second step is equally as hard. We chose after all to be on the road at that time. We didn’t want this result, but after all, we chose to be here, and when think about it, the jam chose to happen when we were there. The jam is an integral part of us and we are integral part of it. We are part of its story, and it is part of ours.

How long will we take to signal to people around us that we would like the situation resolved?

And it doesn’t get any easier. Are we communicating? Or have we taken it for granted that everyone knows that we want the traffic to flow again? Do they think we are just trying to push in? Are we alert to other people who want the traffic to flow again. And can they recognize us? What is it that we do, or notice, that alerts them to our sense of what is possible?

How long before we imagine in our minds what the resolution would look like?

And are we holding back because it all seems too big? If the traffic were to flow again, what would we all be doing in unison, and what would be our part?

How long before we realize that nothing is moving because everyone is waiting for us?

And who is really holding everything up? Is it us? Is everyone waiting for us, to pay attention?

Is everyone waiting for us, to start the conversation?

Distance lends enchantment to the view

Burning out?

Advice from an ‘old hand’ to a ‘new teacher’ whose class got the better of him: in Goodbye Mr Chips, which I watched over the weekend.

“You have some hours before prep starts. Go out. Out there under the sky. Look around. What is the saying? Distance lends enchantment to the view. Go out. Come back refreshed.”

Paulo Coelho offers the same advice. Don’t spend the day looking down. Look to the horizon.

David Whyte has the same advice. Sometimes the answer depends upon a walk around the lake.

Then go out, look out, reach out

Whenever life is bad, look to the horizon. Close your eyes and listen to the furthest sounds that you can hear.

And if you can, do it when you first awake in the morning.  Do it in short 1 minute break at work.  Do it commuting on the way home.

Is that why you pay so much for a house or office with a view?

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“Go get your things. Dreams mean work”

I discovered Paulo Coelho this year. I am amazed I spent this long on this earth without finding his books.

His stories have mystical settings. By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept is about a woman and her childhood sweetheart who meet up again in their twenties to make a hard decision: should they get together or should he follow his vocation into a Catholic seminary and a life as charismatic and healer?

All Coelho’s books (I think) have a happy ending, but not a silly ending.   After many trials, the protagonists resolve to take the high road: living in solidarity with this world. These may be mystical stories, but they are neither fantasies nor escapist.

And the trials faced by the characters are never gratuitous. Each in itself offers a perspective on relating to the world and, I think, the tension between commitment and uncertainty.

They are a remarkably “open” read too. He has a light style that draws you into the story. And then releases you from time to time to ponder what he or one of his characters has just said.

Wikipedia describes the book as “a week in the life of someone ordinary to whom something extraordinary happens”. Read it at the end of a long week to ponder extraordinary people who live ordinary lives.

Belonging

“Belonging” is the theme of our age

And we see the theme in contemporary poety: “The House of Belonging” from David Whyte ~ “calling you into the family of things” in Wild Geese by Mary Oliver.

Belonging is a hard concept to grasp

Michael Bauwens has drawn this picture showing different understandings of belonging:

  • me as part of a family
  • me as in let-me-be!
  • me as let-me-be(come)
  • And me as going part of the way on the journey with you.

The last is simple explanation of co-creation, the theme of Barbara Sliter’s blog, Co-creatorship, that I came across in the last week or so too.

Belonging in steps

In my own evolving grasp of the concept, I am thinking in THREE steps:

#1 Curiosity

Can I begin the day with curiosity? Which birds are singing? Who is already up-and-about? What will the day bring that is totally unexpected and surprising? No”to do” list for me! Just an early morning welcome to the unknown as it is evolving around me.

#2 Sureness

Can I begin the day with sureness? Can I be sure that my interest in the world will help shape it into a better place, alongside the interest of everyone else. The birds, the cat, the neighbor whose petrol mower is already going and shattering the peace, the motorway 20 miles away, the cup of coffee beckoning, the blogosphere which should be ignored this Saturday . . . That my interest is valued and creates safety for others.

#3  Wholeheartedness

Can I be wholehearted? Can I approach everything I do today with energy, enthusiasm and warmth? Can my wholeheartedness for some or even most of my tasks (it is Saturday!) bring me pleasure and create more energy, enthusiasm, warmth for others, people and tasks?

At the end of the day .  .  .

Can I look back on a day when we have been surprised at what we have accomplished together?

Is the end of my day about something other than the race that we have won or the people we have vanquished?

Can I be surprised at what we discovered together, and how we continue to surprise each other?

Do we go forward to another day, not dizzy with excitement, but astounded, that we have found hidden depths in ourselves with all our failings and limitations? The hidden depths of ourselves and others.

And do other people feel it too? Not necessarily with bear hugs and noisy applause.

Just gentle appreciation of how much their hopes and dreams, their wholeheartedness, brought warmth and enjoyment to the day for me.

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