History is a List of Surprises

The full quote that I’m aware of is, “History is merely a list of surprises. It can only  prepare us to be surprised yet again.” Thanks to the works of Kurt Vonnegut, American author and essayist.

It is the notion of welcoming surprise that excites me in this. Oh, good, surprise. Some life that has not been reduced by me or others to a list predictable and mystery-absent steps. Life itself playing with us. Teasing us even. Presenting us with a few crazy insights and ahas.

Having said that, it’s not permanent surprise that I long for. There are some certainties that are comforting. Things that I can count on. Things that I don’t have to figure out each time.

Welcome surprise is a principle I often speak when working with groups. Often, it is in the context of invitation to find something together that we wouldn’t necessarily find by ourselves. An idea. An insight. A modified plan. Emergence is after all, a way of being. Less preplanning. More in the moment of engagement.

I wonder how much my life, our lives, would change from this practice alone — welcoming surprise. Seeing surprise. Expecting surprise. Being kind enough to ourselves and to each other to let go of knowing (or its cousins, including over-preparing, rote memorizing, fear of looking stupid, etc.), and welcome the wisdom of not knowing.

Just saying.

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