Lupines are one of my favorites. These particular lupines growing in my garden are about three feet tall, the top one foot of which flowers. Where I live the flowered top comes in early May and lasts for about a month. I do my best to encourage these lupines to grow and to give them room to reseed themselves. I post this picture here mostly because I love the lupine beauty in it. I also post this picture here because it’s not a stretch to admonish for beauty in groups of humans in varied task, production, and adventure together. “Beauty” is one of the narratives that deserves more attention and intention.
I’m convening several online classes on circle these days. One group is a client system I’m cohosting with Quanita Roberson, a system that works in some very tough and challenged settings. Two groups are open enrollment participants that I’m cohosting with Amanda Fenton, participants that also work in a variety of settings in which thoughtful listening and speaking are becoming more imperative. I would suggest that we are all trying to create more beautiful spaces together.
Quanita Roberson and I recently recorded a podcast, 23 minutes worth that we called, Circle Buffet. I was really hungry to follow a few threads of learning about circle as methodology and as way of being. The podcast has a bit on emergence. It has a bit on the importance of being circle and doing circle. It has an anchor in the importance of creating connection.
So, here’s to cultivating beauty amongst human beings in dialogue, learning, and connection. Here’s to making room to reseed. Here’s to reclaiming the tone and possibility of beauty, even in difficult and challenging circumstance.
I love the way that California Poppies grow this time of year where I live. They are hearty. They open to the sun in the morning and curl to closure as the sun sets. They are bold in color. Yet so soft to the touch. California Poppies are themselves a story, of course.
A few years ago I was in a conversation with a new friend and colleague. It was an exploring conversation with some room to wander. It was the kind of conversation I like, when there is an inherent knowing and welcome of divergence. This was not a conversation to merely transmit a few convenient certainties.
My new friend and colleague offered some of his learning that helps to create practice, and operationalizes, “being in difference together.” He said that what works for him is a question — “Can you find yourself in the story of another?” It’s a question that has really stayed with me. I suppose, because “finding” ourselves in a story, or an experience, or a long journey, of another is really about developing some compassion, understanding, and empathy.
I have learned that there are two the key skills I rely on to be able to find myself in another’s story.
First, the ability to associate. To juxtapose. This is an underestimated super power in contemporary complex culture. Young toddler kids are naturals at associating in rather unbounded ways. Tell them about a cat and one sentence later they are sharing, “I have a cat…I’ve seen mice before…I was outside once…I like playgrounds too…There is a playground at my school…I like my teacher….” It’s fun to watch how quickly it moves, isn’t it. The kind of associating I’m talking about here, evolved, is an ability to find shared common ground in very different circumstance. If the toddler had it, the sentence might sound more like, “There are creatures that I love also. For me it isn’t a cat, but rather a goldfish.”
The second key thing about finding ourselves in another’s story is about recognizing and embracing a “partiality.” We humans, it turns out, our rather complex creatures ourselves. I would suggest that we are rather complex amalgams. Just as our genetic makeup is an amalgam of proteins, bacteria, water, fats, etc. Our emotional makeup is an amalgam of multiple states that include calm, peaceful, angry, hot mess, despairing, overjoyed, etc. We do well to recognize that each of us is all of that. I may not be a hot mess all of the time, but I can find the ways that I am some of the time. I may not have rage on the whole, but I can find the ways that I feel rage in minute moments or certain circumstance. Partiality points to aspects of the whole. And not reductive marketing pitches that reduce us to fragmented qualities.
Finding myself in the story of another doesn’t mean I’m just like them. It does mean I can however find similarity even in vastly different circumstance. Back to our toddler, “…yes, I’m not really a cat lover, but I remember there was this kitten when I was a young boy that I loved completely…”
So, let’s say that these two abilities, associating and noticing partiality are important. Now here’s a next layer. Can you find yourself in your own story?
Yes, I would suggest that none of us fully know our own stories, be they what has occurred on the outer, or even more unknowingly, what has occurred on the inner. I would suggest that these two super powers for finding ourselves in another’s story apply to finding ourselves in our own story. The freedom too associate — to connect seemingly unconnected things into a larger whole, this is very complex work, yet starts from a very simple premise that “it is all connected.” Even, the very minute amounts. I’m not generally an angry person, but I can find anger in me.
You can feel the integrative intent in this, right.
If any of us, individually and in community were to further practice finding ourselves in another’s story, and finding ourselves further in our own stories, with honesty and vulnerability, phew, I can feel the way that such simple practices evolve who we are as a human community trying to add some harmony to the times we live in. And develop a beauty that people can’t not notice, like with California Poppies.
If you haven’t found Katharine Weinmann’s blog yet, I’m sure enjoying it. I know Katharine from years of work with The Circle Way. We were on the board together for years, often finding insight, wonder, and sometimes grief together. She also lives in my home town of Edmonton, Alberta — though I didn’t know here when I lived there.
As Katharine says on her blog description, “…a commitment to the craft, chronicles through word, photo, thoughtful poem and quote, the beauty in my imperfect, sometimes broken, mostly well-lived life. This, a wabi sabi life.”
I like each one of those words. Word. Beauty. Photo. Sometimes broken. There is an honesty that I know and appreciate in Katharine. I know that she can dwell in the range of things, or perhaps the moment of things held against backdrop of the range.
Here’s a bit from her post today, which blessed me with that feeling of, “I needed that.”
And I ask that my life be my prayer.
“It is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world.”
Mary Oliver, Redwing, 2008
“And I pray….my life is a prayer more conscientiously now.” I first spoke these words in an email to a dear friend a few weeks back. It just came, in the moment, fingers pecking at the keyboard. I paused. True, and what does this mean? How does one live one’s life as prayer?
In a first draft of this post, I had a list of things that I’m doing. But when I “winnow to essence,” the simplest, truest response is notice, name and thank people being and bringing their best to the world. Be kindness. Be.
In these days of that I and many experience as topsy turvy, emotional roller-coaster, remembering and forgetting courage, claiming and losing hope, being with and missing friends, holy moly…., I’m so glad for another human sorting it with such presence. Thx Katharine.