Thursday Thought #70: Context

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Margaret Atwood once said that “Context is all.” We are all informed by the tenets of our cultural landscape. What we hold to be  precepts of living are dictated by the assumptions and invisible rules that are assimiliate within us from birth. But everything is context.  Our beliefs on customs of race, class and gender semi; our beliefs on how much to prioritize family and friends versus work; our beliefs on how much we connect with nature…is all environmentally informed. We are not taught to think critically about these beliefs. Were not taught to examine which beliefs we proactively desire to adopt and which ones are just there because they are passive vestiges of times longsince gone. Oftentimes the best way to get a good grip on the structures of our context is actually to remove ourselves from it. Placing yourself in a new environment with different value systems and belief sets will expose to you which beliefs of yours are actually just assumptions It will also expose the power of cultural relativism: the idea that it’s difficult to judge but customs or effects of a different culture without actually understanding and immersing oneself in it first. Some things that we may see around the world might seem backwards or ludicrous, but then when we look at the system in which it’s actually entrenched, it reveals itself to make quite a bit of sense. Not everything should be simply accepted because of cultural relativism or empathy for other belief systems; but removing yourself from your assumptions can at least give you the tools to ask the right questions and come up with answers that are empowering to you. It also provides a powerful lens to examine the stories that we tell ourselves about our own identity, and how “true” those…

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Thursday Thought #69: The End

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We are often taught to pursue things that are means, a good salary, recognition, material possessions.. But we are rarely encouraged to pursue things that are ends. The idea of ends is also a constant reminder of life’s suspended fragility. That the putting off of things that are meaningful to us may not be readily available tomorrow. People are ends. Doing the work that is a meaningful to us is an end. Living and creating and exploring and learning and growing are all ends. And yet so often were encouraged to take circuitous paths through a means toward these ends — at times forgetting what all the wandering toil is for. There is always an opportunity to go directly to an end. To take time to enjoy a deep breath or a moment of pause or a moment to look at the world or a moment to connect with the someone who matters to you. And not to get caught up in the cacophony of means. May we pursue the ends — before the end.

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Thursday Thought #68: The Mystery of Life

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There is a great sense of mystery as we go about living life. Even though we seek stability in home, relationships and even in things as banal as the weather, there always remains a veil of mystery as to what unexpected elements will find themselves on our path. Life is the ultimate mystery and the brain the ultimate unpuzzler. And the spirit lives for this mystery: the ultimate transformer looking to take the ineffable and make it ordered, tangible. And is the greatest game that human collossus will ever concern itself with. The irony of this mystery of life is that we’re always seeking to solve it with certainty. And yet, we simultaneous seek to revel in the novelty of obfuscation. I’ve already heard that story — the tell tale sign that we’ve lost that magical element of mystery that brings out the bright curiosity in all of us. I’ve never been of the belief that the mystery of life will be fully unraveled. We can map out the electron moving about in its orbital, but as soon as we’ve puzzled it all out and go to confirm our groundbreaking observation’s, the spritely spirit moves and smiles at us to go back to work and keep the game going. Our longest standing assumptions and titanic theories are ever crumbling under the enveloping of mystery. Even work is mystery. As we continue to give concerted effort into a particular endeavor, we have no certainty as to what abilities will come to us with time or even when there will be fruits for our labor — if there are to be fruits at all.  And so it goes in this continued ebb and flow of discovery and concealment. Passed on from generation to generation to welcome the unexpected and puzzle through the gripping…

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Thursday Thought #67: Breaking and Mending

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“The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” — Hemingway They say that optimism and joie-de-vivre toward the world is an affectation of youth. That those who remain soft will give way to the breaking forces of the harsh world. Those who maintain the vibrant glows of belief into old age are oft written off as naive or out of touch. But the fact of the world the world is that it has smooth corners, but also many jagged edges. And eventually, we will collide with one of these jagged edges. And we will be hurt. There is no possibility. There is only inevitability. No interpretation. This truth is one of the commonalities that forges the linking thread of the human spirit. I can’t count how many times I’ve been enveloped by the heavy darkness, that incumbent weight on Atlas’s back waiting to break him at a moment’s notice. A loved one parting from the world. A separation. A devastation. Or even that nebulous sense of human longing that at times overcomes the spirit to fill it with an essence it can never capture. But in that heaviness is often the lightness. The capacity to reforge something as forcefully as it was torn asunder. I’ve always been fascinated by the Japanese art of kintsugi. When a ceramic object — often a bowl — is broken, it is not discarded. Instead, it is remade with gold. And those striking scars within the bowl or object make it vibrantly beautiful — and singularly unique — never to be remade again. For when something has suffered damage and has a history. Instead of trying to hide defects and cracks, these are accentuated and celebrated, as they have now become the strongest part of the piece. Softness it not…

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Thursday Thought #66: Our Inner Critic

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The inner critic is always there. A homunculus hanging out in the hardest to reach caverns of our mind constantly trumpeting the siren song of inadequacy. Reminding us that someone else can do it better, someone else can get there faster, someone else can be it easier. The homunculus is born from the indoctrination of the belief that the tallest blade of grass always gets cut down: that if we stand out, we risk the danger of envy or isolation. So if someone else does not cut us down, we serves the scythe ourselves. But is this true? If it is, why do we so often look longingly at the blades shining brightly in piercing sun — getting a view of the world we so desperately wish for ourselves? Why do we wish to silence the negative voice? Quieting the homunculus is not about going to battle with it. It’s about acknowledgement. It’s about a acknowledging the fact that it’s there for a reason: often doing its faithful job to protect us from pain or anguish. For it’s often not fear itself that arrests us, but rather the pain — or potential pain — of shame. Shame is the greatest saboteur of creativity. Unlike anger or sadness, it cannot be transposed. It is simply immobilizing. So overcoming shame means removing the conditions for its arrival. This requires trust. It requires a trust in ourselves in knowing that we only have to reveal as much of ourselves or our work as we are willing to. If we trust in ourselves to consciously expand that willingness incrementally — just one extra inch, or one extra micrometer — then those micro meters accumulate into miles and those miles converge into a bridge to a braver self. But this is some of the hardest,…

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