I was in for a surprise when I swiped the “page” in my Kindle to Day 23 of Claudia Altucher’s book, Become an Idea Machine.
The prompt: List 10 lines or phrases from a book, movie, or conversation that “left you wondering” and explain why. That’s a bit of a paraphrase, but it’s how I’ve interpreted the prompt for today.
The reason today’s hard is because:
- I read a lot, often highlighting and noting in the book, or excerpting in pages of journals, so it can take time a lot to find a specific example (hence my need to better tag in Evernote).
- Random things can register with me in ways that make it hard to explain to others.
- I don’t always remember the source unless I’m working on an actual research paper or article for formal publication. Since I do care about proper source citation, I try to always give credit to the ideas of others.
Anyway, here are my 10 for today, in no particular order.
Lines from Books, Movies That Sparked My Curiosity….And Why
The world is maintained by change—in the elements and the things they compose.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
I’ve always needed change in my life. Sometimes the feeling of suffocation comes quickly, sometimes it takes 3, 4 or 5 years. In my doctoral work I discovered systems theory, chaos theory and related ideas. I learned that my acceptance and desire for change was good, not something to be stifled.
Later, I became more philosophical about change and started to understand how change is the norm in the physical world. It’s humans who want to capture, freeze and stall change because they fear the unknown.
If you didn’t love the project that is terrifying you, you wouldn’t feel anything. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
I first read The War of Art in mid-2012 when I was struggling to decide whether to take off on a new adventure in my professional life. These lines were an epiphany for me.
I’ve always been somewhat indifferent to a formal career in academia. It has good features and bad features. I love learning and discovery and I love it when students are excited and inspired by something and I sincerely want to help them grow into who they want to be.
But much of academic life is a grind, for reasons I won’t go into. I’ve never found 80-90% of it fulfilling and always felt that I wasn’t meant to be a college professor, that academia was a way station on my journey. Even though I was in a doctoral program, I had never even thought about academia as a career until the bottom fell out in the economy in 2002. I was pursuing a Ph.D. for knowledge, thinking I might use my knowledge in consulting.
In short, I’m somewhat indifferent. At a minimum, I sense a lot of ambivalence in my feelings toward work in higher ed, at least in the current economic climate.
I realized as 2012 unfolded that I have other dreams, goals and tasks that truly excite, inspire and, to be frank, scare me a bit.
It was in 2012 that I decided that I would not continue in my present position after 2015. I had hoped to leave in 2014 (that didn’t happen).
Not exactly sure what comes next. Edited to clarify: I know what I’m going to do next, I just don’t know what the results will be for what I’m going to do next.
The future is always uncertain, but I’m OK with that.
In Tibetan, meditation means to become familiar with….In Sanskrit, to meditate means to cultivate self.
Joe Dispenza, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself
As I’ve prepared for big changes in my life, I’ve been doing everything I can to prepare me for, and enable, success. Sitting quietly in contemplation has become a part of my daily schedule, for most days. I’ve also been reading a lot and working to identify any blind spots that may be holding me back. Over the past few years, I’ve realized that I may have taken longer than necessary to learn some of the lessons I needed to move to the next stage of my life (patience, is one example).
In 2014 I learned that “to be” is more than just being authentic. It’s about being IN the present moment, being aware of the present moment, and acceptance.
My form of meditation is not sitting cross-legged on the floor changing. It’s about sitting silently, with my eyes closed, breathing. Sometimes I just walk in silence.
I’ve also found that journaling with a specific prompt from a reading or a thought that has occurred to me is a form of meditation for me.
So when I read Joe Dispenza’s summation of these definitions of meditation, I realized that a lot of what I had been doing was meditation. I’ve been becoming familiar with myself and starting to cultivate myself.
It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is one that sings.
Wendell Berry, as quoted by Anne Lamott in her essay, Prelude: Victory Lap
I could write a book about what this quote speaks to me. I’ve read a good bit of Wendell Berry, but I discovered these lines while reading Anne Lamott last week, so I’m not sure which of his writings they can be found in.
Suffice it to say that over the past 2 years I’ve known that I was moving toward something new, something different, something significant. But until recently been unable to precisely define it in the way the world would like for projects and objectives to be defined. I’m still not 100% sure of all of the details, but the structure has started to unfold.
I’ve had a series of dreams over the years that are variations-on-a-dream, as I call them. I won’t go into the details, but a common variation in the past few years, starting in 2010, involved driving a car under various conditions which made it difficult or impossible to control the car and/or see what was ahead on a dark/curvy/dangerous road.
For most of the time, I’ve been uncertain about which way to go, other than to know that going on “as is” was not an option. I refused to adhere to the status quo of the current academic structure in higher education and left the tenure track.
Ideas are the currency of the 21st century.
In part, because of my disillusionment with the current state of higher education, I wrote a blog post titled 10 Things We Should Be Teaching College Students.
For many years I came to view my ability to generate ideas and my interest in many topics to be a detriment, rather than an asset, in a world where specialization and reductionism is the norm.
But, as I’ve come to realize during my past 2-3 years of self-discovery/rediscovery, my skills and capabilities are just now being recognized as what’s needed for success in the 21st century.
The action of God in our lives is always, at its heart, experienced as a drawing. If we are feeling driven, then the prompting that gives rise to it is not from God but from the force fields of our own (or other people’s) kingdoms.
Margaret Silf, Inner Compass: An Invitation to Ignatian Spirituality
Inner Compass is probably the most important book I’ve ready in the past few years. I just finished it a few weeks ago.
These lines really resonate with me because they do provide a useful measuring stick for testing feelings about whether to do something. The rest of the passage is much more complex and the entire book has to be considered to get the overall context.
The next sentence describes St. Ignatitus’ metaphor of water dropping onto a sponge versus water splashing on a stone.
The takeaway for me is that if I’m truly seeking to be aligned with God, with the spirit of God working in my life, then I won’t feel forced or driven, rather the feeling will be one that I’m drawn into something.
Go to the woods….Maybe I shouldn’t have strayed from the path.
Lyrics and dialogue from Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim
To get what we wish for, sometimes we have to go into the woods where we will encounter all manner of temptations, distractions and obstacles.
We also have to be careful WHAT we wish for because it might not be what we truly want.
But, as Cinderella points out:
But how can you know what you want till you get what you want and you see if you like it? What I want most of all is to know what I want.
Lyrics from Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim
Sometimes we don’t know exactly what we want, but we know that something more, something greater is in the future.
Beware of pride and arrogance, Charles, for they may betray you.
Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time
I’ll be honest and say that I struggle with pride of self because, like Charles Wallace, I seem to quickly understand things and, as a result, either try to play dumber than I am or keep my mouth shut. I started this in junior high school.
I’ve been working to better understand the difference between self-confidence with true humility and simply hiding my talents under a bushel to avoid coming off as arrogant or prideful. I know and accept that I have limitations, but there’s a line between true limitations and self-imposed limitations, between pride and self-confidence.
When we are capable of stopping, we begin to see and, if we can see, we understand.
Thich Nhat Hanh, “Our Life is a Work of Art” in Peace is Every Step
To develop understanding, you have to practice looking at all living beings with the eyes of compassion. When you understand, you cannot help but love.
Thich Nhat Hanh, “Understanding” in Peace is Every Step
It’s being able to understand a sort of language, like sometimes if I concentrate very hard I can understand the wind talking within the trees.
Charles Wallace, speaking in Madeline L’Engle’s book, A Wrinkle in Time
God is love.
1 John 4:8
And the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 3:13
I could go on with other examples, but these lines are connected, for obvious reasons: Love.
It starts with love.