Invent Whirled Peas?

#Trust30 Prompt: “A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

My favorite quote of all time is Alan Kay: “In order to predict the future, you have to invent it.” I am all about inventing the future. Decide what you want the future to be and make it happen. Because you can. Write about your future now.

Kay is not the first to want to invent the future. As an historian I have to tell you I am relieved that many of those who aggressively wanted to invent the future didn’t get their way. Others had noble dreams of the future and became disillusioned–and didn’t get their way either. Do I have to be so powerful that I think I can get my way about the future? Do I have to be so potent for my life to be considered meaningful? Is this delusion about inventing the future a mere hyperbole that manipulates artist types into a rah-rah experience?

I don’t feel bad about thinking it is ridiculous to get excited about inventing the future. I am not knocking Alan Kay here because I don’t know the context of what he was trying to say when he wrote this memorable aphorism. Out of context prima facie it has a certain ring of truth, but no, I think I must reject it. Plenty of us were told we could do anything we put our mind to by well-meaning parents. I fear in many cases that this was a cheap substitute for what a child desperately needs: Presence. By being present with, spending time with, looking carefully at, their children parents have the opportunity to identify individual passions and the privilege of being the most significant nurturers of the Call. This privilege is as much the crucible of parents to grow up as it is their kids, because the flip side of remaining in presence with our children is realizing they have minds of their own and could choose to ignore their gifts. Growth for parents is learning not to harangue, but to view their children’s lives as longue durée, enjoying the process of unearthing fervor and self-discovery.

So I really cannot do anything I might put my mind to. The future is not my oyster. But that does not mean I cannot discover, explore, and pursue my passions in what those wise old theologians called “subduing the earth,” which amounted to doing what I was put here to do and loving it, thereby demonstrating mine is an indispensible story within the greater Story–yes, pomo friends, I am saying there is a grand narrative. This thought moves me far more than the idea that all this joy and crap we go through is mere accident. No accidents means a big, heaping helping of wonder and awe. It means I am part of something bigger than myself. For my money, this is way better than believing I can invent the future. No, thanks.

Besides, inventing the future was not what Emerson was talking about at all. He was talking about the issue of dismissing the power of my thoughts because they are mine. He is alluding to the awful internal editor that refuses to believe that I can see well. The fulgurations of my mind is part of the wonder of living in the Story I find myself in.

So Emerson offers the greater advice to trust that as the voice that is in concert with who I was created to be. Dismissing what I see is a handmaiden of denial. If dismissing the gleam becomes my habit I will not only deprive the world of what only I can offer, I will diminish my humanness.

Ad Astra Per Aspera

#Trust30 Prompt: “When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you shall not discern the foot-prints of any other; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any name;—— the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new”. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Can you remember a moment in your life when you had life in yourself and it was wholly strange and new? Can you remember the moment when you stopped walking a path of someone else, and started cutting your own?

Write about that moment. And if you haven’t experienced it yet, let the miracle play out in your mind’s eye and write about that moment in your future.

Thirty-three years ago, on a cloudless July night in Nebraska, I was walking along the Platte River. It was the night before I was married and the wedding party had just broken up. It was late and my groomsmen had seemed half-asleep already as we said our good night. Tonight, however, was my night and I couldn’t sleep. My thoughts raced. I thought about my own father and what a night like this might have been like for him. I thought about my life’s role as a youngest son and kid brother and how I felt that my birth order had something to do with not being taken seriously. I thought about my courtship and how much it had been a time when I became truly alive. The last year had started with such promise, but fear and uncertainty had entered when my fiancée was diagnosed with a serious, debilitating illness that required six months of hospitalization and emergency surgery. It was an awful experience, but she had made it through and now we were to be married. She had nearly died on several occasions. She had suffered and so I had suffered with her.

I was here along the river more than ten miles from the nearest town of any size. As thought about the juxtaposition of suffering and feeling misunderstood I prayed. I prayed that I would be a faithful and loving husband, and I thanked God that we were privileged to suffer in a small way so that we could perhaps be present and available to others who suffered. These last words surprised me because I had never really thought about suffering except as something to be strictly avoided. It now occurred to me that it was a vital refining ingredient in the crucible of growing up, of becoming truly human. My fun-loving adolescent self seemed to rise up at this moment as well, unwilling to let go quite so easily: “Hey buddy! Get a grip.”

I opened my eyes and looked at the sky. I had consciously expected for a fraction of a second that I would be encountering the blackness of a midnight sky observed from a remote rural place. But I was wrong. The sky seemed so ablaze with sharply-defined constellations it was as if I had never looked at the sky before. I was incredulous that there could be so many stars and galaxies hovering above that I had never beheld. I laid down and stared in wonder until I fell asleep, and slept until the chill of dew on my bare arms awoke me in the dark, illumined morning.

As I made my way back to shelter and my bed I realized that for me the wedding later that day would be the commencement of leaving my parents and cleaving to my wife, but that a differentiation–from my parents, my childhood, and my adolescent self–had already taken place. For the first time I had an inkling of what love was; I was filled with anticipation of growing in it and sharing it. She was one who would be a faithful witness to my life.

I was grateful for those stars and for the suffering. A generation has passed since that starry morning, and suffering has made all the difference. Ad Astra per Aspera.

One noble, virtuous, human thing

#Trust30 Prompt:Do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Take a moment, step back from your concerns, and focus on one thing: You have one life to achieve everything you’ve ever wanted. Sounds simple, but when you really focus on it, let it seep into your consciousness, you realize you only have about 100 years to get every single thing you’ve ever wanted to do. No second chances. This is your only shot. Suddenly, this means you should have started yesterday. No more waiting for permission or resources to start. Today is the day you make the rest of your life happen. Write down one thing you’ve always wanted to do and how you will achieve that goal. Don’t be afraid to be very specific in how you’ll achieve it: once you start achieving, your goals will get bigger and your capability to meet them will grow.

Another ‘one thing you always wanted to do’ question, eh? I wonder do we keep getting these questions because no one ever does what they want to do, or because we all have so many things we get to do we are afraid we will miss one of them? I may be addled–and I probably am–but it seems we live in a world where people indulge themselves for themselves all the time. Is extreme altruism the real problem here? My guess is there is an epidemic of narcissism, and the creative question would more properly be one about the self-discipline needed to do not what would be really self-indulgently cool, but what would be the most noble, virtuous, or just plain human.

I don’t mean to judge anyone else. This is self-talk that wants to postpone the self-soothing.

So the thing I have always wanted to do is lead an overseas tour of Reformation sites. I am willing to go to AIDS stations in Zimbabwe, help with relief at a disaster site, or remodel homes in the urban core (though I should not be trusted with a hammer or saw). But since I am asked what I have always wanted to do, my answer is lead the tour. Noble, virtuous, or human? Absolutely. I am passionate to share the true story of the reformers because it is a narrative that will so inform and inspire those of us who have lost our way on a truly unmoored and drifting planet.

My plan: Contact a tour service, establish a cost, publish the info, and invite others to join me. Will you?