Stepping back from serious writing for a couple of months has been a necessary joy.
And I’ve discovered again the joy of having something to say.
I’ll be back tomorrow.
Thank you for holding on for me.
I’m thrilled that the latest episode of the New Ventures West podcast features me exploring the intersection of philosophy, family, and the lives we live.
Over the course of 26 minutes I talk with my colleagues Adam Klein and Joy Reichart about how philosophy can help us inquire into the mostly invisible background of practice and culture that shapes our lives, how our early families play a part in this, and how we might expand our ways of taking care of the world and of others in the light of what we find.
Along the way we explore the legacy of the philosopher Rene Descartes and the consequences of his powerful method for inquiry on our education system and our sense of ourselves; how more recent philosophers have sought to develop more inclusive and complete accounts of what it is to be a human being; the intersection of philosophy and science; and what all of this means for how we live our lives with meaning and dignity.
I’m delighted with the way this has turned out. I hope you will be too.
It has been hard to write these past two months. The familiar flow of words and ideas have slowed to a trickle. My body has not moved into the work with the grace and flow with which I have become familiar. It’s as if some kind of gridlock has taken hold, with each part – mind, heart, body – pressing against the movement of the other.
It has been tempting to try to force myself into action, to believe the inner judgements and slurs that whisper into the vacated spaces. You’ll never be a writer this way. You’ve run out of anything to say. You’re not brave enough, smart enough, honest enough to do this.
But this time, I am not so convinced by all the inner chatter as I once might have been. This time, I’ve been waiting – patiently, quietly – to see what wants to write itself through me.
We make production and consumption the highest measure of value in our culture. But we are part of nature, born of nature, and we are subject to its cycles just as much as a field, or a tree, or a river.
I am remembering that fields must lie fallow in order to be fertile,
spring must turn to summer and autumn to have any chance of returning,
and human beings must rest and nurture themselves – often – in order to flourish.
We can’t help it. We’re sense-making beings, us humans. And so you and I are always living our lives from a sense of story.
The story profoundly shapes our interactions with other people, and with ourselves. Watch how you’d relate to your sister, your colleagues, from the narrative of ‘the burdened one’ – the one who has been handed too much to carry, and who can’t find any place to put it down. See how much busyness it breeds, how little time to rest, how much resentment, how much of a sense of being in life alone.
And see how differently you’d encounter all of life from the narrative of ‘a healer’ – the one whose responsibility it is to heal herself by taking care of her own body, mind and heart so she can take care of others. Or ‘a painter’ – looking for the hidden light and beauty in everything. Or ‘a bestower of blessings’. Or even ‘an ordinary person’.
The stories we’re living seem so compelling, so true, especially as they seem to account so coherently for everything that’s happening. But any story is only one out of many possibilities, and each story conceals much even as it reveals.
And so it’s important to ask ourselves what other stories we could imagine, particularly those that would bring forward our virtues – patience, kindness, courage, imagination, integrity, compassion, love, commitment, steadfastness, playfulness – qualities that allow us to meet the world more generously, more creatively, and let more of life through.