Think “And”

a second version, a second point of view of my painting Shared Fatherhood

I suppose it is the great trap in human nature to define life through oppositions. Was your experience good or bad? Are you liberal or conservative? Are you your brother’s keeper or is it every man for himself? Oppositions provide the illusion that there is a right way or a wrong way, that any issue can be reduced to a simplicity, a singular path. One way. Oppositions are great language devices for dictators and the righteous. They remove the grey tones and blunt the grey matter. With an opposition, us or them, “god” can be exclusively on your side (a small god, indeed) which self-grants permission for all manner of abuses enacted by “us” on “them.” The problematic word when employing oppositions is “or.”

“And” is a much more useful (and honest) term to employ when dancing with oppositions. Can you be your brother’s keeper AND take care of yourself? Certainly. Can you survive entirely by yourself without the participation of your brothers and sisters? Certainly not. No one lives in a vacuum; “or” is the great creator of illusory vacuums. “And” guarantees a conversation and perhaps a host of useful, challenging and robust perspectives. Both/And is always more functional than Either/Or.

AND the first version of Shared Fatherhood

The snag in “Or” is that there is very little truth in any reduction that ultimately lands on just One. This or that. All life is movement and all movement stops in One. Creative tension requires at least two points and a desire for someplace place to go. There is no single arrival station in real life. There is no achievement that stops all the presses. Every answer inspires new questions. Each question opens doors to multiple possibilities. Agreement is a fluid target at best and must be nurtured. Compromise is never an end state; it is a relationship imperative. Life is never found in the static “or.”

Do an experiment: go to the grocery store, choose any item and ask yourself how many people it took to bring your chosen item to the shelf at that moment. If you are not astounded by the complexity of participation, how dependent we are on actions of others, your imagination has most certainly failed you. Skip, entrepreneur extraordinaire and mentor to entrepreneurs taught me that a business cannot succeed until it serves its customer’s customer. Note the word “serves.” Businesses serve. Not simply a customer but the complexity of a customer’s customer. Entrepreneurism is a service to the creative genius of a community and multitudes of communities beyond.

Entrepreneurism, like artistry, ….even, yes, like governance…like all things vital, moving, complex and growing, live in service according to the good graces of AND. Anything else is a mirage.

 

 

 

Grow Young

681. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

“A child-like man is not a man whose development had been arrested; on the contrary, he is a man who has given himself a chance of continuing to develop long after most adults have muffled themselves in the cocoon of middle-aged habit and convention.”
Aldous Huxley

It’s not that I don’t want to grow up. It’s just that I don’t want to be like most grown ups that I know. I figure that I will have plenty of time for being deadened after I’m dead so why numb myself to experience now? It makes me wonder if hunter-gatherers became complacent? In the absence of a laz-y-boy and an entertainment center, what constitutes good living?

Twice in my life I put myself on a television moratorium. Both times within a week, after the initial detox period of wondering what to do with myself when not anesthetized, I stopped pacing and began to experiment. I created things. I went places. I stopped shouting at the television and started engaging with people who talked back. I read more books, thought more thoughts, went out into a cold winter night so that I could feel the cold, see the stars and shiver just enough to make a good cup of hot chocolate taste better. Also, there are few things more satisfying than wrapping cold fingers around a hot mug. Once, I smoked a cigar while sitting on a wall that overlooked the city just because I’d never done it before. In short, when not distracted, when not “muffling myself in the cocoon of middle-age habit” I came back to life. Breaking patterns is more important than you might realize.

What are the multiple ways that we check out or pad ourselves from new experience? What paradigm do we embrace that makes “just getting through it” a viable option? If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone count the years before they could retire I’d be hauling around a ton of nickels. While sitting in the Blue Moon a few days ago I heard this: “Six more years to retirement and I can finally start living.” The others at the table nodded as if to say, “Hold your breath; you’ll get there someday.” With such a premise, why would anyone want to grow up? A real friend would have stood up, slapped them and screamed, Wake Up!”

The Buddhists say that life is the joyful participation is the sorrows of the world. The key word is participation. Protect yourself from the sorrows and you blunt your capacity to participate. We aspire to “easy” and “easy” comes with a cost. Children count the minutes until class is over. Adults count the years until retirement. And in the mean time, the rich textures of life, the capacity for joyful participation, passes unnoticed.

There is no mystery to fulfilling your potential or releasing your inner artist. Get up, let go your current form of distraction, look around, step toward the thing that will take some effort and is worth doing. Get messy. Do something for no other reason than you have never done it before. Aspire to grow young.