Inspiring people and ideas

While there’s clearly a lot in life that can drag us down – this much awareness of our own countries’ struggles, alongside all the collective and individual difficulties the world’s weighed down with, can easily lead to a sort of paralysing despair – there are perhaps an equal number of things to encourage and uplift us. Maybe that’s too optimistic, but seeking out the inspiring things in life seems important.

Sometimes I wonder if there’s not a point, somewhere between despair and hope, where there’s a chance of engaging to make the difference between the two. This sense in which we might hold in each hand all the struggles and all the dreams then make a move that shifts that balance more towards resolution, awareness and transformation. This very human gesture of setting our intentions high. (Notes One)

Perhaps that’s one definition of inspiration? People choosing to embrace ways of life, of thinking, that might lead us all in good directions. It’s interesting to think that each one of us could be such a source of inspiration: that our everyday choices, attitudes and responses might serve as an example to all those around us in both the real and virtual world.

And I’d imagine we’d all be inspired by different things; given we each have our own priorities, concerns and areas of growth. Everyone focussing in different directions, wouldn’t we naturally find different people’s insights inspiring? Especially if we consider every aspect of life as being part of a spectrum from complete ignorance through to effortless mastery.

At any point along those many journeys, the thoughts or actions of different people may resonate most with our own particular situation and style of approach. As if we’re all exchanging perspectives as we walk our paths, grapple with challenges, and strive toward realising specific goals or concepts. Each person, perhaps, always being able to offer “something” that will help someone else. (Notes Two)

Which is my circuitous way of saying that perhaps few people are universally inspiring – those lone souls who are able to speak wisely to everyone, wherever they may be on their path. Maybe, in a strange way, we “need” to all be talking at once in the hope that, somewhere, our words may be able to help someone? Of course, we often do so in an online world filled with those aiming for the exact opposite.

How we’re supposed to navigate this new, connected, hyper-aware world is strange to contemplate: if we’re not to let all these influences simply wash over us, blending the good with the bad, how are we to set limits or chart a realistic, compassionate, constructive course? While no one answer may suit everyone, there must be some sort of balance to be struck. (Notes Three)

Identifying people and ways of thinking that resonate with your values, challenges and hopes may fit in there somewhere – those whose words or perspectives lift your heart with gratitude that people exist who are striving for better paths through life’s struggles.

Notes and References:

Instagram links for Nirrimi Firebrace (https://www.instagram.com/nirr.imi/); Jedidiah Jenkins (https://www.instagram.com/jedidiahjenkins/); Sophia Bush (https://www.instagram.com/sophiabush/); Rich Roll (https://www.instagram.com/richroll/).

Note 1: What we create by our presence
Note 1: Will things change if we don’t make them?
Note 1: “Minding the Earth, Mending the World”
Note 1: The human spirit
Note 2: Personal archaeology
Note 2: Complication of being human
Note 2: Finding flaws
Note 2: Can others join you?
Note 3: The thought surrounding us
Note 3: Sensitivity & the place for feeling
Note 3: Pace of change & getting nowhere fast
Note 3: Reading between the lines

In terms of Instagram, examples of such voices may be Nirrimi Firebrace, Jedidiah Jenkins, Sophia Bush, Rich Roll or many, many others.

Ways to share this:

Observing life & stepping outside of reality

When we view life from behind a lens, aren’t we not then “in” reality? We’ve taken this step back to see what stands before us with different eyes – eyes of posterity, performance, evaluation. All the times we’re choosing to stand apart from the moment, observing it differently to capture things a certain way, it’s almost like we’re no longer “there”.

Sometimes it also seems that pictures loom larger than memories: the lived experience of events rivalled by images that drown out the complex awareness of many perspectives with the compelling evidence of one. The slow, faded recollection of a moment replaced by a series of snapshots that might eventually crowd out the other, less photogenic aspects of our lives. As if photos are clearer and more reliable.

Humans, now, being the first to live with this constant presence of photography, I’ve heard it said it’s changing how we act, perceive and present ourselves. It’s incredible to think that little more than a lifetime ago people rarely saw images of themselves; whereas, now, the incidental events of each day can so easily be posed, captured and shared.

It must make a significant difference to how we are? Perhaps shifting our focus from the inside – our presence, contribution and understanding in each moment – to a preoccupation with how we look from the outside. As if we risk becoming actors, creating the illusion of something our lives might no longer contain. Empty shells, conveying the image we want others to see.

There can be such disparity between how things look and how they are on the inside (Notes One). Something can seem impressive, but contain nothing within. Completely unremarkable things can hold great inner value. Maybe it’s a mistake to get blinded by appearances? Especially given how easy it now is to create images that bear staggeringly little relationship to reality.

But perhaps it’s also too easy to imply that we’re becoming superficial, self-obsessed or distracted. As with many aspects of modern life and the technology woven through it, we probably just have the opportunities people before us were wanting: capacity, convenience, simplicity, control (Notes Two). Maybe people have always sought to capture their memories, share their experiences, and give others a window into their lives.

Essentially, then, photography seems like a form of communication: people sharing their perspectives to let others see the meaning things hold when, for a moment, we view life with their eyes (Notes Three). This beautiful act of self-revelation as we offer up our insights to one another, filling in the gaps of mutual understanding to grasp a little more of the reality we’re all part of.

As with writing, perhaps we’re just wanting to reach out, open the door on what matters to us, and create common ground by offering our take on things. How closely our words or images track alongside the truth of reality – and, how well such processes integrate into the lives we’re leading – seem just some of the challenges modern life’s presenting us with.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Absolute or relative value
Note 1: Oh, to be young again?
Note 1: Masks we all wear
Note 2: All in such a rush
Note 2: Modern challenges to relationship
Note 2: Pace of change & getting nowhere fast
Note 3: What does art have to say about life?
Note 3: Going towards the unknown
Note 3: Living as a form of art

Ways to share this:

Do the “lies” blind us to truth?

How much of all we take in is really true? Not just in the sense of being a questionable overlay to reality in the shape of interpretation, opinion or argument, but actually a recasting of that reality through different eyes (Notes One).

There seem so many ways in which the information we’re receiving mightn’t be entirely true – all these subtle or dramatic representations of facts, their contexts or meanings. If we take it that, through our eyes or other senses, we’re constantly observing reality, taking it in, combining it with all we know and emerging with this evolving idea of life, how much of that picture is strictly going to be real?

Are we to look on our minds as faithful mirrors, having captured all that’s happened since our arrival on earth? All the lessons of youth and childhood, all the observations and developments of adulthood having lodged themselves up there as a reliable repository of all our knowledge, insight and understanding of “life”. This solid foundation on which to stand, view and judge anything we might encounter.

What if this is a space that contains as many lies as truths? Somewhere full of potentially mistaken lessons or facts that’ve changed so much in the interim that we might be wise to revisit, re-evaluate and revise what we have in mind. After all, how much of what crosses the threshold of our senses each day can truly be trusted? It seems entirely possible that the lion’s share of each day’s intake could quite easily be “lies”.

Not just in the sense of deliberate ones, but also because so much in life is now a convincing illusion: all these misrepresentations of reality in the form of social media, camera angles, make up, after effects, and so forth. Then, all the stories and films that run alongside reality, taking its forms, reworking its events, offering us perspectives we could never hope to have within real life.

Don’t we spend a reasonable amount of time absorbing vivid depictions of something close to reality that’s actually fiction? All these characters and retellings that come to life for us in ways reality itself rarely does: clear storylines with all facts present, if concealed, ready for us to uncover, disentangle and enjoy. This beautiful place where anything can happen and lessons can be learnt out of harm’s way.

The idea of what culture adds to reality seems such a fascinating question (Notes Two). Is this a place that helps us live our lives better through understanding things more clearly, or something to distract us from the humdrum state of existence? Does it help our sense of reality become more true or less so? Maybe we risk becoming desensitised, disinterested or disengaged with life itself.

Does it matter if our minds are so full of convincing, beautiful depictions of something close to reality that we find life itself dull, tiresome and frustratingly unclear? Especially now, when a realistic, constructive understanding and engagement with life seems so important.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Reading between the lines
Note 1: All that we add to neutrality
Note 1: Entertaining ideas & the matter of truth
Note 1: Going towards the unknown
Note 2: What’s the idea with culture?
Note 2: Reading into social realities?
Note 2: Culture as information
Note 2: The stories that we hear

The idea of what we believe and its effect on the lives we share was also part of Making things up as we go along.

Ways to share this:

All that we add to neutrality

In life, how much is anything really neutral? We might say facts and statistics are just that – neutral observations of reality – but aren’t they usually wielded within that reality for a certain purpose? Doesn’t our mind tend to coat them with interpretations, implications or conclusions that, almost immediately, filter back into the world without such a clear sense of neutrality?

Tracking back to the idea of our thoughts, in some way, reflecting reality (Notes One), there seems to be this sense in which we each observe life and take those observations as being, simply, true. Whatever we’ve been told each thing “means” and wherever we’re been told it “stands” within our society becoming what it is, for us, in terms of fact.

Is life that simple? Whatever culture, tradition, education, the media, or everyday life tells us about the artefacts, events, practices, beliefs, and assumptions making up our lives can clearly be seen differently from other perspectives. Yet whatever worldview we inherited or developed for ourselves seems to dictate how we’re seeing each element and the place it’s been assigned (Notes Two).

Aren’t we perhaps “seeing” life through the lens of whatever ideas we’re holding about it? Giving everything its meaning, its significance, its purpose. Stacking everything up in line with the conclusions, justifications and narrative arcs we’ve been told “fit” with the perceptions we’ll make of society. Any given fact potentially being brought in to support any number of agendas or causes.

As if our neutral observation of reality immediately receives this overlay of meaning we’ve learnt to apply to it all. Then, of course, the emotion we have in response – the enjoyment, indignation or despair at our expectations being confirmed, denied or otherwise challenged by the course of events. (Notes Three)

Our view of life naturally containing our own hopes and sense of what’s acceptable, events are rarely neutral in how they almost inevitably suit some while coming at the cost of others. In the give and take of society, maybe nothing’s really neutral in that the world we’re living in shapes everybody’s lives: every word, attitude, choice or policy rippling out with personal and social consequences (Notes Four).

Neutrality may exist in the idealistic world of thought, with all its facts, theories and statistics, but “in reality” it seems that what we make of it – how we respond and apply those ideas – might be the determining factor in whether these things are good or bad. Maybe facts are only part of the picture? The other part being brought to the table by us through what we choose to do and how we bring our ideas to life.

In our relationship to the world and all that’s living within it, maybe the meaning we’re assigning things makes all the difference? As if the thoughts we have in mind alongside the bare facts of existence are the level at which important distinctions are being made – choices that, perhaps, step away from neutrality before feeding back out into our lives.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Ways thought adds spin to life
Note 1: What is real?
Note 2: Culture as information
Note 2: Passing on what’s important
Note 2: The sense of having a worldview
Note 3: Effect, if everything’s a drama
Note 3: We may as well laugh
Note 3: Does anger ever, truly, help?
Note 3: And, how much can we care?
Note 4: Joining the dots
Note 4: Humans, tangled in these systems
Note 4: How important is real life?
Note 4: The difference humanity makes
Note 4: Living as a form of art

Earlier thoughts around the idea of neutrality were also the focus of What’s neutral? back in 2018.

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The stories that we hear

In many ways, don’t the stories we hear shape us? Becoming the characters, events, words, places and moods that populate our inner landscapes of meaning. Drawing us together with those who share our narratives, perhaps having crafted their lives or sense of self around whichever elements resonated most with their own storylines or struggles. (Notes One)

Almost as if these imaginary worlds spun around our heads draw us in to let us become part of them, then blend back into “reality” through our identification with and discussion of them. Becoming part of “our” world through our affinity with and embodiment of them, perhaps? We follow their lead, adopting certain appearances, attitudes, beliefs, assumptions or behaviours based upon the example they’ve offered us.

It’s one of these strange questions: what do we “get” from culture, from the stories it tells us? Is this escapism, as the storyteller weaves the elements of reality into some reassuring, neatly resolved form we can travel along with to a worthwhile destination? Is this a form of education, as we experience versions of life from others perspectives, real or imaginary, by seeing through different eyes? (Notes Two)

If it’s drawing from reality as much as feeding back into it, is this a process of society reflecting upon itself and exploring its options? That we would all contemplate these versions of reality and decide for ourselves which paths we’ll take in response. A sort of digestive process running alongside our collective existence; mulling over the details of our lives to separate the essential from all the rest.

Whether we’re talking about cultural life itself or the more everyday commentary of the media, isn’t it all telling us about our world? Showing us what’s admirable or deplorable; hoping that we’re able to tell the difference. This more or less symbolic overlay that takes the elements of “life” and recasts them in a different light to offer us greater clarity over how to read, evaluate and respond to all we see around us.

And it seems like the ideas we have in mind must make a difference (Notes Three). Don’t we interpret everything we meet in the light of whatever overarching sense of meaning we’ve established so far? The stories of childhood, education, history, culture and everyday life effectively forging some sort of personal picture of what life is, what it means, what matters, how we should approach it, and so forth.

What, then, are those pictures? Between all the voices telling us countless stories over the years, what picture’s that going to have created in each individual’s mind? And, how well are they blending back into reality through the choices we’re making in response? Where earlier societies had fairly consistent, firmly held, closely monitored stories and practices holding them together, we now have such incredible freedom (Notes Four).

If the stories we hear and conclusions we draw from them are serving to inform who and how we are in life, what are we to make of that opportunity?

Notes and References:

Note 1: Stories that bind us
Note 1: Culture as what we relate to
Note 1: Definition, expression & interpretation
Note 1: Living your life through a song
Note 2: What’s the idea with culture?
Note 2: Culture as reflection
Note 3: The sense of having a worldview
Note 3: Culture as information
Note 3: Visual language and spaces
Note 3: Shaping the buildings that shape us
Note 3: Passing on what’s important
Note 4: Making things up as we go along
Note 4: Plato & “The Republic”
Note 4: Culture as a conversation across time

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Visual language and spaces

In life, generally, aren’t we surrounded by constant visual landscapes? All that’s around presenting us with this ongoing play of colours, forms, structures, and the meanings assigned to them. That’s not any kind of revelation – it’s simply the reality of being alive and able to perceive the world around us – but it’s interesting to imagine how our landscapes differ from all that went before.

Looking back to, say, ancient Greece and Rome or an island existence, humans must’ve been surrounded by fairly simple, consistent landscapes. By modern standards, they were presumably quite calm and slow-moving compared with the pace of change and level of stimulation we’re now used to. Everything moving at its own speed, people interacting with it all in ways quite different from our own.

Almost as if “life” is a strange choreography of people moving in space and time to interact with the forms and functions of the society surrounding them – a dance of needs, capacities, tasks, environments, architecture, the trappings of culture, and human existence itself (Notes One). In which case, it’s perhaps not so different from today, only dialled up to a new pace with things taking on new forms.

But what about the meaning we get from it all? How meaningful is much of what surrounds us now? Of course, everything’s meaningful – it all means something, comes from somewhere, designed by someone, aiming to achieve certain ends. If we were to “read” it, everything within our environment would still “say” something about the world we’re living in and how we’re choosing to fill it as human beings.

Now, so much is commercial – our visual landscapes filled with advertising of various kinds. Then, the attempts being made to influence our ideas, decisions, beliefs, attitudes and assumptions. All this effort at filling our minds with new meanings or conclusions to fit one agenda or another. Our attention or acquiescence clearly being a valuable commodity, for whatever reason, within modern life.

What’s it like to be surrounded by visual cues attempting to change your mind, often on subconscious levels? It must be draining and make our minds confusing, unexpected places filled with ideas that aren’t really our own. As if our environment is now, in a way, an assault upon us as people make use of it for various ends. A space filled with subtext, agenda, and hidden messages (Notes Two).

Also, full of personal attempts at letting others know who they’re dealing with – all the ways we craft our own style to communicate who we are to others. All of these individual, cultural statements as we draw references together into whatever image we’re hoping to convey (Notes Three). In terms of homes, cars, belongings, clothing or general demeanour, isn’t our landscape now filled with the deliberate expression of meaning?

There’s no “point” to these musings, though. They’re simply pondering over how much life might’ve changed in this regard and what that might mean for us as the humans trying to live our lives within it all.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Shaping the buildings that shape us
Note 1: How ideas find their place in the world
Note 1: Beauty and wonder in nature
Note 2: The difference humanity makes
Note 2: Attacks on our humanity
Note 2: Which voice can we trust?
Note 3: Meaning in a world of novelty
Note 3: Definition, expression & interpretation
Note 3: Making things up as we go along

Ways to share this:

Navigation, steering & direction

Thinking about the idea that “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”, paraphrased from Lewis Carroll, is it that culture helps us find our way in life? This idea that by exploring representations, depictions or distorted versions of reality we might understand better how to live, what our options are, and where they might lead.

Not, necessarily, to say that culture’s an example we should follow or something to be held up as a form of reality, but that it might be able to help us find our feet in the real world more safely than by simply wandering off track (Notes One). A sort of imaginary place where we can consider our paths, reflect on all the different ways of being human, and decide how best to navigate our own life.

That said, is this how we’re approaching it? As something to reflect upon, weigh up and consider rather than just incorporate wholesale into our way of being. Often, culture seems more like something to laugh about, criticise, deconstruct, feel superior to, or thankful not to be part of. An entertaining, consequence-free, light relief from life itself – somewhere we’re safe to let our guard down and not take things too seriously.

Maybe I’m misreading it, maybe it’s also a place to let our heart wander and find places of belonging we might make part of our soul. Thinking of the many stories that might light our path, inspire us on, and let us feel we’re not alone in our perceptions (Notes Two). A map we’re creating for our own, inner landscape that will help us find our own, unique way through life.

Almost as if these characters, places, events and worlds become a second home – a retreat or sanctuary from life where we might gather our strength, consider our resources, and imagine the kind of person we might hope to be in the world. A place we might come to understand the problems or opportunities we’re facing and consider how to respond for the best. Somewhere we feel our struggles make sense.

It’s just interesting how symbolic we are, how much we read into these stories and relate them to our selves and our surroundings. That this whole imaginary, codified reworking of “reality” into representations of it might somehow be meaningful, inspiring and useful in terms of living our lives in the real world. As if we need the vision, the arc, the themes, the focus, the motivation in order to make sense of it all.

And maybe we do, maybe we truly need some deeper sense of life holding meaning? This idea that there is a map, a direction, a path to take and destination to reach – that it does matter what we do, as much for ourselves as for the world around us (Notes Three). Essentially, perhaps, the beautiful notion that everyone’s journey is important and we all have valuable challenges to meet and contributions to make along the way.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Culture as information
Note 1: What’s the idea with culture?
Note 1: Definition, expression & interpretation
Note 1: Culture as a conversation across time
Note 2: Society that doesn’t deal with the soul
Note 2: Literature that’s treating the soul
Note 2: Making things up as we go along
Note 3: Passing on what’s important
Note 3: How much do intentions matter?
Note 3: Pace of change & getting nowhere fast

Other examples of authors trying to help us find our way was also the focus of Spiritually committed literature.

Ways to share this:

Who we’re listening to

Thinking about how there’s often a backlash when celebrities speak into other areas of life, is it that we feel a boundary’s been crossed? It seems that’s what people are expressing: that they don’t feel these people have “the right” to tell us what to do in other areas than the one for which they’re famous. Which seems quite a nuanced sense of propriety, collective boundaries and entitlement.

As if “fame” is a form of popular vote whereby specific individuals rise to the point of having immense power, influence and wealth. The public, generally enjoying their ability to bring characters to life or convey emotion through song, “votes” through their attention, interest and money to elevate certain people to these positions of prestige within society. A place where they might enjoy all the luxuries afforded to them.

And, of course, we admire them. They have all the things we’re told to aspire to: looks, money, popularity, style, beautiful homes, wonderful lifestyles, all life’s glitz and glamour. After all, isn’t culture the place we’re “told” to admire all these attributes? The code of its narratives generally being that beautiful, wealthy people are better people.

Having risen to prominence in that world, it’s perhaps only to be expected it would engulf them. The cultural world seems like a strange, alternate reality full of people immensely talented at putting on an act and taking us along with it. And that must be valuable to society, given how society’s apparently always “have” a culture – this place where we reflect, explore, imagine, fear, and hope.

That world being quite far removed from “reality”, though, is it that we feel people can’t necessarily just cross over and speak into the realities of our lives? That, their lives being so set apart, it’s not perhaps “fair” for them to tell us how we should see things? How likely are we to share the same concerns, experiences and expectations within everyday life? (Notes One)

It also seems, at times, that we’d “rather” they only address us in the capacity for which they’re famous. As if our “vote” was only cast within that field and, straying from it, people trespass into areas we’ve not granted them. As if we’re happy to listen to what they have to say in a cultural capacity, but speaking on social, economic, personal, moral, or political issues steps over some invisible line.

Are there any such “lines” in modern life, though? Isn’t everything a little blurred now, with various attempts to influence us being made behind the scenes of any given moment. And, how much are “we” respecting any lines going the other way into the lives of celebrities? Aren’t “they” also members of society with many concerns they care deeply for? It must be only natural they’d speak using their own voice too.

It’s just interesting how much people seem to care on both sides; and, how many questions it seems to raise around the power celebrity might wield within complicated social realities.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Complication of being human
Note 1: Which voice can we trust?
Note 1: People, roles, reading that rightly
Note 1: Places of belonging & acceptance
Note 1: True relationship within society?
Note 1: Ideals & the pursuit of them
Note 1: Going towards the unknown

Ways to share this:

Culture as information

To what extent is culture simply information? A set of ideas about how to live, or a reflection of how we are living. Options for how to go about being human that come to life and play themselves out before us; so, hopefully, we can learn from what we see and decide for ourselves the path we’ll, individually, walk through the realities surrounding us.

It seems one way of conceiving of all that’s going on in this realm: a sort of mirror held up to life that shows us what the ideal is and how things are currently looking (Notes One). Perhaps, in the past, people focussed more on the “ideal”? Holding to the notion that there “is” a right way of living and culture’s the place we’re reminded of it. This idea of culture as an authority, an example, a standard, a rebuke.

Now, though, it seems we’ve rejected that perspective. Culture’s seeming more an exploration of “how things are”, with themes emerging about the state of society and choices people are making standing as a strange sort of example for how to live (Notes Two). As if, having discredited any form of authority, we’re now free to choose between all these other things that are offered.

It’s an interesting shift, as the first scenario is clearly quite controlling while the second gives us all an incredible amount of licence. It’s probably not that clean cut, though, there presumably still are sections of society attempting to control, influence or direct what we consider to be our options. Maybe it’s just a little more subtle and understated now.

At one extreme, don’t we find religion? Those stories that serve to shape entire worldviews by placing us all within wider, often cosmic, hidden realities where our choices all count for something. Higher-level beliefs that effectively inform every aspect of how people are living: the practices, values and priorities their lives will likely be structured around. This idea of there being deeper reason behind it all.

Doesn’t what we believe and focus on affect how we live? Shaping how we see people, the kinds of judgements we make, and which options we’ll consider acceptable. Furnishing us with the fundamental ideas, assumptions and attitudes we’re building our lives on each day, as we run all our choices through the filter of how we see things.

In that way, doesn’t culture effectively “inform” our lives? The ideas we entertain or have in mind coming together to form this sense we have of what life “is” and how to approach it – what matters, what doesn’t; which attitudes serve or hold you back; the things your community will judge or admire you over. All these stories generally telling us how we might live and where it might lead.

Where else do we get our ideas from? They presumably have to “come” from somewhere (Notes Three). And, if they’re subtly shaping how we’re responding to the world, this must be quite a powerful force within our lives.

Notes and References:

Note 1: What’s the idea with culture?
Note 1: Culture as a conversation across time
Note 2: Emotion and culture’s realities
Note 2: Any such thing as normal?
Note 2: Involvement in modern culture
Note 3: How ideas find their place in the world
Note 3: Going towards the unknown

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Places of belonging & acceptance

Of all the books in life, perhaps one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read or will read is “Eternal Echoes” by the late John O’Donohue – “Exploring our hunger to belong” and, in doing so, capturing the poetic essence of all it means to be human.

Isn’t it true that “Everyone longs for intimacy and dreams of a nest of belonging in which one is embraced, seen and loved”? Also, that “Each one of us journeys alone into this world – and each one of us carries a unique world within our hearts”? This sense that “Each of us brings something alive in the world that is unique” seems such a beautiful, fundamental truth to keep in mind and somehow build our lives around.

Because, as O’Donohue explored, “Cut off from others, we atrophy and turn in on ourselves… A sense of belonging, however, suggests warmth, understanding and embrace… Our hunger to belong is the longing to bridge the gulf that exists between isolation and intimacy.” I often wonder how many of our personal and collective problems in life are essentially communicative – this struggle to be heard (Notes One).

How can we bring remote, scattered or isolated people into an understanding of “life” that encompasses us all? Now that our systems and travel habits are unquestioningly global – much of what we’re doing impacting so many others across the world – how can we grasp those realities and keep everyone who’s affected by it firmly in mind? It seems what’s required, if we’re to see humanity as one circle of belonging (Notes Two).

As O’Donohue says, in relation to modern life, “Consumerism propels us towards an ever-more lonely and isolated existence” and “although technology pretends to unite us, more often than not all it delivers are simulated images that distance us from our lives.” Written slightly before the dramatic transformation those strands of modernity brought to our lives, it’s fascinating to consider how he might’ve described things today.

Given the many challenges we’re all facing within modern society, it seems so important to grasp the underlying sense of what it is to be human – what we truly need to feel our lives are valued, purposeful, meaningful in the eyes of others. Technology might well make our lives “easier”, but if that’s coming at the cost of true understanding and connectedness it seems a high price to pay (Notes Three).

In reality, every sentence of this book deserves to be quoted; which seems to imply it’s simply a wonderful reflection of the value of our inner lives, the validity of our struggles, and the importance of grasping (and, holding onto) what makes us human. Then, ensuring that those essential qualities aren’t allowed to just be swept away or misdirected within all the fast-moving insistence of modern living (Notes Four).

Seeing life in terms of dislocated souls seeking belonging might make sense of many things; so, I really couldn’t recommend this book more highly for offering a fresh, beautiful, yet powerful perspective on our existence.

Notes and References:

“Eternal Echoes. Exploring our hunger to belong” by John O’Donohue, (Bantam Books, GB), 2000 (originally 1998).

Note 1: Going towards the unknown
Note 1: Does being alone amplify things?
Note 2: True relationship within society?
Note 2: Do we know what stands before us?
Note 2: What it is to be human
Note 3: Trust in technology?
Note 3: The insatiable desire for more
Note 3: Detaching from the world around us
Note 3: Is this the ultimate test?
Note 4: Overwhelm and resignation
Note 4: Society that doesn’t deal with the soul
Note 4: Losing the sense of meaning

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