Walking through a friend's rose garden the other day ... this one opened to greet my lens:
In my in-box this morning, a quote from my friend Liz:
"There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fount of action and joy. It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being, welcoming me tenderly, saluting me with indescribable humility."
I was very struck by
her post; these excerpts in particular - about what it is to be human and what the capacity to language makes possible - feel full of power & potential:
"As humans we are born in the trust of loving and in being loved–within
an ecology of the natural world and within the larger living cosmos."
Love is the legitimate co-arising of the other in the relational space
between us. What we understand as humanness are relations conserved on
and in love over many generations of our co-existence."
"We live in the braiding of emotions and languaging in our manner of
living together. In this coordination through language, certain
consensus or agreements appear as"reality" and the objects we understand as "real" appear.
Words are not trivial - words are the nodes or elements of networks of
conversation. Language is the coordination of doings, not a symbolic
act as we commonly understand it. With one word I can follow one path
and with another a different path. Our languaging distinguishes a way
of inhabiting a human community and culture."
"A person who reflects creates new worlds. All distinctions are made by
an observer. Our capacity for reflection in language is one essence of
our humanness. We are human beings that emerged with the capacity to
reflect in language and conversations and in that we generate worlds."
There are over 60 people in this course, which is organized through a wiki curriculum/schedule and synchronous Elluminate sessions. We've been communicating through mandatory blogs and non-required mailing list conversations, and it's been wild! The content of the course is brilliant, with an excellent reading list, and the interaction with the other students is priceless.
This morning I'm being naughty, and instead of diligently cleaning up the chaotic debris of my over-scheduled past, I'm watching an old American Experience program I'd taped about Ansel Adams.
As is often the case, I found I was completely unaware of the rich historical complexity that created this particular human expression. I learned that Adams was also a pianist who abandoned his musical aspirations for what was to be, as we all know, a meteorific career as a photographer. Apparently, he felt that the life of a successful musician required a more commercially minded and competitive psyche than his was inclined to be. I've always admired his luminous images, but watching this documentary about his life and work gave me a much deeper understanding of his personal philosophy & motivation. This is an excerpt from his 1923 journal written in early summer, long before he was famous:
"I was climbing a long ridge west of Mt. Clark. It was one of those mornings when the sunlight is burnished with a keen wind and long feathers of cloud move in the lofty sky.
The silver light turned every blade of grass and every particle of sand into a luminous metallic splendor. There was nothing however small, that did not clash in the bright wind, that did not send arrows of light through the glassy air. I was suddenly arrested, in the long crunching path of the ridge, by an exceedingly pointed awareness of the light.
The moment I paused, the full impact of the mood was upon me. I saw more clearly than I've ever seen before or since the minute details of the grasses, the small flotsam of the forest, the motion of the high clouds streaming above the peaks. I dreamed that for a moment time stood quiet and the vision became but the shadow of an infinitely greater world and I had within the grasp of consciousness a transcendental experience."
Eight years later, in 1931, he was to say "Photography is really perception" describing his craft as "an austere and blazing poetry of the real".
This fellow had some painful personal knots to unravel between love and passion and loyalty and security, and his journey sent him to the dark night of the soul and back. This excerpt from a letter to his best friend Cedric Wright shares the profound conclusions he came to at the end of that journey - about love, friendship, and most powerfully - art:
"A strange thing happened to me today. I saw a big thundercloud move
down over Half Dome, and it was so big and clear and brilliant that it
made me see many things that were drifting around inside of me; things
that relate to those who are loved and those who are real friends.
the first time I know what love is; what friends are; and what art
should be. Love is a seeking for a way of life; the way that cannot be
followed alone; the resonance of all spiritual and physical
Friendship is another form of love -- more passive perhaps,
but full of the transmitting and acceptances of things like
thunderclouds and grass and the clean granite of reality.
Art is both
love and friendship and understanding: the desire to give. It is not
charity, which is the giving of things. It is more than kindness, which
is the giving of self. It is both the taking and giving of beauty, the
turning out to the light of the inner folds of the awareness of the
spirit. It is a recreation on another plane of the realities of the
world; the tragic and wonderful realities of earth and men, and of all
the interrelations of these."
To my ears, that one line is one of the most insightful statements about art I've ever heard; "It (Art) is both the taking and giving of beauty, the
turning out to the light of the inner folds of the awareness of the
Seth Godin's blog post yesterday was about designing for clarity, but recognizing that you can't always keep it simple enough so that EVERYONE can understand. That's a great thing for me to remember, since I can get myself tied up in knots making things "simple", often to the detriment of my goal!
He made a brilliant observation to that very point - it's better to make it clear how to find help if you're confused than it is to try and make complex things so simple that they lose their innate wonder and mystery:
"Great design is intuitive. Great design eliminates confusion. But
not for everyone, not all the time. The words and interactions you use
often have a sophistication that will confuse some portion of your
Why not consider making it easy for the confused to ask for help?
And treat them with respect when they do. If you don't create a little
confusion, it's unlikely you've built something remarkable."
He goes on to step lightly into the point that what you offer just might not be for everyone, no matter how simple and accessible you make it. What a liberating concept!
I always find Seth Godin to be a great guide for honing the skills of nuanced communication, which is the essence of what it's all about for me.