Time to think...
My husband Michael recently watched a documentary about a flock of starlings in a disused farm barn whose call sounded identical to the sound of a two-stroke tractor engine. After some investigation, the filmmakers discovered a two-stroke tractor buried on the farm... It hadn’t been operational for 30 years.
The starlings had been passing this two-stroke engine sound down for generations. It had become part of this particular flock of starling’s conversational nature of reality. This idea of life as a conversation (which David Whyte speaks of in his TED talk: Life At The Frontier: The Conversational Nature of Reality, TEDex Puget Sound) is something I’ve been playing with for 30 years. Conversations are, by nature, dynamic. But, like the starlings, over time patterns can enter into the life of the conversations we are about ourselves and life, and appear to take on the form of the “way that it is”.
Whenever we are with each other, I like to think of these patterns as a hidden conversation, invisible even to ourselves.
A lot of what is able to emerge in the conversation of each person is shaped by this hidden history, which, when we are listening to each other, we can never know.We are always in conversation with each other. Each human being is a conversation, made up of the assumptions, experiences, beliefs, history and values they’ve been given by generations of parents, grandparents, and their culture.There are also the facts of one’s birth, the racial inheritance you have, the genetic inheritance, the gender inheritance, and all those big societal conversations that shape who we are - all manifesting themselves through us.
Isn’t it fascinating that we wake up on a daily basis and reproduce the “facts” of our lives from the day before. We live through it all over again – often fearful about the assumptions we have taken on, and operating from the kind of thinking that that produces. We carry these conversations with us.
Often when people come together as a set of conversations, we find ourselves operating from a fixed set of conversations having an interaction with another fixed set of conversations. The resulting experience is one of people being like television sets switched on to different channels... We call fact all it is, is people broadcasting at each other.
Most of us like and connect with people broadcasting on a similar enough channel to us, because we find confluence where they are. The people we don’t get on with are the people whose channels are completely different to ours. And here, we get stuck.
Getting unstuck is a choice we need to make: to be able to suspend our attachment to the conversations that already make up who we are, and be able to be open to the conversations that make up that other person.
Levity is a way into and through this aspect of fixation in which we get stuck. Levity means laughter, but also lightness, levitation, the ability to defy gravity. When we notice the conversations that make us up, and choose to take them lightly, the dynamic nature of “life at the frontier” can emerge. This is the gift we can give each other.Another way to get unstuck is through Ease. If every single human being on the planet were able to access ease, even for just a percentage of the day, what an impact that would have.
In the presence of Ease we are able to access whole brain thinking and the brain, as far as we are finding out now, has the capacity to generate and re-generate. It’s not fixed, and the nature of reality is not fixed either.
Thinking, feeling and being are all interconnected; that is the nature of everything. We’re all molecules of energy coalescing, bouncing off, rubbing against and influencing each other.
So this conversational nature of reality has the potential to be completely dynamic and – one could even go so far as to say magical, if one defined magic as ‘the unexpected and sudden birth of ideas’.
Life is cyclical; things are forming, transforming and disappearing all the time. There is no such thing as the way that it is. There is no such thing as the way life is, I am, this is the way that it is.
Transformation occurs in a moment. The German philosopher Heidegger said: “language is the house of being”. As soon as something goes into the eco-systemic conversation making up each individual, and organisation, or society, and changes the way we language ourselves into being, it changes the conversation in that eco-system.
A whole conversation can shift in an instant, and the minute it does a whole world of conversation opens up that we previously could not have.
This is what happens when we generate Incisive Questions for ourselves and others. Incisive Questions challenge the nature of reality.
We get stuck with stories that can, in actual fact, change at any moment. The difference between us and other creatures is that we can choose.
We can make a conscious choice to change the nature of our reality, and we do that through the conversation we choose to be.
Some things are very hard to change. Sometimes we may legitimately choose not to change certain things. It’s valid as a choice, but not as a truth - not as: “this is the way that life is.”
When we choose ‘this is the way that I am, this is the way that life is’, we might be choosing to trap ourselves into a conversation that we say we have no choice about. We do that on an individual level, family level, societal, national and global level.
And yet what really inspires us is when somebody makes a different choice. When we hear a story about someone whose destiny it was, for example, to be trapped in a cycle of poverty and abuse, and they changed that conversation to include the “what if” nature of possibility, then we stand amazed at the potential of the human spirit.