Category Archives: Living life to the fullest

The biology of story: Pick up, listen, restore

I spent the weekend in Toronto, Canada at the Canadian Writers’ Summit. Hundreds of writers from across the country gathered at the Harbourfront Centre to share ideas, learn from each other and evolve as writers.

Are you surprised I chose to attend a session entitled “The Biology of Story”? 

At the session, Amnon Buchbinder, associate professor of screenwriting at York University, talked about the “interactive documentary” he created to explore the idea of stories as living things.

Buchbinder’s documentary, found at www.biologyofstory.com, outlines three principles.

1. A story is a living thing

“A story will choose to be with you, but you have to choose to pick up the story.” —Nigaan James Sinclair

If you want to drive a writer crazy, ask them, “Where do you get your ideas?” You might hear something like “Out of the clear blue sky.” Perhaps it’s a matter of writers choosing to pick up the stories—those living beings—that come to them.

Watch: Stories are living beings. Period

2. Living is a story thing.

“Listen and you will see your own story will speak to you.” —Jean Pierre Makosso

Do you drift aimlessly from one event to another in your life? Are you listening for what your story—living being that it is—has to tell you?

Watch: Listen and your story will speak to you.

3. Not all narratives are stories.

“A real story is the possibility of restoring the world.” —Deena Metzger

Buchbinder writes: “We live in a world crowded with narratives. Many of them lack key properties of story. This accounts for the lifeless and/or destructive forms that some narratives take.”

Watch: Stories are about wholeness

Buchbinder’s documentary encourages us to pick up the stories that come to us, to listen for what our own stories have to say, and to work with those stories to restore the world.

I just sent you a story. Pick it up, listen, restore. 

Everything is exactly right: Replacing Hope with Faith

“Hope is a beggar.” —Jim Carrey

Take a moment and place yourself in a state of Hope. Think of something you wish for, something you would like to see happen. How do you feel?

Now take a moment to place yourself in a state of Faith. Think that everything around you is exactly as it should be for you to build toward what is next. How do you feel?

Hope says: “What’s happening now is not good enough.”

Faith tells you: “What’s happening now is exactly right.”

Hope is unfulfilled yearning. Faith is purposeful acceptance.

In Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t, Jim Collins writes about the Stockdale Paradox. The name comes from Jim Stockdale, who survived eight years in a Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp. Admiral Stockdale made it home, but many didn’t. When asked, who didn’t make it back he replied, “Oh, that’s easy. The optimists.”

The ones who looked to hope to solve their problems, the people who did not face the brutal facts of their reality didn’t make it. Stockdale said:

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Hope sees only that which is unfulfilled. Faith accepts the now as leading to the best “what’s next.”

May you have a faith-filled day.

 

Zero: Nothing and everything

“Zero gets to represent something and nothing” —from The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music by Victor L. Wooten

zeroVictor Wooten’s fantastic book leads me to write about zero.

Zero means nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zippo.

Place it to the right of the number 1 though, and all of a sudden you have ten times that number. The zero magically creates something more.  Keep adding zeroes and you can create all the way up to . . . infinity.

Nothingness used to create infinity. Huh. Sounds sort of God-like to me.

Something to ponder.

“Zero is like space. . . . A scientist looks close enough at an atom and what does he find? Space! . . . Space can be seen as the birthplace of all things.”

_________________

newcover_250-70

 

I recommend The Music Lesson. Reading that will make you think!

 

 

When home is a vacation

Not so long ago on the day when spring arrived in our city on cat feet, we convened on our front porch to savour the warming breezes. After a suitably reflective time spent surveying our awakening gardens and our peaceful neighbourhood, my husband said, “If we won a lottery and had millions of dollars, this is still exactly where I would want to be.”

What an immeasurable fortune—a life crafted such that no amount of money could make the foundations of it any finer.

This weekend—a long Victoria Day holiday weekend here in Ontario, Canada—my friend Stephen posted this picture on Facebook with the caption “Weekend getaway spot.” When I saw the caption I wondered, “Where is Stephen off to now?” (He travels quite a lot.) I smiled when I recognized the photo as the view of his own background with parkland and a gently murmuring creek beyond.

weekend-getaway

Weekend getaway spot

What an immeasurable fortune he has created for himself and his family. If he had all the money in the world, he would still be happiest right where he is, with the ones he cherishes around him.

My friend Jean spent the long weekend savouring the beauties of her garden in British Columbia, Canada. She posted the photos of her exploding blossoms on her blog page at Poetry to Inspire.

What an immeasurable fortune of natural beauty. If she had all the money in the world, it could not buy her more pleasure than she derives from nature bursting forth.

Speaking of nature bursting forth, we spent some time this long weekend enjoying the Canadian Tulip Festival in my home (vacation) city of Ottawa, Canada.

I am totally in love with the Canada 150 tulip.

I am totally in love with the Canada 150 tulip.

tulip-festival-ottawa

Beds of tulips beside Dow’s Lake

There is something grounding, centering and reassuring about a festival that celebrates a flower for simply being what it is. The tulips bloom because they cannot help to do so, and we stand back in awe. The tulips don’t have to try, or dress themselves up, or pretend. (The Kardashians could learn from this.)

You know you have done some things right, made quality choices and gravitated toward the positive in life when your home is a favoured vacation spot, and when you know you are exactly where you’re supposed to be. 

____________

apple-blossom2

Beautiful, because they can’t be anything else

Send a postcard to yourself, and enjoy Willow Marie’s poetic meditation on being present.  Postcard: a meditation

apple-blossoms

It’s also a pink and purple apple blossom world in Ottawa, Canada now.

 

Like magic, our stories turn something into nothing and nothing into something

There’s a piece of paper on my desk. It measures 2 inches x 3 inches.

Is it valuable, do you think?

Let me tell you more. It has a bar code below the words “Cineplex Cinemas: Admit One. Present this ticket to a cashier to exchange for one admission ticket.”

What do you think now? Is it valuable?

But wait. There is more. “Expiration: April 30, 2016”

So, not so valuable after all.

For a moment, you and I could both believe that a mere piece of paper had power. I could take it in my hand and go places where others could not so easily go. Then, in a magical kind of way, the same piece of paper instantly became worthless recycling.

Nothing physical about the item changed, but the power it held dissipated into the ether. The science remained the same, but the story changed. Like magic.

When my kids were little, they became quite upset when they got “jinxed” by friends; they bought into the “jinx” story. I said to them, “You can only be jinxed if you choose to be jinxed.” They didn’t believe that though, because the stories of friends hold more power for children than a mother’s thoughts on the matter.

The power doesn’t exist in the object or the words, it comes from us. We choose to give it to them.

Everyone has objects to which they transfer their power: sports memorabilia, Beatles artifacts, paintings. The sticky point is: not everyone buys into the same stories. A World Series home run baseball is only valuable to people who don’t say, “Baseball? Who cares?” Beatles memorabilia only counts to those who don’t dismiss them as overrated. How about a painting like “Voice of Fire.” Is it worth 1.8 million dollars to you?

For Roman Catholics the consecrated hosts and wine of communion are much more than bread and wine. Scientific-minded sorts scoff at this. They don’t buy into the commonly accepted story. Those same scientists use money every day, so apparently they readily accept some forms of magic, but not others.

Money is big magic. If I want to go to see a movie—now that we’ve all agreed that my coupon piece of paper is not magical—I have an alternative. I can pull other magical pieces of paper out of my wallet, hand over an agreed number to the theatre and happily enjoy the film.

Of course, it depends which city I’m in at the time. If I were to pull out colourful Canadian pieces of paper at a movie theatre in an American city, they would be viewed with derision. Our paper is not so magical in the US.

The paper itself doesn’t change, but as soon as our car drives across an imaginary, magical line the story does. (Or in the case of our wonderful Canadian money, the polymer doesn’t change, but the story does. We really do have some of the finest money in the world.)

Commonly accepted stories help our society to function. If we all accept the story that red means stop and green means go at a traffic light, we prevent accidents. If we buy into the story of concert tickets, we avoid stampedes at Paul MCartney concert hall doors. (The Beatles are definitely NOT overrated.)

Beyond that, we have to recognize the stories for what they are and choose to delegate our power carefully. I’ll keep this Steve Rogers baseball on display because I love it, but you can bet that I won’t be bidding on “Voice of Fire” any time soon.

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A faith-full Frisbee

frisbeeToday, my eye falls upon a Frisbee—upside-down, silent, waiting—on my family room floor.

I contemplate the restful disc and imagine it cutting through the air—on the air—in a free, arching flight that captures natural forces, submits to them.

It’s beauty. It’s science. Beautiful science. 

The Frisbee needs a hand to set it in motion, otherwise the object at rest would stay at rest. It must have help. It cannot do it alone. When a hand hurls it, the aerodynamic forces of lift and drag, high pressure, low pressure, and spin come into play. The Frisbee soars, graceful in its fulfillment of purpose. The flight doesn’t last forever though. Gravity insists it must land, so the Frisbee touches down to a place of rest once again.

My Frisbee is purpose-built to fly, but that same Frisbee has also served as a doggie water bowl on car trips.  Another Frisbee that hangs on my office wall is a messenger; its happy face brings me a message of joy every day. Frisbees might be built to fly, but they can do other things too.

happy-face-frisbee

And they come in all different sizes, shapes and colours. Some are ring-shaped. Others are even flat and collapsible for ease of travel.

collapsible frisbee

What can we learn from my upside-down Frisbee? 

Maybe we can learn to submit to our beautiful science, the science that says we need a hand to set us in motion. Maybe we can learn to expect and accept that helping hand. Maybe we can learn to capture the forces that surround us and submit to them so we soar gracefully in our fulfillment of purpose. Maybe we can learn to enjoy the flight while it’s happening, and be present in it. Maybe we can learn that we, too, must land. We can’t fly ALL the time. Maybe we can learn that landing isn’t just acceptable; it’s desirable. Maybe we can learn that landing doesn’t make the flight any less meaningful. The landing and the lying around waiting for the hand to set us in motion once again is as natural and acceptable and beautiful and scientific as a soaring flight. Maybe we can learn to enjoy that landing and be present in it.

Maybe we can learn that we are purpose-built, crafted to fulfill a certain function, but that we can do other things too. Maybe we can be messengers to brighten someone’s day.

Maybe we can learn to appreciate all the different sizes, shapes and colours of each other.

Today, my Frisbee didn’t soar through the air on an arching path, but it did travel through the air in a different way—through me, to you, to give us all something to think about.

Now that’s one faith-full purpose I’ll bet the Frisbee didn’t foresee. Maybe we can learn from that beautiful science?

____________

Read about the science of Frisbee flight at Scientific American“Soaring Science: The Aerodynamics of Flying a Frisbee”

 

 

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