Stories of camels and sparkling eyes


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I am growing to love the time between Christmas and New Year. Not so long ago, I looked forward to those days between Christmas and New Year when the office was open, and I could convince myself that I definitely needed to go in and catch-up on work. As we grow older, and hopefully a little wiser, we begin to appreciate and cherish the quiet times, whether we spend them with our families or in quiet contemplation – or something in between.

Whilst I am not the most dedicated user of all social media (I can’t bring myself to l share my daily experiences on facebook) I am totally enthralled by following the tweets and blogs of those I admire, both in a professional and personal context. This last week therefore has been a combination of family celebration, quiet moments, and lots of (on and offline) reading and video watching.

As the year has come to an end I have been particularly struck by the extent to which many people are aware of significant changes happening in the world at large and in more personal ways. I’m old enough to remember 5th Dimension’s ” Age of Aquarius” from the 60s, and some of my friends (who know more about such things than I) suggest we are in a period of transition to more enlightened times. In as much as it seems to be part of the human condition to feel discomfort with change, it seems probable that we are in for a bit more of a bumpy ride on our way to something better.
There seem already many signs of a move away from rampant consumerism, towards a more understanding way of responding to the world. Trendwatching refer to some of these under their trend of “Generation G” (which formerly may have referred to greed, but now covers a movement towards increased ‘generosity’). As they observe, our desire for companies to care more…
beautifully coincides with the ongoing (and pre-recession) emergence of an online-fueled culture of individuals who share, give, engage, create and collaborate in large numbers”.

The sharing and giving nature of much of the web enables us to continually find sources of inspiration and stimulation. In that spirit, here are few things that I have inspired by the last (reflective) week.
The first ones come from the ever fascinating and challenging TED conference videos.

William Ury, whose main work is helping to resolve conflicts (and he’s been involved in most of the major ones of the last 25 years), demonstrates that ‘the secret to peace is us’ and that we all have a responsibility, as he says, as representatives of ‘the third side’ to contribute to the process of reconciliation. He calls on us all to help find and bring “the 18th camel” to the world’s many difficult situations.

World famous conductor, Benjamin Zander, humorously shows us, through the vehicle of a Chopin Prelude, that by seeing individual experiences in the context of a broader vision we can more fully experience them. He also encourages us to believe that we all have the ability to awaken possibilities in others – to do something that makes others eyes shine. This ability comes with a responsibility to regularly ask ourselves “who am I being” (in this situation, and what is the effect on others around me?)

His Holiness the Karmapa
is definitely a man with shining eyes. He reminds us that whilst continual technological advances connect us with an almost infinite amount of information, from the political to the personal, each of us has a responsibility to pay attention to that information an allow it to make a change in our heart and make our motivations more sincere.

Each of these talks I think provide pieces of a puzzle that makes up each of our lives. Maybe we think that we are all solving different puzzles with different shaped pieces, but perhaps all our solved puzzles end up being the same picture, whilst at the same time being part of a bigger one.

Then I read a book that the tweet from Paul Isakson (of one of the planners I follow) pointed me towards. “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” by Donald Miller, which is a must read for anyone who feels affected or unsettled by any of the ‘changes’ referred to earlier. It has reminded me that each of our lives is a story, and whether it’s a story worth telling is up to each of us.

Donald Miller points out that it’s not just that we should react positively and generously to situations and opportunities in our lives, but whether we search out, or create and develop such opportunities. Miller observes:

“we live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn’t mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It’s a good calling, then, to speak a better story. How brightly a better story shines. How easily the world looks to it in wonder. How grateful we are to hear these stories, and how happy it makes us to repeat them.”

Paul has been inspired to put together a presentation on this here. Whilst the book is inspiring in a reflective sort of way, Paul’s slides are a call to arms. I urge you to read both.

The stories that William Ury, Benjamin Zander and the Karmapa are telling are worth hearing and re-telling.

Perhaps the choices we make, and the events we are a part of or create, are both episodes in the chapters of our stories, and the puzzle pieces. In the same way we have the choice as to what story our lives tell, we also have a choice as to which pieces of the puzzle we pick up, and which one’s we shape ourselves. Maybe the puzzle we are trying to solve is someone else’s picture of our life.

Puzzles are easier to solve if we can make our own pieces to complete them, and maybe that is what Donald Miller is calling us to do. But it seems to me, we have to be open to the possibility that these new pieces, which are hearts tell us are a vital part of the solution, may not create the picture we had in our mind when we started.

I for one am eager to find out.

Wish me luck.

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