Gray Spotting

Searching for meaning between the lines
You’re exceptionalYou deserve exemplaryYou’ve…

You’re exceptionalYou deserve exemplaryYou’ve…

Tough #YVR winter  (at Vancouver 2010 Olympic Cauldron)

Tough #YVR winter (at Vancouver 2010 Olympic Cauldron)

River glistens  (at Riverfront Park)

River glistens (at Riverfront Park)

Exhausted grey day.

Exhausted grey day.

Night lights

Night lights

The days of wired talk (at Museum of Vancouver)

The days of wired talk (at Museum of Vancouver)

A Summer Quest: Curiosity & Questions

Like that little boy on Christmas Eve bursting with anticipation and exuberance, I know the gift will soon in my grasp. The great unknown is having no idea how amazing this gift is going to be.

Pack light, only the bare necessities needed. Pack for class, pens, paper, electronics, homework reading prep done, a few extras like more reading material than time will permit perusing. Shades on, road tunes ready, seat belt fastened, and the Quest begins. Blue skies, sunshine, temperature just right (not quite in the mid 20’s), traversing the vistas and breathtaking corridor only Sea to Sky country provides, the gift is barely an hour from reach. No rush, and no excessive speeds either.

Of course I’m early.What kid wasn’t up well before dawn on Christmas morning? This was no different. It’s postcard like day. A serene Sunday afternoon is all around me as I wheel into the arrival lot.  Young Brad’s welcome is as warm as the day. With keys and introduction package in hand, it’s official, I’m starting the first of my four days and three nights at Quest University’s, Adult Summer Program. It’s like I’m just opening the card on my gift.

Vancouver, you’re my city, but it’s nice having you temporarily behind me. There’s a different rhythm playing on this campus poised above Squamish. It’s an easy rhythm to get with. For a moment I’m thinking John Lennon was right, because “instant karma” you’ve got me. It didn’t even need to hit me in the head. The residence while spartan, is functional and inviting. The huge balcony was the perfect home for the big comfy chair, and a book deserving some attention. Peace, quiet, and lost in thoughts. Priceless. I’ve barely removed the bow.

It’s Sunday night dinner where some of the tape starts getting peeled from the wrapping paper. Melanie Koenderman (Dean of Students) with “a little help from her friends” prepare a feast. Healthy, it’s an oh so BC fare (with salmon leading the way, … nom, nom) we nourish brains, bodies, and souls. Considering what’s ahead, it’s perfect fuel. Food aside, the room was electric, a real palpable sense of excitement. While there is a connection between a sense of peace with the place we are present; the connection of people with their place is also really cool, visiting from places like Hearst, Ontario; Quebec; New Orleans; Colorado; Seattle; London (England); and Toronto; it’s connecting and talking with people beginning this quest where the sense of real purpose and meaning begins playing out.

This is a people experience, but what’s most precious for me is the learning experience. Monday morning 9:00am I’m diving in head first without checking the waters depth choosing “Infinity, Certainty and Knowledge” with Ryan Derby-Talbot facilitating. Mathematics, what am I thinking? Never my strong suit is the polite way of saying that my true math acumen exists somewhere on the plane between abject failure and total misery. A quick survey of my seven classmates is quick reassurance that I’m not alone. I have this momentary thought of Ryan pondering; “what was I thinking when signing up to teach this?”

Unfortunately reality imposes and I’m missing the final two days of class. Too bad teleportation doesn’t exist. The gift now out of it’s box is being blown away by three days of thinking about thinking. For three hours a day we ask questions about a world some of us see through a very opaque lens. It’s a world that’s always been here, but can be so difficult to see. Through Ryan Derby-Talbot’s gift to question, communicate and lead with genuine enthusiasm and passion this world comes into a focus like I’ve never seen it before. Amazing is being understated. Completely grateful is 100% genuine.

Every person I speak with insists their class is the best. It’s true. There’s nothing average about this Quest. There’s nothing average about a single person at Quest University. That’s because genuine enthusiasm and passion aren’t average qualities. At it’s core, Quest University’s real “magic” is the commitment to community. Transcending this from a thought, into words, and ultimately into deeds isn’t easy. If it was easy, the world would be full of dynamic and flourishing communities. In a great community everyone knows the meaning of accountability and ownership. They live it.

This summer program is called ”Renew Your Quest”, and more than a renewal it’s rejuvenating. I feel at home. It’s a special gift to be at one with a place and people where curiosity and big questions fill the mind, body, and soul.

There’s no end to this Quest. It’s insatiable. For the Summer of 2014 I’m all in!

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Friedrich Nietzsche


View from my deck. It’s been quite the experience for Day 1 at Quest University “summer camp”.  Three hours with 7 classmates in math class… This non-math nerd found it a blast! Working with Euclid’s theorem that the list of prime numbers is infinite was an interesting exercise.
Afternoon activity included axe throwing and learning about logger sports in Squamish. The BBQ was most tasty too. Evening walk soon, a little schmoozing and get ready to “rinse & repeat” for what promises to be an engaging Day 2.

View from my deck.
It’s been quite the experience for Day 1 at Quest University “summer camp”.
Three hours with 7 classmates in math class… This non-math nerd found it a blast! Working with Euclid’s theorem that the list of prime numbers is infinite was an interesting exercise.

Afternoon activity included axe throwing and learning about logger sports in Squamish. The BBQ was most tasty too.
Evening walk soon, a little schmoozing and get ready to “rinse & repeat” for what promises to be an engaging Day 2.

Creativity is Purpose.

The painter has the Universe in his mind and hands.” ― Leonardo da Vinci

What were they thinking? As the first strokes passed over that course rock face, what was on their minds when they painted on those cave walls? Were these 40,000 year old representations of a real or an imaginary world? Is this our first glimpses into creativity? Surviving is a creative act. Creativity could well be a core human purpose for being.

Creativity refers to the phenomenon whereby something new is created which has some kind of subjective value (such as a joke, a literary work, a painting or musical composition, a solution, an invention etc.). It is also the qualitative impetus behind any given act of creation, and it is generally perceived to be associated with intelligence and cognition.”

It’s suggested the first known use of the word “creativity”, dates to 1875. One can argue we had countless amazing acts of creativity before then. Prior to the Age of Enlightenment, it was largely believed that higher powers were responsible for fostering the imagination. Creativity was the act of channeling the muses, or giving voice to the gods. Inspiration is the popular attribute given writers, artists, and builders before creativity found it’s place in our lexicon.

Creativity is the intersection with inspiration. Consider Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s quote from, The Little Prince: “A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.” Inspiration was frequently about communicating and creating a message or vision of a higher purpose. While there is no shortage of praise or glory for Gods or the rulers of men; there’s also no shortage of creative dissent or questioning our Gods and rulers power over man. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is an exquisite example of early satire and parody. He’s successfully mocking both the court and the church. More impressively didn’t lose his head doing so.

Yet today so much talk about creativity is connected with innovation. For instance in Jonah Lerner’s article “How to be Creative” he offers the example that “Steve Jobs famously declared that “creativity is just connecting things.” Although we think of inventors as dreaming up breakthroughs out of thin air, Mr. Jobs was pointing out that even the most far-fetched concepts are usually just new combinations of stuff that already exists. Under Mr. Jobs’s leadership, for instance, Apple didn’t invent MP3 players or tablet computers—the company just made them better, adding design features that were new to the product category.”

We now have a cult of creative celebrities. How is the celebration of stuff over substance supposed to be fulfilling? As Lerner points out though, “there is nothing fun about this kind of creativity, which consists mostly of sweat and failure. It’s the red pen on the page and the discarded sketch, the trashed prototype and the failed first draft. Nietzsche referred to this as the “rejecting process,” noting that while creators like to brag about their big epiphanies, their everyday reality was much less romantic. “All great artists and thinkers are great workers,” he wrote.”

Creativity is so much more than rolling out a cool new consumer device, celebrating the millions of engaged users on Pinterest, or the next incarnation of Angry Birds. Creativity isn’t just about innovation and new products. Creativity is about words, thoughts, inspiration, and mobilizing them into deeds that will enhance, empower, and improve the human experience. It’s about the brush strokes on every imaginable canvas, and frames of film communicating why, what if, maybe… a world of possibilities and potential.

To create is to communicate a vision of the world real or imagined. To create is to communicate the unseen into the seen, the unknowable into the knowable. It’s the realization of the imagination. Creativity is about interpreting experiences for yourself and disregarding the interpretations of past thinkers. Creativity is learning how to look at things in different ways and using different ways of thinking. It’s connecting purpose to meaning. It’s firmly connected to happiness. Creativity is about making you happy. It could well influence a great collective happiness. Now is as good as time as ever to get creating. What’s stopping you?

“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will”George Bernard Shaw

The Perfect Couple. A Perfectly Cruel Place

They really were the perfect couple. Just not officially betrothed. Together they wreaked more havoc than their four horsemen brethren. Misery was the body blow. Torment was the head shot. With no more to give, and realizing no more could be taken they found the door.

Even when Misery and Torment flipped the bird and flipped off the light, that empty windowless room wasn’t completely devoid of light. It just seemed so.

Bleeding out in darkness is good. You can’t see the size of the wounds. You can’t even see how big the puddles of fluid are. You can just lay there and ooze. You can just wallow and lie. Replay lies. The darkness is a good place to feel sorry for yourself. No one can see the sorry excuse you’ve become.

You let Misery and Torment in. You can only blame yourself for letting them stay so long. Funny thing is how they blame you for having nothing left to give. Funnier thing is that Misery and Torment were happiest finding the door on their own. Guess there was a sense of victory surveying the carnage wrought.

The bleeding stops. The real pain ends. It’s the phantom pain that hangs on. The imagination, and replaying of all those lies keeps the pain feeling real. There’s medication for that. The darkness is the best place to medicate too. No one else knows your prescription. No one else controls your dose. In the darkness no one sees the emptiness. In the darkness you can’t see through the emptiness. You can only feel it. Enough medication eventually removes that feeling too.

Misery and Torment didn’t chain and padlock the door. Only closed it. Not quite airtight. You can still breath. Barely.  Bottom isn’t a soft landing. Eventually the hardness forces you to face the door. It’s allowing yourself the will to grope around in the darkness. It’s about getting a handle. Strain and you’ll even see a sliver of light. Even in complete incoherence, faith has potentiality.

Wallowing is weak. Blind faith in others is weaker. Having no will to power yourself is the weakest. This space offers two choices. Dark or light. Bottom isn’t middle ground. No shades of grey for mental camouflage. Gripped by misery and torment, or the embrace of faith and will. Choose. Them or You.

Stand up, move forward or wallow and stay fetal. The light burns at first, but bottom sores fester and rot. Misery and Torment thrive in rotting knowledge. Misery and Torment are my ex’s; spouse and a business co-founder. They’re excuses.

The ex’s are out, but it took some wallowing time before quitting on the excuses. I finally quit on them. The perfect couple now occupy their own perfectly cruel place.

Excuse free. Clarity found. Clarity is purpose of decisions. Purpose with clarity of meaning.  With weightless purpose now moving effortlessly through the dark, the light, the grey, Misery and Torment free. No fear, only faith and will. Goodness, Meaning, Happiness.