Discover more from Catalyst To Change: Offerings, Gifts, and Invitations
Offerings, Gifts, & Invitations
It's Not All Roses
I look up and notice the sun is shining, and then I hear the hum of my refrigerator. I’ve been at the computer for hours, immersed in writing. I feel the warmth radiating off the heater that sits beside me. I feel like I’m surfacing from another dimension. So many things have been happening around me that I managed to tune out. As I return to the room, I remember it’s Wednesday and notice I’m thirsty. Where did the time go, and how did I get here?
When I hear the word desire, I imagine energy rising. I see a plant reaching up toward the sun, and I see a rose unfurling. The word evokes feelings of excitement, passion, and longing.
Yet, there is another side to desire that isn’t all roses and other contrasting experiences that accompany desire.
Following desire, I am moved to create more. I think less about the usual constraints, instead, I orient to what is possible. Desire becomes my directive, an inspirational light and a vast source of energy and coaxes me forward— one step at a time. Sometimes following desire leads me into spaces that challenge me, to places I’d never choose to occupy.
I’ve been following my desire lately to embark fully into a learning process that will challenge and reshape me. After years of juggling multiple projects, waiting for opportunities and responding to invitations, I craved depth. I wanted to dive deep into something, to be held in a structure of accountability, and to meet my edges.
As I move in this direction, I am directed to complete undesirable tasks. I am invited to create constraints within which I can hone my discipline. This means I have to say no to other possibilities, including things I may desire equally.
I’ve had to create pockets of focus to dive deep. When I find a moment to dive deep, the world goes quiet. In these moments, I find myself alone with articles, authors and ideas in a space transcending time. In this quiet holding space, I feel a craving within me satisfied. I’m nourished by its depth and open up to a sense of thriving that comes to life under the right weight of a challenge.
In these pockets of focus, my attention shines like a spotlight on the task or text before me. It is bright, directional and focused. When my attention moves this way, I notice a wave of calm wash over me. I become absorbed in the task at hand. There’s a quality of contraction and narrowing that defines these moments. I can feel myself stretched and worked in unexpected ways.
The process isn’t always easy or comfortable.
The experience of diving deep contrasts the expansive qualities I enjoy in my life. The part of me that likes to move between multiple projects, to observe my environment, attune to those around me and privileges responsiveness, and seek novelty through external input from the world around me.
The other day when I was out for a walk, between hours of reading and work meetings, I felt a wave of angst wash over me. For a moment, I worried that I was settling, that my world was becoming too narrow, and that, by saying no to some of the many possibilities around me, I would lose touch with the expansive qualities of my life that I hold so dear.
This angst lingered in the air for a few hours, and with it came a feeling of lack. I feared I was missing out on something by choosing to follow a different path.
During these hours, I reflected on the meeting I’d had the day before with my supervisory team. My advisor had begun by telling me that this Ph.D. journey would require me to ‘leave my darlings on the altar of progress’, and ‘that I would need to let go to let come’.
At the time, it sounded ominous. I wasn’t entirely sure what my darlings were.
A few days later, I realized that perhaps being expansive and responsive to what was happening around me had become a darling of mine and that I was more attached to this part of my identity than I’d previously realized.
In Greek mythology, eros, the god of desire, is the child of penia, the goddess of lack and poros, the god of wealth and plenty. Desire, is in essence, born out of lack and the reaching toward a more abundant, vibrant or enriching future. It is eros that moves us forward, and sparks the desire within us to move beyond our current identity and limits.1
Fully following my desire will lead me to face things that I fear. It will bring me to the edges of what I hold dear, ask me to choose how I want to proceed then step beyond them.
At the same time, I am a human, and the journey is a multifaceted process. The path toward what I desire often meanders and brings me to my edges. On different days, this path invites various parts of me forward to take the lead as I move toward the horizon of who I wish to become.
Last week I finally got an office chair that moves. It can spin and rock side to side. The rocking somehow simulates the expansive qualities I hold so dear. It reminds me that I never have to settle fully, even when I am focused and committed to something big and serious.
Maybe I don’t have to set all my darlings down just yet.
What I’m listening to:
On this podcast, Tricia Hersey speaks about the connections between exhaustion and exploitation. She and Ayana, the host of the podcast, unpack some of the systems that benefit by keeping us exhausted and disconnected. Tricia goes on to speak about the ways in which rest is a portal and a third space we can enter. She speaks about the different forms of attention that arise when we allow ourselves to rest and take time away from our social media and other devices. Tricia shares stories from her ancestors, from the traditions of the Black resistance and prophetic dreams.
What I’m reading:
Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy, By James Williams
I read this book in just a few days. It is relatively short and well-written. The subject matter is vital and engaging. Williams describes our current age as ‘the age of attention’. He proposes that attention is the moral issue of our time. In this book, he offers a clear and thorough argument as to why our attention is so valuable and why we must protect it against getting hijacked by apps and other platforms designed to extract our attention. The book offers depth and levity. I would read it a few more times and highly recommend it to anyone interested in attention, human potential and the future.
James Williams worked at Google organizing information. After noticing a deep-rooted experience of being unsettled and distracted on multiple levels, he moved to the UK, attended Oxford and became a philosopher.
As we move through places, these places move through us as well. Each moment is an exchange, we offer something to a place, and this place offers something to us well. Sometimes the exchange is fleeting. Other times it is visceral and lasts for days and even months.
How do you move through the places you visit and inhabit? Do you allow the places you inhabit to move through you?
In April, I’ll be hosting a two part class on place. Together we’ll explore ways of cultivating a dynamic relationship with place, including how our environment can support us in reclaiming our attention and finding moments of rest. We’ll also explore the situated nature of our cognition, how the places around us shape our mind and how our mind extends into the spaces around us.
Early registration discount available till March 15th! Learn more HERE
Simpson, P., & French, R . (Year) Good Works... Or Does It? Negative Capability, Leisure and a Leadership Ethics of Desire. To be published in Business Ethics Quarterly [preprint]. [Accessed 10 November 2022].