Life of Awe

Focus on What “You Can Do” and Do It!

May 27, 2017 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

“Focus on what you have and what you can do instead of what you don’t have and can’t do.” Phil Keoghan on Tim Ferriss Podcast

Two phrases drive me nuts, “When I get… then I’ll…” and “If only…” Both focus on what you do not have. And you just might wait a lifetime to get that thing or person you are convinced will fill your life, only to discover that person or thing turns out to be a huge disappointment.
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When Not to “Measure” Effectiveness

May 6, 2017 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

Is it possible to live our day—to embrace our day—without measuring?

The Proverb says, “There is a time for everything.” I would include measurement. In certain projects measurement is a critical means to complete a task. In certain personal categories, like finances, measurement is also essential.
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Comfort and Fun: Do Your Goals Include Them?

March 18, 2017 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments
  1. Do you know what I fear right now? I fear the urban citizens of America have become largely producing and errand-running machines. As a result we don’t have time for things that really matter. The days of Thoreau at Walden, alone pondering and wondering and appreciating, or the passing observations of Walter Berry or Mary Oliver or Naomi Shahib Nye are gone or slipping away.
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The Myth of Authenticity

January 28, 2017 by Charlie Hedges − 3 Comments

Authenticity. How did authenticity ever become such desirable character quality in our social basket of personality traits? Truthfully, I’m thinking that authenticity is a farce, a myth.

Does Authenticity Even Exist?

First of all, I don’t even know what it means. Like not being “authentic” means we are pretending to be someone else? Well, here’s some disturbing news: we are always pretending. We “pretend” to be a certain person at our job, another person as a parent, another as a friend, and yet another as a close friend. And then a whole different person as a partner or spouse.

Second, I am not convinced we ever really know who we are in the depths of our psyche or personality. I frequently remind people not to judge another person’s motives when we are not even sure of our own. I can’t speak for you, but for me, I am always changing—outside and inside. Things I once believed strongly, I no longer believe at all now and have been replaced oftentimes by their polar opposites.

Authenticity Requires Acute Self Knowledge

Maria Popova wrote, “…we live much of our lives lost within our own psyches, confused and conflicted about what we really want.” And I would add that we are equally confused and conflicted about “who we are.”

So, where in this do we find authenticity? Because, at any given moment, I am authentically different than I was just a day ago.

Perhaps being authentic is “to thine own self be true.” I can buy that one, except with the caveat that “my own self” is a moving target or as Maria Popova put it, “confused and conflicted.”

However, it is a worthy goal to attempt to uncover thine own self. We call this self-awareness. We are each branded with a certain set of deeply ingrained values that drive our everyday thinking and doing. For instance, I must have independence and freedom. I require an inordinate amount of alone time to think and read and write and paint. (Yet, I love engaging with good friends.) And I must be ever filling my insatiable curiosity about life.

Authenticity and Personal Values

Is living according to those values what it means to be authentic, then okay… I guess. What choice do I have? Perhaps there are two “unauthentic” choices: to deny myself my values (which I must sometimes do for the love of others) or to live with the option of constantly trying to please others.

Both are problematic and yet, sometimes necessary as members of society or a family. Or are they? Is it okay if being true to yourself causes great pain to others and yourself? To which I would answer, sometimes yes and sometimes no. (Boy, I’m a big help!)

The tricky issue is being fully assured of what you want according to your so-called values. World-class author Rebecca Solnit wrote, “The things we want are [life-changing], and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that [life-change].”

Like my friend Melanie in Stockholm told me, “The grass is not always greener on the other side, especially if you are watering the grass on this side.” I’m not just referring to relationships but all decisions we make, even like buying a new car.

Now, back to authenticity. I still don’t know what it means. Most of the time whatever I am doing is the authentic me… at that particular time. Hmmm.

“To Thine Own Self Be True”

Unless You’re Not Sure Who Thine Own Self Is

Photo courtesy of amazingmikael at istockphoto

You Are What You Tell Yourself You Are

December 23, 2016 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

“I saw a man that always worked hard / but was never satisfied with what he had. He never asked himself, “For whom am I working so hard? / Why don’t I let myself enjoy life?” / This is very sad.”   Qohelet

You are what you tell yourself you are.” Yes, a “good life” is a choice, especially in periods of ordinariness…
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Outgrowing Orthodoxy

December 9, 2016 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

“The more the therapist is able to tolerate the anxiety of not knowing, the less need there is for the therapist to embrace orthodoxy. The creative members of an orthodoxy, any orthodoxy, ultimately outgrow their disciplines.” Irvin Yalom, Love’s Executioner

From science to religion, every discipline observes its own practice of orthodoxy. And within that orthodoxy is found the opportunity for the birth of fundamentalists—those who follow the practices without question, which is fine except when they expect others to obey the fundamentals of that orthodoxy as well.

When Orthodoxy Isn’t Enough

There is most definitely a place for orthodoxy. It serves as a fundamental basis for any science, art or religion. But, as Yalom suggests, there are the creative ones that come to a point where the orthodoxy no longer serves their needs. Something new is required.

Just think of Copernicus, Einstein, and Picasso. Each practiced their orthodoxy until new information led them down a path to expand the orthodoxy without actually destroying the fundamental beliefs of their discipline. Did God die when Copernicus claimed the earth was not the center of the universe? No. Or did scientific theory suffer when Einstein proposed an entirely new relationship between mass and energy? Nope.

How about Picasso? A couple years ago I visited the Picasso museum in his hometown, Barcelona. I was shocked when I saw the paintings of a 13-year-old Picasso—amazing museum pieces rivaling the best of the realists. Cubism wasn’t even in his mind. He was an extraordinarily gifted painter painting in the orthodoxy of his time.

And then… after the passing of years, orthodoxy could no longer represent the images in Picasso’s mind. He had to cross the lines of orthodoxy—radically—to create a form called Cubism that many appreciate and few really understand. The bane of genius.

Journeyman or Master?

I’ve read of the path of the apprentice to the journeyman to the master. The apprentice and journeyman follow the rules exactly, memorize them, apply them, and then judge the value of their work according to these accepted rules. But then there come the few, the masters, who still apply the basic fundamentals but with new, exciting and beneficial results.

Never before in history have we experienced a time when orthodoxy in many disciplines actually impairs invention: artificial intelligence, virtual reality, autonomous vehicles, and robots, just to name the obvious.

What Serves the Need Best?

Yes, “the times they are a-changin’”. Orthodoxies of the past will require not so much a change as a “re-nuancing.” The fundamentals will most likely remain the fundamentals… except when they no longer serve the needs they were intended for.

Outgrowing Orthodoxy

Is Like Peeking Through the Bottom of a Blindfold

Photo courtesy of valentinrussanovat istockphoto

Loitering in the Moment

December 1, 2016 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

On a recent podcast my friend Terry Hershey suggested an antidote to our hectic and demanding days is to spend a bit of time “Loitering in the Moment.” No agenda or objectives; no one with demands on our time; no to-do lists; no places we “have to be.”

Monkey Minds

Like the old saying, “Wherever you are, be all there,” it sounds heavenly but in truth it is one of the most difficult assignments we can adopt, especially for those of us with monkey-minds continually swinging from one idea to another like monkeys in trees.

I’ve been meditating for 20 minutes in the morning (about 5 days each week) for a couple years now. Yikes. It is still sooo hard to quiet my busy brain. I am much better than I was, but not without applying every tool and technique I have learned or devised.

When Nuthin is Somethin

Part of my problem is that I love to think. Yea. Just sit and ponder an idea or “new notion.” That is until that new notion becomes another new notion and then another and another. Monkey-mind takes over my pleasant time of reflection eventually resulting in some form of desire do something, go somewhere, or buy some new toy.

I’m not very good at loitering. Consequently I suffer some form of anxiety disorder. My lists get longer and “needs” increase. Within a very few minutes I feel as if I am wasting my time loitering when I should be do something—even if that something is essentially of no importance.

So what do I do? Shoot, I have no idea because I should be doing “nuthin.”

Try Loitering in the Moment

And Allow Nothing to be Something


Photo courtesy of Kontrec at istockphoto

The Pleasure of “Finding Things Out”

October 6, 2016 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

“It is imperative,” wrote Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman“to have uncertainty as a fundamental part of your inner nature.”

Richard Feynman recognized early in life the special, distinctive feeling of being close to the edge of knowledge, where people do not know the answers. He held curiosity and uncertainty at the center of his intellectual and creative life.

Curiosity Can Lead to Odd Behavior

To say that Feynman (1919-1988) was a bit of an oddball is most certainly an understatement. Along with his brilliant achievements as a physicist (including the integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics, as well as assisting in the development of the atomic bomb) he dabbled in dozens of creative and entertaining endeavors—a truly admirable hero to those of us driven by curiosity.

Feynman consistently tested the frontiers of his own competence by teaching himself a wide and wild array of skills, always romancing the intoxicating uncertainty of not-quite knowing. Knowing nothing about drawing, he taught himself to make perfect freehand circles on the blackboard; He taught himself how to write Chinese. He taught himself how to force everything from his field of vision except for his research problem of the moment. Lastly he taught himself how to live with cancer, and then how to surrender to it.

There is also the story that has become part of physics lore. A young Feynman grew bored in the remote New Mexico desert while working on the atomic bomb during World War II. He amused himself by learning to pick the combination locks in the supposedly secure filing cabinets containing America’s nuclear secrets. Frustrated administrators of the project changed to more secure locks and, as you might guess, Feynman picked those locks as well—all for the fun of it.

No One Really Knows–That What makes it Fun

Feynman is the poster child for the delight of toying with curiosity and uncertainty. In my research of Feynman on curiosity and uncertainty I came upon this statement by Carl Sagan. For me, his comments are essential for the truly curious person to remain open-minded, resting on the value of uncertainty and the humility to admit no one human has a lock on truth.

“If we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are and where we came from,” Carl Sagan wrote, “we will have failed.” Perhaps because, as Krista Tippett has observed, science and religion “ask different kinds of questions altogether, probing and illuminating in ways neither could alone.”

Sagan’s and Tippett’s comments are appropriate not only for religion and science, but also for all human knowledge as we know it. For me, except for the inexplicable power of Love, everything we know is subject to review, reconsideration, and quite possibly change.

Scary? What’s there to lose in the art of learning?

Radical Open-Mindedness

A Most Lonely Option

Photo courtesy of ClaudioVentrella at istockphoto

IMPORTANT NOTE: Parts of this post have been directly lifted from Maria Popova of Brainpickings.

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