"We are on our way back to a city [Dan and Margaret live in Boulder, CO] full of high-achieving software engineers and real-estate brokers who have built a fabulously well-organized community, with excellent schools, thriving businesses, and immaculate parks, but who can’t find the time to sit a spell on the porch, let alone enjoy a second beer." - Dan Baum, last post on the New Yorker blog after a six-month stint in New Orleans (they lived in the Bywater, upper Ninth ward)
The first time I met Dan, he was in line ahead of me at Caffea (btw, the best coffeehouse on the planet, and I travel lots). I mistook him for a ukulele player I'd met at a bacchanalian end-o-the-world party, street fashion show, and improvisational movie filming at Cafe Brasil. But I digress.
I stumbled onto Dan's New Yorker blog again (stumbled may not be right word, it's not like I didn't know of it already) while researching the history of troubadours, Fedeli d'Amore, street performance collectives, and busking. (Why is another story related to this story.) Specifically, "stumbled" again via Google searching for the awesome street jazz band I'd heard in New Orleans called, "Loose Marbles."
From there it was a short skip and jump to Dan's front page. Reading Dan's last dispatch filed from Houston just after they'd left New Orleans, I broke down and cried.
A friend I met in New Orleans texts me this morning to ask me how I'm doing. (BTW, I don't just blurt the default "fine", unless I actually am flying high as kite.)
wish could say better...feelin blue
me 2 a little. i wondr why? u know. at least you have a B&N ther [He's just driven with his mom for two days from the Hamptons to a new town I'll decline to identify that she's checking out for possible relocation.]
ha ha. It is not the strip malls. It is mass delusion here that gets 2 me. Everyone goin 100 miles an hour...off a cliff. Suppose shall make it easier 2 find our clan.
Not 100% sure. Read energy intens w full moon, merc retro, but think [myself] has 2 do with getting harder 4 indigos to just be fine with world as is...may be moving us to DO something
Abundance 2.0 has been on my mind lately. Not only because I've committed to a beyond "The Secret" themed series. Because it has been on my own mind personally. I'm not sure we can even discuss the law of attraction if we're unclear about what we'd truly wish to attract into our lives, and what we desire for our lives to be.
"It’s the American way to focus on the future—we are dreamers and schemers, always chasing the horizon. Looking forward has made us great, but it comes at a price. (Mexican immigrants often describe life in the United States as puro reloj, or “nothing but the clock.”) New Orleanians, on the other hand, are excellent at the lost art of living in the moment. Étienne stopped at our house one afternoon to drop off some papers he wanted me to see. No, he said, he couldn’t stay; someone was waiting for him downtown. But we got to talking, and gradually moved to the chairs on the porch. We had a beer. The shadows lengthened as the day cooled, the jasmine across the street smelled sweet, and a few houses away someone was practicing the saxophone. Margaret brought out a dish of almonds. We all had another beer. It was dark by the time Étienne left. And here’s the true miracle of New Orleans: the person waiting for him downtown no doubt had an equally pleasant couple of hours, and Étienne surely paid no social penalty for being late." - Dan Baum
What is Abundance?, to me, feels intimately related to What is Real?
I wrote this What is Real? post well over two years ago: March 29, 2005. And for some unknown reason it has kept fluttering into my mind this past week, whispering: re-post me, re-post me. (I don't repost.) Unlike a lot of my posts from 2005, it still feels relevant. And after the crying bout, I decided okay, yes, I'm reposting.
So bear with me on this post if it's been 'too' real, but I've dropped my fascination with What is Read? to live the question What is Real?
What Is Real? (originally posted, March 29, 2005)
I've noticed an interesting phenomena. When I stay on the surface and write from what writer Natalie Goldberg says is that hip, glib place my nervousous about being real pervades the post. I stay on the surface. I definitely get more trackbacks and that's the point, right? But no email. When I'm real, I receive a flurry of personal and very heartfelt email - and barely any public comments, or trackbacks.
A friend asks if I am lonely. "Having an audience, a readership, isn't the same thing as one-on-one real conversation." So true. Emerson once said he would walk a hundred miles through a snowstorm for a good conversation. I'd do the same for a real conversation.
''People aren't looking for the elevated holy man who's got all of the answers,'' he told me one afternoon. ''They want someone to be real with them.'' - Pastor McFarland of the Radiant Church, a megachurch growing faster than weeds, from New York Times, "The Soul of the New Exurb," March 27, 2005
Seth Godin gives his two cents on the marketing efforts of the Radiant megachurch. And Tom Guarriello asks: "My question is, if Seth's right, and all marketers are liars, then what lie is this church telling? Let's see if we can figure it out."
If you dig below the superficials - the mall complex, the billboard ads, the Krispy Kremes and Starbucks - what this church is ultimately "selling" is realness: "When you ask people how Radiant has changed their lives, they will almost invariably talk about how it helped open their hearts."
Most Christians who say they have been changed by their church attribute it not to their pastors' sermons but to their small groups, where people can share, in the words of Dave Travis, who runs the megachurch consultancy, ''their deepest hopes and hurts.'' This was, after all, the model of Jesus and his disciples: What I've done with you, you now do with other people. - New York Times, "The Soul of the New Exurb", March 27, 2005
I'm no biblical scholar, but I believe the last line refers to the tender act in the last supper where Jesus carefully and lovingly washes each disciples feet before the meal is brought in - a task that one would think would be "beneath" a guru, a master and is usually relegated to servants and hastily performed. Silently he kneels and washes their feet circling one by one around the table. When he is done, he says:
I give you a new commandment: that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another. - John 13:34
I'd rather be real than great. I have never gained anything I truly wanted from a pure pursuit of greatness. I'm not saying these two are mutually exclusive, but the focus can lead one astray. Nothing kills relationships - personal and professional - quicker than when I stop being real. It's costly in the tangible cash realm too.
Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
Being real in a customer service relationship may have saved me from totally losing every bit of the three grand I plopped down to reserve rooms and meeting space for the Dwelve "advance". Customers don't usually admit THEY are the idiots. Of course I wasn't real quite early enough... I didn't want to cancel earlier because "EVERYONE" knows you stick to your commitments. Scaling back to an intimate gathering because your heart isn't into doing a big to-do - now, what kind of lame excuse is that? But it was the truth. I knew it six weeks ago. But I couldn't fess up to it until last week. Oh, I've mastered grand failures - but mastery of real - and small - experiments is next. A small experiment is not a timid experiment, but it's not striving for greatness above all else either.
I'd say greatness exists in all of us. Kind of like the way treeness exists in an acorn. Perhaps every acorn doesn't become a tree but the potential to grow is ALWAYS there. - my comment on Hugh's "Greatness" post
Funny thing, being real usually lead to being great - on your own terms. It's questionable if it works the other way around. For a long time I defined "greatness" by other people's measures until one day I read something that stuck with me. It said something to the effect that I should accentuate my weaknesses - in other words, perhaps my "weakness" was actually a differentiator. And a hidden strength. "Different" from what other's categorize as a "strength" doesn't make it a "weakness." Who's the judge?
We use the word original as if it means new, or innovative, or different. But what about thinking of it as "from the origin"...i.e. true to us, being ourselves and NOT trying to be something else. - Johnnie Moore, comment on post "Natural Not Imitative"
I see no point in waiting until I'm 69 to be original. An interview with the former GE CEO Jack Welch shows that his quest for greatness has now been tempered with an ache for realness. Better late than never. Here's what one reviewer thought of his memoir a few years back:
"When confronted with a topic that might have actually made his memoir interesting, Welch runs in the other direction," wrote The New York Times. - "Jack on Jack: His Next Chapter", Newsweek, March 27, 2005
I worked at GE during Neutron Jack's reign and was (thank god in retrospect) laid off. Maybe Mr. Soft and Fuzzy is a still a stretch. But I'm not convinced this smacks of being purely a re-branding effort alone. Personal growth, integrating both yin and yang, and transformation are real too. You would not believe who I was five years ago, however I am certain "real" would be the last word that would pop into your mind.
I know Jerry. He's real. He was a venture capitalist and now teaches a leadership course at Queens College when he's not in zazen. He says:
Last week, in class, we read from Warren Bennis’ On Becoming A Leader. Bennis talks about his belief that all leaders pass through some sort of crucible before emerging more whole, more fully-actualized. And so I told the class about my suicide attempt, my crucible. I don’t think they’ve ever had a teacher admit to having tried to kill themselves.
They were all a little stunned.
But I knew they’d grown to admire me and I knew that by being open I could make myself more real. And ideally I’d decrease the distance between who I am and who they are now so they could feel more confident about becoming who they want to become. - Jerry Colonna, at his Madeleine's blog
Don't be fooled. Leaders and teachers surround us - rarely will they be in the guise of pastors, masters, CEOs and venture capitalists. Real conversations can happen anywhere - between anyone. Treeness exists in every acorn, and realness resides in each of us. Here's a most real and deeply philosophical conversation - and yet it's amongst two children's toys - a hobbyhorse and a stuffed rabbit - in the classic children's story, The Velveteen Rabbit.
"What is real?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are real you don't mind being hurt." - Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
p.s. Funny, I cite a post from a friend (ex-VC, ex-blogger) in this post above. I'd just dropped him a note on Father's Day wishing him a Happy Father's Day and thank you: "I was just thinking about three years ago, I wrote a Father's Day piece on my blog after reading a very heartfelt blog post you wrote about your grandfather. My blog at that time was the self-conscious businessperson trying to dip her toe into weaving more human, more soulful, themes."
Art: Mother and Child (Cherries), by Lord Frederic Leighton; Favorite Poet, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema; A Coign of Vantage, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema; Music Lesson, by Lord Frederic Leighton; The Painter's Honeymoon, by Lord Frederic Leighton