Heart in a Rucksack

You know you’re grasping, trying to hold onto your self esteem when your self talk goes from I’m more than enough just as I am to I’m not the worst in the world!

Ha! I’m seeing the funny side of this little personal drama. I’ve rounded the pity party up and sent it packing. My feelings may be legitimate and I’m careful to feel them and be with them for a while, but I can only marinate for so long before I need to do something to feel better, to remember I’m not defeated ‘cause it’s not a race, to try using my compass and be forward facing again.

The antidote for me if in doubt is to wash something…to be able to say I did a load of washing. Is that my true North?! Far too practical, not nearly an adventure. But somehow it puts me back on my feet, gets my doing hands doing.

What’s real adventure right now for me is imagination, fantasy, hope and the stretch for belief in what’s possible.

I loved Enid Blyton books when I was kid. They were the Everlasting Gobstopper, the bottomless pit, the schoolyard bubbler of unknown source that never ran dry. It was always adventure, on the go, through a tunnel or up a tree, something happening, places to marvel at, worlds rotating, things to be interpreted and puzzles to be solved. From Welcome Josie, Click and Bun who live in the “dear little train-house”, with Bun, the earnest faced toy rabbit (“He’s very useful when anything handy has to be done, like hammering”) and Click the clockwork mouse who saved a goblin with his tail because he didn’t have a rope, to the spoilt, defiant Elizabeth Allen, of the Naughtiest Girl in the School, to a chair that sprouts wings in the Wishing-Chair. And for sure Julian, Dick and Anne, George and Timmy the Dog from the Famous Five could find a mystery in my washing machine!

We put all of these stories and their many happenings in our rucksack and take them journeying with us, whether it’s a journey out in the world, in our mind or just in our day. The excitements, challenges and unbelievable possibilities of adventure. The examples of others journeying, the stories of heroes, the unexpected, the roads and lanes one can traverse, the roles people can play (even making tea like poor stereotypical Anne). And even if we don’t have the confidence to wield a hammer like Bun we start to believe. It’s the gift of hope and inspiration.

But what inspires us to look for our true North? The desire for another? A calling? A commitment? The need for redemption? The want of an adventure?

Sometimes the journey is very personal and introspective. It takes place out of sight. Sometimes the journey is more literally about a map and compass. Sometimes a journey is both of these things, and it can be through connection with others as we adventure that we start to truly connect with ourselves as we take on that mantle of both global and self-citizen.

Today I watched with delight a series of short films that are part of the Sundance Institute Short Film Challenge. A beautiful peep into the lives of others who are really another you. It made me appreciate my washing machine.

“As technology advances, our world grows smaller. Yet, while we are more connected than ever before, we remain separated by the lottery of where we are born. Around the world, people just like you – with the same beliefs, dreams, and aspirations – have drastically fewer opportunities due to extreme poverty and hunger. Through the universal power of storytelling, the Sundance Institute Short Film Challenge will put a spotlight on our similarities—showcasing stories that communicate how we can support one another to end poverty and hunger once and for all. There is a more hopeful future for millions of people around the world, it’s up to us to inspire a positive change together.”

You can watch the films by clicking here. If you are moved and would like a way to act on empathy for those in poverty then click here and consider joining the adventure Matt started with the 10 City Bridge Run, an epic quest that calls us to collaborate to impact child survival.

“In some ways, it is as though I have returned from The Hero’s Journey. You know the one, the monomyth which Joseph Campbell wrote so much about. It was heroic, but in a classic sense. There was transformation and a prize, but the rewards weren’t material. And if I am now home, then perhaps that is only to make an unmistakable Call To Adventure to you among others who might take the risk to come with us as we embark on this next journey into the unknown. It is a journey called ‘Design Forum’. And there will be challenges. Stick to your knitting, or come with us and change the world by seeking to improve child survival? Your turn to chose.”

Walking in another’s shoes, setting sail with someone, or carrying them – however we journey together there is a richness in self and in our ability to relate when we can empathise. Stories as songs, films, books, pictures, real life happenings, they offer togetherness – reach into your rucksack and remember and draw on togetherness. Being able to empathise means to be capable of identifying and understanding another person’s feelings, without experiencing them yourself at that particular moment. It is the ability to literally experience the world from another person’s perspective – to walk in their shoes, to view life from their living conditions and to feel what it feels like to be that person. Watching these short films today was a great invitation to empathy.

Apparently the ability to empathise with others is relative to a person’s capacity to identify, feel and understand his own feelings. I’ve got a great capacity for empathy…but I wouldn’t have said I was so crash hot at my own feelings…so what is the puzzle here? What needs to be decrypted? What’s the adventure beckoning and why?

It’s because life hurts and life is joy and loss and gain and dark and light. That made me cautious. And then I packed away the map because there was no destination. There was nothing to find. I just stayed home to myself while through my work I carried on in the world and did what I did with a constant hum of empathy. Despite my lack of hammer related nous I am adept at building barriers to the heart. Fear doesn’t need nails to form a fence. Those already inside the fence were welcome. Others could knock at the gate, or lean over and cut through with familiarity over time. Some swum the moat and I learned lessons out of naivety. It was all very human of me. I kept at arms distance from my own feelings even as I shared in those of others. Access to my heart was limited.

Until I decided to heed my own inner wisdom about life being feeling, and I was helped along, drawing on the adventures and inspirations of others.

It’s because life is less if we don’t accept the risk and trade the fear for possibility. It’s because we’re made to feel. If heroes didn’t venture, if the sky didn’t darken to reveal the stars…Richard Bach said “whatever enchants also guides and protects.”

Without heroes, stars, lighthouses, songs, stories, whatever it is we love, we wouldn’t have astonishment, we wouldn’t have overwhelmed, we wouldn’t have the same depths of love that are possible, we wouldn’t need to be pilgrims, we wouldn’t be moved and move, we wouldn’t have the same heights of joy and the deep, deep knowing. Imagine for a moment what your life would lack if you didn’t embark on the human journey, within yourself and with others.

If I’m looking for true North I can’t rely on the compass. I need to close my eyes and feel and see and listen and trust and reach.

The direction of astronomical true north is marked in the skies by the north celestial pole. This is within about 1 degree of the position of Polaris so that the star appears to trace a tiny circle in the sky each day. It’s the 45th brightest star apparently. Due to the precession of Earth’s axis, true north rotates in an arc with respect to the stars that takes approximately 25,000 years to complete.

Okay so I don’t entirely understand that statement, but I like to look to the stars, it’s romantic that they are direction givers, connectors, story holders and so long lived in their interplay between the heavens and the earth bound. I like that Polaris doesn’t sit still. This is not a still destination and being still won’t get me there.

What’s real adventure right now for me is imagination, fantasy, hope and the stretch for belief in what’s possible.

My true North is the place where I am honest with myself about my emotions and feelings. A place where I don’t have to be afraid of what has caused them or the consequences. Where emotions and feelings in whatever form and whatever the cause are strength. Where I stand tall, surveying the horizon, setting off in search with my heart in my rucksack.

“To bring anything into your life, imagine that it’s already there.”
-Richard Bach, The Bridge Across Forever


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