Retrieval: What Lies Beneath

Tonight I ran in the deep water of a turning tide. The rain caressed my face. I was slapped by waves. There were rocks beneath my feet. I know them because I stub my toes on them as I run if I am not in deep enough. I kept seeing them as something else, in the water, with me. Lightening sang a possessive song of redemption, claiming beaches further North. I was afraid. I clung to a single veiled star.

I started to think about the stars in my life, to picture faces. It changed my body. Earnest churning in the water became an act of love. All of my cells tinged then thrummed. The rain stopped sending rivulets down my face and the salt cracked as I smiled. I began to enjoy Lightning’s forked barbs, peppering the escarpment. I was prepared to move out into deeper water.

My week has been a little like this. I’ve had to retrieve myself from old behaviours. I’ve had to be prepared to try and not just see what lies beneath, but to reach for it even if I can’t quite see it and the odd wave of fear slaps me. To nurse it a while and then knead it. Turns out retrieving myself from past behaviours is possible and actually very empowering. I can feel excited about more change, not just stuck afloat waiting for something to happen. I’m malleable, I change, I can release, reform. I can take what I know and the shore has my back as I head out deeper to honour what lies beneath my own need to voyage forward. I guess in a way I’m retrieving the future, doing my bit to claim it.

The history of my being is already transcribed into everything I am

– James Wadman

Isn’t that a wonderful idea? I really like that. I claim all of me, my whole transcription and what lies beneath it – the good stuff, the challenging stuff, the future stuff too. And I’m really getting to like the idea that the transcription is not just memories or information stored in my mind, but rather the transcription is the print that is my body, those thrumming cells, my skin.

My good friend and mentor use to say I have seven brains. None of them is particularly dedicated to information storage. I outsourced that to the dictionary, to the stacks of paper and old journals that I’ve been recycling, to the masses of unsorted information in my computers, to the library, to friends and colleagues, and to google and the internet. I usually know when I know something and can find the information, but my brain lost interest in retaining most of it. That can be annoying at times, but it’s value for money in the re-reading and re-watching I do! It’s a deliberate ruse for engagement perhaps? And it’s certainly not to say that my brain doesn’t love new stuff, it thrives on it!

I think my Muse may have ten brains. Two of them might be information storage. I love watching him think and imagining those brains at work and if you wait patiently, watch and listen carefully you can hear the cogs and wheels and synapses as information is being retrieved. It’s very cute! If you missed the blog post The Muse With a Poker Face check it out here and read the poem.

I suspect he has much better concentration than me. I may have accidentally thrown mine out with the recycled paper from my last job. I’m going to have to cultivate more.

“All knowledge that we have, either of the external or internal world, is obtained through only one method — by the concentration of the mind. No knowledge can be had of any science unless we can concentrate our minds upon the subject. The astronomer concentrates his mind through the telescope… and so on.”

– Swami Vivekananda

Could this explain why I suck at science?! Is this a revelation? If I concentrate hard enough can I retrieve some hidden scientific talent?! I think not…even if because to be honest I can’t be bothered. Science is really neat, but I’m happy for others to tell me about it. Actually I’m surprised at the moment by a scientific tale.

I’m reading Bill Shore’s The Imaginations of unreasonable men: Inspiration, vision, and purpose in the quest to end malaria. I don’t think I’d normally read this kind of a book, here’s how it’s described on Amazon:

A small cadre of scientists—collaborators and competitors—are determined to develop a vaccine for malaria—a feat most tropical disease experts have long considered impossible. Skepticism, doubt, and a host of logistical and financial obstacles dog their quest. Success may ultimately elude them. Why, and how, do they persist?

Bill Shore is a writer, philanthropist, and business leader who knows from personal experience the rare and elusive nature of transformative innovation. In this moving and inspiring book, the story of these uncompromising scientists serves as springboard for his passionate inquiry into the character and moral fabric of those who devote their lives to solving the world’s most pressing and perplexing problems. What does it take to achieve the impossible? It takes whatever it takes.

There are two reasons why I am reading it, firstly one of my school friends has been making some breakthroughs in research to do with malaria, I’m curious about her work and I assume I’ll understand the backdrop to that more having read this book. The other reason I’m reading it is because it’s one of five books Matt has recommended as part of the Building Bridges initiative.

I made my own list of Five Books For Change that have most influenced my thinking as I worked through the 10 City Bridge Run epic quest ahead of a series of Design Forums to ask “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

You should read more about that here.

I think what I’m realising too is that you can listen to anything, watch anything, read anything and dive down to see what lies beneath and often what is there is something that you can retrieve and take into another scenario or marry to another idea or use for inspiration or borrow to instruct the next move you make. Actually I already knew this. It’s why the rocks that stub my toes might also be sharks.

We’ve malleable minds and imagination. And returning to Swami Vivekananda’s comment that The astronomer concentrates his mind through the telescope… I am drawn to think about tools. What tools am I using, can I employ as I move forward and ply my craft and as I strive to contribute in my local and global communities? What am I fostering in my own life and other’s? And what riches does this bring that I can notice? I think Susan Sontag is on to it…

“Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.”

My concentration may suck a bit at the moment, but I’m deliberately paying attention. It’s a good way to see the joy, to retrieve a sense of being part of, to be more than what lies beneath.

A New Play

(John White)

Close your eyes.
What do you see?
A dream?
A vision?
Your future?
Your past?
Past love?
Past loss?
Are you haunted?
Are you comforted?
You can’t hide,
You can’t avoid,
Any of this.

You close them,
Again and again.
The mind’s lights,
go out and,
set the stage,
time and again.

Write a new,
fresh chapter,
to replace,
unwanted plays,
repeating,
in your mind.

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