Once the World Was Perfect

Read this beautiful poem by Joy Harjo courtesy the good folks at Poetry Flash. It’s from her book, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, and it pretty much sums up where we seem to be in the world and why I do what I do:

Once the world was perfect, and we were happy
in that world.
Then we took it for granted.
Discontent began a small rumble in the earthly mind.
Then Doubt pushed through with its spiked head.
And once Doubt ruptured the web,
All manner of demon thoughts
Jumped through —
We destroyed the world we had been given
For inspiration, for life —
Each stone of jealousy, each stone
Of fear, greed, envy, and hatred, put out the light.
No one was without a stone in his or her hand.
There we were,
Right back where we had started.
We were bumping into each other
In the dark.
And now we had no place to live, since we
didn’t know
How to live with each other.
Then one of the stumbling ones took pity on another
And shared a blanket.
A spark of kindness made a light.
The light made an opening in the darkness.
Everyone worked together to make a ladder.
A Wind Clan person climbed out first into the
next world,
And then the other clans, the children of those
clans, their children,
And their children, all the way through time —
To now, into this morning light to you.

A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Excerpts from Jose A. Alcantara’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost, via Mark Leach:

If you have a compass, smash it.
Nothing can point you to true anything, let alone true north.
Besides — and never forget this — you are trying to get lost.
You may be gone for a long time
so be sure not to pack any food or water.
It is only the hungry who feed, only the thirsty who are quenched.

Before you leave, be sure to write a note
telling everyone exactly where you will not be.
The last thing you need is someone coming to your rescue.

Now, find the best map possible
and tear it up. You will be traveling on a scale
that no one has ever drawn.

Do not leave a string of crumbs behind you.
This would only attract predators.
On second thought, go ahead.

Write postcards telling everyone of your adventures.
Be sure to lie, like a fox leaving false tracks.
Someday they will thank you.

You will not know when you have arrived.
But if you think you have, you haven’t.
If you think haven’t, you probably have.

If you come to a fork in the road
stab yourself in the foot with it. You will
reach your destination much faster if you are limping.

Better yet, use it to pluck out your eyes.
There are many signposts along the way.
Maybe now you will learn to see.

One Art: On Loss and Detachment

One Art, by Elizabeth Bishop:

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Thanks to Kate Wing for sharing.

Social Artistry

Last week, my friend, Elissa Perry, a poet and a leadership consultant, asked me how my recent foray into “creative processes” was affecting how I thought about my work. She was referring specifically to my photography dabblings, but I was confused at first. I didn’t understand her distinction between “creative processes” and “my work,” because I always thought those two things were one and the same.

Both my sisters are “artists” in the more traditional sense. My older sister is a violinist married to a composer. My younger sister got her MFA in creative writing, although she is now a practicing lawyer. While their mediums of choice are different from mine, I don’t see my work as being substantially different from theirs.

I was in the business of designing experiences that facilitated high-performance collaboration. I used the same creative muscles that my sisters did to do their work, and I got to express myself in the process. My work stimulated me intellectually from solving a problem and emotionally from being creative. Like all art, the process of creation was sometimes a frustrating grind, but it was overall a wonderful, joyful experience. I’m feeling it right now as I design the next iteration of Changemaker Bootcamp.

A few years ago, I came across the term, “social artist,” from Nancy White to describe this kind of work. I haven’t quite adopted it for myself, but I think it’s an apt description.

As for Elissa’s original question, here are some recent musings about how my photography has affected my other creative processes:

And this is a great excuse to share some of Elissa’s artistry. At last week’s wonderful Creating Space X conference, the notions of “bridging” came up several times, so Elissa treated us to a poem that she wrote that was inspired by the new Bay Bridge. It’s part of a collection entitled, “Everything Indicates.”