BooksInspirationQuotes

No Competition for Love

Never do I pick up a book written by Henri Nouwen without being refreshed and challenged. Mostly, refreshed. A few weeks back at a library book sale, we ran across a fine copy of Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World. It is a small book, written in a personal tone to a friend of Nouwen’s, a secular Jewish man who asked him to write a spiritual book for him and his secular friends. The result reads well, not just for secular Manhattanites, but also for seasoned believers. In fact, while no doubt this book would speak with sensitivity and boldness to non-believers, I am personally finding it does just the same for me. Spiritual truth does not fit only one audience, though perhaps different audiences ingest spiritual truth in different ways.

Among other things, Nouwen was known for leaving a prestigious career in academia to minister at Daybreak, a home for the handicapped. He tells a story of Helen, who when she came to Daybreak did not open up to Nouwen or the rest of the community. It took time for her to come out of her shell, and this is how Nouwen describes it.

I now realize that I had to be in touch with my own goodness to discover the unique goodness of Helen. As long as my self-doubts and fears guided me, I couldn’t create the space for Helen to reveal to me her beauty. But once I claimed my own chosenness, I could be with Helen as a person who had much, very much, to offer me. It is impossible to compete for God’s love. God’s love is a love that includes all people –– each one in his or her uniqueness. It is only when we have claimed our own place in God’s love that we can experience this all-embracing, non-competing love and feel safe, not only with God, but also with all our brothers and sisters.

I am drawn to the idea of creating space where others can flourish. Nouwen created space for Helen to reveal her beauty. Her beauty was already there. This is indeed the circumstance we too often find ourselves in. We are in the presence of another person who has so much to offer but no space in which to let it out. How wonderful to be a space maker! A person who creates (I might prefer to say, “co-creates”) the space in which others flourish.

miscellanea

Clarity and Judgment

There are reasons a person might be unclear. For example: Subtlety might be in order to be sensitive to eavesdroppers. A person might be vague in an effort to hide a secret. Though, the secret might be that the person does not know what he is talking about. His lack of clarity actually might be obfuscation. Or maybe there is no secret at all. Maybe the person just cannot string together coherent sentences. There are many reasons for being unclear.

Another one of those reasons is this: A person might know exactly what he is talking about and how to say it clearly, but clarity would open him up to judgment. It is hard to judge what is not clear. It might be good. It might not. Who would know? After all, it is not clear.

The propensity to be unclear for fear of negative judgment is accentuated by a natural human reaction to confusion. The receiver of unclear communication regularly blames himself but keeps quiet about it for fear of being perceived as ignorant.

“Is that guy chewing on marbles or am I an ignoramus? Surely the reason I don’t understand him must be that I’m stupid.” That is a common reaction when listening to someone who sounds confusing.

Thus, being unclear is doubly rewarded. Not only does it avoid negative judgment, but it regularly elicits hushed insecurity. Being unclear is a safe way to communicate.

But lack of clarity will never inspire people. Better to speak clearly and risk the possibility of negative judgment. Be transparent and give people something to react to.

ExcessVsAbundanceSimplicity

Listening Tour

For a while now it has been on my heart and mind to launch a simplicity listening tour. As I sit down to write my next book about simplicity, I am eager to get up and hear from others. What do people around my city, state, country, even around the world think about simplicity? What do you think about simplicity? Why are you attracted to simplicity? Where does simplicity fall short? What hope does simplicity evoke in you? Can simplicity help meet some of the challenges of our world?

So, would you be interested in participating? A listening tour can happen a number of ways. Here are some ways it could work. Feel free to suggest a different format.

Meet over coffee or a beer for a couple of hours and share your thoughts and experiences of simplicity. This would be a great format for small groups (2-5). We’d all benefit from a shared experience and new friendships. And these kinds of small setting sometimes percolate unforeseen outcomes.

Meet at a venue (church, office, school, library, shop) for a few hours to conduct a Simplify the Middle Workshop. This is a very interactive workshop I’ve developed that applies simplicity as a means to solve a specific challenge. This would be a great format for a bit larger group (5-20) interested in using simplicity to meet a need. The group would benefit with some actionable take aways. I’d benefit from listening while facilitating.

Meet at a venue for several hours and I will give a simplicity talk then group Q&A. This does not seem like “listening” at first glance. But what I have found is that sometimes people prefer to listen before they warm up to talk. I have a specific lecture I give at the end of every semester when I teach. It has never failed to elicit applause and lots of follow up discussion. (Trust me, neither are a given in a college classroom.) This would be a great format for a larger group (20+) where circling chairs would be difficult. Post talk, we could break into smaller groups. The benefit to the group would be a provocative talk leading to discussion. I’d benefit from listening in and from follow-up conversations.

The goal I have set is to schedule at least 10 of these listening gatherings between June and December. I have room for almost double that in my schedule, if this takes off.

Since my original simple-living project the 100 Thing Challenge gained public attention, the most satisfying experience I have had is listening to and learning from the wisdom of other people. It means so much to me to hear from others.

Let’s see where this goes. If you are interested, please reach out to me. We will discuss if one of the above formats is a fit or if you have another idea. We can discuss logistics, too. I would not want to charge for this but if it involved travel to get to your venue, we’d need to talk through those costs.

Bottom line: our overly-cluttered world hinders flourishing. I believe simplicity is one means to amplify human flourishing. It would be a privilege to hear from you.

Directly contact me: amplify@smplfr.com