When I was doing the original research for my book, Riding the Current, among those I interviewed, I found a small group slightly different from the others. They had three characteristics that appeared to distinguish them. Each was an individuals who had a base of deep knowledge. Each had a keen sense of self. Each preferred the excitement of the unknown rather than the comfort of the known – curiosity got the better of them.
As I thought about these people, I could imagine them strolling through open spaces between objects, thoroughly enjoying the freedom of seeing a familiar object from an unfamiliar perspective. If I were to replace the word object with the word ‘subject’, then I began to understand what drove them into this place of the unknown. It wasn’t empty to them; it was simply new, and the attitude of playful strolling allowed them to gain insights they could not achieve otherwise. But how were they able to stroll so effortlessly without concern for getting lost or confused or unfocused? It was then that I realized they had a tether they could always follow back to the ‘safety’ of home base.
This morning, I was reading Michael Jones blog, Following the Thread of Aliveness. In it, he quotes from the poet, William Stafford.
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.*
I am often find delight in Jones’ blogs, but this was a true gift. He had directed me to a poet who defined the tether I had seen and, through Stafford’s words, helped me understand what the tether truly is and why only those brave enough to jump into the open spaces use it to such effect. In Jones’ words, “there is a thread we can follow and it is the thread of our own aliveness.” I saw those special individuals I interviewed as people who have a deep knowledge, who know who they are, and are willing to wander through the unknown. What a gift to read the words ‘thread of our own aliveness.’ If we pursue learning in all its forms and build deep knowledge – including the knowledge of who we are – then we are enlivened. It frees us to invite others’ ideas into our lives to create unexpected possibilities.
Can you feel your tether? Are you ready to jump into the unknown? If not, are you pursuing knowledge consciously? Have you read Chapter 6, Diving Deep, from Riding the Current?
*William Stafford The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems St Paul Minn. Graywolf Press 1999