"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. 
In effect, the people who change our lives the most begin to 
sing to us while we are still in darkness. If we listen to 
their song, we will see the dawning of a new part of ourselves."

Rabindranth Tagore

Existential Intelligence is the sensitivity and capacity to engage questions about human existence – how we got here, whether we have a purpose, and whether there is meaning in Life. Existential intelligence embraces the exploration of aesthetics, philosophy, religion and values like beauty, truth, and goodness. A strong existential intelligence allows human beings to see their place in the big picture, be it in the classroom, community, world, or universe.

First proposed by Howard Gardner, existential intelligence is one of nine theorized intelligences and is considered to be amoral – that is, it and the other eight categories of human intelligence can be used either constructively or destructively.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Back Home

Things don’t always go the way we wish they would. I drove three days from upstate New York; eager to return to my beloved Texas landscape. The morning I crossed the state line it was 110 degrees in Austin. Parched earth and an occasional mini dust cyclone bore witness to the reality that Nature sometimes has a plan for us we wouldn’t choose ourselves. This entire part of the United States was bereft in the 1930’s; a Dust Bowl literally and figuratively. Lack of water dried up the verdant land, and every creative act of commerce attached to it. Hopes and dreams lay in ruins alongside abandoned possessions and property.

It was a sobering drive, since we’ve been in a serious drought here, and there is no sign of rain.

The drive provided plenty of thinking time. A close friend wrote, “Solitary long-distance driving provides respite, and time to process. That sort of aloneness away from our everyday tasks and responsibilities can feel like spending time with a long lost friend.” I whole-heartedly agreed, and added to the mix of my own thoughts, hours of other people’s thoughts. I listened to favorites – Caroline Myss, Krista Tippett interviews, and an assortment of other podcasts and lectures. Modern technology may not be able to solve a drought, but it effectively distracts by rolling rich ideas from a car radio.

Staying the course.

This phrase wove in and out of the landscape of my thoughts. No one will pick up and leave Texas just because we need water. We have to stay the course. While we wait for rain, we take measures to preserve the water we’ve got. When you’re stuck in a situation and you can’t get away from it, you stay the course and maintain. Do what it takes to keep moving forward, even if the forward motion is only baby steps. What other choice do you have? It never feels good to cut and run.

Unless it’s the right time to cut and run.

Because that’s the undeniable other side; the yang to the yin. It’s the small voice of intuition, niggling at first, but gradually growing – suggesting that the time has come to let go.

Dust Bowl settlers stayed as long as they could, but eventually the reality of the drought forced their hand. Leaving was the only choice left.

Dust Bowl. Drought. What did any of that have to do with me?

It’s because I’ve been trying to buy a new studio building. My current space has developed limitations, and I’d rather be proactive than find myself without a classroom space. Forty-five days into the first contract funding fell through, the down payment went up, and the building owner began to behave downright squirrelly - admitting to questionable business practices, and even lying about it.

Stay the course or cut and run?

It took one sleepless night in San Antonio to convince me that the nerve-fraying wasn’t worth it and would probably get worse. By the light of day I faxed my retreat from the contract to the title company. An imperceptible shift had occurred during the night. I recognized that the smartest thing I could do was cut and run.

And stay the course.

Then several amazing events transpired. Is it the proverbial closing of a door so a window can open? Caroline Myss calls it grace. You can’t force it. You may not deserve it. But when grace enters your life you know it. You are humbled by it.

The day after I cancelled my deal, a realtor friend emailed a listing with promise. A foreclosure. Space for an addition. A church parking lot two doors away. Did I want to make an offer? She’d taken the liberty of qualifying me for the mortgage amount.

The next day my offer was accepted. The money that was to be spent on the first property’s down payment can now go to the remodel. As long as I stay the course.

And what’s any of this got to do with you?
You have to stay the course, too. Or cut and run.

In the studio, it’s a delicate balance. Staying the course keeps you working. Keeps the experimentation going until you get that elusive dye bath color perfected. Until you learn how to hold the brush – or even which brush to choose – to make the perfect stroke. Staying the course confirms the intention of your conviction. You will master your materials. You will merge imagination with making. Heart and hands will work as one.

And when it’s time to cut and run, you’ll get it and you’ll do it. No more guilt over unfinished work that went AWOL. No more guilt when you open up studio space by taking a load of stuff to Goodwill. Cut and run at its best is an acknowledgment of growth, of change, and of the power of Intuition.

Wouldn’t this be a good lesson for our Congressmen and women?


  1. I've always thought that knowing when a situation is irreparably headed downhill is a critical skill for success in business and life. When the guy hits you, leave him; when the contractor won't return your call for the fifth time, pull the plug. Following a bad situation down the drain is just dumb.

    But it's too bad that the idiomatic phrase we often use for such decisions is "cut and run"? Which clearly implies cowardice and moral failure. Perhaps if we called it "cut your losses" we could do it without being ridiculed by others. Just one example of how control of the language can control the entire debate and decision-making process.

    Similarly, "stay the course" sounds so good. Maybe if we called it "throwing good money after bad" or "doubling down" we would be more inclined to kick the tires on bad situations and get out of them. Anybody remember Vietnam?

  2. Drought is a situation Australian farmers & urban dwellers also live with. In the poem 'I Love a Sunburnt Country' by Dorethea McKellar, she talks about 'drought and flooding rain' 2 situations which seem to follow each other in our country.
    Glad to hear you have ecurd a building for future plans!

  3. Stay the course. Hold fast to that which is good. I am trying to stay the course a lot this year. Some days just going into the studio is the best I can do, other days I'm able to really work and what a good feeling that is! Grief is a roller coaster ride. I'm still here, though my dear husband isn't. I stay the course by getting up and living each day as best I am able that day. I don't worry too much about not being able to work sometimes--that's the cutting and running. We need both skills, that's what they are, aren't they? When to hold fast and when to let go.