"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.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Welcome to the Neighborhood

I adored Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Ok, so at fourteen I was probably too old to watch a children’s show on PBS, but the sneaky part of me loved the bits I saw while sitting on the couch with my youngest sister, eating chocolate chip cookies after school and procrastinating on the homework front. No matter what you thought about Mr. Rogers, and plenty of people made fun of him in the ensuing thirty years, he was authentic. He didn’t apologize or minimize his feelings or ideas and he was always kind. Mr. Rogers was generous and thoughtful. He knew how to bake and he had good taste in sweaters. Mr. Rogers wasn’t afraid of anything. He liked to talk about the big issues in his neighborhood with the children and creatures who lived there with him. Issues like feeling left out, and bullying. The joys of friendship and play. Mr. Rogers was a real guy and his neighborhood was positive real estate. It was a great place to live.

I enrolled in a creativity course in February. My teaching was spinning along. New book in the works. A year of Daily Visuals satisfyingly behind me. But I felt the need for a challenge. Something inside was transitioning. A friend’s email described a program she’d begun and it resonated. I wanted something like that. Fresh ideas. In the words of the blues legend John Mayall - room to move – psychically and experientially.

And so, through the class, I was introduced to the concept of existential intelligence. The inexplicable part of a human mind that wants a better angle on the BIG questions – Life, death, creativity and meaning. Wow. Humbling and incredibly energizing all rolled into one thought package. A fortune cookie with a fortune I actually wanted to manifest in real time.

And if the concept of existential intelligence grabbed me, wasn’t it likely that there were lots of others out there who would love to explore the wealth of ideas bouncing around inside this Pandora’s box?

...probably a whole neighborhood of artists, writers, musicians, car mechanics, short order cooks and other people who like to think.

So here it is. The grown up version of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. The Existential Neighborhood, where we can gather to share ideas about art and making, kindness and authenticity, meaning and the creative Life with a really big L. Welcome to my neighborhood.


  1. Here I am - one of Jane's devoted followers. Looking forward to your new blog - very intriguing.

  2. and I'm following right behind two of my best buds! how cool is that!!!
    I used to watch Mr Rogers with our daughter...and always found his unconditional love to be such a comfort. Can't wait to see where you go with this Jane....you never cease to amaze and intrigue me!

  3. Hi Jane
    I am looking forward to following your new blog. I am personally emerging into that dawn you mention after being in the darkness when we met in Bunbury, Western Australia.

  4. You know I will be part of this. How do you always seems to be there at the right time, asking the right questions? Thanks for putting yourself on the line, time after time. Gay

  5. I'm in, Jane -- this sounds incredibly interesting. As for Mr. Rogers, he had fans of all ages. Several years ago in a New York restaurant, he was enjoying a lunch, not bothered by any of the other patrons. When he stood to leave, someone started humming the theme song for the Neighborhood, and everyone else joined in -- he turned back to the group with that sincere smile that lit the room!


  6. I didn't watch Mr. R. But I'm still interested to see where you are going with this, Jane.

    Darcy Berg

  7. HI Jane,
    Anything that includes both Howard Gardner and Mr. Rogers has GOT to be good. Good luck, and thanks.

  8. 'Visioning a creative existence.' That certainly resonates with me, though I can't really explain what it means to me in words. 'Visioning' takes me beyond where I am. Although I love where I am, having found my art and time to create, there's always the calling forward, isn't there? And who is doing the calling? I know, I know, but for me it is 'who' or perhaps 'Who.' Personal, calling Me. I sense this will be more difficult than looking at a photograph, self-examination usually is, but an opportunity to grow and I'm always ready to do that. Count me IN!

  9. I gladly join you on this new journey.

  10. Hi Jane,
    I love this idea. Howard Gardner is wonderful and I grew up with Mr. Rogers. This will be a great trip.
    Love to you,

  11. What a rich neighborhood you have created Jane. I hope to learn so much and perhaps even contribute occasionally. The van is packed and I'm moving in.


  12. Looking forward to this new adventure with you.