"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, January 31, 2012

Choice and Surrender

It’s been a quiet block in this existential neighborhood for several months. Time reserved for contemplative writing diminished as projects that required active doing entered in.

The good news? A studio dream that has been manifesting for years is coming to fruition. There are pictures and street level, get your jeans dirty stories at artclothchangepurse.blogspot.com. I am very proud of this solid project. It will touch lives and do good. But it sure is time-consuming hard work.

I also returned to the board of the Surface Design Association as vice president. For those of you who aren’t familiar with SDA, or who couldn’t attend the international conference last summer, there’s a podcast of my talk, which was entitled What Matters? on the SDA website, along with several other great talks from the conference.

Time invested in SDA is worth it. It’s an opportunity to sculpt the association into a fresh, 21st century version of itself. But it takes an awful lot of time. I didn’t realize it would be such hard work. I didn't realize how fragile making decisions can feel sometimes.

Which leads to true confessions. I’ve been busy but I haven’t been happy. Studio time disappeared. Contemplative writing time vanished. A book project went stale. I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights. A lot of sleepless nights.

I know it, but I forget it; a spiritual practice is so important. Praying is good. Rigorous self-examination is good. I had to get a few years under my belt before I could recognize this is why we call it life cycles. Facing down fear and self-doubt; coming through the dark night intact. Reclaiming equilibrium. It doesn’t happen just once.

A long time ago my father tried to tell me this. But I couldn’t hear him. I thought once you got through school and fell in love and got a job, life would be set. Two marriages, an abortion and a bankruptcy later, I let go of that idea.

I could characterize this as growing into balance, but that’s not really it. Maybe growing up and choosing balance says it better.

After I got over the idea that life isn’t automatically once and for all set, ever, I embraced Joseph Campbell’s admonition to follow my bliss. This is not a bad idea. It’s echoed in a book title from 1989, Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow. Good advice for anyone mired in the belief that fulfilling someone else’s expectations will make your life work out ok. Following your bliss is another way of saying you have to take care of yourself first. Put on your own oxygen mask; then help the person next to you on the plane.

But following your bliss is just one more station along the road to enlightenment.

What then?
I believe it’s in this prayer:

Stay in present time
Seek only the truth
Surrender your will to God
Love is the only true power
Honor thyself
Honor one another
All is one.

Surrender is the stage I’m in now. I thought I would be happy following my bliss off into the sunset, but I realized I was wrong. There is another kind of happy. The happy that comes from surrendering to the opportunities that manifest, even when I feel unable, or ill prepared. Choosing to put aside studio time for a while, because it feels better to spend time on projects that will ripple wider. It feels like an alchemical mix of surrender and choice.

And it’s just another stage. It’s where I am right now.