This semester is my second time to teach a course in innovation and creativity. Though many things are different about the course this time around (more on that in a subsequent post), Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind remains required reading. The chapter about story and the power of narrative is one of my favorites.
I do love a good story...and a good story teller. Often, the good story tellers are writers. Sometimes, though, the good story teller is a comedian, an actor, the guy at the local hardware store or the preacher at the local church. One of my favorite story tellers, Rachel Remen, is a physician:
Life offers its wisdom generously. Everything teaches. Not everyone learns. Life asks of us the same thing we have been asked in every class: "Stay awake." "Pay attention." But paying attention is no simple matter. It requires us not to be distracted by expectations, past experiences, labels, and masks. It asks that we not jump to early conclusions and that we remain open to surprise. Wisdom comes most easily to those who have the courage to embrace life without judgment and are willing to not know, sometimes for a very long time. It requires us to be more fully and simply alive than we have been taught to be.
A few lines later (in My Grandfather's Blessings), Rachel uses the metaphor of an entire oak tree contained--at least in essence or as potential--in an acorn and reminds us that "none of us are only the way we seem." The summation of our life experiences, of which formal education is but one part, is to journey ever closer to our potential. To become the wisdom we are intended to be. And I resonate to the reminder that ""(t)his is not usually a graceful or a deliberate process."
I am neither graceful nor particularly deliberate in my journey. In fact, I often blunder, stumble, and drive backwards in circles. Perhaps, in that way, we are all more alike than we realize. And I seem to be a far better teacher, friend, and parent when I focus on the similarities.