The Adventure of Grief
|Jonny Miller 🐬||Nov 19, 2018|
👋– Hello Curious Friends!
💌– Newsletter Reflections // the act of sitting down to write this each month(ish), without quite knowing which words will appear on the page or indeed what conversations may flow from your responses has been a delight. This particular letter feels slightly more personal than the usual dispatches (which is partly why it has taken me so long to hit send!)
🎉– Turning 3-0 // October was a month of milestones, including celebrating being a human for thirty spins around the sun, which was also a wonderful excuse to gather a group of close friends and family in a youth hostel for the weekend (highlights included howling like wolves running down a hillside and fireside chats late into the night).
🌴– A New Chapter // in two weeks time, I'll be saying goodbye to Brighton, packing up my worldly possessions and heading on a one-way flight to Bali. I'm excited to not yet have any fixed plans on what I'll be doing out there (although I do have many ideas, including putting more time into the future of Curious Humans).
🌎– Reading Distance Travelled // the approximate reading time for this newsletter is 4.5 minutes... which given the speed of the earth's rotation (1000 mph) will mean that you will have travelled 75 miles through space (not factoring in that the earth is orbiting the sun at 514,000 mph!)
🧠– Brain Polishing // The essayist Michel Montaigne wrote of how travel allows us to ‘rub and polish our brains’ against others. With this in mind, I hope you find a few thoughts in this edition to polish your own brain against. And if you're new here, or haven't introduced yourself, please do drop me a note to say hi.
p.s. you're reading this monthly musing alongside 398 curious humans, feel free to forward on to fellow cartographers of ignorance and conquistadores of the unknown... I appreciate you 🙏
The Adventure of Grief ⛰️
Adventure has been defined in many wonderful ways, but one of the oldest and most intriguing origins of the word circa 1300 comes from the French 'aventuren' meaning 'to risk the loss of'. Let those words wash over you for a moment. To risk... the loss... of.
To my mind, an 'adventure' has far less to do with the crossing of oceans or the ascending of mountains (although it may involve such worldly escapades) and rather more with a brave intention; to be willing to risk the loss of that which we habitually grasp hold of.
I've been wondering if the depth of an 'adventure' depends upon the degree to which we can make ourselves completely vulnerable to the world. To lean in – to surrender and say 'I am willing to let this destroy me'. In doing so, we open up to the possibility of feeling connected to something larger than our current ego-selves can conceive.
Is this making any sense? (I feel rather self-conscious writing this and cautious of not projecting my experiences onto others), but if you're still with me... then from this perspective, perhaps grief too could be seen as an invitation to a great adventure? At least this is how it feels from my particular vantage point, just over a year into the journey.
In the second Curious Humans newsletter, I wrote about the beginning of this journey and attempted to wrap words around what felt like being ambushed by memories and falling into the abyss of loss, not only of Sophie but the loss of part of my identity and a shared vision of the future we had constructed.
As the year has progressed, through challenging Vipassana meditation retreats, fascinating plant medicine ceremonies, achingly cold ocean swims and balling my eyes out in public places... an unexpected sense of gratitude has unfolded. It is as if I'm returning home to myself with a renewed stoke for the future and a deep appreciation of the glorious dance of life in which we are all a part of. Onwards! 🚣
"On the inside we come to know who and what and how we love and what we can do to deepen that love; only from the outside and only by looking back, does it look like courage."
– David Whyte
Stoke Your Curiosity 🔥
1 // How to Live Better – leafing through John Kaag’s new book 'Hiking With Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are' brought back memories from my philosophy undergraduate days feeling slightly intoxicated from reading Nietzsche's life affirming and perspective shifting ideas: from his famed 'Amor Fati' to his views on suffering as a great life enhancer. Whilst not everyone's cup of tea, if you are looking for a gateway into practical philosophy, this would be an excellent starting point. Here's a delicious taster of what to expect that is reminiscent of Bucky Fuller's famous line a century later: "I seem to be a verb":
"As it turns out, to “become who you are” is not about finding a “who” you have always been looking for. It is not about separating “you” off from everything else. And it is not about existing as you truly “are” for all time. The self does not lie passively in wait for us to discover it. Selfhood is made in the active, ongoing process, in the German verb werden, “to become.” The enduring nature of being human is to turn into something else, which should not be confused with going somewhere else. This may come as a great disappointment to one who goes in search of the self. What one is, essentially, is this active transformation, nothing more, nothing less. This is not a grand wisdom quest or a hero’s journey, and it doesn’t require one to escape to the mountains. No mountain is high enough."
2 // Why Fear is Stopping You from Pursuing Meaningful Work – I recorded a goosebumps inducing Curious Humans conversation with Leo Babauta last week (I'm mid-edit) and we took a deep dive into fear. But Leo's perspective is refreshingly different from the usual 'conquer fear' narratives that you see filling Instagram feeds and self help articles:
"...when you’re feeling fear, instead of turning away from it or trying to escape/avoid it … try turning towards it. Actually allow yourself to feel the fear. We don’t often want to feel it, but we have a greater capacity to feel fear than we give ourselves credit for..." And he goes on to share how staying with fear can transform your relationship to it... "In fact, you’ll start to realize that you don’t need to get rid of the fear, you don’t need to do anything about it. It’s not a problem, it’s just a feeling, just an experience, just a part of the meaningful work you want to do."
3 // Can You Quantify Awe? >> I feel that awe is the close cousin of curiosity and I spent much of the last decade of my life trying to chase that feeling which Jason Silva describes as an experience of such perceptual vastness that you literally have to reconfigure your mental models to assimilate it. So this piece in Scientific American that describes creating a multidimensional measure and quantify awe was fascinating and you might also feel those goosebumps reading the anonymous responses of when participants described a recent time the felt intense awe. Here was one of their key findings:
"...our findings do suggest that certain spiritual practices, rituals, and interventions might be able to increase awe and other transcendent experiences in in all of us—regardless of our religious beliefs. As Yaden puts it, awe is the 'every-person's spiritual experience.'"
4 // Twenty Nourishing Newsletters >> If we are what we eat, then perhaps the same holds true for the stories and information that we consume daily. These days I spend less and less time reading 'news' and more time paying attention to certain people. These people act as my trusted filters to the firehose of information and I trust them to point my attention in the direction of that which I don't yet know I would be fascinated by. So here are twenty nourishing newsletters that never fail to provide a smile-inducing subject line or introduce me to some of the ideas that I write about myself.
Et. Cetera 🤔
🌎 You are here
📽️ Humankind in 4 minutes
📝 Zen guide to productivity
🗺️ Cartography of your feelings
📱A more mindful phone set-up
🚲 The backwards brain bicycle
⏳ NatGeo Photos Exploring Time
📖– Maria Popova has written a book
📚When was that word first used in print?
🤔The moral compass of self-driving cars
🌳 Immerse yourself in sounds of the wild
🏄Whatever you do in life, don't be an ironing board
📚Buy loved ones the Kindness of Strangers this holiday
🌘 Moons can have moons (they're called moonmoons!)
🌎 Earthrise told through the voices of the Apollo 8 astronauts
Parting Poem 📝
I wrote this sitting under a giant oak tree, it felt like in some way the words flowed through me (as opposed to me consciously writing them). And perhaps partly because of that experience, the words feel 'true' when I read them back.
Thinking back on those years we shared,
I marvel at how you risked delight,
Amidst those waves of your own anguish.
But perhaps your greatest gift,
Was the way in which,
you taught me how to love.
As you did,
with every fibre of your being.
And now that you are gone,
I know what I must do.
I must seek out,
and the sea!
All those radiantly alive places,
That you held in your affection.
For in their presence,
I still feel your spirit dancing.
Only now do I understand,
That your final gift,
Was a beautiful invitation,
To learn to fall in love
With the world