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A Common Place for the Not-So-Commonplace
Hey everyone! I hope your midsummer nights have been as pleasant as mine have been lately. In case you missed our recent announcement, we are beginning live courses. There are still spots left for the first course that begins on August 17. What are the courses all about? They cover a lot of different topics. But beyond the specific subject matter, they are a place to explore new ideas and how to incorporate them into your life. What’s the value of that type of meeting place? Well, that brings us to this week’s Stuff.
ONE FROM THE AGES
John Stewart Mill on the freedom of responsibility and discovering your own values:
“The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental or spiritual.”
Source: On Liberty
ONE FROM TODAY
Author, speaker, humanitarian, and all-around world-changer AJ Leon on creating your own life:
“The greatest opportunity cost you have as a human is not taking your own ideas seriously.”
“The repose of stagnation draws you ever nearer to a precipice where you begin to accept, settle and acquiesce to the whims of whatever circumstance or paradigm or context the world has trapped you in.”
ONE FROM US
About five weeks ago I broke my arm. This is my ever first broken bone but, boy did I make up for a lifetime of near misses. I broke my left radius clean through, nearly breaking the skin, and requiring repair with a plate and screws. The break also severely dislocated my wrist - a much slower recovery than the broken bone. This isn’t a plea for sympathy (I’m typing this right now aren’t I?), but a chance to share some lessons from my recovery.
After surgery, I spent 5 weeks in a splint that immobilized my arm up the shoulder. For the last three weeks, I was allowed to remove the splint briefly to shower. Each time I took it off I was amazed by how little improvement I saw in my wrist. The sensation and strength slowly returned to my fingers, but my wrist recovery seemed locked in time, no less tender and weak than the last time I tried to move it.
A few days ago, I took off the splint for the last time. My doctors gave me only a small wrist brace and the instructions that I can remove it for hours at a time and move my wrist and arm as I please (with the obvious exception of anything load-bearing). My progress over the last four days is remarkable. Prior to losing the splint, I could not remember the feeling of a capable hand. Now, seemingly overnight, I find myself folding laundry, cooking, eating, and typing, hardly aware that I’m using both hands. What brought on this rapid recovery? In a word: movement. Freedom to move begets movement. Movement brings capacity.
In a much broader sense, “freedom of movement” brings all forms of growth. Why do children learn so quickly and change so rapidly? Is it that, in youth, our developmental imperative supersedes all other pursuits? Yes, but could it also be that a child’s daily experience is oriented toward exposure to new influences and characterized by the freedom to move? In other words, children’s environments (both their formal schooling/daycares and their chosen forms of free play) allow them to explore new ideas, relationships, and activities. They have the freedom to move physically, but also cognitively and emotionally.
Adulthood means taking on responsibilities beyond your personal development. But we don’t need to allow adulthood to impede our freedom of movement. Above, AJ Leon reminds us that stagnation is more than simply failing to progress and grow. When we stagnate long enough we come to accept things as they are and acquiesce that we are not only incapable of changing ourselves, but incapable of changing the world around us. Stagnant people relinquish their own personal health and well-being, but they also allow destructive cultural trends to propagate.
But here’s the rub, a little bit of movement allows more movement. A little exploration reveals new areas to explore. A little bit of growth ignites a flame that can only be fed by lifelong learning. My wrist was severely injured and kept stagnant for five weeks. That immobility was necessary for the early stages of bone growth. But as soon as it was allowed to move like a wrist again, I felt as though I had been slipped a magic healing potion. I have a long recovery before my next handstand, but I know that progress comes only from movement—as much movement as I can find within my current constraints.
Unfortunately, for many of us, modern adulthood brings similar constraints to our ideas and values. We lose many opportunities to “move” freely. Our physical movement becomes constrained by our shoes, clothing, daily environments, and cultural expectations. Our personal philosophies stagnate once we find our vocation and establish peer groups with similar values. We fail to seek new experiences, explore controversial viewpoints and connect with new people. We shy away from discomfort and challenge. By both choice and circumstance, we lose the influences that bring growth and fall into comfortable stagnation.
How do we resolve this stagnation? You’re on the right track right now. You’re reading a newsletter whose mission is to present the “ideas that matter but are somehow overlooked.” But the real solution comes from a communal connection and action. Recently, we’ve taken our mission one step further. We created a place to allow “freedom of movement.”
The best way to progress in your life is through a tribe of common goals. Not necessarily common values or backgrounds, but a shared desire to grow through new influences. Kids on a playground have complete autonomy but naturally congregate into small groups around their favorite activities. They learn more from observing how other kids utilize the playground than they would in a lifetime of personal exploration. Our live courses can be that playground for your life.
The small group courses (guided by readings and a loosely-structured outline) provide enough direction to guide each session but allow us all freedom to move—move in our values and move toward more productive habits. A place to learn new ideas from the readings and the structure that Shane and I have outlined. But also a place to share your experience, to “take your own ideas seriously,” and to learn from others. You won’t completely overhaul your life in 4-weeks, but, like my wrist, you will create a little bit of movement that brings surprisingly rapid change. Best of all, you’ll have a new tribe to share it all with.
We’ll meet on Monday and Thursday evenings for four weeks beginning August 17. For more details on the topics, readings, and registrations, check out this page. We would love to have you in the next session.
Whether you jump into this first course or not, we’re glad you’re here, creating as much movement in your own life as you can. We feel honored to speak to you each week.
I’ll leave you with another little affirmation from AJ Leon.
“Average is not inherited. Average is a choice.”