The Year of Collective Thinking

I’ve realised something true: meaning is a team sport, and environment — your people, place, embodiment, and rhythm of play/work/rest — is the 80 and the Self is the 20.

Duh, of course, but I’m getting old, and getting older means learning ever simpler lessons. And real learning isn’t a headsport anyway.

The first gong on the soul was starting a family. There was before my son, and there is after. (If you’re new to this list, here’s my New Dad series.)

The second was the pandemic. The isolation and alienation have hurt, of course, a skulking compounding ache, migraine-like. More impressing has been the collective experience of the same: being alone together. A trading of hardship stories that fomented communion in loss, a collective imagination of post-COVID times. How obvious it becomes that we are social creatures when we’re prevented from being social. How obvious that we’re all in this together.

The third was Bloom. This group is in fact a daydream realised: about 6 months before our meeting, I posted this incantation on my homepage:

I daydream about never retiring. Of a lifetime of creative partnership, friendship, and misadventure with soul-on-the-sleeve explorers who argue for decades about Helvetica and Beyoncé and Wittgenstein, who celebrate the little triumphs and sit shiva over halcyon neverworks. Brothers and sisters in the possibility of art and life.

Three gong strikes. I cannot unhear or unfeel them. And so what I’m impelled to do now, how I want to be, is consciously and fundamentally relative. The locus of meaning, of creative drive, has shifted towards Us away from I.

In the more compelling imagery of Benjamin Zander, it’s something like caring about how many shining eyes I have around me.

The collectives I'm devoted to
The collectives I’m devoted to

So, what now? I will:

  • experiment with shifting the locus of care/obligation/meaning.
  • adopt a faith — that if each collective is seen, loved, supported, that my individual fate will be carried and good.
  • when in doubt, return to being with tightest circle.
  • expand from the centre out, when the energy is there. And when the energy is not, withdraw from the larger circles first. (Without feeling bad, this is called breathing.)
  • default to embodied, environment-informed decisions when at a crossroads.


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