ideas

A little while back I was in a workshop. It’s an occupational hazard.

On this particular day the facilitator invited us to peruse a collection of prayers from Australian writer Michael Leunig. Perhaps better known for his cartoons (and those are not without controversy), Leunig also writes a series of whimsical, fascinating prayers (or reflections…by another name) ideal for the purposes of the workshop I was in.

I wandered along the table, reading prayers, smiling to myself, enjoying Leunig’s way with words and interesting take on the world – but really just skimming the surface of each of them. And then this:

God help us with ideas, those thoughts which inform the way we live and the things we do. Let us not seize upon ideas, neither shall we hunt them down nor steal them away. Rather let us wait faithfully for them to approach, slowly and gently like creatures from the wild. And let them enter willingly into our hearts and come and go freely within the sanctuary of our contemplation, informing our souls as they arrive and being enlivened by the inspiration of our hearts as they leave.

These shall be our truest thoughts. Our willing and effective ideas. Let us treasure their humble originality. Let us follow them gently back into the world with faith that they shall lead us to lives of harmony and integrity.

Amen

Michael Leunig

There’s so much about this prayer that captured me, that I was honestly not quite sure where to start. As I sat with it, read it, prayed it, I gradually fixed on the line “Let us not seize upon ideas, neither shall we hunt them down nor steal them away. Rather let us wait faithfully for them to approach, slowly and gently like creatures from the wild…”

There’s so much going on in our world, and in our own individual lives, that it’s easy to feel rushed, overwhelmed, overloaded with stimulus. At least in my own life it’s mostly self-inflicted. I’m not prepared to confess the number (for the sheer shame of it), but each week when my phone tells me how many hours a day I’m averaging addicted to just that one device….well….it’s not pretty. Where could an idea approach slowly, and gently like a creature from the wild when I’m constantly cramming my own mind full of data, input, other people’s ideas?

Leunig isn’t necessarily writing about devices, or attention, or busyness and their impact on space for ideas to surface…but those are the things that come to mind for me from this prayer.

Make space. Sit quietly. Walk gently. Meander aimlessly. Allow room to breathe, and think, and simply be. And when that idea approaches like a creature from the wild, look at it with curiosity, with wonder. And see what happens next.

That’s what I’m thinking about today.

in plain sight

I ride bikes a bit, walk a bit, run a bit. And because I’m essentially a creature of habit, those attempts to fight off the middle-aged spread often see me following the same path week-in and week-out.

One of the mountain bike trails I ride I have now been down 242 times. On another the count is 172. That’s a lot of trips over the same bit of ground, past the same scenery. I almost feel like I know every tree, every branch, every rock.

For all that I reckon I know those trails inside out (what’s the phrase…I know them so well i could ride them blindfolded? I don’t think I’ll give that a whirl!) I also think that same familiarity means that I’ve stopped noticing. There’s the possibility that when I ride the same path often enough, I stop seeing my surrounds.

It might be the same where you walk, or along the roads you drive every single day. We can become immune to our surroundings, disconnected from them, oblivious to them.

Naturally if something big changes, we notice. If you sneak in and add a new jump to my favourite trail, I’ll notice it (right before I crash!), and if a new house goes up overnight on my afternoon walking route, I’ll likely notice that too. Yesterday I found a new roundabout on a road I’ve driven hundreds of times before…but not travelled for a while. I noticed it.

But that’s not usually how change happens is it. Change often happens slowly. Incrementally. Millimetre by millimetre. The trail slowly widens to make a corner easier, the dirt wears away revealing a little more rock each time to make it a little rougher, the soft-fall in the playground is scattered one bark-chip at a time until it’s not quite as safe anymore.

These things happen in plain sight. And unless we’re specifically looking for them, they’re not easy to spot. Unless we occasionally ride the trail intent on noticing what’s new…maybe we’ll never be aware.

I reckon life can be a little like that too. The way I treat my family members can change little by little, almost imperceptible, until I’ve done damage to the relationship. My work ethic can slip a fraction here, and a fraction there, until I’m not quite delivering. My spiritual life might slide – I skip some prayer time here and there and all of a sudden it’s a week, or a month, or a year since I prayed.

There’s a few things that I think have maybe happened this way in my own life. Maybe I need to take a ride down the trail intentionally looking to see where change has (unintentionally) occurred.

What about you?