Probably since the beginning of time the love of stuff has ruled the world. And as long as there has been stuff-love, there probably also have been those who growl about all this rampant “stuff-ism.”
According to those grouses, making and getting and keeping and trading and maintaining and so on and so forth goes against “right” thinking and the proper order of something or other.
Stuff-ism is going to destroy the world as we know it, they say, or at least put a heavy dent in it.
Sometimes the haters are those who feel they themselves have “not too-much-of- nothing” and resent the heck out of other people’s more prodigious stuff-piling.
Sometimes the growlers have so much stuff available to them that the dizzying array of choices makes them weary.
Sometimes they just want to stop the whole stuff-love game before we drown in all that stuff and really screw things up.
Whatever their motivations and feelings and intentions, the grumblers are mostly right.
The world as we know it does get dented. It morphs and it changes over and over again as we wrestle with each other, reaching out and grabbing onto the biggest, best and “mostest” stuff-pile.
Much of what goes on in the world is a lot about our stuff and what and how we think and feel and do about it.
We spend time and effort scheming to get more or less or better or different stuff. We develop clever and convoluted ways to protect our stuff-pile.
We sometimes call the piles we accumulate our “lifestyle” and our “history” or “tradition.” Our stuff-pile tells our story for us.
Often our stuff-pile is what we use to measure and compare ourselves with each other.
Stuff-love (and stuff-hate) is such an integral part of being human that there is an enormous body of work by the various and sundry smarty-pants and marketing mavens of the world who keep trying to figure out what makes us humans do what we do.
None of this is particularly surprising to us regular folks. We know. We like stuff and we spend a lot of time trying to deal with it all.
THE INTERCONNECTEDNESS OF MATTER AND MIND
It has been said through the ages that mind and matter are the two basic building blocks of the world through which we humans walk. It could be argued (and has been, ad nauseum) that matter and mind together make up the All of Everything.
Humanity, some say, is the interface between the nebulousness of dreams and delusions and the groundedness of…well…the physical.
The ability to translate our mind-constructs into “real world” material things has always been a prized skillset, as has the parallel and interconnected skillset we can use for deconstructing the material world around us and turning it into mind-phenomena.
Using the latter, we turn the analog, outer-world things into thoughts and feelings and meanings and purposes. We use these inner-world virtual mind-constructs to make stories and poetry, music and dance, art and science, and politics and religion and all the other complex human systems we follow to do the Make-It-So dance we do.
We have names for these deconstruction and reconstruction games we play in the world: creativity, innovation, invention, discovery, and so on.
Whether we are making things or sussing out how we feel and think about them, we are also making all sorts of connections between matter and mind.
Many of the Brainy Bunch have told us that, actually, this is probably the function of humans in this world – seeing the connections and interactions and flow between matter and mind and using them to make new meanings that we can then play with to make the changes that we want to see in the world.
This concept is a total mind-boggle, I think. It has been the basic premise for the building of wonderful dreams and of terrible nightmares throughout the history of our species on this planet.
The wise guys who delve into the workings of our minds keep telling us that all together we humans make the world. They also tell us it would be a good thing for us to think on what it is we are making.
BRINGING IT DOWN TO REAL
All the foregoing blather leads us to a little gem of a book by British travel writer and entrepreneur Dan Kieran, who happens to also be a co-founder (with John Mitchinson and Justin Pollard) as well as the CEO of one of the earliest crowd-funding publishing companies, Unbound.
Unbound is an online publishing platform that brings wanna-be authors before their potential readers and allows the writers to ask for the help they need to make their dream-books real. It was launched in 2011.
Five years later Kieran faced his greatest challenge so far as an entrepreneur – taking his company to the next level, which was exponentially more than it had ever been so far – and he was going through some angst and confusion. Could he do it?
In a 2017 post on the medium.com platform, after the book had been written and he was looking for readers to help him fund the thing, Kieran tells the story about this time. Basically, he says, he had quit being a for-real writer in order to run this company that he and his friends had dreamed up.
This is how Kieran describes the problem he was facing:
My problem was what I believed I was capable of at the edges of my ability and personality. The life I lived had created me. I had defined my own perception of my potential reality. William Blake puts it much better than me. He called it your ‘mind forg’d manacles’. My problems were the barriers I had put up inside me.
In order to do his job running his business successfully, Kieran had turned his writerly focus and attention toward making the business run effectively and well.
This left little time for working on envisioning the direction in which he wanted the business to go and what he could do to navigate toward a more meaningful alignment between his growing business and his own sense of self.
It so happened that in 2015, the year before Kieran faced the impending Big Leap, he had been invited to be a storyteller and speaker at a networking event organized by the Do Lectures organization whose mission is to empower people to become doers.
[You can find out more about the Do Lectures by clicking on the button below.]
At the Do Lectures conference, Kieran met wooden surfboard shaper and builder James Otter who is based in Truro in Cornwall, England. Otto was also a speaker at the conference.
Otter is an interesting guy. Not only does he make wooden surfboards of international repute, he also runs week-long workshops where you can build your dream surfboard your own self using his space and his equipment and tapping into his knowledge and that of his master makers.
Otter invited Kieran to try his hand at building a board because Kieran so appreciated the finished work the surfboard maker had displayed at the conference.
At the time, Kieran dismissed the notion. He had never surfed in his life and he really did not see himself as handy. In fact, Kieran felt he was the epitome of inept.
Nonetheless, a year after their meeting, when Kieran was feeling doubtful about his ability to take his company to the next level, he remembered Otter’s invitation.
The upshot of that was this, according to Kieran:
I went to Cornwall. I built the board. It moved me profoundly. By the end I felt I had re-made myself. That winter I went on to successfully raise the money.
And then, in good writerly fashion, he wrote his book, THE SURFBOARD.
The following YouTube video tells the story about building the board and Kiernan’s thoughts about it. It was published in 2017 by Unbound.
The 27,000-word book itself lays out the way Kieran worked through his Maker journey.
What makes the book most intriguing, however, are the transparently honest reflections, thoughts and insights about the obstacles and rewards of starting and running his successful business that he gained during his week as a surfboard builder and in his conversations with James Otter as they worked on the thing together.
At the end of the week, Kieran had also acquired some new perspectives and insights and learned more about how to get past his own doubts and self-imposed limitations in order to get to where he wanted to go next.
The book is a very good read.
It occurred to me as I went through this exploration that very often in order to Make something with your hands, you do need to dive wholeheartedly into your Right Brain, the part that is not logical or linear or even particularly verbal.
When you are being a Maker, it seems to me, there’s a space inside you that can only be reached by focusing on Now — what is right in front of you – and following through a particular, detailed and time-tested process making the choices you make and solving whatever challenges appear in the making, flowing on from one part of the process to the next until it all gets done.
Doing that leads you to create whatever vision you are trying to make real. The object you’ve envisioned grows out of what you do during that time and in that space and how you choose to do it.
At the end of your process, if you haven’t screwed up too badly, there is an object that, perhaps, approximates what you’ve envisioned.
Making stuff that you can love, it seems to me, helps you access the part of your mind that you can use to make a business that works the way you want it to work, and to make a life that has meaning for you. It all comes out of being able to get into that inner space so you can play.
I have been noticing that a lot of stuff that comes to have great meaning in our lives are the result of taking the time to play in that space.
And that’s another thing that can result from going beyond stuff-love, I am thinking.
Here’s a poem:
SO MANY WANTS
So many wants,
So many fears.
The if-onlys crowd in,
Squeezing through the spaces
Between all the what-ifs.
They crowd all around you,
Obscuring your view
As your little world spins
In the middle of this muchness.
Blinded and distraught,
How can you navigate?
Try look…come see:
The wonders of have,
The beauties of brave,
The miracles of now,
The sweetness of be.
By Netta Kanoho
Header photo credit: “Assemblage” by Edwin Young via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
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