Meaning and mana are the pillars that hold up the gateway to life lived as poem-fodder.

Oregon’s late poet laureate William Stafford once said, “Poetry and other arts come from acceptance of little signals that immediate experience contributes to beings who are alive and fallible and changing.”

Actually, meaning and mana are probably the pillars for the gateways to all the different lives a human can live.  Life lived by humans is almost never simple, even when the moves we make appear to be straightforward.

According to ancient wisdom teachers, our moves arise out of a mixed bag of needs and motivations, desire and goals that form the matrix we call “self.”  The motives and needs and desires are pretty much standard-issue, they say.  It’s just the mix that differs.

Science agrees.  Daniel H. Pink’s popular book, DRIVE:  The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, lays out the results of a wide variety of scientific studies about human behavior.  Pink lists the “three primary elements of true motivation”:

Autonomy (which is about understanding oneself and cultivating self-direction, a large part of developing mana or personal power)

Mastery (which is the other part of developing personal power)

Purpose (which is another word for “meaning”)

Says Pink, “Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another.  And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.”

In his book, Pink goes on to present assorted ways and means for achieving that liberation in your own life by working with your own particular mix of motivations.


Need an example of the wide variance in human motivations?

Imagine that you’re a time-traveling researcher gathering data for some scientific study or other research project about why people do the work they do.

Your subjects happen to be laborers working on a cathedral.  Not just any cathedral.  Make it a big one, like the Notre-Dame de Chartres.

Chartres Cathedral by anthony rue via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Four journeyman bricklayers are among the people who’ve agreed to take part in your study.  You ask them why they are engaged in this work they all do.

The first one says, “It’s hard work, but it’s my job.  I do this for my family, to provide for them.

The second one says, “It’s hard work, but this is my career.  I do this because someday I shall be a master builder and I will be the one in charge of a project like this.”

The third one says, “It’s hard work, but this is a part of my family tradition.  For generations now, my family have been bricklayers and builders.  I do this because I am carrying on the legacy of my ancestors and I want to pass it on to my children.

The fourth one says, “It’s hard work, but this is my calling.  I do this for the glory of God.  I do this because even when I am gone, this cathedral will still stand, and it will be beautiful.”

Each one of the bricklayers is doing the same hard work.  Each one looks at the work with different eyes.  Each one does the work for a different reason.  And each one of them are probably living very different lives.

Motivations — the “why” of living your life – vary.  So do the results.

This YouTube Video by the Great Big Story video network, “The Lone Man Building a Cathedral by Hand” is about 90-year-old Justo Gallego who has spent 53 years of his life building a cathedral on the outskirts of Madrid in Spain.  It is amazing….


Life lived as poem-fodder requires a particular mindset – one that begins by looking at who and where you are now.  Poets, artists and storytellers are particularly prone to examining life-as-we-know-it.

We look at the messy chaos of it all, focus on one specific thing that catches at our hearts, and we unpack and tease out the meanings contained in this ordinary slice of life.  We roll all of these meanings and metaphors up into a ball that makes some sort of sense to us and we play with it.

Sometimes by doing that we can discover new worlds to which we can invite other people to come and play.

Here’s a YouTube video, “For Those Who Dream.”  It’s a heart-felt spoken poem by Osric Chau.


Scientists, engineers, technicians and other more linear sorts also look at the world with special eyes.

They pull out their tape measures and calipers and use them to tally the height and width and depth of some part of life.

They gather together far-flung bits of data and throw them into a funnel that moves the bits through a series of filters that have already been set up.  These filters have names like “hypothesis,” “premise,” and “theory.”

All of the data gets compared and correlated according to preset or already established ideas and ideals.

They hope, these smart guys, to suss out how the “rules” are supposed to work.  They take the little bits they’ve sifted out of the whole thing and press them into molds made according to older, established constructs to make more bricks.

With these  bricks they build other rules and constructs and edifices as they trundle right along making their visions “real.”

This way of seeing and doing can also be quite exciting.

This YouTube video, “A Day In the Life of An Oxford Physics Student” was published  by Simon Clark.  What is most evident is the young man’s passion for his field of study.


Very different ways of seeing become divergent ways of making.  Each one is a perfectly valid way to build a life with meaning and mana.

Here’s a poem:


Oops!  Sorry!

I forget sometimes, you see…

Your walk is not mine,

You are not me.

You’re headed off in

Some direction that

Makes no sense to me.


Maybe it’s ’cause your horizon’s set

At an odd angle from mine.

Maybe your gravity well’s

Located in a different place.

I don’t know.


It really looks peculiar,

That way you’re standing,

But, mostly…probably…that’s just me,

Just the way I see.

Looking at your stance from here

Gives me the jimmy-jams!

What is holding you up?


Do you get dizzy from that levitating thing you do?

Does standing sideways like that

Feel to you like hanging your head backwards

As you pump your swing up higher?


Maybe not.  If that’s normal for you….



There must be cool stories

Sandwiched in there somewhere

In all that precarious-looking

Crane-stance thing you’re doing.

There must be things

That I can’t see

From where I’m standing.


So tell me, please….

How’s it going for ya?

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Gateway by George Redgrave via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]



(Click on each of the post titles below and see where it takes you…)


Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below.













24 thoughts on “WHAT MOVES YOU?

  1. “The Examined Life Is Not Worth Living” At All. At least that is what I think. You can still eat, breathe, etc., but what’s the point of simply existing? I think you have thoughtful content built with the idea of life/living creations as opposed to just things created because you had to. It is a website that challenges the readers to examine what kind of life they live. Is it worth it? just a daze?
    Unfortunately, in this society, we must live after work, after retirement, after getting paid, etc. Why not live now?

    1. Hey Cristal: Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts. My own thought is that, f’r real, it’s ALL Life: work (the before-work, the after-work, and the in-between) as well as all the stuff you do before and after you retire, and all the stuff you do whether or not you get paid and so on and so forth. It’s Life even if it’s just a daze. (Sometimes dazes can come in handy, you know….)

      Ummm…now I’m curious. What do the words “life” and “living” mean to you? Maybe you see it differently than me.

      Please do come again!

  2. Being in a period of my life where pretty much everything is changing, Your site truly makes an impact. It also makes me curious about what else it has to offer. So what made you start this mind changing/opening journey of a homepage?
    Very interesting to reflect upon that the mind of people did not really change a whole lot, however the circumstances, options and noise changed. The basics of seeing, feeling, imagination and creating are still the same. Pretty cool stuff!

    1. Thank you for your visit and for your comments, Hans. My own quest (for the past twenty years now) has been looking for meaning and mana (imminent personal power) to deepen and enliven my own life.

      This thing I do started when my husband of 27 years died suddenly. We had been symbiotic for so long that I did not really know who just-Netta was. I explored that. A lot. I made lots of mistakes, learned a bunch, and generally had a good time with the help of my friends and other good people.

      This website is another exploration and playing with looking for meaning and mana. I am betting that there are many other people out there exploring who just-them are too. I am hoping that sharing what I’ve learned so far will help them on their own journeys as well. I’m not a guru. I’m not particularly smart. I don’t own mansions and Ferraris and shiny baubles. I’m just ordinary. I like it.

      Please do come again.

  3. Your article has moved me a lot. Every person has different motives in life why we do the work that we do. Is if for the sake of earning money to provide for our family? Do we enjoy the work that we do because it is our passion or perhaps our vocation or “calling” that we have inside in order to help other people achieve a good perspective or direction in life? I agree with the two reasons but the one that will strike me most is the latter. I want to do the work that I do because I enjoy helping people and it is my calling. I was so touched by the first two videos that you have presented because I could definitely relate to the old man who and the student who both wanted to achieve their dreams. One is already living his dream and wants to complete it someday and the latter is on the stage of fulfilling his dream by changing the direction of his life, Thank you for letting me read your inspiring poems about life. Wish you all the best in life! 🙂

    1. Hey Deljar:

      Thank you for your visit and your kind comments. All the best to you as well….Please do come again!

  4. Very nice to hear this. I think to be able to understand motivations are different for people helps understand nothing is only black or only white.

    When you see the old man working at his age to build a cathedral he knows he can’t finish, you see what it’s like to know what motivate you.

    Let’s hope we all find ours!

    Thanks for the reading 😉

    1. Hey P.J.:

      Thanks for the visit.  I’m glad you enjoyed it.  I join you in the wish that we all find what moves us and that we each choose to dance to our own heartsong.

      Please do come again….

  5. Love it! I do agree that what keeps us going depends on our needs, depends on our why’s, depends on for whom? Just like the laborer who are doing the same work and yet with different reasons. It applies to us in our everyday life. Some do it for family, some for their self, some because they have to and so on. But I believe that we may be doing the same work but we are giving different efforts because we have different motivations in life. That is why some people succeed and some fail because they just gave up.

    1. Gillian, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I think you may be right.  Our motivations have a great deal to do with how we do things and for how long.  

      Some people wonder why there’s such an emphasis on motivation in all the woo-woo stuff that’s around.  Partly, I think, it’s because if your motivation matches what holds meaning for you, then it does really affect your day-to-day production and it can also affect your long-term satisfaction.

      Funny how all of that stuff sort of works together.

      Please do come again.

  6. I will make sure to check out the book “Drive” by Daniel H. Pink. We are all different, we grow up in a different setting but in order for us to reach a true happiness, we need to set goals. As long as we know what is our ultimate goal, we will learn a way to motivate ourselves to reach that goal. That is what I think, gotta have to check that book. 

    However, life in this century is so busy that we from time to time forget to remind ourselves about our ultimate goal. I remembered that every time I accomplished a goal, I always reward myself and try to remember that feelings so that the next goal in my life comes in my way, it can be my motivation. Does that make sense? I always used a reward system for myself and also have a note that reminds me about my goal.

    I will make sure when I get home to check the YouTube videos as well. Thanks for the motivation!  

    1. Nuttanee, thank you for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.

      Rewarding yourself for a job well-done or a goal met is a grand way to keep reminding yourself about your WHY for doing all the stuff you do.  It keeps you going when the hills get high, I say.

      Please do come again….

  7. Your article made me think of this Indian man I read about.  I can’t remember his name, but his wife was sick and dying.  There was a medical facility on the other side of this mountain and it was impassible.  By the time a doctor made it to his wife, she died.  This man began chipping away at the middle of the mountain for 22 years.  He eventually created a path in the middle of the mountain and he reduced the distance from the hospital from I think 70km to 1 or 2km, (correct my data if you’re familiar with the story).

    His purpose was different than those builders at the cathedral.  He wanted to make sure no one else felt the same hurt he felt because they couldn’t make it to the hospital in time.  If that’s not a life built poem I don’t know what is


    1. Ibrahim, thank you for the visit and for sharing the story.  I do remember it, but am not so sure of the details any more.  It was a truly amazing accomplishment and his motivation was superbly selfless.  

      Thank you!

      (And you’re right…that one there is a life-built poem for sure!)

      Please do come again….

  8. SeunJeremiah says:

    This article has got me thinking alot within the period of time I read through for 3 three good times about how It allows the body to sustain itself and perform its necessary functions to keep us alive, I have read alot about the word “MANA”  and at a point in time I wondered why does the mana content in human increases as they get older? 

    1. Thanks for your visit (and for reading my post three times!).  I am pleased it moved you.

      Okay…this is a woo-woo warning.  (You can’t talk about mana without getting woo-woo, or at least I can’t.)   

      My own feeling is that mana is tied to the spark of the Divine that is in every human there ever was.  It is why we are all able to create our own somethings out of the world around us, I think.  

      And as we get older (but only if we’ve paid attention to the world around us as well as to our own inner selves), we are able to get through the confusions and obfuscations of all the dailynesses and do more of the things that have meaning for us.

      Probably that’s the only advantage old guys get.  

      Maybe the things that have meaning for us might not have any meaning for the people who are around us, but it is a big world and there are over 7 billion other guys in it.  And isn’t THAT a cool thing?  

      Please do come again….

  9. I hadn’t stopped to think about this, but reading your post, I agree. Needs and motivations are standard-issues, the mix is what makes us unique.

    I watched all of the three videos you included in this post. And I particularly liked the day in the life of an Oxford physics student. Studying until 3 AM! Things we pursue, that attract us, our motivations, they’re all different making us unique.

    1. Henry, thank you for your visit and your comment.  I’m glad the post was engaging for you.

      (It’s a truth, that one.  We do amazing things when we are doing what is meaningful to us.)

      Please do come again….

  10. Thanks for writing this thought-provoking article. It actually made me question my inner purpose in life. What am I doing now and how I should do to make it better? Why I’m doing what I do now? 

    I think finding what moves me will make me have a clearer mindset to achieve my life goal. 

    Thank you very much, I want to think about this matter in my free time.

    1. Allblue, thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I’m glad the post was helpful to you.

      Please do come again.

  11. Thanks for sharing this well written, informative and very interesting article. I liked the analogy you use with the bricklayers (not just because I am a bricklayer myself. I’d be the fourth one.lol), but I do like analogies. They are a great way of helping your listener to understand. 

    I try use them a lot in my own content wherever I can. Thanks

    1. Welcome back, Kwidzin.  Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I think analogies are a cool way to play too!

      Please do come again.

  12. Very Inspiring. I always keep these two sayings in mind “If I don’t do it now, then when” and “Fear is a stepping stone to courage”. Being open and interacting more has helped me improve my courage, and so has helped improve my life. 

    I enjoyed you poems, and am looking forward to seeing more of them.

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Champ.  I’m glad you endjoyed the post.

      Please do come again.

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