Taking Flight – As You Were

As You Were – looking for connections between the work of Brené Brown and Daniel Quinn as I revisit them in book clubs. See the introductory post for what this is all about. In this post, I look at:

  • Daniel Quinn Book Club — Ishmael, week 4: chapters 7 & 8
  • Brené Brown Book Club — The Gifts of Imperfection, finishing week 3-4 reading: Exploring the Power of Love, Belonging, and Being Enough – Guidepost #2


Chapter 7

“Any naturalist will tell you that the species are not in any sense at war with one another. The gazelle and the lion are enemies only in the minds of the Takers. The lion that comes across a herd of gazelles doesn’t massacre them, as an enemy would. It kills one, not to satisfy its hatred of gazelles but to satisfy its hunger, and once it has made its kill the gazelles are perfectly content to go on grazing with the lion right in their midst.” People are fundamentally wired for connection, empathy, compassion, etc. The world is only win-lose when looked at from a win-lose cultural paradigm.

Chapter 8

“So the law promotes what?”
“Of course. And what’s the good of diversity?… Diversity is a survival factor for the community itself.” Strong currents of diversity/inclusiveness in Brené’s work, as there must be for anyone interested in authenticity.

“All you have to do to transform yourself into an Arizonan is to cross that imaginary line and settle down. But the point to note is that around each of the Leaver peoples on that map was a boundary that was definitely not imaginary: a cultural boundary… If you crossed over into Hopi territory, they didn’t give you a form to fill out, they killed you. That worked very well. That gave people a powerful incentive to limit their growth.” Strong boundaries may go hand in hand with modesty of lifestyle, because growth and aggrandizement may only be possible without clear boundaries.

“Mother Culture must be finished off it you’re going to survive, and that’s something that people of your culture can do. She has no existence outside your minds. Once you stop listening to her, she ceases to exist.” Culture and psychology/ego — just stories that can be changed.

“Among the Leavers, crimes, mental illness, suicide, and drug addiction are great rarities… The story the Takers have been enacting here for the past ten thousand years is not only disastrous for mankind and for the world, it’s fundamentally unhealthy and unsatisfying. It’s a megalomaniac’s fantasy, and enacting it has given the Takers a culture riddled with greed, cruelty, mental illness, crime, and drug addiction.” Connection between culture and individual, numbing mechanisms. Megalomaniac — individuals and cultures, same things can happen on both levels.

The Gifts of Imperfection

Guidepost #1 — Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think

“The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” Authenticity is about facing reality — which Takers do not do, ecologically, economically, psychologically.

“We feel exhausted because without even giving it too much thought, most of us know that choosing authenticity in a culture that dictates everything from how much we’re supposed to weigh to what our houses are supposed to look like is a huge undertaking… E.E. Cummings wrote, ‘To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight — and never stop fighting.'” Connections from individual to culture — and recognition that the culture is one that has expectations that thwart diversity — see Quinn on diversity above. Compare: Takers literally will slaughter Leaver cultures if they don’t change themselves. We can also observe plenty of ways within Taker culture in which lives are threatened just due to identity (genocide is not remotely limited to indigenous cultures, lynchings, etc.) and in which people are forced to be something other than what/who they are (indoctrination of indigenous children into civilized culture, conversion therapy, and many less conspicuous ways).

“Caution: If you trade in your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.” She and Quinn both listing the maladies that come from a culture that denies who we are.

Guidepost #2 — Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism

“‘The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the world of becoming yourself.’ -Anna Quindlen” More of the above.

“Where perfectionism exists, shame is always lurking. In fact, shame is the birthplace of perfectionism… Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight… Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal… Perfectionism is addictive because when we invariably do experience shame, judgment, and blame, we often believe it’s because we weren’t perfect enough. So rather than questioning the faulty logic of perfectionism, we become even more entrenched in our quest to live, look, and do everything just right.” Compare Ishmael, chapter 6, discussing the flawed-designed flying machine: “He just has to pedal a little harder, that’s all.” Always more, more, more, closer to perfection, when it’s really taking you closer to disaster. And Ishmael, chapter 5: “Only one thing can save us. We have to increase our mastery of the world. All this damage has come about through our conquest of the world, but we have to go on conquering it until our rule is absolute. Then, when we’re in complete control, everything will be fine.”

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