Getting Somewhere – 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:


Chapter 11

“There’s another indication that the revolution goes deeper than mere technology. Mother Culture teaches that, before the revolution, human life was devoid of meaning, was stupid, empty, and worthless. Prerevolutionary life was ugly. Detestable.” The cultural version of what on an individual psychological level is called projection.

“Why was the revolution necessary?”
“It was necessary if man was to get somewhere.” Compare to individual overworking, seeking accomplishment and status.

“He’s hunting, and he’s desperate. Night is falling and he’s got nothing to eat.
“He’s running and running and running, as if he were on a treadmill. It is a treadmill, because tomorrow at twilight he’ll be there running still — or running again. But there’s more than hunger and desperation driving him. He’s terrified as well. Behind him on the ridge, just out of sight, his enemies are in pursuit to tear him to pieces — the lions, the wolves, the tigers. And so he has to stay on that treadmill forever, forever one step behind his prey and one step ahead of his enemies.” Compare to individual overworking, monotony, ultra-competitive win/lose either/or thinking. More projection.

“Because it’s a struggle just to stay alive.”
“But in fact it isn’t anything of the kind. I’m sure you know that, in another compartment of your mind. Hunter-gatherers no more live on the knife-edge of survival than wolves or lions or sparrows or rabbits. Man was as well adapted to life on this planet as any other species, and the idea that he lived on the knife-edge of survival is simply biological nonsense. As an omnivore, his dietary range is immense. Thousands of species will go hungry before he does. His intelligence and dexterity enable him to live comfortably in conditions that would utterly defeat any other primate.
“Far from scrabbling endlessly and desperately for food, hunter-gatherers are among the best-fed people on earth, and they manage this with only two or three hours a day of what you would call work — which makes them among the most leisured people on earth as well.” Leavers and wholehearted people, having their needs met, able to rest, completely misunderstood by Takers/non-wholehearted people.

“Forgive me, but you sound like lunatics, Bwana, to do all this work just to ensure that you can never be disappointed over the matter of a yam. Among my people, when we want a yam, we simply go and dig one up — and if there are none to be found, we find something else just as good, and hundreds of people don’t need to labor to put it into our hands.” Takers/non-wholehearted people crave the illusion of choice.

The Gifts of Imperfection

Guidepost #7 — Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth

“Brown proposes seven properties of play, the first of which is that play is apparently purposeless. Basically this mean that we play for the sake of play. We do it because it’s fun and we want to.” Compare Leavers as among the most leisured people on earth, as being purposeless, so to speak, as opposed to needing to get somewhere the way Takers/non-wholehearted people do.

“We think accomplishments and acquisitions will bring joy and meaning, but that pursuit could be the very thing that’s keeping us so tired and afraid to slow down.” Compare the Taker need to get somewhere.

“Making the choice to rest and play is, at best, counterculture.” Explicit recognition that wholeheartedness is not aligned with the broader culture.

“When we compared our dream list to our ‘joy and meaning’ list, we realized that by merely letting go of the list of things we want to accomplish and acquire, we would be actually living our dream — not striving to make it happen in the future, but living it right now. The things we were working toward did nothing in terms of making our life fuller.” Compare again the Taker need to get somewhere, the Taker need for ever more control that isn’t here yet, the need to work toward it in the future.

“What if we’re normal and quiet and happy? Does that count?” Compare Taker culture choosing to shine bright for a short time as opposed to living quietly for a long time.

Guidepost #8 — Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle

“I need a way to stay on my feet when I’m really anxious.” Compare Taker need for ever more control.

“If we stop long enough to create a quiet emotional clearing, the truth of our lives will invariably catch up with us. We convince ourselves that if we stay busy enough and keep moving, reality won’t be able to keep up. So we stay in front of the truth about how tired and scared and confused and overwhelmed we sometimes feel. Of course, the irony is that the thing that’s wearing us down is trying to stay out in front of feeling worn down. This is the self-perpetuating quality of anxiety. It feeds on itself.” Compare the Taker Thunderbolt, pedaling faster to try to avoid a crash, when pedaling faster actually speeds up the crash.

“In our increasingly complicated and anxious world, we need more time to do less and be less.” Taker culture wants to be conqueror of the world — wants to be more, wants to be most.

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