Things vs. People – 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 6: chapter 10
  • Brené Brown Book Club — The Gifts of Imperfection, finishing week 5-6 reading: Guidepost #3 – Guidepost #6


Chapter 10

“I don’t know what story all these people are enacting, but I can see that they’re all enacting the same one. I cant spell the story out as yet, but it’s clearly there — in distinction to the story the people of my culture are enacting.” Leavers parallel the people Brené calls wholehearted — at first she couldn’t see very clearly what they had in common, and she knows that they have a huge diversity, but there are some key things they have in common that make them very different from the not-wholehearted.

“Leaver peoples are always conscious of having a tradition that goes back to very ancient times. We have no such consciousness. For the most part, we’re a very ‘new’ people. Every generation is somehow new, more thoroughly cut off from the past than the one that came before.” Parallels individuals — wholehearted people can see back to either always having had trust and connection or having found it by facing and overcoming difficult things from their past. Non-wholehearted people have some amount of disconnect from their original sense of worth/trust/connection.

“Of course the Leavers save information about production too, though production for its own sake is rarely a feature of their lives…” most of the information they save is about something else. How would you characterize that information?”
“… I’d say it comes to what works well for them.” — The non-wholehearted value things that don’t work well for them, and the wholehearted do.

“Why don’t you teach them what works well for people?” — Literally what Brené is trying to do in her work.

The Gifts of Imperfection

Guidepost #5 — Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty

“Sometimes our intuition or our gut tells us what we need to know; other times it actually steers us toward fact-finding and reasoning…
“And there it is: What does your gut say?
“We shake our head and say, ‘I’m not sure’ when the real answer is, ‘I have no idea what my gut says; we haven’t spoken in years.'” — Compare Quinn, in this week’s chapter itself, talking about Takers forgetting what works well for people, having broken the chain of knowledge that had evolved. Leaver bodies of knowledge of what works well for them seem very parallel to individuals’ sense of gut/intuition — both are learned/cultivated over time, neither invented.

“I’ve come to realize that faith and reason are not natural enemies. It’s our human need for certainty and our need to ‘be right’ that have pitted faith and reason against each other in an almost reckless way.” — Compare The Story of B discussing Leaver cultures as inherently related to religious/spiritual/sacred concerns while also being very consistent with science.

“I understand that faith and reason can clash and create uncomfortable tensions… But this work has forced me to see that it’s our fear of the unknown and our fear of being wrong that create most of our conflict and anxiety. We need both faith and reason to make meaning in an uncertain world.” — Compare Taker need for the “one right way” — for certainty.

“I personally struggled with that because I’m not comfortable with using God or faith or spirituality to explain tragedy. It actually feels like substituting certainty for faith when people say, ‘There’s a reason for everything.'” — Related to Takers seeing humans as inherently flawed and seeing that inherent flaw as the explanation for why so much goes wrong and why people are helpless to do anything about it.

“But many religious folks insist on answers that are always true.” — Parallels Taker thinking about one right way.

“Anne Lamott: ‘The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.'” — Certainty goes hand in hand with a lack of faith, a lack of trust, and therefore a need to control — all true on both the individual level and in the Taker culture in general.

Guidepost #6 — Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison

“There were plastic plants with hanging vines strategically sitting on top of armoires, and dried flowers in baskets decorating the tops of tables. Strangely, everyone’s lobby kinda looked the same… In New Orleans, I went to a Catholic school and everyone looked the same, prayed the same, and, for the most part, acted the same.” Taker culture reduces diversity and creativity, literally in the sense of destroying the creation/evolution of new forms.

“My parents were launched on the accomplishments-and-acquisitions track, and creativity gave way to that stifling combination of fitting in and being better than, also known as comparison.
“Comparison is all about conformity and competition… The comparison mandate becomes this crushing paradox of ‘fit in and stand out!’ It’s not cultivate self-acceptance, belonging, and authenticity; it’s be just like everyone else, but better.” Compare Quinn, in this week’s chapter itself, saying that Taker culture preserves what’s good for things, not people. Compare Taker culture as hierarchical, competitive — as being interested in what some have over others. And: an incredibly insidious connection — in civilization, people battle over things like capitalism vs. communism, etc., etc., etc., all claiming the one right way, and yet for all the argument and divisiveness, they all share the absolute conviction that civilization is the one thing we should all be — be just like everyone else, civilized/Taker, but be better than everyone else, with your own in-crowd’s notion of the one right way to be civilized. All stemming from the fact that civilization itself is the underlying mistaken notion of one right way to live compared to other ways.

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