Howling in the Desert – 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:

(Commissions earned on Amazon links.)

Providence: The Story of a Fifty-Year Vision Quest


“As far as I could see, I was finished. I’d spent twelve years on the book. Not every minute of twelve years, but a good ten years of the twelve. All you can do is chase the deer, you know. You give it all you’ve got, and after that it’s in the hands of the gods. If it’s the deer’s day to live, then it’s your day to go hungry. I had to figure it was over, so I put the book away and got ready to hunt up a new direction for my life. And it was of course at that moment that I heard about the Turner competition.” Quinn’s personal story about the many years in which he wrote and rewrote a book eight times to arrive at Ishmael resonates with Brené’s notions of daring bravely and rising strong.

“I had heard Ted Turner talking. Everyone else was saying, Mr. Quinn, nobody’s publishing stuff like this — nobody gives a damn. Turner was saying something different. He was saying, the human race is at risk here, and I’m not seeing anything new, not hearing anything new, and that’s what I want to see. I want someone with some new ideas to come along and blow me away. That’s worth half a million to me.
“Well, of course that’s exactly what I was all about. I’d spent a dozen years out there howling in the wilderness, and Ted Turner was saying, Well, how about it? Is there anybody out there who would like to be heard?” Quinn’s personal story about daring greatly and rising strong was itself also exemplary of a third book title of Brené’s: “Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone,” with Quinn explicitly acknowledging his time in the wilderness and seeing he had a chance for his work to achieve belonging and acceptance.


“For a writer, telling the truth is this struggle. Telling lies is easy. Telling lies is writing a book that anyone could write. Do you see what I mean?
“Let me give you a quote, the best thing ever written for writers, or for artists of any kind. It comes from André Gide, and I give it to all my writing students:
What another would have done as well as you, do not do it. What another would have said as well as you, do not say it, written as well as you, do not write it. Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself — and thus make yourself indispensable.” Quinn’s work involves him struggling with one of Brené’s key wholehearted values: authenticity.

“The beetle seemed to reflect for a bit. Then, conveying a feeing of great compassion: ‘You don’t really belong here at all, do you.’
“I was surprised to hear him say this and asked what he meant.
“‘I mean, you don’t really feel much at home in these streets, in these houses, in this world. You’re not really cherished here.'” Quinn’s life direction began with a message about true belonging, conveyed with great compassion — two of Brené’s key wholehearted values.


“Neither one of my parents seemed capable of understanding what the other wanted or needed… Neither of them could see things from the other’s point of view — but I could.” Quinn affirms the value of empathy, one of Brene´s key wholehearted values.

“All I could do was produce in myself the effects I wanted my parents to manifest. All I could do was make myself perfect, the way I wanted them to be.
“That then was my magic, to be perfect. It didn’t work, of course, but no one in the whole history of the world ever quit on magic just because it didn’t work…
“As things got worse for me, I got better — purer, nobler, more sensitive — which of course had the effect of making things worse.” Quinn lived out the dangers of pursuing perfectionism, one of the things Brené’s Guideposts for Wholehearted Living tells us to let go of.


“At the age of sixteen, I was already Ishmael, howling in the desert, yearning to be heard by the One Who Hears.” Echoes the wilderness once again, as well as Brené noting the importance of giving both voice to the voiceless and ears to the earless.


“In my school career, all my efforts had gone into demonstrating that I was a genius.” Quinn lived out the dangers of valuing productivity and competition, things Brené’s Guideposts for Wholehearted Living tell us to let go of.

“I was welcomed and made to feel… worthy. I was completely bowled over by it. Nothing like this had ever happened to me. I wasn’t on trial. I didn’t have to prove myself.” The value of belonging and acceptance, the difficulty of feeling worthy in our culture, even though everyone has inherent worth.

“Holiness and reverence didn’t preclude gaiety and humor.” Holding opposites/paradoxes, as Brené says is so valuable.

I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t)

“If we want to transform our culture of shame into a culture of connection — we need to take what we see, hear, witness and do personally.” Echoes Quinn talking about Leaver cultures having laws that work for them so that all participate in making a culture that works for them, as opposed to leaving important things to strangers enforcing invented laws.

“Caroline took it personally, and if all parents lived by these beliefs and had talks like this with their children, we would start to see the culture change.” Echoes Quinn talking about a paradigm shift happening when children are raised by parents whose minds have changed compared to the prevailing culture.

“‘I gotta look like I can kick your ass… You can’t be too sick to kick someone’s ass… You talk about my baby or my baby’s mother, I’m gonna kick your ass.’
“Well… call me a researcher, but I was starting to see a theme. The more we talked, the more I realized that these young men meant business. It didn’t matter what they did or what they looked like as long as they maintained their image of being able to kick someone’s ass.” Compare Taker culture valuing and basing its identity around power and conquering.

“Our conversation helped me put words to my strong belief that feminism is not just about equality for women, but also about the fight to liberate both men and women from our gender straitjackets. Until both men and women are allowed to be who we are rather than who we are supposed to be, it will be impossible to achieve freedom and equality.” Compare Quinn talking about Taker culture as a prison, with even the rich and powerful being prisoners just as much as the poor and disempowered.

“Men are under tremendous pressure to appear tough, strong, stoic, powerful, successful, fearless, in-control and able. These are the social-community expectations that form their valued identities. While women have the impossible task of balancing, negotiating and traversing expectations that are unattainable and often conflicting, men are suffocating under the tremendous pressure of always appearing ‘strong, fearless and powerful’ — which is equally unattainable.” Again, compare Taker culture’s attachment to power, needing to control and conquer ever more completely.

Ten – Creating a Culture of Connection

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