For someone with as many interests and pursuits as I have (https://potluck.com/mark/), there were a lot of reasons why, starting in the late 1990s, Potluck felt like a great fit for me as a home base on the web (https://potluck.com/about/). When it wasn’t available, I waited it out a few years and ended up convincing the domain’s owner to pass it onto me.
When I started developing some ways of fostering other people’s creativity, I used Appreciative Inquiry (https://amzn.to/2ZX3rNX), a methodology whose principles include the importance of having an entire system represented. With AI, I’ve been able to, among other things, help people create original songs even when they’ve never written a song or played a musical instrument (https://songsbyyou.com/about/).
Deciding to write and produce an album of original songs, I wanted it to reflect the idea that we need to make space for all that’s within us. Everyone was invited (https://theoffhandband.bandcamp.com/album/everyones-invited).
After a break from psychotherapy, I wanted to, and did, resume with the Internal Family Systems (https://amzn.to/3kvE9Oy) modality. It’s all about how we all have many parts, and circumstances can get them out of balance with each other, but working with them in particular ways, we can get ourselves back into balance, experiencing a wholeness that may have seemed missing but really never was. It was only ever the case that we were failing to embrace all the parts of us that were there all along.
I used both Appreciative Inquiry and Internal Family Systems to create the Everyone’s Invited album, and in a series of writings I detailed the story of the making of the album and each of its songs (https://theoffhandband.com/2008/11/everyones-invited/?postTabs=2).
Last year, I had the notion that we need what Mister Rogers gave people. That grown-ups, in particular, need it, not just kids. He gave a sense of acceptance as you are, space for it to be okay to feel all you feel. I wanted to make something that did this, something both sincere and entertaining. My plans got derailed at first by the COVID-19 pandemic, until I decided that the first episode of Ben Kenobi’s Cantina Time (https://potluck.com/2020/05/ben-kenobis-cantina-time-episode-iv-ben-kenobi-talks-about-social-distancing/) should be about the pandemic itself, embracing the different and even oppositional reactions people were having in the face of it.
For however obvious my own multipotentiality has always been to me, I’ve also often resisted it, wishing it wasn’t there, wishing I’d specialized, still often feeling compelled to specialize. We live in a world that thrives on division of labor, on specialization. More insidiously, it encourages us to cut parts of our identities off from ourselves, and to cut others off from us. It encourages I vs. other, us vs. them. Our culture’s drive to divide and disintegrate is strong, and I’ve succumbed to it many times. But I’ve long recognized that, anytime any of us plunges parts of ourselves or others into the shadows, fundamentally no good comes from it. It can feel good, in certain ways, for a time. We can feel right — but only in the sense of righteousness, not true rightness. We can feel powerful — but only in the sense of power over others, not power with others. We can feel safe — but only in the sense of fighting fear and scarcity, not genuine calm and ease. The feelings that come from cutting ourselves off are half-hearted and skewed. And they come at a cost.
And the cost is too high.
At some point, with nothing about interest-and-skill-based multipotentiality in mind, I started to see the importance of acceptance all the parts of ourselves as crucial for cultivating emotional intelligence and maturity. Now, for me, multipotentiality is easier to accept — and is about much more than just interests and skills. It’s about feelings. It’s even about values. When we cling to limited identities, limited ideas about ourselves and others, we literally cannot see how much bigger we, and others, are.
When I consider the question Emilie asked, I’m keenly aware of the words “embracing my.” She didn’t ask how multipotentiality makes anyone a better human. She asked how embracing a quality one has makes you a better human, and I think that’s really the key. Being a better human is only about embracing who we are, whatever that may be.
Now, it may turn out that, if people embraced themselves for all that they are, they’re bound to discover more, and different kinds of, potential than they’d been accessing before. And it’s been said that one the defining traits of the human species is just how good we are at so many things — at being multipotentialites compared to other living things that specialize to a far greater degree. It could be that to be human is to have multipotentiality, and it’s just a matter of self-acceptance for anyone to unleash it, regardless of whether or not they currently see themselves as a multipotentialite. Either way, what seems most important to me is the acceptance of the totality of what’s inside of us, independent of any particular measure of variety within.
Whenever I embrace my multipotentiality, there are better feelings and better results. Whenever I embrace my own plurality — interests, skills, talents, values, emotions — I get closer to my own authentic wholeness while also feeling greater compassion for others.
In her book The Gifts of Imperfection (https://amzn.to/2ZTgXll), Authenticity is the first of ten Guideposts to Wholehearted Living that Brené Brown describes. Self-Compassion is the second — and Compassion more generally is, along with Courage and Connection, one of the three Gifts of Imperfection. When I embrace my plurality and Connect with Authenticity and Compassion, I get closer to Wholeheartedness. I’m able to better pursue all ten of its Guideposts. And I know no better definition of being a better human than walking the path to Wholeheartedness. And I know no better thing for the world than people walking that path.