Saturday, 6 December 2014

Trying to UnSquiggle - Day 7

Day 7
7 - Poster art for the film "The Magnificent Seven" (1960) (a film about 7 gunmen 
hired to protect a Mexican village from bandits - it is based on 1954 film The Seven Samurai)
Many things come in 7s - Seven Wonders of the World; Seven Ages of Man;
Seven Sisters; Seven Levels of Hell; Seven Days of the Week; and Seven Dwarves. 

I have had the pleasure of working with Trevor as a colleague (of his own choice he left my current employer in August this year) and also I am proud to call him a friend. Trevor is complex, a true Polymath - an accomplished artist; financial markets expert; story teller; visionary; qualified actuary; yoga bunny; blogger; connector; continually curious and a thinker. He is always a pleasure to spend time with. Trevor is currently, deliberately, taking time out to pursue his passions and we can all learn from his experiments and journey. Follow him on Twitter @trevorblack or read his blog to learn more about his exciting adventures


Once you know that the squiggles on a page are not squiggles but words, you cannot unsee them. It is impossible to ignore their meaning. Sticking to a well-known, well-loved path can be comfortable. Most of what we believe is based on stories constructed to help us make sense of what is going on in the world. All stories require a suspension of disbelief to enjoy. They require leeway to weave their magic. I love stories and have, since I was very young, really wanted to believe in the stories. I had a habit of seeing squiggles with meaning that I didn’t want to see. I had a habit of finding and diving into inconsistencies, trying to reconstruct a story that I could really believe in. A habit of walking off track.

Trevor in his studio
Some squiggles become words. Some are just meant to be felt.

The stories we tell ourselves are path-dependent. The plot depends on where we are born, our level of wealth, the story of our family so far, and the people and experiences we stumble across. One of the challenges we face in the world is that we forget how we learnt what we have learnt along the way, and we are more comfortable speaking to people who have had similar experiences. We are so convinced of the soundness of our logic that we struggle to understand how good people could possibly disagree with us on the really important stuff.

Advent is a story of waiting and preparation for a celebration. I am an optimist. I believe the world has made tremendous progress in conquering some of the bigger challenges we face. We are chipping away at ignorance. We are learning to listen to other people’s stories while suspending our own disbelief. We are starting to hear the music behind the tales of others. Each chip made, story heard, and song felt is a step closer to celebration. We don’t need to break down other people’s stories if they aren’t hurting others. We do need to break down stories if they are. The bigger story is one of multiple interlocking paths.

Relativity, M.C. Escher, Lithograph, 1953
(c) The M.C Escher Company - the Netherlands. All rights reserved
Used by permission.
Jonathan Haidt’s book ‘The Righteous Mind’ on why good people are divided by Politics and Religion really got me interested in the path of becoming a better story teller. To become a better story teller we need to get better at really listening to others' stories. This is not just about listening to their logic before pointing out the holes, it is about making a real effort to un-see the writing you have learnt to view in the squiggles. It is about letting go of your context, to see the music, art, dance, drama and poetry behind why people believe what they do. We all need to do this. Then when it is your chance to tell your story, others will understand.

Exciting times.

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