Steve Jobs famously said, “Creativity is just connecting things.” But which things? And does it matter? Continuing to think about ‘becoming’ while wandering through the valley in its stripped winter state, I’ve reflected on the internal and external connections we need to make in order to both create and thrive.
Although everything is laid bare, there are a few new shoots emerging. This morning I saw the first leaf buds of honeysuckle on gnarled branches weaving around its host tree. Perfect pale green, soft with dew drops.
Then I noticed the early daffodils. Poking their shoots through the leaf mulch at the side of the green path. Determined to head skywards.
Even though they may be affected by frosts and snow to come, these buds and shoots couldn’t help but get on with growing. It’s in their DNA – it’s who they are. Deep in their cell structure is the code for what they will become. Inexorably.
I wonder if we have mislaid our ‘code’ in the midst of growing up and living life. Perhaps it’s buried so deep we can’t even recognise it. Or maybe we see it but in partial or distorted form. Often we recognise it more clearly in others than ourselves…
So how might we recover our individual essence?
I don’t think it’s about pursuing a state of ‘nothingness’ and waiting to see what surfaces. Nor do I believe there is a simple diagnostic test. We have to do the work – the persistent curiosity with kind intention – to peel back the layers and see the internal connections that are already there.
Recently I have been working with the Enneagram, a profound typology for internal growth. It certainly isn’t a quick fix but has powerfully enabled me to see threads and connections that run through my life. Illuminating who I am more than anything else I have ever encountered.
This experience of knowing myself this deeply is bittersweet. The feeling of exposure is married with the relief of being known and the hope of becoming my best self. As Oscar Wilde is reported to have said: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
More simply, just drawing your timeline with significant experiences and events is also illuminating. Sometimes you have to do this several times to really explore the threads and connections that have shaped you.
Like my daffodil shoots and honeysuckle leaves – they will emerge – they have to.
This exploration also enables us to see where events or experiences have pushed us off course. When the environment or people have not enabled us to flourish and perhaps even become distorted.
Some of our woodlands are the result of mass planting decades ago, well before we came here. Unfortunately, this was neither strategical planned or well managed. As a result, we have many spindly trees endeavouring to reach the light. They are trying so hard but ultimately they fail. Their tall, thin trunks and few leaves at the crown cannot withstand the wind and secure enough sunlight to survive. It makes me feel sad.
Where are the situations I need to acknowledge which are not enabling me to thrive? What do I need to do about them?
Sometimes it’s the act of recognition. Seeing something for what it is. And letting go of its hold. That’s enough.
Bit by bit we are starting to manage our woodlands. It’s going to take a while. But I’m looking forward to seeing the release of healthy growth that will flourish. Being in the right place to be fruitful.
Likewise, I am exercising my ‘no’ muscles, so that I can say ‘yes’ more fruitfully. This includes saying ‘no’ to untruths about myself, which I or others have laid on me over the years.
Taking my woodland reflections further spoke to wider issues of connections. Woods are woods because they are collections of trees, planted well in conditions that suit their species. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be… at least not for long.
Our alpacas also don’t flourish when they are in too small a group. Their collective relief is palpable when we bring them back together. They settle and graze more freely. By nature, they are herd animals and, interestingly, when together their individual distinctives become more evident.
Currently, I am in transition through what feels like no man’s land. I have been part of thriving communities – work, church, social – but because of our current circumstances, these are more limited.
I am also developing several strands of creative activity. Writing is one of these. But I know that to thrive I need to actively make more connections.
It starts with recognition. With an openness to what is missing. And that means humility, the ‘I am not complete without you’ type of personhood. As a pretty self-contained introvert, this is somewhat new territory. But I know I cannot grow without it.
Back to Steve Jobs. He also talked about the power for change in being “The round pegs in square holes”. Those who see things differently, who make the connections, seeing what needs to be disrupted to create something better. And then working with others to achieve it.
Maybe together we can have enough dots to join up…