Monday, March 2, 2009

Summary/Fave #4

Five months ago to the day I left my job and moved into this little studio to take a sabbatical. Sabbatical is an idea that comes from a farmer resting his field every seven years so it can return to producing fully.

What I like producing is story, and connections. I like connecting people to good ideas. My skill or purpose or joy seems to be in listening for the good and retelling it or presenting it so other people connect with it.

I say good because nourishing ideas are the only ones I see standing a chance of success in the 21st century, and because they are the only ones I have the passion to work on.

Writing this blawg has been helpful in giving me the discipline to express how I think and feel about some of these things. Discipline is the right word. Its root means to take apart in order to understand. In that, this blawg’s been clarifying and valuable.

Regular readers know that the topics I am most interested in taking apart are story, connection, technology, and especially, the Big Idea that is moving us forward right now and also behind all the chaos we are experiencing. Namely, that we are one people, on one earth, and we must co-exist.

This idea - radical, confrontational, reevaluative, hidden in plain sight for years in our children’s books and pop songs and movies and Sesame Street skits - is now emerging to a degree that it is beginning to tip, as Malcolm Gladwell would put it.

Anything that supports this idea, or that is working towards its essential truth of wholeness vs. separation, I would describe as nourishing. The other qualities that nourishing things share are openness, tolerance, compassion, humility and hunger for truth. (The economic meltdown is, I believe, is a symptom of the larger transformation - a result of our desire to dispel illusion and return to what is real.)

There are countless people and organizations whose work is aligned with this vision - the Obama administration, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle's Infectious Disease Research Institute, the Oregon Council for the Humanities, to name just a few. My work is in helping those people and institutions tell their stories.

It's a joyful and exciting time, full of questions and possibility. I’m aware that people are suffering, but I also feel we as a world are heading in a healing and positive direction. It’s not a foregone conclusion, and it will require our work. As my friend Rick said, “It’s gonna be close.”

I believe part of the emerging pattern involves each of us living in the tension of a deeply-rooted, centered, specific, local existence while cultivating a unified, global mindset. Being here and everywhere at once. This is not a new idea, but it feels more relevant and attainable than ever.

These are some of the conclusions I’ve come to during the last few months while sabbating and writing this blawg. But as some of you have noticed, my posts are becoming less frequent, and I wonder if this vehicle hasn't run its course? I'm less interested in sitting at the screen and typing about the world, and more interested in experiencing it directly, living it.

I've been working on several interesting projects, both personal and professional, reading loads of interesting things, from The Watchmen to McLuhan to David Foster Wallace, L. Frank Baum and Tracy Kidder. I will never get tired of good stories. I’m blown away by Twitter (Renny, and Gaia, I get it now!) and other ways technology is connecting us, and even more interested in the new friends and people doing interesting things I’m connecting with in the real world.

I'll continue to share interesting things when I hear about them - Stacy's art show this week in NY, these incredible aerial photos of Venice - but I expect I'll be doing more of it from Twitter. Please follow me there, if you'd like. And you can always write

The only unfinished blawg business I can think of is sharing the last in my list of world-changing books.

While I was living in Amsterdam in the mid '90s, I read a wonderful biography of Joseph Campbell called Fire In the Mind. [That book's not it, but it easily could be #5 on my list.]

The authors wrote about a chance meeting that Campbell had with a beautiful Indian boy while on a transatlantic ocean voyage in the 1920s. The boy was Jiddu Krishnamurti, protégé of Madame Blavatsky and C.W. Leadbetter, and soon-to-be worldwide leader of the Theosophical Society. [His first act as leader was to disband the society, because he believed wisdom is to be experienced directly, and not understood dogmatically through a figurehead or guru. Rad!]

Shortly after reading about Krishnamurti for the first time, Dan Wieden, my boss at the time, shared a book that he said had most significantly challenged his view of the world when he was a young man. It was Freedom From The Known, first published in 1969, and perhaps the most clear and succinct distillation of Krishnamurti’s thinking.

It's not for everybody. I found this book to be an ice-cold glass of spiritual water. Sometimes I sipped it, sometimes it felt like it was being poured on me. If you end up picking it up, I'd love to hear about it.

So, that's it for now. Thank you to all the readers who’ve accompanied me on this part of the path. Many of you are friends and colleagues, so I look forward to seeing you soon in the real world, and maybe having a conversation about some of these things.

Best regards to all of you -




John Helm said...

lots to chew on. thanks.

I'll be in nyc on monday,march 30. will stacy's show be open?

I look forward to studying this post.


trh said...


barry said...

Thanks for the inspirational post. You remind me of someone I worked with years ago and continue to admire

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jelly. Though direct experience may be best, it's been great to get a glimpse of the world through your eyes.

Brett T. T. Macfarlane said...

Very inspiring, I really enjoy your blog. In particular comments on stories.

It fascinates me that there is no lack of great stories today, but there is a tremendous lack of great stories told well. Look forward to seeing what you bring to those outstanding organizations.

RNorthrop said...

I'm very sorry to see this come to an end my friend. But glad to know exciting things await you to take its place.

Keep on keepin' on.


Tom Evans said...

Did you know (and I'm writing this because maybe you don't) that the absract expressionist painters Jackson Pollock and Phillip Guston where at High School together in LA in the 20's/30's (I guess) and their art teacher was heavily into the teachings of Khrishnamartu and he exposed them to him. His teachings were to be an ongoing influence on the careers of both artists in embryo.

I'm Jelly said...

Thanks Ronny - and barry and Anonymous and Brett and Tom - appreciate the feedback. I'm sure I'll come back to this blawg here and there. It was just nearing the end of its cycle, and it's always sad for me to see blawgs that drift on to a coma. I needed the ritual of an ending. But I'll probably keep going here and there.

And Brett - I'm only working for two of those organizations directly, two indirectly - one is funded by Gates, and as I said in the post, I believe all the people working towards his vision can be considered to be working for the Obama administration...

My future is unclear in the details. While I am working on a few projects, this year is still developing. The family and I are off to Mexico next week for the rest of the month. When I come back, I'll get going on a couple of projects. And then...?


I'm Jelly said...

Tom - Far out about Pollock and Guston. Didn't know that. Here's what wiki had to say...

"Guston began painting at the age of 14, and in 1927 he enrolled in the Los Angeles Manual Arts High School, where both he and Jackson Pollock studied under Frederick John de St. Vrain Schwankovsky and were introduced to Modern European art, oriental philosophy, theosophy and mystic literature."

Off to find out more about Frederick John de St. Vrain Schwankovsky.

The internet is so cool. Blawgs are so cool. An interactive journal.

Thanks Tom -


Hank Hosfield said...

Hey Jelly,

I'll be sad to see less of you here, but I think I know what you mean about seeking more direct experience.

By the way, I ordered Freedom From the Known and eagerly look forward to reading it--although I suspect I already understand much of his philosophy.

I've always been one to go my own way, at the same time hoping to share our common hopes and dreams and happiness. But I've always felt out of place in highly structured environments and repelled by group think. And the greater certainty with which anyone professed they had the answer for me, the more I knew they probably didn't.

Thanks for sharing so much with us.

Cheers, H