Monday, June 20, 2011

If your work were a house ...

Recently I've been working back through Dick Bolles' What color is your parachute? This has become a fairly precious book to me. Though it purports to be a guide 'for job hunters and career changers' to me it is much more: it is a tool of deep value to help you know yourself, and to map the contours which are your life story, and your life passion.

In other words, it's the sort of book that people either snort at and walk away from, or it is a book that 'runs deep' with you.

I don't agree with Bolles' every premise. (I find his splitting of life into 'spiritual' and 'secular' especially aggravating, and at odds with his overall direction.)

What Dick Bolles does exceptionally well is ask good questions. Provocative writers do this, even if their prose contains no question marks. They make you look deep, look fresh, stand back, stand close, listen, puzzle over.

The power of Bolles' questions is not in analysis. His best questions are connected to emotions, to stories, to longings, to feelings. His is less a wisdom of lecturing than it is of pondering, of wondering.

If you are crazy enough to pick up a pen (or in my case, pencil) and a notebook, and give some space to musing with Bolles, I don't think you'll ever look at life the same way. (Certainly, at the very least, you could never look at your work the same way again.)

There are some big questions here that deserve long, slow consideration. What I am choosing to do with them is answer them in various ways: some with written answers, others with pictures or maps or physical creations.

I took his question, “What is the one thing, more than anything else in the world, that I would love to do?” and recast it as “What do I yearn to build – to build into, to build with?”

I then flicked through my copy of Beaver's Another 100 of the world's best houses and marked up the houses that I felt had a resonance with my response to this question. I decided to treat my work as a space that is built for others, a place for friends, a haven for the weary or the world-worn or down-trodden. I remembered my naming of several years ago as 'one who rejoices in the laughter of friends'.

I was looking (subconsiously) for places that could make people feel 'big' on the inside, and yet warm and secure. Places where conversation would flow as easily as silence. Places that were a shelter from the pounding elements, and yet in harmony with the wildness, having deep resonance with their surrounds whether the eye is looking from the outside in, or from a window outward.

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