Tag tensions

{ Inspiration for Knowmads } Celebrating Our Endless Opportunities To Cross the Threshold Into “Real” Life …*

{ Inspiration for Knowmads } Celebrating Our Endless Opportunities To Cross the Threshold Into "Real" Life ...*  | rethinked.org

I think it’s fair to say that we have a collective metaphor of college graduation as a time when we cross the threshold into “real” life–working life, adulthood. The problem with this idea of “real” life is that it structures the notion of both time and living as linear–it presumes an official start to Life and Adulthood that simply do not exist. Having dabbled in said “real” life for several years now, I have become highly aware of the fact that living is anything but linear. Circular at best, but perhaps more zigzagy– lines of flight rather than circles. How one defines “real” life is, of course, highly subjective–financial independence, autonomy, starting one’s family, etc. Our real life is what we make it.

“Narrow minds devoid of imagination. Intolerance, theories cut off from reality, empty terminology, usurped ideals, inflexible systems. Those are the things that really frighten me. What I absolutely fear and loathe.” -Haruki Murakami

In a sense, the quote above represents the dangers and consequences of a live lived believing in a single threshold into “real” life. I completely agree with Murakami, that those people who live their lives around imagined certainties, who believe they’ve found The Answer or The Way are truly fearsome beasts indeed. I also understand that it is human nature to try and reduce risk and uncertainty in one’s life. I do it all the time and find I have to be very intentional about staying productively within the tensions that inform my every day experience. I’ve started thinking more and more of myself as a knowmad. Knowmad is a bit of a trite play on words, but it symbolizes something essential in how I want to live my life. The knowmad is a perpetual w[o|a]nderer. Someone who seeks out the in-between spaces, the tensions, someone dedicated to living a life of questions and inquiry rather than one of linear certitudes. It’s about living in such a way that each day brings a renewed opportunity and challenge to create a “real” life.

Which brings me to my adoration of commencement addresses. Commencement speeches deal with some of the important tensions and questions that come up when we are faced with the formidable challenge of creating our “real” life. As celebrated cultural figures share the insights and struggles they have encountered in creating their lives, we are reminded that designing one’s life is an ongoing quest and it gives us the opportunity to check in with ourselves, to question our beliefs and behaviors and challenge the definition and path of our lives. You can therefore imagine my excitement yesterday, when I discovered NPR’s new app The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever:

We are now in a golden age of the commencement speech as a hilarious, inspiring form of popular art. And to pay our respects to graduations past and present, NPR Ed and the NPR Visuals team have built a searchable, shareable database of over 300 commencement speeches dating back to 1774. 

To help you explore this history, we tagged every speech with a few words that express its theme or take-home message. Here is a countdown of the dozen most popular tags — a tweet-length guide to life. Click on any tag to view all the corresponding speeches in our app.

I love the tags that they’ve created, which touch on topics dear to my heart and which I often write about here on rethinked* 

PlayYOLOInner VoiceEmbrace FailureRemember HistoryMake ArtUnplugWork Hard – Don’t Give Up Fight for equalityBe KindChange the WorldTipsBalanceDream

Source: What We Learned From The Best Commencement Speeches Ever via NPR, published May 19, 2014.

explore, question, rethink & create a “real” life worth living …*

{ Traveling Lightly …* } How Might We Thrive & Flourish Within Tensions & Contradictions?

{ Traveling Lightly ...* } How Might We Thrive & Flourish Within Tensions & Contradictions? | rethinked.org

“My dream is to walk around the world. A smallish backpack, all essentials neatly in place. A camera. A notebook. A traveling paint set. A hat. Good shoes. A nice pleated (green?) skirt for the occasional seaside hotel afternoon dance.” – Maira Kalman

Mine too (dream–down to the pleated skirt; definitely green). I have always felt quite strongly l’invitation au voyage, the compulsion to wander and explore, to pack up and walk into the unknown, yielding to restlessness. During my teenage years, I imagined Bruce Chatwin’s essay, The Nomadic Alternative, my personal manifesto. Having grown up in three different countries and across two continents, I have always fancied myself a true nomad. Flying back and forth between the United States and France, three times a year, every year until I turned eighteen, I remember looking at the little GPS monitor on the plane, feeling there must have been an error on my passport: I was not French, I belonged nowhere and everywhere–I was the child from the middle of the Atlantic.

Of course, I fully realize that there is a fair degree of romanticizing in my conception of nomadism in my life. I am well aware that, practically speaking, it would be more difficult than I like to think it, to pack everything up one crisp fall morning and walk into the unknown. There are leases and bills and my unimpressive muscles which would soon tire of a backpack, however neatly arranged, all of which would very much restrain my ability to live on the go. But the idea of nomad, not as daydream, but as value–the idea of treading lightly through life, of being nimble, curious and prone to exploration and unhousing at a moment’s notice–is and has been for as long as I can remember a core value in my worldview and sense of self.

So what happened? How is it that two weeks ago, I found myself drowning in my stuff, trying to cram an endless amount of things into far too few boxes. I was moving out of my apartment and decided that the move would be a good time to shed what I imagined to be my very few bulky possessions — a couch, a large bed, maybe store a few books with my parents. Yet once I started attempting to pack, taking things out of their designated spaces to place them in boxes, I was surrounded by things, my treasures, which taken collectively were suffocating me. Paper cranes, sculptures of matchsticks and clay, poster boards, countless stashes of notebooks and loose torn out pieces of paper covered in paint and words, my grandmother’s broken jewelry, boxes of letters, photographs, markers, books–everywhere–crawling like ants in every corner of every room. So many things, which, individually, delight and reassure me but when taken out of the nooks and closets in which they hide, thrown together, made me sick, literally, dizzy and nauseous. How could there be such a disconnect between how I imagine and desire my life and how I actually live it? And how I might I begin to align the vision and the reality more closely?

I have no answer to this question that I ask, which is a little bit about how to live lightly, but very much about how to exist productively within tensions and contradictions? For me, one of those tensions is how to reconcile the need for comfort and delight that things can provide with my need to feel free and light. We all exist within webs of such interlocking tensions, whatever they may be. I would love to hear your insights on how to flourish in this very human space…*

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