how do you stay so open?

over the weekend, i had two important men in my life independently ask/reflect back the same charateristic of myself that i didn’t know i had (h/t to the johari window for helping me know how to i.d. moments like this as valuable). one of them asked: “how do you stay so open?” the other said something to effect of “what i love about you is your sense of wonder… something that so many of us lose behind our constant critique and criticisms… you show mehow to wonder at beauty and at magic, while never sacrificing critical consciousness…”

first of all… WOW. right? there is nothing like other folks seeing in you something you don’t see in yourself and just being floored by it.

second of all, i’ve been thinking about the answer to that question “how do you stay so open?” and i think i have three things to say. the responses aren’t necessarily directly linked to an intentional thought… as in i’m not ever thinking “this is how i it’s important for me to be open” but i do think they are the reasons why openness is something that can be observed in me.

  1. several important people in history, including the siddhartha gautama, grace lee boggs, malcolm x, and muhammad ali, have all said something to this effect near the end of their lives: if i’m not constantly learning (and therefore changing my mind and evolving my worldview), i am stagnant, wasting my time, and/or being less effective of a changemaker than i could be.
  2. one time i died in a car accident (an actual accident in which no one was at fault). the doctors told me afterwards that if i had been awake at the time of the crash, i probably would have died before making it to the hospital. often in moments like that, the body freezes up. and it is the rigidity of the body when being bounced around that causes muscles to tear and bones to break. looseness allows the body to flop around and, though blunt forces will still break things (and many things still broke/tore/got cut), it’s worse when you’re tense. so i think i have integrated that lesson both consciously and in an unconscious, embodied way.
  3. i learned from a meditation course i took in 2018 that it is hard (maybe impossible?) to experience stress while you are experiencing wonder. when you are noticing things you have never noticed before, it difficult to simultaneously harbor feelings of anxiety and fear. i have tried this several times with friends and it really works (though it can be temporary). if you want to try, at the beginning of a meeting, use this check-in question: “look around your environment and say 3-5 things you’ve never noticed before. they can be inside or outside.”
  4. ok here’s one more thing: the world is astounding when you think about how interconnected everything is. if you’ve ever done those supply chain thought experiments or one of the prayers before a meal where you thank every person / being / process that was involved in getting the food to your plate, you know how incredible it is that we have anything at all the supports our daily lives. the number of entities involved just in putting food in my mouth several times a day is unreal. and then when i think about my bedroom… IT’S NUTS. and then i scale up to neighborhoods and regions and just… it’s unreal. all of that creates such a sense of gratitude that just makes the world more joyful to be in.

omg ok i gotta go. i’ve been writing this for like 30min and i need to get my day started. if you’re reading this and you’re one of the two guys i mentioned up top, thank you. and if you want to be named, lmk.

words / writing / post-processing
574w / 26m / 15min