Search

Nonsensical Times

Exploring the wonderful world(s) of sense-making

Category

Uncategorized

Nonsense & Cherry Blossoms

I have not posted much in the last year and a bit. In fact, I haven’t posted at all. That is not because I have been at a loss for words. On the contrary, it is because I have been trying to find the right words to acknowledge and address the loss that has taken place.

I have been told, as I am sure you have, that life is comprised of seasons. Seasons of waiting, seasons of change, seasons of growth…the list goes on.

And yet, if I had to choose, I don’t think I would necessarily describe the last few years as a season of loss. While they have certainly contained loss—of loved ones, opportunities, and routines—they have also contained blessings that I cannot ignore. Among these blessings is the opportunity they have afforded me to reflect on what it is that makes life beautiful.

Which brings me to the topic of this post: nonsense and cherry blossoms.

You see, I finally found something that communicates how I feel about this particular season of my life.

I found it while out for a walk with our family dog. While walking, we happened to stop under a lovely cherry tree. He was taking time to sniff a bush, so I took time to inhale the sweet scent of the blossoms above me. After doing so, I quickly inhaled again.

Have you ever smelled something so beautiful that you immediately felt more beautiful by smelling it?

Have you ever looked at something so beautiful that you immediately felt more beautiful by looking at it?

That was how the cherry tree made me feel.

And part of that beauty was rooted in the hope it inspired in my heart.

Something about the scent and sight of those blossoms transported me above the troublesome thoughts that had been parading through my mind. In that moment, all I wanted was to be completely still. I knew I was experiencing something special.

But, as moments do, it had to come to an end. My dog tired of the bush and moved onto the next one, and, while there were many more cherry trees on our walking route, I inevitably started to think how much I would miss them when they were no longer in bloom.

Cherry blossoms, after all, are fragile things. They are beautiful, but delicate. Some harsh winds and even harsher rains can easily send them crashing to the ground. They don’t last forever.

I knew it was only a matter of time before I would no longer be able to admire this floral display. And, before I could stop it, a feeling of melancholy took over me. I started to grieve something I had yet to completely lose. Sure, I had lost cherry blossoms before, but, for some reason, the thought of losing them this year made me extra sad.

Maybe it’s because it’s not until you’re about to lose something that you begin to realize how special it is and how much it adds to your life. Maybe it’s because it’s difficult to imagine ever experiencing something more beautiful than a particular moment and the thought of never experiencing that moment again is hard to accept. Maybe.

For some of us, this has been a season of saying goodbye to cherry blossoms—beautiful moments of our existence that we wanted to cling to forever. The loss of these beautiful parts of our lives have left us feeling fragile, vulnerable, and exposed to the unexpected storms of life. We are still here, but our branches are a bit bare in places.

However, as I have already mentioned, there’s something hopeful about cherry blossoms. As I continued my walk the thought struck me that these blossoms are a precursor to fruit. If we never let them go, we will never taste the sweetness of what follows. We will miss out on a different beautiful moment. An experience that, in its own way, may be just as special.

As this thought began to take hold of my mind, I started to think that the fallen cherry blossoms may be even more beautiful than the ones that remain on their branches. These blossoms, scattered on the sidewalks and roads of our lives, mark out a path of what is to come. This path isn’t dark and ugly. It is full of promise. As we step into the future of what that means, they are encouraging us to anticipate fruit.

Cherry trees, you see, know how to say goodbye. They remind us that loss, as hard as it may be, creates opportunities to experience new blessings. The sweetness of their goodbyes is found in the promise of the hellos that follow.

The thing is, when I think about the last few years as a cherry tree season, I no longer feel sad. I feel grateful. While losing things we love may never make sense, sometimes, it is in the moments when we can’t make sense of things that we actually find it within ourselves to be still.

Wishing you many special cherry blossom and fruit-filled moments as you walk towards what’s next in your life.

Nonsense & Time

Today I want to talk about time. A lot of it has passed since I last wrote anything for this blog. Slowly and swiftly, it has ticked away the seconds, minutes, hours, days, and weeks. The New Year is now here and the calendar has reset itself for another 12-month race. On your mark, get set, go! Ready or not, time waits for no one.

So then, how do we find it? Do we keep it? Do we waste it? Where does it go?

It’s funny how, in our attempts to make sense of time, we like to talk about it as if it were an actual person, place, or thing.

Maybe that’s because we secretly know that that is what time is all about.

After all, when we reach the end of our lives, we do not measure them by seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years. No, we measure them by the people, places, and things that filled them. We measure them by the eternal feelings of love and joy such things inspire. The ticking of the clock, we realize, sounds quite different when heard against the steady rhythm of a human heart.

So, if you, like me, find yourself frequently falling behind the time–if you think you are in need of more of it–be encouraged: the most important things in life are timeless. Hold onto the people, places, and things that give meaning to your existence. Measure your moments by real faces and hands.

If the last year has taught me anything, it is that life is precious. The next time you feel pressured by the racing of the clock, remember, you are already living your life. So why rush to get through it?

The simple truth is, we can all afford to lose time if it means gaining perspective.

Thank you for allowing me to share mine with you today.

Unreliable Narrator

Somedays, I just feel like writing a poem. It doesn’t have to be a good poem. In fact, often-times it’s not. But, then again, what is good poetry? I think good poetry is the kind that makes it onto the page despite the insecurities that would keep it blank. Vulnerability and creativity go hand in hand. Unless we dare to explore alternative means of self-expression, we will always be limited by the representations of others. We are the poet laureates of our own lives. During this time of self-isolation and social distancing, I hope that you will have the opportunity to listen to your inner poet and discover new and beautiful things about yourself. Define your own understanding of “good.” With that caveat in mind, here is a poem I wrote the other day.

UNRELIABLE NARRATOR

 By Bonnie Tulloch

I wake up in the middle of a story

Unsure of where I am.

What chapter did I read yesterday?

What chapter did I write?

The story does not stop

And neither does the feeling

That I am not the one to ask.

Me, myself, and I

Cannot seem to agree

Who I am today,

And who tomorrow

I will be.

(I guess we’ll wait and see.)

Nonsense & Joy

It’s been a while since my last post. A lot has happened and is still happening in the world.

It’s a hectic time and one where making sense of the events of life is more challenging than ever.

And yet, in the middle of the chaos–in the middle of the anxiety, sorrow, and frustration–I still see traces of joy.

People are making an effort to remind each other that human life is something worth fighting for. They are making an effort to creatively solve the problems this crisis has raised for themselves and for others.

And it’s beautiful to witness.

People are digging deep within their hearts to spread something that can combat this virus. They are spreading joy.

And joy is powerful.

Unlike happiness, joy is not dependent on circumstances. It is a choice we make to find the good in circumstances that are not good at all. It is the determination not to be defeated by the trials and disappointments of life. To rise up when we’ve been knocked down and to extend a hand to the person beside us on the ground.

It is the ability to have a positive attitude when we have every reason not to be positive.

Joy, in other words, is kind of nonsensical. In many cases, it defies reason. In fact, it may even qualify as a miracle.

Certainly, it has a miraculous effect. It gives life to lifeless seasons of living. It transforms desolate terrain into a landscape of hope, faith, and love. Hope that tomorrow will be better. Faith that our hope is not in vain. And love for each other as we walk through this journey.

Spring is on its way. Daffodils are trumpeting images of new life. As we wait in anticipation for better days, I pray that we continue to find ways to embrace joy and to let the power of hope shine new light into whatever darkness we are experiencing.

Let the miracles continue.

The Nature of Things

I have been taking a lot of walks this fall and each time I do I am struck by nature’s ability to communicate some of the most simple, yet profound truths about life.

The world, it tells me, is complicated. It’s messy. It’s beautiful. It’s struggling. It’s thriving. It’s…predictably unpredictable. 

And for some reason, I find it’s message comforting.

It’s as if, on these cold November days, I get the privilege of attending nature’s personal support group. If I take the time, I can even imagine that I hear a silent conversation taking place as I step along the path.

“I’m feeling a little broken today,” confesses a tree.

“I’ve fallen down and can’t get up,” cries its neighbour.

“I’m leafless and cold,” sobs another.

“It’s just the nature of things,” states a stump.

“Well, it feels unnatural to be so exposed,” complains a bush. “I don’t like it.”

“You don’t have to like it,” the stump responds. “Change can be hard.”

“You can say that again,” says a disgruntled fern.

“Once is enough,” replies the stump. “We know what we know.”

“I wish I didn’t know it!” laments a hollow tree. “I wish things were different!”

“How so?” asks the stump.

“I wish things never had to change. I wish my leaves didn’t have to fall off. I wish my roots didn’t have to dry up. I wish the flowers could stay out all year round.”

“But hollow tree,” the stump says, “if things always stayed the same, you would never have grown from a seed into a tree. You would never have sprouted roots. You would never have had any leaves. You would never have seen the flowers.”

The hollow tree ponders the stump’s words. The wind whistles awkwardly as the rest of the forest waits for it to respond.

“I guess you know what you’re talking about,” the tree finally says. “After all, you weren’t born a stump.”

“True,” the stump replies. “I’ve seen the view from the top of the forest and the bottom. Want to know what I’ve discovered?”

“What?” asks the tree.

“What?” echoes the forest.

“Change can be hard,” says the stump.

“You already said that!” shouts the tree.

“But it can also be good.”

“How can it be both?” the tree demands.

“It just can,” says the stump.

“It’s just the nature of things,” agrees the forest.

 

(Story Copyrighted by Bonnie Tulloch)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall

(a poem by Bonnie Tulloch)

I wonder

If leaves ever know 

they’re falling

When they spiral towards

the earth.

Or if they taste the freedom

Of finally letting go.

Of flying in the wind.

 I wonder these things,

as I sit on a park bench.

Gravity has a way of

Pulling us. 

Tugged by its questions,

My thoughts begin to

Fall.

 

Nonsense & Uncertainty

“I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.”

~ Brené Brown, excerpt from Forbes (2013) interview

Why is it that we often have a negative view of uncertainty?

This is a question I have been asking myself a lot lately.

As a scholar working in the field of information research, the aim is often to reduce uncertainty.

Consequently, uncertainty is often presented in a negative light.

It’s associated with a variety of unpleasant emotions, including: fear, anxiety, and panic.

We have questions, but lack answers.

We want to know more, but the more we find out, the more we realize how little we actually know.

It’s a bit of a puzzle, isn’t it?

And yet, as Brené Brown notes in the quote above, uncertainty leads us to some of the most amazing experiences in life.

It opens us up to love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity.

These are the emotional experiences that ground us, but they also unsettle us.

And nobody likes to be unsettled. Nobody likes to be vulnerable—to feel vulnerable.

Hence why uncertainty is often viewed as something to be reduced, rather than increased.

It usually is associated with changes that are happening in our lives. Changes that are difficult to accept. Changes that upset our plans for the future.

Suddenly, our lives do not look anything like we thought they would.

A wave of reality comes crashing down, making us fearful of the next. We spend our time wondering where and when this next wave will happen, and how we will handle it. To mentally prepare, we exhaust ourselves with “what if” scenarios.

In the process, we lose out on the fullness of uncertainty and what it can bring to our lives.

Because change can actually be a positive thing.

Yes, bad things happen in life.

But good things can happen out of them.

It’s not black and white.

Uncertainty keeps us asking questions and asking questions keeps us in a position to grow. Once we stop growing, we stop living.

Simply put: uncertainty makes us humble and humility makes us teachable.

Like Brené Brown, I think one of the most beautiful parts of uncertainty is that it can help us learn how to love better, increase our capacity for joy, teach us to trust more, embrace others, and exercise our creativity. Sometimes, the most exciting parts of our lives are those that we did not plan. Instead of spending our time dreaming up the worst “what if” scenarios, maybe we should spend it dreaming up the best.

As for me, I definitely want to stop running from the waves. I want to be better at swimming through uncertain times, maybe even learning to play through them. I don’t want the deep waters to scare me. I want them to excite me. They are where strong connections are made. They are where learning occurs. I know it’s not easy. There will be times when I’m blindsided by the unexpected, when I’m drenched with self-pity, when I want to give up. But I won’t. Because, “what if” the moment that I do, I miss out on a beautiful experience?

So, while we may be in agreement that we are all experiencing uncertain times, let that be an invitation to bring out the best in ourselves rather than the worst. I don’t know what you are going through, but it is my prayer that good will come out of it. The world needs more beautiful “what if” scenarios. It needs your love and joy.

To conclude, let me pose my own “what if”:

What if, instead of running from the waves, we create some ourselves?

Now that’s a beautiful thought!

References:

Schawbel, Dan. (21 April, 2013). Brené Brown: How vulnerability can make our lives better. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2013/04/21/brene-brown-how-vulnerability-can-make-our-lives-better/#2dd7e4ea36c7

Nonsense & Fairy Tales

“After all, it is fairy tales the world wants. Real life is all the ‘real life’ we want. Give us something better in books.” ~ L.M. Montgomery

Once upon a time. It’s a phrase we all know well, mostly because we have all read it more than once.

When we see it, certain expectations are raised.

We expect there to be magic.

We expect there to be trouble.

But most of all, we expect there to be a happy ending.

These expectations distinguish fairy tales from our real life experiences. In the fantasy worlds of our imagination, we get what we hope for.

In the real worlds of our experience, we often get other things.

Things that make our own stories seem less interesting. Less hopeful. Less happy.

As a result, we fail to see the magic in our lives.

When I reach this point, I realize it’s time for a rewrite. When the fiction I have been authoring in my head is not the one I am interested in reading or living, something needs to change.

I know my imagination can do better.

After all, we can only see magic if we expect to see it. If we don’t expect it, we fail to look for it.

So, let’s look for it.

But where to start?

Hmmm…how about here?

Today, once more upon a time, once more upon a week, a month, a year, I choose to find magic in my life. In the people I meet. In the opportunities I have. In the challenges I face. 

Once I say these words and make that choice…POOF!

Magic appears.

Instead of looking for a happy ending, I look for a happy beginning.

And I find it.

You see? We should never underestimate the power of hope to transform our lives.

Once upon a time may be a phrase we repeat to ourselves in order to escape our realities, but it can also be a phrase we use to rediscover the magic they contain. And we all need to rediscover their magic now and then, especially when we lose perspective.

In the end, I want my “real life” to be worth reading. I want it to be a story full of new beginnings and the hope they bring. I don’t expect a fairy tale, but I do expect to be happy.

And real happiness, well, that’s all the magic I need.

Imaginative Stories

“For all that, we know that if we are to appreciate and understand an imaginative story (or an imaginative hypothesis, for that matter) we must ‘suspend disbelief,’ accept what we hear for the time being as putatively real, as stipulative” (Bruner, 1986, p. 51).

In his book, Actual Minds, Possible Worlds (1986), psychologist Jerome Bruner addresses the longstanding divide between the sciences and the arts. In his exploration of the different assumptions distinguishing these human endeavours, he comes to the conclusion that both center around the creation of hypotheses.

An imaginative hypothesis, he points out, is in essence an imaginative story. It is an idea that proposes the possibility of something—something that we have to be open enough to explore.

At least, initially.

Hypotheses, after all, are designed to be tested.

The question is, how?

The answer, Bruner observes, is telling in its distinction between scientific and artistic inquiry.

“With science,” he explains, “we ask finally for some verification (or some proof against falsification)” (Bruner, 1986, p. 51).

With narrative, on the other hand, “we ask instead that, upon reflection, the account correspond to some perspective we can imagine or ‘feel’ as right” (Bruner, 1986, p. 52).

These insights leave us to consider whether feeling is enough verification for the hypotheses we explore in life.

From a conventional scientific perspective, the answer would appear to be no. Affect is viewed as disruptive to the powers of reason and the logic it employs. Feelings must be removed from science in order to make accurate, “truthful” observations.

This is not the case, however, for the arts and the humanities.

As Bruner writes, “they too are constrained in the kinds of hypotheses they generate, but not by constraints of testability in the scientists’ sense, and not by the search for hypotheses that will be true across a wide range of human perspectives. Rather, the aim (as already noted in the preceding chapters) is that the hypotheses fit different human perspectives and that they be recognizable as ‘true to conceivable experience’: that they have verisimilitude” (Bruner, 1986, p. 52).

From an artistic or humanities oriented perspective, then, the question is not whether we can prove the existence of the proposed reality, but whether we can imagine its possibility.

That is, does it feel right?

Or, perhaps more importantly, does it feel wrong?

What happens, in other words, when the imaginative hypotheses we generate and the perspectives they offer, do not align with our own?

Does that mean that they are “not true to conceivable experience”?

Or, does it just mean that they are not true or conceivable to our experience?

I think that if we are not careful to acknowledge the role affect plays in our ability to embrace imaginative hypotheses, we might be tempted to project a universal reality onto the world, one that is equally as constraining as scientific perspectives in its efforts to generalize what is true and ignore the role subjectivity plays in shaping our understanding of what is real.

Because, the fact of the matter is, we cannot turn off our emotions. Feelings play as much of a role in scientific thinking as they do in artistic thinking. Bruner (1986) notes that:

“To the degree that modern science (or science in any era, regardless of Newton’s famous hypothesis non fingo) also is involved in hypothesis generating, as well as in hypothesis testing, it is akin to the activities of the humanist and the artist. That much we know from examining the metaphoric crutches with which the good intuitive scientist proceeds up his abstract mountain. But his object is always to convert those dense metaphors into the transparent, frangible hypotheses of science—or into untestable axioms that will generate hypotheses that, with luck, may be tested” (p. 52).

In order to be truly transparent, however, we have to be honest about the way our understanding of the world is influenced by our emotions.

That is the nice thing about imaginative stories or hypotheses that do not feel right.

They help keep us honest.

They force us to reflect on the different worlds we inhabit. They force us to question the assumptions, values, and beliefs we have come to take for granted.

In short, they test us.

The object of such testing is not to arrive at a perfect place of absolute correctness, but rather, to protect us from the arrogance of ever assuming such a position.

The hypotheses we allow ourselves to explore determine the extent of our growth as human beings.

They narrate the stories of our lives.

The question is: How imaginative are we willing to make them?

 

References:

Bruner, J. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑