Ever had that feeling that when times are challenging you learn more. No one actively likes having a tough time but if everything was easy / peasy I suspect we’d be in cruise mode and oblivious.

Many years ago a wise friend referred to some of this as the growing edge. It was an idea I liked even though I was really sure what she meant except in a general sense.

More recently I was thinking that the growing edge is that part of us that is learning at its best. The part when we are wide awake and taking notes.

The edge is a metaphor with many flavours. New Zealand has been described as the edge. See the NZEdge site.

Working in the world of software I often have to try an make things work is very specific scenarios. We call those “edge cases”. Of course we don’t want too many of them as that can increase the work load and the number of variables can get out of control.

I did look up the growing edge just recently. Howard Thurman who was a spiritual advisor to Martin Luther King wrote a book called the Growing Edge in 1956 which seems to have inspired many.

There is a Growing Edge podcast hosted by Carrie Newcomer and Parker J. Palmer who describes himself as “a writer, teacher, and activist whose growing edge is learning how to live an engaged and creative life as an elder on “the brink of everything.”

“What’s your growing edge? Maybe it’s a quest for meaning or purpose. Or for a vocation where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need. Or for ways to join others in working for the common good.”

I like the concept of a growing edge. As I get older I intend to keep growing and challenging myself to develop new insights and new skills and to give back to my communities.
Here is one of Carrie’s songs that I especially liked. As a music geek I love the fretless bass and I’ve heard another version which seems to feature a 12 string or dulcimer that I really liked to.

The start of a New Year is the time when it is traditional to make New Year resolutions. If you do that – good for you but there are no magic bullets and stretch goals are great but making a series of small changes to the way we live can have a much greater impact.

BTW – don’t discount the simple pleasure like learning to bake your own bread or gardening. I’m an accidental gardener but any time I invest is repaid in spades. There is something therapeutic about making your own bread and you can eat it.

I reckon character is a thing. So working on empathy, kindness and listening skills (for example) might be a better task to put on that vision board? Self awareness pays dividends too.

Or take a moment to think about what your growing edge is and whether that is a helpful concept?

Note 1: The image is literally some flowers growing in my garden. The green leaves are baby sunflowers that will get grow at least 2m tall.

Note 2: When I listen to the song I hear a line that takes me to another place and time. This is not related (to the song) but i find being a digressive learner a wonderful thing and I take inspiration from anywhere. Metaphors are my delight so bite me 🙂

“Will you come with me to Ishtar” (is that line) and I had to look up Ishtar. Louise Pryke writes in her Friday Essay: the legend of Ishtar, first goddess of love and war.

“Ishtar is a love deity who is terrifying on the battlefield. Her beauty is the subject of love poetry, and her rage likened to a destructive storm. But in her capacity to shape destinies and fortunes, they are two sides of the same coin.”

And Louise reminds us that pretty much everything goes back to the Epic of Gilgamesh. See Marvel meets Mesopotamia: how modern comics preserve ancient myths for extra credit 🙂

Note 3: From fireside folk tales to Netflix dramas, narratives are essential to every society – and evolutionary theorists are now trying to figure out why, writes David Robson.

One common idea is that storytelling is a form of cognitive play that hones our minds, allowing us to simulate the world around us and imagine different strategies, particularly in social situations. “It teaches us about other people and it’s a practice in empathy and theory of mind,” says Joseph Carroll at the University of Missouri-St Louis…..

Providing some evidence for this theory, brain scans have shown that reading or hearing stories activates various areas of the cortex that are known to be involved in social and emotional processing, and the more people read fiction, the easier they find it to empathise with other people.

Includes links to ‘The Origin of Stories’ by Auckland Professor Brian Boyd

After considering art as adaptation, Boyd examines Homer’s Odyssey and Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who! demonstrating how an evolutionary lens can offer new understanding and appreciation of specific works. What triggers our emotional engagement with these works? What patterns facilitate our responses? The need to hold an audience’s attention, Boyd underscores, is the fundamental problem facing all storytellers.


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