I’ve respected Jonathan Harris’ work ever since he blew my mind with the web-art application We Feel Fine that trawls the internet for human emotion and visualises those emotions in amazing ways. He is a prolific artist and storyteller, of sorts. Unbeknownst to me, he has recently fallen off the radar somewhat and has just published a manifesto on stuckness, chronicling his life story and experience of engaging with creativity and a search for purpose. It is a great read (click here).
What fascinates me bout his personal narrative is how he has characterised his life story. Check out this timeline he drew of his lows and highs (at the bottom of the image).
From a narrative therapy perspective, Harris has identified the dominant stories at play in his life to date.
I thought about stuckness, and about where I lost the flow. I remembered other times in my life I’d been stuck, and how the stuckness always eventually passed. I thought how life is a lot like that fountain, with its columns of water moving up and down, and how the low points are actually thrilling because the high points are about to come back, and how the high points are actually terrifying, because the low points always come next.
Then, there is one more tidbit of wisdom that caught my eye:
I began to understand that principles delivered out of context will never be remembered, and that telling people the story of how you came to hold a given principle is better — so it’s like they lived through it themselves. I got obsessed with the potential of stories to communicate wisdom, but at the same time, I began to understand that really, you can’t teach wisdom — it has to be won by experience. Stories can alert you to the existence of certain truths, but you never really embody those truths until you reach them on your own.
This is like how you have to become a parent to understand what it is like, and how all the world’s advice prior to the fact will not sufficiently prepare you for what is to come. This is like how when you first become a manager, you can be told about how your personality will change, how you will become more grumpy and how you will be a slave to corporate pressure … but it is only once you’ve been a manager for a little while and reflected on who you’ve become (and what you will do with your time) that you will fully realise what has happened.