Chaotically reorganize with longing


Desire and longing are creatively destructive forces. I wrap up exploring Chapter 7: (Un)known Possibilities, with David Whyte:

… without the creatively destructive dynamics of desire and longing, our protected sense of self cannot be destabilized or subverted from our old way of being; we cannot be chaotically reorganized to accommodate ourselves to anything fresh.  A certain state of blinding ecstasy seems necessary for navigating the first crucial thresholds…

In other words, for each step into possibilities both known and unknown, I need to be willing to take risks. We are designed to be smitten with an idea as much as we are designed to be smitten with a person; we become ‘blinded’ in order to take the risk, so its not so risky after all. Whether in a relationship, trying out a new job, or a renewed commitment to self, work, family, city, etc, a leap of faith is what gets us across a threshold.

When courageously smitten, a sense of direction and purpose emerges as we make our way through the personal journey of life. Thresholds emerge to challenge us and our  longing pulls us through to new possibilities.  We emerge to new destinations. This happens when we allow ourselves to chaotically reorganize for what we desire.

The dynamic of focus, and emerge  creates the conditions for emerging possibility. Anywhere, in our neighbourhoods and on the soccer field, we create possibilities, especially if we prepare for possibility and create the conditions to see possibility. We can chaotically reorganize to see familiar and new possibilities that align with our longing, and being smitten with what we are aiming for helps us through each threshold.

Douglas Hofstadter:

It turns out that an eerie type of chaos can lurk just behind a façade of order – and yet, deep inside the chaos lurks an even eerier type of order.

The key is finding ways to reveal the unknown possibilities, the lurking chaos. Our work, then, is to chaotically reorganize ourselves to be smitten with longing.

In what ways do you/we chaotically reorganize to reach what you long for?


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Sources / Further Reading

David Whyte, The Three Marriages, p. 48

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This post is part of Chapter 7 – (Un)known Possibilities, here are some plot helpers of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities, the book I am sharing here while I search for a publisher:

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Winter pathways


Most mornings, I make my way to a bench at the edge of the North Saskatchewan River valley in Edmonton. At the beginning of winter, with a wee bit of snow, I am able to see how many people travel and where they go, and other creatures that  travel by land.

Winter footprints 1

Winter reminds me that it’s a big world to explore, with a big, ever-changing sky and variable conditions. Along with the coat, hat and mittens, my footwear needs to change in anticipation of the depth of snow I travel through. There are conditions where I fall right through, and other days when I can travel on top, and snow on ankle skin is not comfortable.

Winter path

As I explore my city from my perch, I now notice the snow receding, leaving grass flattened and exposed for new growth in the spring.

Flat grass under receding snow

I see now that when spring arrives shortly, I will miss the footprints, revealing who travels here with me, big human creatures and other small ones who move through when I am not here.

tiny animal footprints

I appreciate winter’s reminder that I can not see all there is to see. There are possibilities unknown to me.

What practices do you engage in to find possibilities unknown to you?

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This post is part of Chapter 7 – (Un)known Possibilities. Here are some plot helpers of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities, the book I am sharing here while I search for a publisher:

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Courageously smitten


Our work in cities is a convergence of direction, personal journey and emergence that results in new, emerging possibilities. These possibilities are both things we dream of and recognize, as well as possibilities that are unexpected, unknown to us until they arise.

Consider David Whyte, in The Three Marriages:

Being smitten by a path, a direction, an intuited possibility, no matter the territory it crosses, we can feel in youth or at any threshold, as if life has found us at last… But to start the difficult path to what we want, we also have to be serious about what we want.

Following this path of increasing levels of seriousness, we reach a certain threshold where our freedom to choose seems to disappear and is replaced by an understanding that we were made for the world in a very particular way and that this way of being is at bottom nonnegotiable. Like the mountain or the sky, it just is. It is as if we choose and choose until there is actually not a choice at all. 

A sense of direction and purpose emerges in our lives as we make our way along a very personal journey in life. Thresholds emerge to challenge us, inviting us to make our way to new possibilities. At this heart of this dynamic, we are courageously smitten with a path. This is the thread that pulls us through, allowing us to emerge to new destinations.

This dynamic takes place at individual and collective scales. At the scales of me and my city. We create our cities, and our cities are a platform for our never-ending journey.

John O’Donohue’s blessing, Time for Necessary Decision, shapes the arc of Nest City – these words stand out as I explore (un)known possibilities for us and our cities:

May we have the courage to take the step

Into the unknown that beckons us


What are you/we courageously smitten with?

What are you/we courageously stepping into?


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This post is part of Chapter 7 – (Un)known Possibilities. Here are some plot helpers of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities, the book I am sharing here while I search for a publisher:



Stand on the city’s river


Over the weekend, I found myself exploring the valley I visit most mornings, as part of my centering practice, from a different perspective. Instead of standing and sitting at the edge of the ravine, overlooking how the wild knits itself into the city, and vice-versa, I found myself leaving the top of the bank and heading down to the North Saskatchewan River.

As I peeled away from the infrastructure of the city, I was reminded to slow as I headed downhill, with the flow of the trail, where a stream used to be, toward the river.

bridge and slow sign

As I arrived at the river’s edge, I broke off the formal trail to explore a trail closed by officials, just above and beside the river. I walked along for a few minutes, but a wee path behind me was calling me down to the river herself.

river edge path

path down to the river

More specifically, the footprints on the river were calling me. As I had been walking parallel to the river, I realized the reason I was staying on the land was because I was afraid of stepping down, onto the river. Upon closer inspection, I could see that once down the bank I would still be on land. I could see the ‘beach’ on this outer edge of the river angling ever so slightly down to the flat of the ice, the river herself. I have spent a lot of time in my river city, but I have never been on my river. So I stepped out for a new view.

City from the river

After a few cautious steps onto the river, I noticed that I did not have the courage to venture out as far onto the ice as others had – I chose not to step out as far as many footprints left behind before me. My comfort had rippled out far enough, so I trusted my instincts and stayed put for a while, curious about this perspective of my river city in winter.

I have been pondering how the city and the wild knit themselves together. Cities begin with settlements that are appropriate to the geography –  early explorers and settlers navigated for settlement habitat. The city and the wild, however, are never fully separate. The wild reaches in, and the city reaches out, yet as I have walked, cycled and driven over this river for decades, I have not been on this river. I have stood on the river, and I recognize a need to be on the river in the opposite season, summer. This coming summer I will paddle through my city. What will my city look like? How will it change what I see, what I feel about my home?

Like most journeys, it is when I turn to return that I see something else.

the city's edge

The city is not simply up on the riverbank; it is in the river. Concrete remnants of construction and a beer can have reached down to the river. As I look downstream I see storm sewer outfalls that will whisk water away from the city into the river. The city continues to reach into the wild.

As I look upstream I see a couple making their way down to the river and making their way toward me. While the footprints on the river were a clue that others had been here before me, they were further evidence that others travel with me and that others travel further than me. There are so few situations when am truly the first to do anything, yet there are endless situations when it is my first time.

It occurs to me that first times can be daunting and exhilarating, scary and thrilling. First times, and how we handle them, play a critical role in our ability to see possibilities in all aspects of our lives, for seeing possibility often means seeing things from a different perspective, with a fresh look. A fresh look might mean a new physical perspective, or a mental one. It means finding a way to look anew at an old perspective, generating a ‘first time’ feeling that allows possibilities to emerge.

My lesson – stand on the river to see new possibilities. While I wasn’t the first person to look at the city from here, and I won’t be the last, that isn’t the objective. The objective is to find courage to step out on the ice and to simply see what I will see, and to see what I will do with what I see.

I had to step into a new place in my city to see me differently.

What do you do to create the conditions for seeing possibilities?


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This post is part of Chapter 7 – (Un)known Possibilities. Here are some plot helpers of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities, the book I am sharing here while I search for a publisher:



Emerging possibility


Our work in cities is about emerging possibilities. We are not planning our cities with linear processes, but rather we are organizing them. It is a messy process, murky and full of uncertainty. Where are we headed? How do we organize to find our way?

I am sharing bits of the book I am working on, Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities, here on my blog. For the last few months, I have been immersed in Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence, (Chapters 4-7), where I have been exploring the dynamics of how we organize ourselves.

Here is what I have found.

Cities are meant to be messy, requiring us to change and adjust as individuals and as a collective. Cities create uncertainty for us; they are a journey that is not meant to end, because they generate the conditions for our ongoing learning journey. You may find these 10 practices for the uneasy city journey helpful.

We need to have a sense of where we are going in order to get “there”.  It doesn’t mean we know exactly where we are going, but that we have a sense of direction. Purpose place a significant role in our development, both as a higher order purpose, or sense of direction, and as a specific purpose, a specific destination. Destination is both alive and adrift in us, for we know where we are going and we don’t know where we are going.  In city life, the intrinsic value of each citizen is instrumental to the city. The purpose of the city is to allow us each to reach our full potentials as citizens, but that only happens when each citizen is pursuing the improvements we long to see.

At every turn, on our way to a destination, thresholds emerge, challenging our understanding of the world and our interaction with it. Each threshold is a piece of the learning journey. Our exploration of thresholds allows us to emerge to new destinations.

The never-ending journey to create cities that serve their inhabitants well is evident. We focus on what we want to achieve and we learn about how to get there and we learn along the way. We learn how things work ‘out’ in the world as well as ‘within’ us, and at every turn thresholds emerge to challenge our assumptions, our path, our very focus. In this dance, we revisit everything: our focus, what we are learning and what is emerging within and around us.

This is the dance – FOCUS, LEARN and EMERGE.

And this dance is dancing with the habitat that is both given to us, created by us, and forever in relationship with us. As we engage as individuals and collectives with in this dance, our nests change with us to meet our needs. The result of this dance is wonderful possibilities, both known and unknown. How well we dance, with self, other and our city nests, has an impact on the quality of the possibilities we create.

This next round of posts will conclude Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence with pieces of Chapter 7 – Unknown Possibilities. These coming posts will knit together destination, journey and emergence to illuminate how we can unleash the possibilities that surround us – for ourselves and our cities.

What possibilities do you see for your self, others and your city?

Focus learn and emerge nest 2.044


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As I begin sharing parts Chapter 7 – (Un)known Possibilities, here are some plot helpers of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities, the book I am sharing here while I search for a publisher:

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