What Would Happen . . .

What would happen if . . .

Doing one thing at a time was enough.

We trusted that taking care of ourselves would have an equally positive effect on others.

We wondered more. We began with curiosity rather than opinions.

We re-found our kid-like sense of awe.

We lived by the credo that there’s room enough for all of us—and made room for those who need it.

We trusted that generosity multiplies. That kindness begets kindness.

We forgot what we already know in order to be beginners from time to time.

We remembered what’s still wild—and defended it in ourselves, each other, the world.

We tuned-in to our own hum.*

(*Book artist and writer Suzi Banks Baum said something like that recently, and my response was: ahh. Yes. She also wrote her own version of this list. Read hers here, it begins with morning birdsong.)

What I just wrote is a response to something Seth Godin posted recently. Once I’d read his “what if” proposals, my own appeared easily during a quick free-write, thanks to his example. My friend Sara Nolan saw this opportunity, as well, and created a writing prompt for her students who are all writing college entrance exams. You can see how this is a great way to get at a personal philosophy. Sara’s list begins “What would happen if we chose to say what we mean without being mean.” What if?

If you have the urge, please share your own proposal in the comments area.  (Be sure to look at Seth’s if you need a little provocation.)

By the way, I first came across Seth Godin a couple of years ago when he was interviewed by Krista Tippet on her wonderful radio show, On Being.  It’s one of my favorite podcasts for ideas, poetry, and conversations about what it means to be human and to seek meaning. The most recent conversation, with Alain de Botton has been on my mind all week. I may post about it in the coming days.

Thanks for reading.

img_6552

Showing 0 comments
  • Lori Landau
    Reply

    so beautiful. I will play: this is an unedited what would happen exercise written for these few moments and are subject to total revision in the next few moments. what would happen if we spoke our wonders?

    what would happen if we stood at the foot of a tree once an hour?
    what would happen if we synchronized our breath with the pulsation of the tides?
    what would happen if we decided that the most important actions were found and fostered in silence?
    what would happen if we investigated a color as assiduously as we investigate our opinions?
    what would happen if we listened to a piece of music to sense where in our body it plays?
    what would happen if we realized that all news is propaganda?
    what would happen if we did one secret thing to benefit someone else?
    what would happen if we took everything off our to-do list for a day?
    what would happen if we observed our reaction instead of acting on it?
    what would happen if we envisioned ourselves as a leaf floating on water?
    what would happen if we traded places with our spouse for one day?
    what would happen if we did ceremony every morning?
    what would happen if we gave ourselves exactly seven breaths to make a decision (big nod to Hagakure)-and you will see more on this from me soon-ish.
    what would happen if we realized we don’t know?
    what would happen if we stopped empowering crisis?

    • Holly Wren
      Reply

      Lori: I love these–thank you for sharing them!

      These two passages resonate with me in particular: “what would happen if we stood at the foot of a tree once an hour?” and “what would happen if we envisioned ourselves as a leaf floating on water?”

      What if every American made their own version of this list and let it guide them through these painful weeks of choosing the direction of our politics and country? We each need a personal credo, don’t we?

      I wonder if your Hagakura reference involves his words on what can be learned from rainstorms, which I’ve considered an important teaching for most of my adult life:

      “There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you will still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.”

      • Lori Landau
        Reply

        Holly–YES & YES! What would happen IF we all wrote a personal credo and then lived by it?
        and yes to the rainstorm advice. I think we drink from the same well! The 7 breaths advice is thus:

        “In the words of the ancients, one should make his decisions within the space of seven breaths. Lord Takandobu said, “If discrimination is long, it will spoil.” Lord Naoshige said, “When matters are done leisurely, seven out of ten will turn out badly. A warrior is a person who does things quickly.

        When your mind is going hither and thither, discrimination will never be brought to a conclusion. With an intense, fresh and undelaying spirit, one will make his judgments within the space of seven breaths. It is a matter of being determined and having the spirit to break right through to the other side.”

        • Holly Wren
          Reply

          Lori, We really are drinking from the same well, but I hadn’t already read that wonderful passage about breaths. I believe in this: having the spirit to break through to the other side. Yes.

  • sejalshah
    Reply

    I love these– what would happen if we did ceremony every morning. And if we traded places with our spouse for a day. And the foot of the tree! Both seem very relevant to me! Also loved your first two, Holly– what if doing one thing at a time was enough / fast enough….and also what if we trusted taking care of ourselves….

    What would happen if…we trusted ourselves? If we allowed some things and people to go? If we believed in paring and abundance more than in scarcity? What would happen if we followed the light? What would happen if we walked to the post office? If we car-pooled? If we decided to bend, and chose flexibility, over being right?

    What a lovely post and game, Holly! thank you.

    • Holly Wren
      Reply

      Sejal,
      Your list really resonates with me, and the proposal that I find myself really thinking about since you wrote it, is this one: “What would happen if we believed in paring and abundance more than in scarcity?”

      As you know, I am very interested in paring down, and I also try to cultivate, as Jennifer Armbrust puts it “abundance consciousness.” What’s interesting is that on the surface these impulses would appear to move in opposite directions, and yet I feel the richness of my smaller, simpler life of “less,” and I am glad to have passed through a long phase of life in which I often felt a sense of scarcity, in which I didn’t have enough (money, time, focus, external support, etc.) to survive comfortably, much less thrive. This is all to say that I know from personal experience that radically simplifying my schedule, my social commitments, and the amount of stuff and square footage I’m responsible for, has opened up a great deal of ease and happiness and most of all, room for creative activity. Thanks for sharing your list!

  • Nicky M
    Reply

    I love that I stumbled upon this today – I am going to use it as a journal prompt. I have a lot of ‘What ifs…’ in my head at present. If I post I will link it back to you – thanks for this, the universe wanted me to read this today 💛

    • Holly Wren
      Reply

      Thanks for reading, Nicky. I’d love to see even a few of the “what ifs” you came up with. Do share!

  • Amy Janssens
    Reply

    Holly, thank you for inspiring me on this day of days. This exercise helped me connect pieces within myself that I wasn’t sure how to put back together. Here is my version.

    What would happen if…

    I learned to enter feeling and stay there for a while.

    I gave up my goals and spend more time in the here and now.

    I danced in the rain with my family, our feet wet and muddy.

    I listened more and understood less.

    I lived with my hands wide open and refused to close them, no matter what.

    I taught my children to DO less and BE more.

    I chose to believe in a world I cannot see.

    I entered love instead of fear.

    I learned to speak my truth without discounting the truth of another.

    What would happen if….

  • Amy Dye Janssens
    Reply

    Holly, thank you for inspiring me on this day of days. This exercise helped me connect pieces within myself that I wasn’t sure how to put back together. Here is my version.

    What would happen if…

    I learned to enter feeling and stay there for a while.

    I gave up my goals and spend more time in the here and now.

    I danced in the rain with my family, our feet wet and muddy.

    I listened more and understood less.

    I lived with my hands wide open and refused to close them, no matter what.

    I taught my children to DO less and BE more.

    I chose to believe in a world I cannot see.

    I entered love instead of fear.

    I learned to speak my truth without discounting the truth of another.

    What would happen if….

    • Holly Wren
      Reply

      I choose to believe in a world I cannot see.

      (And in the one that I can, or am learning to see more clearly.)

      Thank you for your words, Amy.

pingbacks / trackbacks

Leave a Comment

poetry matters. join the conversation.

join my community

SUBSCRIBE

poetry matters. join the conversation.

join my community

SUBSCRIBE