I enjoy listening to people’s origin stories and understanding the serendipity of the small and big steps that make up the complete picture. Sometimes I imagine adults as children, and I try to imagine what life was like for them growing up. Were they happy kids? Sensitive? Afraid? Neglected? Playful? I imagine “big powerful, confident business” people crying and throwing tantrums.
When I was a kid, I distinctly remember walking in Mexico with my mom and passing a newsstand that, at the time, was selling cassette tapes, and a particular tape stood out to me. I begged her to buy it for me, and she obliged. When we got home, I showed my dad the tape (this was before my parents separated). He became upset with my mom because the music contained anti-Christian messages (which only heightened my curiosity).
Before that incident, I didn’t care for lyrics, but after that day, I became aware that art had the power to disrupt. And since then, much of my work has aimed to create some (positive) disruption. And although I don’t think too often about that memory, when I do, I can always trace things that I am doing now back to that moment.
Perhaps you have similar memories — an impressive occurrence that happened what might seem like a lifetime ago, that still, somehow, continues to remain lit, like a never-ending ember, deep within.
I named this newsletter, Beginner’s Mind as an homage to the practice known as Shoshin, a Zen Buddhist practice of engaging in the world with curiosity and eagerness.
The marine biologist Rachel Carlson (1907–1964) says:
A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that, for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life.
And it is this very clear-eyed vision, true instinct, and sense of wonder that I try to advocate for through my writing. As time passes, it seems as if we lose sight of our origins — of the metaphorical stardust that, early on, led us on a particular course. The playful roots and enthusiasm for the world become stained within the confinements of society’s boundaries.
This newsletter, I hope, exists as a reminder to pause and inquire deeply into our origins. To ponder on the moments when perhaps our vision of what is beautiful and awe-inspiring dimmed, and hopefully, it can prompt us to fan the ember within so a vast fire can illuminate our true instinct.
There’s an abundance of origins — random acts of kindness, fragrant smells, smiles, new favorite songs, spontaneity, freedom — an endless list of beginnings — waiting to bring to our attention a sense of embodied wholesomeness that runs deep into the core, rooted in purpose and agency. The origins are masked as moments of turbulent ignitions that spark and can catapult us into new directions only if we learn to let go of all that we perceive as absolute and real.
There’s a genesis to everything — early beginnings and ancestral roots. With a capital G, the Genesis shapes the landscape — it projects truth, but only through a mode of beginner-ness can this Genesis be rekindled within our work and the places we reside in.
What beginnings do we fail to see? Indeed, they are buried underneath the jargon and noise. So the big question is: What is our origin? What story are we telling? Are we writing it? Coming home to our origins, I think, is just about the most radical and disruptive thing we can do today.
I’d like to hear from you.
What are some origins that you’d like to share?
Beginner’s Mind | A Playlist
This newsletter has a playlist that accompanies each issue. If you follow the playlist on Spotify, it will regularly update with the latest tracks.
Lightstar II Michael Brook
New-York Alexandra Stréliski
Whispering Trees Duo En
And I Love Her Pat Metheny
Pond House Saint Etienne
Thanks for reading.
"Genesis" has been incredibly top of mind for me lately, so thank you for writing this missive last November! Happy to have serendipitously found it along a trail of breadcrumbs that began with photos from the Chicago Graphic Design Club's lakefront social. Our own source — call it a creator, a maker, an origin, the Big Bang, a Cosmic Egg in the Abyss — is a constant fascination, and where we come from in the grandest sense I believe is the same place we return to. Reminds me of a giant piece of art in my dining room, which reads: Where the beginning and the end become one therein ... We shall find freedom eternal for there we will be
Beautifully written, Christian. Just today I asked my mother how come I have light hair and light eyes when hers and my dad’s were black. She jokingly said that it’s probably because my dad always liked “angrez” women - a term we use for white people in South Asia. She also told me that I had blonde hair and blue eyes when I was a baby and that everyone called me an “angrez” and would talk to me in whatever basic English they knew like hello, how are you, what is your name? She said even though she’d hope for a daughter who looked like her and had long black beautiful hair like her, I was beautiful in a different way, like a "foreign" way. That made me feel so good because the obsession with whiteness or fair skin is a real problem in South Asia. And even though I was apparently born white, I have brown skin now and I love my tan but I never thought my mother found me beautiful since I’m not as fair as her. The whole origins thing made me think of that so thought I’d share. I have just started my own newsletter, Attachment Issues here so check it out if you’d like. :)