Landmark Forum Leader Insights


Transformation carries a kind of deep surprise

Landmark Insights: Transformation carries a kind of deep surpriseDeep surprise is a way we signal ourselves that a thing perceived or thought may be consequential, that a discovery or insight may be of genuine use. What most surprises will be most strongly acted on and most strongly learned, reconfiguring the known for the new. Surprise deepens, gathers, and hones attention to allow a more acute taking-in.*

We don’t spend much time thinking about what’s available to us in being human. But when we do, it’s usually about our circumstances, characteristics, traits—our identity. “I am” is the language of identity (who we consider ourselves to be). That orientation sets our values, bestows meaning, and determines the purpose and limitations of our daily life. We see the world as if it’s “fixed” or just the way things are—obscuring access to ourselves and what’s possible in being human. “I occur,” on the other hand, jolts that whole construction and transforms what’s available to us in being human.

When we recognize there is no “fixed” world, that it’s all an “occurring“ world (arising in language), outcomes differ drastically—we begin to see the capacity we have to reach out beyond ourselves. To know the power of language requires a transformation from knowing ourselves as who we have considered ourselves to be, and with that shift, identity stops being something that is fixed, real, or just the way things are—our relationship to the world is transformed.

Transformation carries with it that kind of deep surprise. It doesn’t merely change our outlook and actions, it uncovers the structures of being and interpretation on which we are grounded. It removes arbitrary views that limit and shape what’s possible, and gives us hands-on access to who we are.

* Adapted from Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World by Jane Hirshfield

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