As We Begin To Look, We Find

Today over lunch I started reading Dark Emu, by Bruce Pascoe. It’s an examination of Aboriginal agriculture, and the colonialism that destroyed it.

In a moment of relief that some of the old ways are being explored again, Pascoe says that ‘as we begin to look, we find.’

A simple line, maybe, but profound.

We often don’t notice what’s around us until we stop to look.

We certainly don’t notice what’s within us until we start actively paying attention.

Sometimes this non-noticing comes from a lack of awareness: you’re hurtling through your life, too busy to slow down and look at anything in too much detail.

For some people it’s a genuine lack of curiosity, or an impatience for ‘navel gazing’.

Sometimes it’s just because no one has ever pointed out that there might be some interesting stuff going on outside your immediate attention.

But that’s a terrible loss, , because the human animal has developed self-awareness and that is amazing.

We are completely hardwired for analysis.

We are the most social species on Earth. We are, without even noticing it, constantly monitoring other people, adjusting our behaviour in response to tiny stimulus, and reflecting on what does and doesn’t work to get us what we want.


All the theory of mind, probability calculations, deft communications — these are the skills that made humans what we are.

But what got us here won’t get us to where we need to be, and so it’s a bit of a mission of mine to help people turn all this barely-conscious analysis inwards.

It’s my view that all the change we want to see in the world — dealing with climate change, undoing systemic bias, solving massive conflicts — all relies on each of us knowing ourselves.

Until we truly understand who we are, what we want, what we need, we are passive.

We float along, following other people who have stronger opinions or more forceful personalities than ours.

But we can’t keep doing that and expect things to change. Each of us has to find the thing we care most about — what fires us up, what spurs us into action — and throw all our energy into that thing if it’s going to move forward.

For me, that’s helping people figure out how to do this themselves. Very meta, I know, but this is why I’m so focused on helping people cultivate a writing practice that reveals the truth of who they are.

Writing gives us an opportunity to observe what’s in and around us, and to start to think critically about our actions, our opportunities, our responsibilities.

Writing is the great kick in the pants that most of us need in order to start really seeing and embracing what we’re capable of.

I know this is a holiday weekend in many parts of the world, and I hope you’re making the most of it. But more than anything, I hope you can stop a minute, look around you, inside you, and get curious about what you find.