Where do you live?

The blue-jacketed border patrol agent is bored and more than a little sleepy as he flipped open my passport. Tired, just off a flight from Beijing, I look blankly at him. And I smell awful.

“I live,” I tell him, “in the space between business and spirituality. I live in the place where who we are overlaps with what we do.”

He looks at me, blankly.

“I live in the place where money meets meaning; where soul meets spirit, where the left side of the brain finally communicates with the right, where business meets the spiritual, where meaning finds sustainability.

“My town,” I continue, “is a classic border town where cultures, values, and noises clash and synthesize a whole new experience; a dangerous town, there aren’t enough of us to translate, left to right, right to left, up to down, down and up, inside and out.”

I’m complaining I realize and of course he doesn’t expect that so I quickly add, “but we make do. Sometimes we teach. Sometimes we annotate, cogitate, ruminate. But mostly we just listen.”

There, I think, that’s right.

“Of course it can be draining, exhausting, demanding. Being present in two places, living in the Mandorla of your own being isn’t easy. Poets imply that falling towards the center of your being, melting into the heart of who you are–even if who you are is an interlocutor with a passport filled with visa stamps–is the ultimate existential expression and, therefore, is a step towards enlightenment.”

And then I pause for effect,” But I know that while it may be all that, it’s also tiring.”

“Where do you live?” the Border Patrol agent asks as I step to his plexiglass booth, fresh off the plane from Beijing, just returned from yet another trip into the Tibetan Plataeu. And I dismiss what I’m thinking and tell him my address.

“And what was the purpose of your journey?”

“What was the purpose of my journey?” I repeat, smiling to myself…

  • panterosa,

    So nice to have news from ‘the monster’. I have missed it. Will look at the videos from Tibet later, though glad to read of your trip.

    The wonderful part about defining where you live, for you, is a journey to purpose and love. As you sort out this question personally, internally, the exercise of it becomes a nice model for you to share externally, with those you work with. Where do they live? Perhaps a second layer of your question is to help others define for themselves where they live. Defining where these worlds overlap, of these various inhabitants, makes for another type of community, which you might help ‘organize’ (for lack of a better word) or ‘facilitate’.

    • jerrycolonna

      So true (all of it but especially the part about the second layer of the question).

      The image of the mandorla is especially compelling to me. When I was able to finally grok that it’s not about choosing either (nor is it about an obsessive compulsion to choose it all) but it’s about seeing where you live, in what space your worlds overlap and living there, unabashedly, unapologetically, with verve and heart and soul…well, boy howdy, things clicked into place me. So now I get to be the crazy-assed former VC who asks people questions that rip right into the hearts, allowing them to be. I get to be the guy at the board room table who explains cash flow forecasts to the organizational mystics who know THEIR job is to hold the lineage of the teachings. I get to be the guy at the same table who turns to his left and explains to the finance committee why “just doing it this way” isn’t part of who we are as an organization. I am the interlocutor.

  • glee

    Brilliant post

    • jerrycolonna

      Thanks Glee. Where do YOU live?

      • glee

        Exactly where is a good question, but somewhere between the ego pull of world, business domination and the ego pull of investing fully in the local explorations of a 4 year old boy.

        • jerrycolonna

          It takes such guts to admit living between our adulthood and our childhood.

  • http://reecepacheco.com/ reece

    I love it.

    Reminds of when I ask people “what’s your story?” and they respond with “I work at ‘big company.'”

    For most people, that’s how you pay the bills… your story is YOU and that’s who I want to know.

    • jerrycolonna

      It’s great if you really ask, “What’s your story?” I find that most people ask, “And what do you do?” when what they really want to know is, “Who are you?”

      Language can be so stultifying.

      • http://reecepacheco.com/ reece

        agreed.

        the other response i get is “what’s my story? well… i dunno.”

        i usually then prod – “where’d you grow up? what were you like when you were
        11? why are you here?!”

        then it gets fun. ;)

        • jerrycolonna

          I like, “Who was your superhero when you were a kid?”

          • http://reecepacheco.com/ reece

            oooh… good one!

          • jerrycolonna

            Mine was the Lone Ranger. How about you?

          • http://reecepacheco.com/ reece

            comic book style hero? Batman.

          • jerrycolonna

            Ah, The Dark Knight

          • http://reecepacheco.com/ reece

            yeah. somehow fitting i suppose.

      • http://www.tereza.com/ Tereza

        I usually open with — and admittedly this confuses people — ‘so what’s your dream? where do you want to be?’

        It’s much more interesting for me and I can also be a lot more helpful… maybe send some goodness their way if I stumble up on it in my travels.

        I can’t really help them be who they are. That’s their job. I take it as a given that they’re reasonably good at what they do today, unless there’s a red flag to the contrary.

    • http://www.tereza.com/ Tereza

      So, here’s an interesting one. I generally don’t hold back on telling people I’m a mom. That’s an important dimension of me (as is the wife part). Of course I also say I’m an entrepreneur. The order doesn’t matter to me, it’s all important to me and I do them all at the same time.

      Last week someone told me she hates it when a woman offers that she’s a mom. She says it’s not important to the matter at hand. (she’s not a mom)

      I do appreciate her candor, but….Ouch!

      And I do get it. There is often smugness delivered with the “and I do all this AND i’m a mother of FOUR!!” I hope I don’t do this, but, hey, what do I know. And I suppose part of that is in the ear of the beholder.

      Years ago, before I was a mom, a woman I worked for was featured on the cover of the WSJ in a piece titled “Undercover Moms”. It was about moms who work in big jobs but who run to school/kid events wearing moms clothes and then change in the car in parking lots, putting makeup on, etc.

      At the time, I thought it was just funny. Now I totally get it. I’ve pumped my breasts in a bathroom stall on an airplane with dying pump batteries, on hour 23 of a “1-day business trip”, not eaten, felt like I was on the edge of mastitis, while a flight attendant banged on the door because they thought I was shooting up.

      But the truth is, lots of people, on either side, are seriously not interested in the other side. Or they, see it as a detriment.

      That’s reality.

      But I care less and less, as long as it doesn’t prevent me from achieving what I need in the spheres of my life.

      Lately, I’m thinking, stop talking. Just bring her along if I can and if it’s constructive, and let people think whatever they want.

      • http://reecepacheco.com/ reece

        gotta be who you are.

        if being a mom is part of that, then there’s no reason not to say it.

      • http://WWW.FAKEGRIMLOCK.COM FAKE GRIMLOCK

        MAKE MORE HUMANS HIGHEST CALLING OF HUMANS.

        HUMANS THAT SKIP IT FOR OTHER THINGS ALWAYS JEALOUS.

        NO CAN HELP IT, THEM HAVE DNA SCREAMING AT THEM TO STOP BEING STUPID AND REPRODUCE 24/7.

        • http://www.tereza.com/ Tereza

          FG, you are a sweetheart.

          You know, though, here’s how I see it. Some people skip on purpose, some by mistake, and some wish they could but can’t. Whatever reason, it’s a legitimate life circumstance. I really don’t wish to judge.

          I’m extremely lucky to have two beautiful healthy children. I’m also the kind of person who is wired to keep working. And btw financially I need to anyway. I’m at peace with that.

          But there’s not a day that’s not complicated.

          I guess I thought going into it the complication was going to be purely logistical and some emotional between me and my kids. I didn’t anticipate the heat and judgment around my family status. I didn’t realize it was still considered a big deal, I thought the world was beyond that. But it’s not.

          Hey, what can you do. It is what it is. All you can do is believe in what you’re doing, find supporters, work your ass off, do your best. That’s it. Eventually I’ll be older and yearn for these days, right? :-)

          • http://WWW.FAKEGRIMLOCK.COM FAKE GRIMLOCK

            ME PRETTY SURE THAT FIRST TIME ANYONE CALL GRIMLOCK SWEETHEART. ME TINY CANDY FOR VALENTINE DAY?

            EVERY LIFE CHOICE VALID, BUT IT LIKE NEVER EAT CHOCOLATE. THAT VALID CHOICE.

            THAT NOT STOP DNA FROM CONSTANTLY TELL YOU IT WANT THE DAMN CHOCOLATE.

            HATE OWN SELF ALL DAY USUALLY MEAN HATE EVERYONE ELSE TOO.

          • jerrycolonna

            “HATE OWN SELF ALL DAY USUALLY MEAN HATE EVERYONE ELSE TOO. ”
            Brilliant.

    • http://WWW.FAKEGRIMLOCK.COM FAKE GRIMLOCK

      “WHAT YOUR STORY” NOT ASK WHAT STORY IS.

      REAL QUESTION ASK IF YOU DEEP ENOUGH TO HAVE A STORY.

      • http://reecepacheco.com/ reece

        i think i agree.

      • jerrycolonna

        Feels a bit judgemental. Like, it’s bad if someone feels like they aren’t deep enough. In my experience, people are deep, they just may not be able to access it.

  • Jeff

    you certainly know your address! sometimes living in more than one place can make you feel homeless.

    • jerrycolonna

      In Buddhism, the first set of vows are called Refuge Vows. We’re all essentially refugees, Jeff. I heard a line a few weeks ago that’s stuck with me: “Home is where we are headed.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=668619972 Katharine English

    I live in the creative dreams of my 13-year-old self, the dance steps of the 8-year-old me, and the songs of the 23-year-old who always wanted to be a jazz singer or the front chick in a rock band. I also live in my 12-year-old diaries and in the play I wrote about Jim Morrison (yes, of course he was dating me). As long as I can keep these parts of me alive, then that’s where I want to live most of the time.

    Thanks for this incredible post. I’m going to print it out and hang it on my wall. :-)

    • jerrycolonna

      You’re welcome. ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/clientonomy mac

    Jerry, good post.

  • http://twitter.com/clientonomy mac

    Jerry, very good post.

    Living in the vast space between prostration and the ROI can be fascinating. And, difficult.

    Just yesterday, I asked a prospective client what the company’s purpose was. He replied, to advance sales by 15% in the next financial year. I told him I couldn’t help him.

    Gassho.

    Mac.

    • jerrycolonna

      What a terrific example, Mac. Thanks for your insight.