Paradigm Worker

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Abundance at the Edge of Wilderness

From Possibilities to Projects

August 29, 2022

By: Jonee Kulman Brigham

The July/August column from Paradigm Worker, a place for (mostly) monthly reflections on how we think about things, and why it matters.

Also on Medium

“In a context of scarcity, it is easy to mistake abundance for all you can imagine."

After the initial thrill of finding yet another inspiring artist, writer, or making any new connection between ideas, I often have a second reaction of overwhelm. There are so many possibilities to explore and ways to explore them. I consider if a long weekend or dropping some activities would give me the time to dive into each topic, but there never seems to be enough time to do it all. This is not an illusion. There really isn’t time to do it all--but there is time to do enough. I am grateful for the advice of those like Barbara Sher, who suggest capturing the abundance in “idea books” and making project calendars that span a lifetime to realize all the time available. I also appreciate the insights of Barry Schwartz on how to use sufficiency thinking to navigate the “paradox of choice” that overwhelms us with options. But I still need to keep relearning the lessons myself in a world that seems overabundant in choice, but scarce in time.

One strategy I’ve used is to create limiting structures like planning a presentation, publication, or exhibit to provide a deadline and a scope to deliver. This ensures I move forward in my exploration, and if planned well, can also provide enough flexibility to weave in emergent possibilities. But there are still the possibilities left on the table to cope with. Recently, I was spending time with grieving all I can’t do at this threshold between too many possibilities and not enough ‘me,’ and found myself using poetry to navigate the struggle. Here is what this threshold is feeling like right now. For those that experience this tension, I wonder what it feels like to you?

--- --- ---

Abundance at the Edge of Wilderness

All of the leaves, beetles, pebbles

--and each one of them

too many points of beauty

each a world within and each a story

my longing to connect with every member of the multitude

see and converse with each one

pulls me out of my body—outreaching.

All at once-so many

my outreaching is an ecological death

as I disintegrate into the forest

exhaling beyond capacity

as each lichen and moth

inhales my attention, my admiration and wonder

until I disappear.

--- --- ---

Is my soul merely a collected pool of attention?

A condensation of sensations?

Is that why social media drains life?

My eyes blinking
--as the pipeline of vision pumps consciousness from pupil to post.

Each draw is a small deposit transacted on a small screen

below the threshold of alarm.

Beyond the screen the world is immense

Into which lands shall I pour my soul?

The landscape is endless, but I am not.

These decisions—or abdications--

are the blueprints of my reincarnation.

Shall I become zinnias, moths, twigs, or stones.

The landscape is endless, but I am not.

--- --- ---

In a context of scarcity

it is easy to mistake abundance

for all you can imagine

-- everything and anything possible.

But all of everything is not abundant.

It is death.

It is dissolution,


Life forms between extremes

neither all, nor nothing.

Flows like a river,

has both speed and slowness,

--friction of shore and stones.

Has both ease and resistance.

Has vision and obstruction.

An abundant life

lives between

partly open and partly closed

In chosen pathways

at the edge of wilderness.

--Jonee Kulman Brigham, 2022



Image by author: Abundance - Jar of Rocks, 2022

  • Schwartz, B. (2007). The paradox of choice: Why more is less (Reissued). Harper Perennial.

  • Sher, B. (2007). Refuse to choose!: A revolutionary program for doing everything that you love. Rodale.

Tags: paradigm, choices, abundance, scarcity, attention

©Jonee Kulman Brigham