Saturday, May 30, 2015

Know Your Place

What's your natural habitat?
I've been mulling over the word "place" this week. We use it in lots of different contexts or ways. If something's lost it's misplaced. We may have a favourite place and we each have a birthplace. Things can be in the right place or the wrong place. Many people aspire to a place of their own. There are sacred places and fireplaces.

Working alongside ecologists on a daily basis I've learned a fair bit about invasive species. These are plants or creatures who's natural place is in a different habitat across the world but have, for whatever reason, been brought to the UK and have thrived. 

Japanese knotweed is one, Himalayan balsam is another. We have grey squirrels and american crayfish which have decimated our natural squirrel and crayfish populations. And this isn't a problem just here in the UK. In Florida escaped Burmese pythons have thrived so much in the Everglades that they've resulted in a drastic decline in small mammals and birds. The state now pays people to hunt them.

"Maybe like me there have been times in your life when you've felt out of place"
Maybe like me there have been times in your life when you've felt out of place, like a fish out of water. Out of your natural habitat. For me it's not something I experience all that often I'm relieved to say, although one of my more memorable experiences was attending a pilates class when I was in my twenties. Let's just say that didn't become a regular gym class of mine!

In many ways I think that a key part of life is finding the unique habitat that we thrive in. Learning to know our place. The place where we belong, where our skills, talents and personalities can flourish. And whilst it's important that we don't spend our lives in a place where we can't express ourselves or positively contribute, like a fish out of water, it's equally important that we don't spend our lives dominating an ecosystem like an invasive species, and displacing others.  

An important part of finding the right habitat is understanding what makes you tick. And we all tick in different ways. I love this quote: "Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by it's ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life thinking it is stupid".

"...a key part of life is finding the unique habitat that we thrive in"
Some animals are more adaptable than others, and that's true for us too, but none of us can do everything perfectly. Our challenge is to play to our strengths, to do what we're made for, to find that place where we feel most at home. Often it's important to find other people who call out the best in us, who chime with what we do, who recognise and appreciate our make-up. Finding a wolf pack or whale pod, or hive or tribe. We do better when we're in a place of community. Like a coal we can quickly lose our heat and go cold when we're not surrounded by other burning coals.

A key part of life is finding our place...
When I was 6 or 7 I was very briefly in a chess club at school. It was very brief because I was an inexperienced chess player and in my first game I was beaten in three or four moves - a classic "fools mate". I was very much put in my place by more experienced chess players, which put me off chess somewhat! 

Sometimes though I think we feel like we're stuck in the middle of a bad game of chess, we're not sure where we're supposed to be placed or how on earth we'll make it through to the end of the game. 

Or perhaps we feel more like we're in snakes and ladders, with that success ladder or failure snake tantalisingly close whatever move we make. Whilst I do think we should be more playful in our decision making and approach to life at times, I don't believe we're mere pawns in a cosmic game of chess. Instead I believe in a creator that has uniquely placed us and is keen to guide our steps.
"to know our place in a thriving, flourishing and life-affirming way"
Wherever you find yourself placed right now, whether you feel like a fish out of water or in your element, my prayer for you is that you'll increasingly know your place. Not in a negative "be quiet, sit down, know your place!" way, like being told off as a child, or being humbled by those more experienced than us. Instead, to know our place in a thriving, flourishing and life-affirming way. The habitat, the ecosystem we can fully inhabit and contribute to. That's the place I want to be.


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