Commusings: Journaling Prompts from Jane Austen by Marc Champagne

Oct 30, 2021

Hello Commune Community,

2,300 years ago, Socrates scrawled this timeless aphorism, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Once you have committed to excavating the metaphysical – the nature of consciousness – and what it means to be alive, then life becomes a dynamic, mystical unspooling. The interface between your own mind and the infinite mind of spirit slowly reveals what is immutable and true.

Self-inquiry can be understood as a science experiment applied to yourself. In leveraging its method, a hypothesis may be proven through experimentation, observation and reason. Or it may not. 

As today’s essayist, Marc Champagne posits, the examination of self often begins with a question. How can I accept the world as it is? What is my purpose? What am I great at? 

Recently, I’ve been asking, “How do I live with more LOVE?”

In pondering this question, I seek to define love. There is “transactional” love that sounds like, “I love you. And … here are your duties.” There is “conditional” love that attaches strings, “I love you … if.” But I am looking for Platonic, capital “L” love – an effusive state of being which knows only giving. 

I pull on this thread. What only gives? The sun. It shines equally on all without judgment. What makes the sun so magnanimous? It exists in the absence of need. 

Well, I am human and, at times, I will be needy. But, perhaps, if I avoid thrusting the requirements of my ego onto the external world, perhaps, in fulfilling my own needs, in being whole, then I can love more. Then I can be more like the sun and shine my light. 

This is a snapshot of some self-inquiry. 

Thankfully, Marc has turned this inner Socratic dialogue into an art form through aggregating the seminal questions of many of the world’s most extraordinary people. We discuss his work in depth on this week’s podcast and he is generous in sharing an excerpt from his new book, Personal Socrates, with us today.

Always here at [email protected] or follow my daily exhortations on IG @jeffkrasno.

In love, include me,
Jeff

• • •

Journaling Prompts from Jane Austen

By Marc Champagne, excerpted from his book Personal Socrates

 

Prompt 1: Who are the characters of my internal empire? 

Jane Austen is one of the most recognized authors in the world, yet throughout my journey of trying to understand who she was, I was left with more questions than answers. Over 200 years after she lived, how have her books never been out of print? Her books did not receive recognition outside her family and friends throughout her lifetime, and she was buried with minimal mention of her writing. However, her image has been proudly represented on British currency. Besides the Queen, she is the only woman to have received this honor.

Although it may be hard for us to accept, knowing how popular her work would become, Jane was content with her success. As literary critic Richard Blythe notes, “Literature, not the literary life, was always her intention.” Her life events did not define her but more so defined her compelling personality—sassy, quick-witted, funny, and highly observant.

Jane's power of observation spawned the wildly relatable characters in her novels and inspired the prompts in this profile. There are elements of Jane in many of her characters, yet not any one represents all of who she was. Her sassiness, humor, and personality shine through various characters, contributing to her novels' power and relatability.

Let’s return to the opening prompt and learn which characters shape our own lives. 

We can use the third person, which Jane is a master of doing through her writing, to unveil another perspective and view of our lives. We will do something different and have fun with the process. 

You get to be the Jane Austen of your life. You already have the characters of this novel; they comprise the person you are right now. As any classic novel, we have multiple characters fueling our stories. But often, we choose to identify with only a few of those characters resulting in the others being ignored.

I know I have a character fueling my internal empire who is happy, fun, and leaves people feeling energized after conversations. To the contrary, there is also a character who lives alone, is quiet, and has self-doubt, fear, and anxiety about his life. I would much rather hang out with the first character, but the reminder I received from Jane Austen’s timeless works is that a great story has multiple personalities and characters. 

There are lessons to be learned from all our characters if we first identify who they are and what purposes they serve in our lives.

  • Turn your personality traits into characters of your movie with names and full bios to describe their personas. 
  • Take a moment to reflect on the story developing. There are no right or wrong storylines, characters, or plots. 
  • Be with those characters and see what comes up for you. You might like or dislike the story, but at least you know the story and understand the characters fueling the plot.

In many ways, Jane Austen is still a mystery to me, but she has left us with much to reflect on, whether to understand what makes a piece of work stand the test of time or to navigate self-discovery. The latter, which we cover here, is valuable in understanding the story we want to create for our lives irrespective of the era we live in.
 

• • •


Prompt 2: What have I learned from my characters?

Jane Austen’s most admired and memorable characters go through the most self-discovery. Take Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice, who labelled her eventual husband (Fitzwilliam Darcy) as a person she would never spend her life with based on initial judgements around his wealth and power. As Dr. JoAnne Podis, professor of English at Ursuline College, notes, “Austen readers receive the message time and again that self-reflection in addition to self-awareness is an important part of realizing one’s potential.”

As the story unfolds, Elizabeth, day by day, releases her initial judgments as she gets to know Fitzwilliam, and they eventually become a couple. I am not trying to spin a review on Pride and Prejudice, but there are valuable lessons in this one. Through the characters of Pride and Prejudice, I learned I quickly pass judgement on situations and that my relationship with money would be healthier if I were less impressed with it.

We are the authors of our own stories. 

We may not leave a 200-year-long legacy behind as Jane has through her work, but it’s possible. Remember, during her lifetime she was not recognized as the literary legend we all know today. I am not suggesting you write a book, but you totally can if you feel motivated to do so. I am suggesting that you reflect on your life as if it were a classic piece of work that has the potential to stand the test of time. 

You deserve this! Thankfully, we have someone like Jane Austen to guide us.

Review the characters of yourself that you identified from the previous section of this profile and reflect on what they have taught you and where they are taking you. Now is the time for the plot twist: Make the changes supporting the person and story you want to live out. 

This reflective exercise does not take a tremendous amount of time to complete, but the results are high-value.

 

• • •


Prompt 3: How will my story end?

We all share something in common—our stories will one day end. Like any good author, if we spend time on the details and crafting the events and characters to our story, we will have a higher probability for the ending we desire.

Our lives can quickly resemble a desk of scattered pages, but we can pull together a very compelling story through conscious reflection. Imagine if Jane Austen sat down and wrote without giving any thought to these critical elements. Sure, there would have been great material and learnings scattered throughout the pages, but they would have been just that, scattered pages without the glue of the binding holding the book together.

Reflect and understand what a life well-lived looks like for you. 

We have already prioritized time to understand the elements forming our story thus far: the characters, events, and ultimately the loose pages on our desk. Now it’s time to pull it all together. 

This time can serve as an opportunity to adjust, edit, and narrow the focus of your story. Jane Austen scholars point to her limited subject, but incredible depth, as reason for her popularity and effectiveness.

Jane’s narrow focus also makes me think of a point Chip Conley, founder of the Modern Elder Academy, left me with during our podcast together: “We spend the first half of our lives accumulating experiences, relationships, thoughts, and emotions. The second half of our lives is spent editing and removing what no longer supports our story.” 

Regardless of where you may be in your life right now, you can never go wrong prioritizing time in reflection to understand what has made up your story to date, where it’s naturally heading, and where you want it to end up.

What aspects of your life story do you want to prioritize moving forward?

After all, life is nothing but a story of events, characters, and emotions that shape the plot.

 

• • •

 

Excerpt from Personal Socrates: Questions That Will Upgrade Your Life From Legends & World-Class Performers, a Baronfig Circus Books Original. In this book Marc Champagne unpacks the mental fitness practices and reflective questions shaping the lives of some of the most successful and brilliant thinkers in the world, including Kobe Bryant, Maya Angelou, Robin Williams, James Clear, Coco Chanel, Stephen Hawking, and many others to bring clarity, intentionality, and possibility to every aspect of your life.

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