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Archive for June, 2012

Consider that by nature, a leader is imperfect; hence there exists a gap between what the leader claims his/her philosophy to be and the philosophy that is demonstrated by one’s behavior.  The leader’s challenge: to be open to discerning this gap, then to discern the gap, then to accept the gap as ‘real,’ then to commit to closing the gap [which the leader will never totally accomplish for the leader is imperfect].

Consider that all leaders endorse a concept of persons – simply stated, people are inherently good or are inherently evil or people are inherently trustworthy or they are not inherently trustworthy [there are many layers to this ‘concept of persons’ these two are common and are illustrative].  As the great Chinese mystic, Lao Tsu, says: to make people trustworthy you must trust them.

Consider that it helps leaders to have, and appreciate, an understanding of the diversity of people’s gifts, styles, talents, skills, potentials, perceptions, perspectives, and thought-processes.  This helps the leader ‘see’ that each is needed and it opens pathways for the leader to trust the strengths of others [which requires the leader to acknowledge that he/she does not and cannot know and do it all.  This ‘diversity’ enables each person to contribute in a special way, a unique way.  Recognizing this diversity helps the leader to understand the need for ‘opportunity, equity, and identity’ that each person has.

 

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[NOTE: The following is a continuation from yesterday’s posting]

Since we do not know what this type of reflection [searching philosophical questions] will uncover or where it will lead us – it could lead us to the road less traveled or to the two roads that diverge – it can be seen as dangerous.  Awareness does not bring comfort or solace [see Robert K. Greenleaf’s writings]; awareness brings disturbance – even outrage to some.   Some are fearful that their ideas may not stand up as well as they would like if they start to think about them [I have experienced this type of resistance to some of my ideas and it is quite disconcerting to me when it happens].  Others are deeply rooted in the identification with a particular tradition, or group, or national or ethnic identity that invites them [requires them?] to turn their back on outsiders who question the ways of the group.  We humans like to retreat to within a thick, comfortable set of folkways, and not to worry too much about their structure, or their origins, or even the criticisms that they may deserve.

Reflection opens the pathway to criticism and most of us do not like criticism.  Without reflection and without the acceptance of criticism all groups become closed circles, primed to feel outraged by the questioning-reflective mind [for years the Catholic Church closed ranks to protect their clergy rather than be vulnerable and transparent and protect their children].

For thousands of years the Eastern and Western philosophical traditions have been the ‘enemy’ of this type of cosy complacency.  They have insisted that the unexamined life is not worth living.  They have insisted on the power of reflective questioning to separate the chaff from the wheat – to winnow out the ‘bad seeds’ in our practices and to replace them with ‘healthy seeds.’  They have identified critical self-reflective questioning with freedom, the idea being that only when we can see ourselves in the light – being awake and aware and not deep in the sleep of reason – can we truly choose which of the roads we will choose to travel.

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[NOTE: After I finished this entry it occurred to me that two short postings work better than one longer one.  So I have broken this into two postings, one for today and one for tomorrow]

The great Spanish painter, Goya, etched a series of satires he titled ‘The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters [see one of the etchings below].  Goya believed that many of mankind’s follies are the by-products of our sleep of reason.  As I sit here this morning I am thinking of all those who tell you-me-us what we want, how they will provide it, how we should act if we want to succeed, and what we should believe.  These people seem convinced, at least that is what the message is to us.  Beware: convictions are infectious.  As the great P.T.B. once said, ‘there is a sucker born every day.’

Many of us, at times my self included, are ready to believe that our ways, our beliefs, our religion, our politics are better than yours/others.  Our God-given rights trump yours.  Our national and business interests are so sacred that pre-emptive strikes are not only ‘right’ but are in a sense ‘holy.’

Consider that in the end it is ideas for which we kill each other.  It is because of ideas about what others are like, or who we are or what our interests or rights require, that we go to ‘war’ [remember that one of our primary metaphors in our culture is a hybrid of ‘war-sports’] or oppress others with a clear, if not good, conscience; sometimes we even acquiesce in our own oppression by others [we give our power away to others who say they will ‘take care of us’].

Consider that when these beliefs involve ‘the sleep of reason’ we need an antidote to help wake up and become aware [see the writings of Charles Handy, Jacob Needleman, Henri Nouwen, and Reinhold Niebuhr].  This antidote is Reflection.  Reflection provides us the opportunity to stop, step-back and see our perspective on a situation as perhaps distorted or blind, at the very least to see if there is argument for preferring our ways, or whether it is subjective.  This type of reflection is ‘doing’ philosophy – one is searching for wisdom.

Here is the sketch by Goya – Goya’s motto for his etching is: ‘Imagination abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her she is the mother of the arts and the source of her wonders.’ 

 

 

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[NOTE: See yesterday’s posting for the context for this posting]

Consider that to be fully human might be counter-cultural, and that fulfillment comes from someplace other than the roles we play or the things we obtain.  In order to consider this we have to explore what it might mean to be fully human.

Consider that to be fully human we might develop the following ‘capacities’:  the intellectual, the physical, the emotional, and the spiritual.  You might ask, ‘How am I developing and caring for my intellectual capacity, my physical capacity, my emotional capacity, and my spiritual capacity?’ 

One way of exploring these capacities is to see them as ‘muscles’ that we must develop, tone and maintain.  When we don’t, these capacities – just like our muscles – become weaker and less helpful to us; they can even become dis-eased.  You might also ask yourself the following:  ‘In what specific ways do I develop and use my intellectual muscle?  Do I read a variety of sources in order to stretch, strengthen, and utilize more of my intellectual capacity?’

You might also ask yourself: In what specific ways do I care for my physical development?  Do I eat in healthy ways?  Do I, at minimum, walk briskly each day – or perform some physical exercise each day? In what specific ways do I develop my spiritual capacity?  Do I pray?  Do I meditate?  Do I engage in conversations that feed my spirit? In what ways does my work and work environment feed and/or deplete my spirit? 

 There are, of course, many other questions we might ask ourselves.  Consider to what extent you are committed to developing yourself as a more fully human being – this is my invitation to you, gentle reader – and this is the challenge.   

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In February, 2003 I wrote the following column for the ‘Minnesota Spokesman Recorder.’  I will be dividing this piece into two parts; I will post PART I today and PART II tomorrow.

I invite you to stop, step back, and look at yourself.  Take measure of yourself without evaluating – use no bias or self-judgment.  Look beyond your roles – parent, employee, supervisor, executive, teacher, minister, spouse.  Ask yourself the following: To what extent do I see myself as a fully human being?  As a full human being, who am I?  Who am I choosing to become?  Why am I choosing to become this person?  Give yourself time to reflect upon these questions – this type of inward looking takes commitment and time.

Consider that our culture might not support either this type of looking or your living as a fully human being.  Consider, in fact, that our culture might actually invite us – if not demand us – to be less than fully human.  We might encounter this at work, where we are told to ‘bring all of yourself to work,’ but when we do we are then told to ‘leave your problems at home.’  We may be told that ‘human resources are our most important resources.’  However, there is more attention paid to our being ‘resources’ to be used and used up than being humans to be developed.  We also have a hint of this when we hear others, if not ourselves, saying things such as ‘if only I had this (car, position, money, job article of clothing, house, relationship, etc), then I would be content, fulfilled, happy, and complete.’ 

Consider that not only do we desire these things, we often come to see them as necessary to our worth and identity.  Ask yourself, ‘How often do I obtain what I desire and still experience emptiness, a lack of fulfillment, a painful void that seems never to be filled?’ 

 

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