Archive for February, 2013

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[NOTE: Gentle reader, please see 26 February, 2013’s posting for the context of today’s posting]

STEREOTYPES & CLICHÉS. ‘Where opinion does not exist, the status quo becomes stereotyped and all originality is discouraged.’ –Bertrand Russell  Stereotypes and Clichés serve a purpose given the enormous – and growing – amount of information that washes over us it seems with every blink we take; they serve as short-hands that save us time and energy.  The downside is that both block original thinking; they provide those seeking ‘truth’ for example, a candy bar rather than a full nutritious meal.  The stereotype contains just enough truth for many of us.  The ‘isms’ – racism, sexism, ageism, etc. – are rooted in and nurtured by the stereotype and cliché and these rely on exaggeration, omission, and ignorance.  They are dangerous, at best.  They take one tree and call it a forest (‘All politicians are self-serving.’)  More importantly these two siblings blunt, if not destroy, curiosity.  They help hearts and minds to close tight and remain locked and guarded.  ‘Surety’ is provided and this trumps ‘doubt’ and ‘skepticism.’  They emphasize differences and hence separate people from one another.  Any minority could tell you the impact of both upon one’s self-image, if not actually ‘existence.’  Each person in the world could tell us how much more alike we are than different, if it weren’t for stereotypes and clichés.  Many years ago I was sitting in the audience listening to a remarkable woman tell her story.  At one point in an attempt to be ‘open’ she remarked that she had a mouth like a construction worker.  A voice from deep within the audience said, ‘I’m a construction worker and I don’t swear, curse or pimp women!’  The speaker paused, gathered herself and apologized.

GROUPTHINK. ‘A sect is an elegant incognito devised to save a man from the vexation of thinking.’ – R.W. Emerson  Irving Janis (1918-1990) was a research psychologist.  In his 1972 book, ‘Victims of Group Think,’ he defined group think as loyalty to the group being more important than any other value and hence dissent and alternatives are suppressed.  Group think requires a combination of other forms of lying – ignoring facts, selective memory, omission, denial and stereotyping, to name some of them.  A classic example of group think is held within one single day of infamy: 7 December, 1941.  Although there were many signals and a few ‘voices’ they were ignored and silenced or dismissed because of group think.  The United States is not vulnerable to attack!  The Japanese cannot attack our fleet at Pearl Harbor because as we know all torpedoes require 60 feet of water depth and Pearl only has 30 (implied, if not spoken in this, was that the Japanese were not smart enough to create a torpedo that would be effective in 30 feet of water.  Why?  The reason was simple: we couldn’t invent one that could operate at 30 feet.).  Even though the members of the Japanese consulate in Hawaii began burning papers on 5 December, 1941 we ignored this ‘subtle’ signal .  Within the closed network and closed minds of the top commanders in Hawaii the group think affirmed that all was well.  No one at that level considered the alternatives.  No one wanted to assume the risk of being wrong; no one wanted to assume the risk of going against the group.  Illusion and wishful thinking trumped reality.

Gentle reader, we will pick up with more Lies tomorrow; their number it seems is legion.


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[NOTE: If you, gentle reader, would like to offer me a comment, a response, a question, or a ‘consideration’ please email me at: searcherseeker@yahoo.com]

[NOTE: Gentle reader, please see yesterday’s posting for the context of today’s posting]

DEFLECTING.  ‘When you have no basis for an argument, abuse the plaintiff.’ –Cicero  Deflectors lie by being selectively open.  I have done this, so I know it well – all too well.  These people are open about who they are they just withhold all that they truly want to hide – others assume that these folks are being open and truthful.  It is an effective way of hiding.  Then there are the deflectors who lie by calling attention to something else in such a way that the entire focus shifts.  Clarence Thomas did this during his confirmation hearings.  He expertly deflected by ‘screaming’ Racism and the focus shifted away from sexual harassment (the Senators colluded with him I think).  It was brilliantly done.  To this day, Racisim is politically incorrect in official circles – sexual harassment still rewards those who can get away with it.  Some of the most skilled deflectors are ‘passive-aggressive folks.  They simply refuse to respond to the accusations of lying and ignore their accusers.  This stance enrages the helpless accuser and it is their rage that becomes their downfall for now the p-a person indignantly says: ‘How can any one be expected to talk with one who is so unreasonable and emotional as you are?’  Almost instantly the initial accusation is forgotten and the original ‘victim’ becomes the perpetrator; the first person also feels guilt and shame and is tamed into submission.  Sadly, I have witnessed this act being played out many times between others, generally men-women and men-men.  I am curious as to how often it happens between two women.

OMISSION. ‘The cruelest lies are often told in silence.’ – Robert L. Stevenson  Omission involves almost telling the whole truth – just one or two key details or paragraphs are missing from the story.  This void dramatically changes the story.  Many years ago I broke a pair of glasses that were guaranteed to be replaced as a result of ‘normal wear and tear.’  I interpreted ‘normal’ as playing football with my glasses on (O.K. no smart move to begin with I know).  So I ‘omitted’ the fact that I was playing football and was under a pile of folks when my glasses broke.  I did get a new pair for free.  Now, I don’t think I am the only duck in the pond of life who has done something like this.  I am part of the norm aren’t I?  BUT, what about withholding information that would dramatically affect how a person lives his or her life?

For example, there are many biblical stories that have been withheld from us and these stories would certainly impact how folks perceive certain events.  Here’s one that you, gentle reader, might want to research.  There was another woman in the Garden of Eden before Eve….WHAT?  She was the Sumerian goddess Lilith.  YIKES!  She was strong and powerful and could resist temptation; she was not a weak and naïve Eve and Lilith was an equal to Adam (she did not come from his rib).  Why has this important piece of information been withheld from us?  Can’t we handle ‘the truth’?  Why are there, today, books of the Bible that are withheld from certain groups [e.g., there are wonderful books in the ‘Catholic’ version that are withheld from other Christians]?

I had better stop for today…better for me and better for you, gentle reader.  Let’s continue tomorrow – so many lies, so little space.

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[NOTE: If you, gentle reader, would like to offer me a comment, a response, a question, or a ‘consideration’ please email me at: searcherseeker@yahoo.com]

When I drive I frequently listen to NPR.  A few days ago I was driving and listening to an interview.  I don’t remember the program, the topic, the interviewee, or the interviewer – this is not uncommon for me as I seek first to drive safely rather than to concentrate on what is being broadcast.  However, every once in a while a phrase is uttered that shifts my concentration for a moment.  I find myself repeating the phrase over and over and then when I am able to stop for a moment I will write the phrase down in my little black book (yes, gentle reader, I carry a little black book – it is used to capture phrases or quotes or notes and when I fill one up I begin a new one).  What I copied down that morning was a concept: Vital Lies – protect the psyche.  For the past few days I have been noodling about Lies.

I lie.  I lie a lot.  I have a lot-full of lies.  I do not believe I am alone when it comes to being a teller of lies.  Webster’s definition of lie is quite specific (as we all know, dear Webster can be quite vague with some of his definitions also – as when he defines a word using the word itself).  Lie = (1) a false statement or action especially made with the intent to deceive; (2) anything that gives or is meant to give a false impression.  YIKES!  Thus, when we exaggerate, minimize, avoid confrontation, spare another’s feelings, ‘conveniently’ forget, keep secrets, justify falsehoods, etc. (etc. meaning you are free to add to this list), we lie.  Yesterday I committed to myself that I would go one day (24 hours) without lying – I gave up within an hour.  Can’t be done – this is my conclusion.  On the other hand, my telling a lie does have consequences. Who will pay them – me, you, us – ah, that’s the rub.  Will trust be harmed if not destroyed?  Will another pay the piper because I didn’t?  I know I must consider the meaning of my words and actions.

As I have been thinking about lying I have begun to identify the many, many ways I-You-We lie.  I have limited space so I will add to this entry with Part II tomorrow. Let’s continue and see what emerges.  Here are a few ways to tell a lie.

THE WHITE LIE.   “A man who won’t lie to a woman has very little consideration for her feelings.” –Bergen Evans

For me, the ‘white lie’ assumes that ‘truth’ will cause more harm than ‘untruth.’  A friend needs a compliment more than a frank opinion.  The problem: the liar is deciding what is best for the other.  It is, if truth be told, a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the other.  In addition, it is an act of subtle arrogance – I know what is best for you.  Ah, this is easy.  Then I recall a story in Tim O’Brien’s powerful book, The Things They Carried.  A sergeant in Vietnam saw one of his men killed in action but listed him as missing in action so that his wife and two children would continue to receive his pay (which was significantly more than the meager offering given to families of those killed in action).  His intent, it seems, was honorable – yet, for more than twenty-years the family kept their hopes alive; they became ‘stuck’ unable to move on with their lives.  Consequences!

THE FACTS – JUST IGNORE THEM!  “Well, you must understand that Father Porter is only human.” –A Massachusetts Bishop

   In the 1960s Father James Porter was sexually molesting children.  The response of the church authorities – move him to another parish for we need priests.  For more than seven years they ignored the facts and with each move provided Fr. Porter with a new group of victims.  In 1967 he went ‘into treatment’ was ‘released as cured’ and was moved to another diocese – in Minnesota – and the authorities there then ignored the facts as to how truly difficult it is to ‘cure’ a pedophile and more children were victimized.  If Webster was right and a lie is a false action done with intent to deceive, then the Catholic Church’s conscious covering up for Porter helped create horrific consequences for so many.  Sergeant Joe Friday helps us here: ‘Just the facts, sir; just the facts.’ (NOTE: this last reference is for those elders in the room; those who were guided by the calm, objective wisdom of Sergeant Joe Friday).

Oops!  Out of space we are; we will pick up with this topic tomorrow.

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[NOTE: If you, gentle reader, would like to offer me a comment, a response, a question, or a ‘consideration’ please email me at: searcherseeker@yahoo.com]

Difficult as it is really to listen to someone in affliction, it is just as difficult for him to know that compassion is listening to him. — Simone Weil

There’s ritualistic listening, then there’s goal-oriented listening, then there’s task-oriented listening, then there’s multi-task oriented listening, then there’s debate-focused listening, then there’s . . . then there’s. . . AND then there is Deep Listening.

I have come to believe that one of the most caring, empathic, and compassionate gifts I can give to another is the gift of Deep Listening.  This means that I am fully present to my self and to the other; this means that I am awake and aware, here and now; this means that I am intentional and purposeful; this means that I am response-able.  Deep Listening requires me to be fascinated by the other; it requires me to be attentive to the other; it requires that I listen with undefended receptivity; it requires that I practice the discipline of patience.  Anyone who has attempted to listen to another in this way for even a few minutes knows how much of a challenge deep listening truly is.

Deep listening is a gift to the one listening and to the one speaking.  Deep listening affirms both the one listening and the one speaking.  Deep listening nurtures the growth of the one listening and of the one speaking.  People who are deeply listened to, tend to then listen deeply to others.  Deep listening opens space for one to speak one’s truth and for that truth to be accepted as ‘their truth.’  Deep listening is renewing.

Have you ever noticed how some people, when provided the opportunity, will go on and on and on – a river of talk (or is a white-water river of talk) that seems endless?  Consider that perhaps such a person goes on and on and on because no one has ever listened deeply to them.  To spend time listening to this person requires deep patience – ordinary patience will not hold up to the challenge.

Deep listening takes time, energy, commitment, skill, discipline and patience fed by the tap roots of care, compassion, and empathy.  For the one listening it requires that expectations, prejudices, stereotypes and judgments are suspended.  For the one listening it requires an adherence to Socrates admonition: Know thy self.  The one listening must know what triggers his/her defensive-listening, must know his/her tendencies to ‘fix’ or to ‘control’ or to ‘advise’ or to ‘dominate’ and he/she must be aware of the ‘signals’ that indicate that these have been called onto the stage.

How does one know if one is a deep listener?  One knows because one frequently finds one’s self in the presence of another who demonstrates a need to be deeply listened to.  Like prophets, deep listeners are a rarity even though our hunger to be deeply listened to increases with each generation.  Think about this: Who has been a deep listener in your own life?  When was the last time you thanked this person for providing you the gift of deep listening?  When have you provided deep listening to another?  How do you know?



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[NOTE: If you, gentle reader, would like to offer me a comment, a response, a question, or a ‘consideration’ please email me at: searcherseeker@yahoo.com]

If you want to converse, first ask a question and then listen. — Antonio Machado

There are debates, ‘ritual conversations,’ conversations, and dialogues.  A goodly number of years ago now, my good friend and colleague, Tamyra, and I also identified what we came to call searching conversations.  These five have some commonalities; each involves one or more persons, each is rooted in verbal exchanges, each involves speaking and listening, each has intended and unintended outcomes/consequences.  There are also elements that clearly separate them one from the other.   In Searching Conversations the participants are ‘fully present’ to one another; they are awake and aware and intentional and purposeful.  Each is what I call a reflective-participant-observer.  Talk about multi-tasking: simultaneously each person, participates in the conversation, while observing it while reflecting upon what is occurring internally in one’s self, externally with the other and what is emerging from the relationship itself.  Each listens ‘intently and receptively’ – each listens with undefended receptivity.  Each is rooted more in inquiry than in advocacy for one of the goals is to access the wisdom of the ‘collective.’  The ‘searching together’ is a prime motivator for the conversation.  Periods of silence occur frequently for reflection is crucial to helping the participants search together.

Searching Conversations have no destination in mind, no pre-set outcome, no movement toward ‘action’ beyond the conversation itself (although a destination, an outcome and action might emerge as the conversation proceeds).   The searching together is the journey.  These conversations are stifled, hindered or blocked because of each participant’s prejudices, stereotypes, beliefs, core values, and assumptions; thus it is important that each participant be open to identifying them and critically thinking about them (our experience is that if each if open to this process and is awake and aware in the moment then these will be more easily identified when they ‘show themselves’).  This also requires each participant to be open to the possibility that he/she will be influenced by the search.  In order to be open to being influenced the conversation must be rooted in trust and in safety.  For example, I trust that you are here in good faith, that you care about me as a person, that you will help keep the space safe for both of us.  This calls for each of the participants to be vulnerable.  Being vulnerable means that we will take risks – sharing and exploring our prejudices, stereotypes, etc – that we will be accepted for who we are and that we will carry the wound gracefully [Vulnerable comes from the Latin root ‘vulnus’ which means ‘to carry the wound with grace’]; we will be ‘wounded’ and we will deliver ‘wounds’ – Why – because each participant is an imperfect human being.  Because of this, searching conversations also require that the participants will need to embrace forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.  Finally – for this posting at least – searching conversations take time; thus it is crucial that significant time be set aside so that the conversation is not ‘rushed.’  Searching conversations require space (physical space, mental space) and time (three or more hours is not uncommon).   Anne Morrow Lindbergh reminds me that Good conversation is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after. [‘Gift From the Sea,’ 1955]

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