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Archive for October, 2014

Well, gentle reader, we have now briefly explored each of the seven dimensions that help define our human SPECIES. These dimensions – the Spirit(ual), the Physical, the Emotional, the Cultural, the Intellectual, the Environmental, and the Social – inform each other, support each other, and when one is depleted all are negatively affected, if not depleted. Some folks believe that one of these is more important than the others; my hunch is that we can find folks that could make a good case for each of these dimensions to be the ‘key’ dimension. I have my bias as to which dimension is the most impactful and you, gentle reader, might well have your bias. My current thinking is that one dimension becomes the focus, the ‘key’ if you will, during a specific time in history or in response to a specific need that our Species has. It seems to me that the focus is also determined by the need of a sub-culture (a clan, a society, a nation, a geographical location) and that as the sub-culture develops the focus shifts. It is also important to remember, or note, that as with our individual development we as a Species or sub-culture can get ‘stuck.’ That is, we continue to focus on one dimension when another dimension needs to emerge as the focus. History continues to inform us, or remind us (I was going to use the word ‘teach’ but I am not sure that we learn from history as we need to), that becoming stuck in one dimension will lead to bad things happening for our Species and more significantly for a specific sub-culture.

Since we have recorded our history we know how nearly impossible it has been to grasp our human Species and it dimensions as a whole; we have, by necessity it seems, focused on our own sub-culture. Today, given how technology has enabled us to connect with almost everyone who is part of the human Species (and I think that at some point in time we will indeed be able to connect with everyone) we are becoming more and more aware of ourselves as being truly part of the human Species. We are, more and more, recognizing the needs our human Species has in each of the seven dimensions. We are more aware that we are ‘our brothers and sisters’ keepers. We are truly, in this together. Together we are truly stewards of all that makes up our planet.

We are more aware of the impact that our sub-culture has upon other sub-cultures and upon the human Species. If, as a sub-culture, we continue to consume more than ‘our share’ (and who is to define what ‘our share’ entails) then another sub-culture will be harmed; then, just as importantly, our human Species will be harmed. Historically we know what happens when one sub-culture has significantly more than another interconnected sub-culture (ask the French, ask the Russians, ask the Iranians). Because of technology we now have the opportunity to truly learn about and become powerfully connected to other sub-cultures so that we might tap into our compassion, empathy, and deep caring and choose to help them address their human Species needs.

We have the opportunity; time will reveal whether we have the motivation to more directly serve the needs of our human Species and our S.P.E.C.I.E.S.

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This morning, gentle reader, we will briefly explore the seventh dimension that helps define our human SPECIES; this is the ‘Social Dimension.’

Social – We are, by nature, social beings. Perhaps the greatest harm you can do us is to isolate us (solitary confinement comes to mind) or shun us (as some tribes, clans, families or religious sects do – we are still around but not part of) or ignore us (as folks in wheel chairs know only too well) or not recognize us (as minority housekeepers in certain cultures know so well). Being ‘recognized’ seems to be a crucial ingredient; I am thinking of the African tribe (whose name escapes me as I type) whose greeting is: ‘I see you.’ I like this way of affirming another’s humanity. For us humans it also seems necessary to de-humanize members of our Species in order to guilt-free kill them (a form of isolation via categorization).

As Social beings we form and are formed by our society, we impact and are impacted by our society, and our identity is affirmed/confirmed or denied/marginalized by our society (think of all of the ways our society has denied/marginalized others – gay couples come to my mind).

As a human Species we are ‘both-and’ socially. We seek to develop as ‘I’ and we need to develop as ‘We.’ We are independent and interdependent. We are existentially alone (this is my life and I am one of a kind) and we thrive when in community (‘thrive’ does not equate with ‘health’ so, the community does not have to be a ‘healthy’ one; it can be full of dis-ease). The ‘I’ cannot survive alone and the ‘I’ will also be destroyed if there is only ‘We’ (I know some women who gave up their identity for their husbands).

Our individual values, beliefs, principles, character strengths, virtues, vices, prejudices, stereotypes, assumptions and judgments (to name a few) emerge, are affirmed and are integrated as part of our socialization. As we travel through life we seek other social beings that support, confirm, affirm our ‘dearest’ values, beliefs, etc. Sometimes we seek out others who will challenge one or more of these – my life experience is that we don’t do this very often. As social beings we seek out ‘like’ not ‘unlike’ – we are, at minimum, suspicious of those who are ‘unlike’ us. I have known a few folks who, during their lives, sought out the ‘unlike’ folks in order to learn about them and to learn from them. Forty years ago I decided to learn about different faith traditions – in order to understand them and in order to learn from them. I now have a deeper appreciation of many faith traditions; I have found ‘truth-beauty-good’ in each of them.

Historically, we humans have spent more time focusing on the ‘social’ in narrow ways and have ignored the broader ways. However, this is changing and, I hope, it will continue to change. Why are we expanding our focus? Technology is the driver. We are becoming more and more broadly connected socially; we are learning more about other societies and the folks that are part of them and we are connecting more and more to them: ‘I see you!’ is being spoken more globally today than ever before. If we remain open to connecting with, learning about and learning from others we will more likely find the ‘truth-beauty-good’ that others have to offer us.

As our world continues to become more and more complex it is crucial that we expand our ‘social’ dimension; herein lies some of the hope for the future of our human Species.

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As a reminder, I am inviting us to consider (i.e., think about, reflect upon, engage in deep searching conversations about) seven dimensions that help define who we are as a Human SPECIES. Thus far we have briefly explored five of these dimensions. This morning we will continue our exploration with the next dimension, the ‘Environmental Dimension.’

Environmental – Consider that as a Species we (a) influence and are influenced by, (b) impact and are impacted by, (c) inform and are informed by, and (d) engage and are engaged by our ‘natural environment’ and by our ‘human-made environment.’ As stewards we have been entrusted with both. We are always responsible for both (although at times we have neglected or even denied our responsibility). Because we believe we control our human-made environment we, not too infrequently, believe that we can control the natural environment. As a human Species we have also denied the impact our human-made environment has had (is currently having) upon the natural environment (we are, in these cases, not good stewards of what we have been entrusted with).

If left alone, the natural environment will care for herself. I am thinking of the time when our planet was impacted by the asteroid that killed off many species. The natural environment recovered and thrived. As a human Species we seem to be today’s asteroid and we might be so good at wounding our natural environment that we might well destroy her and ourselves. I am now thinking of the wonderful movie, ‘WALL-E’ and so I am not without hope for our natural environment (I am less hopeful when it comes to our human Species and our survival).

Consider: Environment — the aggregate of surrounding things, conditions, or influences;
surroundings; or milieu; the air, water, minerals, organisms, and all other external factors surrounding and affecting a given organism at any time; the social and cultural forces that shape the life of a person or a population; Computers: the hardware or software configuration, or the mode of operation, of a computer system; and an indoor or outdoor setting that is characterized by the presence of environmental art that is itself designed to be site-specific. Talk about a diversity of definitions. As a human-Species we are entrusted with all of these.

Some believe that we humans continue to separate ourselves from our natural environment. We no longer believe or behave as if we are ‘part of;’ we seem to believe – our decisions and actions appear to confirm this belief – that we are separate from and not integral to the natural environment. This ‘belief’ supports decisions we continue to make that support our ‘human-made environment’ with the consequences (unintended?) that our natural-environment continues to suffer and to be at risk. Because we continue to be separated from – if not in direct conflict with – other members of our human-Species we cannot agree on what and how we should (need to?) care for the natural-environment.

The ‘Environmental Dimension’ is also directly affected by and impacted by the seventh dimension, the ‘Social Dimension.’

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Thus far, gentler reader, we have briefly explored the first four dimensions that help define ourselves as a Species – the human Species. We will continue our exploration today and I will begin with the fifth dimension, the ‘Intellectual’ dimension.

Intellectual – As we evolved so did our brain and so did our intellectual ability and capacity. I believe it was Einstein who noted that at our best we might only use 5% to 10% of our intellectual capacity. As computers have become more sophisticated we have used our intellects to explore the possibility of creating AI (Artificial Intelligence). As we well know, computers – i.e. technology in a variety of forms – are able to compute in ways that we cannot. And herein lies the trap. The more we rely upon technology to ‘think’ for us the more intellectual capacity we will lose (young folks today are already demonstrating their lack of capacity to ‘read’ the non-verbal language of their peers because of the amount of time they spend ‘relating’ via technology).

Computers can help us make decisions. . .YET. . .it seems to me that we should never allow computers to make important decisions for us because computers will always lack human qualities such as intuition, compassion and wisdom. There is the crucial distinction between deciding and choosing (and it requires some sophisticated intellectual development to do both). Deciding is a computational activity, something that can ultimately be programmed. Choice, however, is the product of judgment, not calculation. It is the capacity to choose that ultimately makes us the human Species. Comprehensive human judgment is able to include non-mathematical factors, such as emotions. Judgment allows us to compare apples and oranges in metaphorical ways; in ways that no computer can do.

Given this, our challenge is to continue to find ways to help our Species develop our intellectual abilities and capacities. We must focus beyond our computational ability (math, science, technology) and embrace the development of our intuitive, caring, empathic, compassionate, and creative abilities and capacities. Computers can help us do the former, but it requires significant time with other members of our Species in order to develop the latter. I did learn of an elementary school that is now limiting computer time to one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon with the remainder of the day involving a combination of small group work, read-reflecting-writing, and individual work. The teachers are already reporting that the younger students are far better at ‘reading’ the nonverbal signals of their peers than the older students are (who have been spent the past two years working primarily with their laptops).

As one wise person noted. We used to strive to make computers more human. Now it seems that we are striving to make humans more like computers. We are dehumanizing ourselves as we do so. This is one of those statements that give me pause. . .

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Today, gentle reader, we will continue our brief exploration of seven of the dimensions that help define we humans as a SPECIES. Thus far we have briefly explored the first three of these (see Part II) and today we will explore more. As a reminder, the seven dimensions are: Spirit(ual), Physical, Emotional, Cultural, Intellectual, Environmental, and Social.

Cultural – Because we are, by nature, a relational Species we seek to develop a culture. Simply stated: What works over time comes to be integrated and accepted as the ‘norm’ and this set of ‘norms’ is one major ingredient that defines and informs culture. Along the way we also emerge and embrace certain values; not just any values, but the ones that will support how we relate to one another; these values will also support and be supported by the ‘norms.’ Over time we also develop specific rituals, symbols, beliefs, principles, prejudices and stereotypes – these support and are supported by the norms and values.

Once integrated all of these combine to form ‘deep tacit assumptions’ about ‘how things are around here.’ These deep tacit assumptions are treated as ‘the truth’ and they powerfully help ‘form’ any who seek to become part of the Culture. The Culture is powerful (as any of us who have ever lived in a family or experienced a school, or a ‘church’ or worked in an organization knows quite well). Now, to complicate things a bit, there exists in every large culture (‘large’ is relative by the by) one or more ‘sub-cultures.’ As we look at the culture of the human Species we can easily observe the sub-cultures that have emerged (an ethnic group, a nation, a society, etc.); there are also sub-cultures within the sub-cultures (talk about complexity).

The sub-culture(s) attempts to influence, persuade, manipulate and where possible even coerce the culture. At times a sub-culture will support the culture and at times it will resist or even subvert the culture. Where culture exists, so do sub-cultures and where these exist so does conflict, tension, high anxiety, resistance, adaptation, creativity, innovation, etc. As a Species, we humans have paid much more attention to the sub-cultures than to the culture that defines us as a Species; it seems that we cannot agree upon the ingredients that make-up the culture of the human Species. Why? I think because the sub-cultures have become so powerful and dominant that we have lost a deep connection (any connection?) to the Culture of our Species. We have, it seems, lost the Big Picture that is our human Species (some might even deny its existence).

Consider, gentle reader that each Culture and sub-culture is composed of four dimensions: The Visible = what we see, The Espoused = what we say we believe, The Lived = what we actually do (not what we Espouse, for example), and The Assumed = the deep tacit assumptions that motivate the other three. Our charge is to identify each, then to identify the gaps that exist between and among them and then to seek ways to ‘close’ the gaps (these gaps will never be fully ‘closed’ for any number of reasons; yet our charge is to seek ways of closing them).

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