Archive for December, 2018


One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. –B. H. McGill

Gentle Reader, I invite you right now, if possible, to stop, step-back and reflect: Think of a time when you were truly, deeply, reflectively listened to.  AND, think of a time when you truly, deeply and reflectively listened to another.

Listening in this way – ‘truly, deeply, & reflectively’ – is a gift given and received.  When I am listened to in this way and when I listen in this way I experience time standing still, the ‘now’ is experienced.  I am not ruminating about the past nor am I anticipating the future (e.g. thinking about how I will respond).

For me, this gift of listening is a sacred gift.  It is also a rare gift.  The illusion of technology was embedded in a promise: ‘Technology will give us more time!’  My experience is that the opposite has happened.  We are so caught up in technology that we don’t have more time.  It is rare that I am with another and within five minutes of sitting down together that technology will cry not out for attention.

Listening in this way requires us (me and the other) to slow down, to wait rather than react, and to seek to understand rather than reply.  Listening in this way requires reflective silence and patience (patience first for some of us).

Listening in this way honors both myself and the other.  What a gift – the gift of honoring.

Listening in this way creates a space and a pathway for the quiet, small voice of wisdom that resides within me and the other to not only speak but to actually have an opportunity to be heard and heeded.

Listening in this way not only honors the relationship, listening in this way enhances the relationship.  ‘Trust’ is nurtured, and, often, is sustained as a consequence of listening in this way.

A gift that a leader (by role or by situation) can give the other is the gift of listening in this way.  Too many leaders are infected by the hurry sickness as a consequence of being addicted to speed.

Recently, a CEO decided to respond to the employees.  They had been sending him a message for months that he was not ‘present to them.’  He did not take the time to visit the centers (there are ten health centers available for him to visit).  Two weeks ago he announced that he ‘heard’ them and that he would visit each center.

On the given day of his visit a representative showed up.  The staff was gathered in a room and a video tape was put on – not a live feed, a video tape.  The CEO wanted to know the issues and told the staff to tell the CEO’s representative and that person would take notes and report back to the CEO.

Gentle Reader, this actually happened.  An example of listening – true.  How many employees felt honored and gifted by this CEO’s approach?  How much cynicism was sown or nurtured as a consequence?  What was the message sent by the CEO?  [The message received is the message; intentions do not matter in this scenario.]

Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk. –Doug Larson

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Why is there so little listening? –R.K. Greenleaf
Listen, first, in order to understand. –R.K. Greenleaf

For more than 45 years now I have been helping individuals develop their leader-capacities.  Consider, Gentle Reader, that there are two types of leaders: Role-defined and Situational (for example, the CEO is a leader ‘by role’ and the person who steps in and takes the lead is often a leader ‘by situation’).

Both types need to develop or develop more fully their capacity to listen and, more importantly, to develop or develop more fully their capacity to listen, first, especially to develop or develop more fully their capacity to listen first in order to understand.

Robert K. Greenleaf, the ‘father of Servant-as-Leader’ offers us two crucial questions: Why is there so little listening?  When you speak, how will that improve on the silence?

This morning, Gentle Reader, I am going to reflect a bit on the first question.  My focus will be on ‘leaders’ (role-defined and situational); what I offer, however, can be considered by any of us, no matter our role or situation.

First, I am not talking about the skill-ability to listen.  We have all developed this skill-ability to listen by the time we are five years old.  I am talking about our capacity to listen.  Each of us can develop or develop more fully our capacity to listen.  We already have the skill-ability.

Conclusion: There is little listening because we have not developed or developed more fully our capacity to listen, to listen first and to listen first in order to understand.

Why do leaders neglect their capacity development when it comes to listening, to listening first and to listening first in order to understand?

Consider: ‘Habit.’  Aristotle noted a few thousand years ago that we become our habits.  Our listening ‘habits’ are reinforced every time we experience high anxiety, high stress, and when we become fear-full.  When these occur we fall back on our default habits of listening – or not listening.  This ‘fall-back’ reinforces our ‘habits’ and, as we know, ‘habits’ are not easy to change.

Consider: As a society (think: United States) we are addicted to speed; we are suffering from what Kundera calls the ‘hurry sickness.’  ‘Speed’ and ‘hurrying’ are anti-listening.

Consider: We are a society that is ‘action-oriented’.  Listening in these three ways requires us to develop and integrate the discipline of reflection.  This discipline requires that we stop, step-back and invest the time in developing the discipline.

Consider: We have not developed, or developed more fully, our capacity to listen with undefended receptivity.  Too often we believe that if I ‘receive’ then I must ‘agree.’  By the by, Gentle Reader, the same holds true for ‘understanding;’ too often we resist ‘seeking to understand’ because we equate ‘understanding’ with ‘agreement.’  This is a carry-over from when we were children and we would say to our parents, ‘You really don’t understand!’  Meaning, as we know, that if you did truly understand then you would agree with me.

Consider: We do not listen first in order to understand.  There are many reasons why we do not develop this capacity – here are a two of them: Seeking to understand takes time and we are suffering from a ‘hurry sickness.’  Seeking to understand means that I must develop, or develop more fully, my capacity for inquiry for we are not very adept at asking questions.  Leaders are not adept at asking questions from a place of not knowing, for example.

There are other ‘Considerations’ but these will have to suffice for now.

Reflection plus Experience is the learning. –Charles Handy
When you speak, how will that improve on the silence? –R.K. Greenleaf

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Good morning, Gentle Reader.  These past six months have been, for our family, months full of ‘wounds delivered.’  This morning I awoke thinking about wounds and healing.  Thankfully, many of the wounds that were delivered these past six months are healing.

How many wounds have been delivered to others these past six months?  When I stop, step-back and consider the billions of folks now inhabiting our little blue dot the number of wounds delivered is beyond count.  How many of them have been blessed with healing?  How many had begun to heal and were torn open again?  How many festered and became dis-eased?

I opened my collection of poems this morning and read, savored and re-read a poem that emerged into my consciousness eight years ago.  I offer it to you Gentle Reader.  Perhaps it will speak to you.


Wonder, I do.
Why me?
Why now?
Why this wound?

Wound, I am.
Physical damage, done.
Physical damage, more will be done.
Who wills this?  Thy
Will be done.  Sure
Easy for You to say.

The awe of it all

The mystery of it all

Delivered !

Resisted ! ?

Embraced ? !

WOUNDFUL WONDER      –Richard W Smith, 18 January, 2011

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A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what is going on. –William S. Burroughs

Good morning, Gentle Reader, I concluded my last post with these words: Consider, Gentle Reader that the enemy is a projection of the self. . . This morning I will begin with these words.

[NOTE: This post will be longer than most for I have decided to conclude our exploration of this topic with this post today.  Our exploration, of course, is far from being an exhaustive exploration.]

Consider, Gentle Reader that the enemy is a projection of the self.  The paranoid projects both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self onto the other, onto the enemy.

There is a fundamental paradox at play: The Style imitates the enemy.  What?  Senator Joe McCarthy attacked intellectuals and he did so using documented tracts and an overload of information.  The KKK imitated the enemy – Catholics – to the point of donning priestly vestments, developing elaborate rituals and developing a rigid hierarchy.

In the 1960’s the author, David Brion Davis, wrote a remarkable essay.  He brilliantly described the manner in which the nineteenth-century nativist paradoxically fashioned himself after his enemy.  I will offer us a lengthy quotation from his essay.  I invite you to look for the parallels that exist in our Country today.  Davis writes:

As the nativist searched for participation in a noble cause, for unity in a group sanctioned by tradition and authority, he professed a belief in democracy and equal rights.  Yet in his very zeal for freedom he curiously assumed many of the characteristics of the imagined enemy.  By condemning the subversive’s fanatical allegiance to an ideology, he affirmed a similarly uncritical acceptance of a different ideology; by attacking the subversive’s intolerance of dissent, he worked to eliminate dissent and diversity of opinion; by censuring the subversive for alleged licentiousness, he engaged in sensual fantasies; by criticizing the subversive’s loyalty to an organization, he sought to prove his unconditional loyalty to the established order.  The nativist moved even farther in the direction of his enemies when he formed tightly-knit societies and parties which were often secret and which subordinated the individual to the single purpose of the group.  Though the nativists generally agreed that the worst evil of subversives was their subordination of means to ends, they themselves recommended the most radical means to purge the nation of troublesome groups and to enforce unquestioned loyalty to the state; to their leader. 

Sound Familiar!?

One more aspect of the Style that has been and continues to be a major tap root that feeds, nurtures and sustains the Style: Scholarship.

The typical procedure of the paranoid scholarship is to begin with defensible assumptions combined with a careful accumulation of facts, or at least of what appear to be facts.  To combine all of this in order to provide overwhelming proof of the particular conspiracy that is to be established.

The process is nothing if not coherent.  Actually, the political paranoid mentality is far more coherent than the real world.  Why?  This mentality leaves no room for mistakes, failures or ambiguities.  Although it is not truly rational it is powerfully rationalistic.  The paranoid’s goal is to leave nothing unexplained and to develop a comprehensive, consistent theory.  It is truly ‘scholarly’ in technique.

For example, Senator Joe McCarthy’s 96-page pamphlet, McCarthyism, contains no less than 313 footnote references.

Today, the right-wing paranoid movement is composed of a cast of experts, study groups, monographs, footnotes, expert news-reporters, bibliographies, etc.

What distinguishes the Style is not, then, the dearth of facts (some real and some manufactured).  What distinguishes the Style is the curious leap of imagination that is always made at some critical point in the recital of events.

The plausibility the Style has for those who find it plausible resides in good measure in the appearance of the most careful, conscientious and seemingly coherent dedication to detail and the presentation of convincing evidence for the most fantastic conclusions including the preparation for the BIG JUMP from the undeniable to the unbelievable.

It is crucial to understand that all of this intense work does not, as in most intellectual exchanges, have the effect of putting the Style’s spokesperson into effective two-way communication with others – least of all with those who are the enemy or, at minimum, with those who doubt the position taken.

The Style’s goal is not to convince (another paradox).  It is to defend and protect.  To defend against counter-realities and to protect from having to attend to threatening considerations (think: American is no longer ‘white’).

The paranoid has all of the information needed; the paranoid is not a receiver – the paranoid is a transmitter and defender.

The Style is mobilized into action by social conflicts that involve ultimate schemes of values and that bring fundamental fears and hatreds, rather than negotiable interests, into political action.  The FEAR of catastrophe is most likely to elicit the Style.

The paranoid tendency emerges as a consequence of a confrontation between opposed interests which are (or are felt to be) totally irreconcilable and thus not open to the democratic processes of bargaining and compromise.

We all suffer from or learn from history.  The paranoid is a double sufferer.  The paranoid is afflicted not only by the real world – just like the rest of us are – but also by the fantasies which feed, nurture and sustain the Style.

Being slightly paranoid is like being slightly pregnant – it tends to get worse. –Molly Ivins

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The Deep State, and the Left and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going crazy — & they don’t know what to do. –Donald J. Trump

Gentle Reader, during the next number of posts we will be briefly exploring a number of the basic elements that contribute to Paranoia as a Style in Our Politics.

There is a central-crucial image that is a major tap root that feeds, nurtures, and sustains the Style.  The image is that of a vast and demonic conspiracy.  The goal of this conspiracy is to destroy ‘our’ world, our ‘political order and ‘our’ values [The concept ‘Our’ is crucial to define and to understand].

The Style believes that this conspiracy must not be catered to via compromise, even though compromise is one of the major tap roots of a two-party democratic system.  The Style views the conspiracy in apocalyptic terms – the conspiracy will deal a death-blow to ‘our’ world, to ‘our’ political order and to ‘our’ human values.  The end is just over the horizon.  NOW is the time to act in defense of ‘our’ way of life.

These Apocalyptic Warnings, as all apocalyptic warnings have done for thousands of years, seek to arouse ‘our’ passions and feed ‘our’ fears.  Properly expressed these warnings serve the same function as the warnings imbedded in certain revivalist sermons: they portray that which is impending and also they portray that there is still time to avoid the apocalypse.  These warnings are a secular-demonic version of ‘Adventism’ [Gentle Reader if you are not familiar with this movement I invite you to check it out].

The leader of the movement must, of course, at minimum embrace the Style and at maximum be clinically paranoid.  The leader does not view social-political conflict as something to be mediated and compromised (think: Democracy).  Why?  For those who support this Style what is at stake is a conflict, a war, between absolute good and absolute evil.  Thus, for those who support this Style, the quality needed is not a willingness to compromise (to embrace Democracy); it requires a willingness to fight to the finish – to give no quarter.

Since the ‘enemy’ is thought of as being evil-incarnate, nothing but complete victory will suffice.  This demand, fed by fear and anger, for total victory demands that the Style emerge unrealistic goals (think: Build a Wall).  These unrealistic goals are not even remotely attainable, thus, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s frustration (Sound Familiar!).  Even partial success leaves him with the same sense of powerlessness with which, ironically, he began with.  Failure, or partial failure, feeds the paranoid’s fear and increases the negative qualities of the enemy that must be defeated.

The enemy is a free, active, demonic entity.  The enemy creates the crisis (think: Support of Refugees and Immigrants).  The enemy causes disruption.  The enemy manufactures trouble (think: GM closing plants).

Often the enemy possesses some source of power-influence: the enemy controls the press, he directs the public via ‘fake-news’ and he has access to unlimited funds.  The enemy is gaining on ‘us’ by taking over our educational system; in many ways, the enemy has already taken over our colleges and universities.

Consider, Gentle Reader that the enemy is a projection of the self. . . (to be continued)

There were people cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations.  They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down. –Donald J. Trump



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