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Archive for February, 2022

Gentle Reader, last time we briefly explored Knowledge/Knowing, this morning we will briefly explore the second major taproot that nurtures and sustains ‘Character’ – Affect

At our healthiest we human beings are living paradoxes; we are ‘good and evil,’ we are ‘virtue and vice,’ we are ‘light and darkness.’  We are also ‘rational and emotional.’  At our best we seek to balance our ‘rational and emotional’ dimensions.  This balance, or lack of it, powerfully determines to what extent we are ‘moral’ – to the extent that we are people of ‘good character.’ 

For many reasons we humans tend to believe that we are rational, first.  Some of us even deny that we are influenced at all by our emotional dimension.  Research, thus far, continues to flip this idea.  Our decisions and actions are motivated first by our emotions – our Affect; then we use our intellect to rationalize or justify our decisions and actions.  Most of us know folks who lead with their emotions; research suggests that we all do this.  We might also have experienced – I know I have – that our emotions can move us in a direction that our rational-self would not choose to go.  We can talk a good moral game, we can believe we reason with the angels, AND we are often ‘betrayed’ by our emotions – actually, we simply confirm that we are fully human beings who are motivated by, at times driven by, our emotions. 

On the positive side, our emotions provide us an energy that our rational dimension does not possess.  We can also use our Knowledge/Knowing (our intellect) to help monitor and moderate our emotions.  Moral human-beings learn to balance ‘habits of the head’ and ‘habits of the heart;’ this balancing is part of what has come to be known as ‘Character Education’ or ‘Character Development.’   

A significant portion of our human development entails developing our emotional capacity whereby we learn to love, to care for ‘the good, the beautiful, and the true.’  Our commitments are also rooted in our emotions and then they are supported by our rational dimension.  Consider that we tend to be suspect of the person who is only ‘intellectually committed’ – who is lacking an ‘emotional commitment.’  For example, compliance is not as powerful as ‘buy-in’ and ‘buy-in’ is not as powerful as ‘emotionally owning’ (think: my role, my discipline, my work, etc.).  It also appears that our ‘conscience’ is healthy when it is motivated by a balance of the ‘emotional and the rational.’ 

Finally, for this morning anyway, a healthy development of our ‘Character’ seems to be rooted in healthy ‘self-love’ and ‘self-love’ is rooted in and motivated by our emotional dimension.  Our Affect enables us to love ‘the good, the beautiful, and the true’ that resides within us.  And to the extent that we are able to do this we are then able to offer our ‘love’ to the other(s). 

Affect is also a bridge between Knowledge/Knowing and Behavior.  Next time we will briefly explore this third powerful taproot — Behavior.    

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Today, Gentle Reader, we will begin to briefly explore three major taproots that nurture and sustain ‘Character’: Knowledge/Knowing, Affect, and Behavior

KNOWLEDGE/KNOWING:  We human beings, by nature, are curious; we are seekers and searchers.  We have also developed – some say we are continuing to develop – our reasoning abilities and capacities.  We seek to understand.  We seek to understand what resides ‘within’ and what resides ‘without.’  A key to our continued existence is that we develop, nurture and sustain ‘community.’  The community provides us safety so we can continue our searching and seeking and learning. One of the things we learn is all that it takes in order to become and remain, a member of the community.

Each community emerges, among other things, the values, norms and character traits that enable one to be a member.  Knowledge/Knowing are crucial taproots for all community members.  As members of a community we might address the following questions: What is compassion?  When is it needed?  What is love?  How is it demonstrated?  What happens to me and to the community when I am not responsible or response-able?  What does it mean to be responsible and response-able? 

Because we humans become members of a variety of communities we need to develop the knowledge/knowing of each – in order to know what it takes to become a member and to remain a member.  Thus, we are, by definition, ‘moral and ethical agents.’  We need to know – know and understand would be even more helpful – the community’s ‘moral wisdom.’  If we are going to continue to be members of the community we must also agree to abide by the community’s ‘moral wisdom’ (its values, norms, prejudices, assumptions, beliefs, guiding principles, etc.). 

Traditionally – that is, for thousands of years now – a community educates its members via teaching stories.  ‘Teaching Stories’ depicting ‘good and evil’ or ‘virtue and vice’ or ‘light and darkness’ are told to the young.  As the young develop their capacity to read and understand they are provided written teaching stories.  In our culture/community we have access to a wide-range of stories; stories that can help us ‘know’ – these are the ‘Teaching Stories.’  This knowledge/knowing can be directly imparted via a story.  More often than not, however, this knowledge/knowing emerges as a result of searching and seeking out the meaning of the story.  For example, what can one learn about courage and human frailty from the young soldier Henry Fleming in Crane’s ‘Red Badge of Courage?’  What can Martin Luther King Jr.’s story tell us about a moral idea? 

Developing members of our culture/community need to know our ‘moral history’ as a nation.  We need to know what others have learned – not so that we will simply imitate them but so that we will learn what it means to make moral judgments.  We need to learn about our culture/community’s moral successes and moral failures.  We need to learn how to think critically, ethically and morally.  This learning is no passive processes.  The seeker and searcher – the learner – must ask him/herself certain questions and then address them: ‘What is the good, the right, in this situation?’  ‘What are the consequences – intended and unintended – of certain choices?’ 

Knowledge/Knowing involves what Aristotle called ‘practical wisdom.’  Knowledge/Knowing in order to become ‘practical wisdom’ requires the other two major taproots: Affect and Behavior.  Next time we will briefly explore Affect

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Good morning Gentle Reader.  Today I am celebrating the 10th anniversary of my blog.  I have posted close to 2,000 entries during these 10 years.  I continue to search and seek and write and post.  There are a number of folks who have been following me for these 10 years and I am grateful for their commitment and support.  I will begin my 11th year with a crucial topic (for me, it is crucial).

In 1989 I had the privilege of meeting Michael Josephson, the founder of the Josephson Institute.  He introduced me to his mantra, ‘Character Counts,’ and to his ‘six pillars of character.’  Recently I re-visited the Josephson Institute’s web site.  They continue to thrive as they develop new initiatives.  The folks associated with the Institute who serve us continue to seek ways to nurture our ‘Character.’  I still wear my ‘Six Pillars’ pin on my sport coat lapel and at times I wear my ‘Character Counts’ tie. These are powerful symbols that remind me that ‘Character’ indeed, does ‘Count.’  

A few years ago a guy by the name of Plato (yes, that guy) asked if virtue could be taught.  This continues to be a stimulating question (for some of us anyway).  A corollary question can be asked when it comes to ‘Character.’  Can Character be taught?  Since the early 1990s the number of articles, essays and book dedicated to ‘Character Development’ or ‘Character Education’ continues to expand almost exponentially.  One can peruse a book containing a collection of ‘Character Development’ or ‘Character Education’ essays and conclude that there is little agreement as to the definition of ‘Character’ and as to whether ‘Character Education’ is actually viable AND to confuse things a bit more, even among those who believe in ‘Character Development/Education’ there is often significant difference as to what ‘Character Development/Education’ involves.  If one is seeking ‘intellectual stimulation’ many of these books are helpful; if one is seeking clarity, not so much. 

So, given all of this, why have I decided to once again put finger to key and invite us to explore this topic, ‘Character’?  Why?  Because Michael Josephson is correct: ‘Character Counts.’  If I-You-We truly believe this then we have an obligation to seek to understand ‘Character’ and we need to seek to understand to what extent ‘Character Education’ is necessary and viable.  So, Gentle Reader, I invite you to search together with me as we explore our topic CONSIDER ‘CHARACTER’

Consider that our ‘Character’ is nurtured by three major interdependent tap roots: Knowledge/Knowing, Affect, and Behavior

In the entries that follow we will briefly explore each of these major interdependent tap roots.  They are ‘major’ in that they powerfully influence, and nurture, our ‘Character’ and its development.  They are ‘interdependent’ in that they influence and depend upon each other so that a healthy balance is established and sustained.  These are not the only tap roots that nurture ‘Character’ and, for some, other tap roots might be considered to be more important than these three.  What I am inviting us to do is to ‘consider’ – to reflect upon and think about what I offer. 

Albert Einstein – a person with more than a small intellect – noted: Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.

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A HEALTHY SOCIETY

There are many ingredients that must be in the mix in order for a society to become and remain healthy (or to regain its health).  Because a society is simply individuals write large and because each individual – and hence society itself – is imperfect there will always be present both acute and chronic dis-eases which put at risk, undermine, and deplete a society’s health.  For several months now I have been thinking about the ingredients that need to be in place for a society to be healthy. 

A few weeks ago I found myself thinking about an ingredient that emerged into my consciousness – an ingredient that was not on my initial list.  So this morning Gentle Reader I will be sharing with you some of what has emerged for me as I thought about this ingredient.  What is this ingredient?  Work!

Now we know that most adults in our Society spend the majority of their adult years (think: 25 to 65 years of age) at work (or thinking about work and driving to-from work and doing ‘extra work’ while at home – taken together the number can become staggering).  Given this.

It is crucial that adults like their work, find it meaningful and find that it is productive (think: contributes to the well-being of self and others).  Consider,

Gentle Reader, that Society has an obligation to ask (or is it require or even demand) each Adult to perform his/her work with ‘Skill’ and that the work also be more enhancing (think: Morally Good) than depleting (although for some, for example, ‘Greed is Good!’). 

I am now thinking of two people: Mrs. Kelly and Phil Adelman.  I grew up in a small city in Wisconsin (18,000 strong at the time).  There were, of course, three family owned restaurants (well, one was a drive-in aptly named ‘The Beer Hut’ – we were, after all in Wisconsin).  One restaurant was located on the corner of Main Street (of course) and Division Street.  Mrs. Kelly was a waitress there.  She was ‘on duty’ five days a week from 11:30am-8:30pm.   Patrons would ask that they be placed at a table that Mrs. Kelly would attend to – our family did put in the same request.  As an adult I would often think about Mrs. Kelly.  She loved being a waitress.  She loved serving and caring for others.  She loved people.  It was obvious (the ‘obvious’ that comes with hindsight) that her ‘work’ was in itself meaningful for her (and for us). 

I first met Phil Adelman when the taxi cab I was riding in pulled up to the front of the Marriott Hotel in Cambridge, MA and the doorman opened the door and smiled at me as he greeted me.  Phil Adelman was the doorman.  I spent four nights at the hotel.  During the time I began to get to know Phil Adelman.  Six months later I returned to this hotel.  Phil Adelman opened the cab’s door.  He looked at me, smiled and said ‘Welcome back Mr. Smith, it’s been about six months hasn’t it.’  Now I decided that I really needed to get to know this fellow.  I had three more visits to his hotel and spent more time getting to know Phil Adelman (by watching him and by talking with other ‘guests’ and by talking with other Marriott employees).  Phil Adelman loved his ‘work’ and was committed to serving in a way that enhanced those he served.  The General Manager also told me that he would offer suggestions as to how the hotel could improve (there was an open invitation to all employees to offer suggestions for improvement).  I was told that close to 70% of Phil Adelman’s suggestions were implemented (he would offer 1-2 suggestions a month).  Phil Adelman told me ‘I was created for this work!’ 

Our Society was healthier because of Mrs. Kelly and Phil Adelman.  They left their little part of the world a better place because of who they were and because of the work they performed for the well-being of others (and for their own well-being). 

How about you, Gentle Reader.  Where you ‘created’ for the work you do?  Is your work, in and of itself, meaningful for you?  Are you ‘effective’?  Is your work ‘morally enhancing’ for yourself and for others?  Is your work a ‘job’ or is it a ‘calling’? 

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Much has been written about the ‘Seven Seas.’  Today, Gentle Reader, I invite us to briefly explore my version of ‘The Seven Cs.’ If you have read any number of my previous entries you might have noticed that I have, not infrequently, reflected upon a number of ‘C-Word Sets’ (e.g. ‘Consciousness, Character and Conduct’ is a favorite set). 

During our life-time a number of challenges will present themselves to us.  These challenges show up dressed as ‘problems,’ ‘paradoxes,’ ‘polarities,’ or ‘dilemmas.’  At times we find ourselves ‘reacting’ to them and at other times we find ourselves ‘responding’ to them.  Generally, an intentional response is more helpful than an inappropriate reaction (we can also appropriately react).  The Seven Cs that follow have helped some folks intentionally and purposefully emerge an appropriate response and they have also helped some folks prepare so when certain events happen they are more likely to appropriately react. 

Here are The Seven Cs and the eight steps in the process; the eighth step in the process involves the first two ‘Cs’. 

Consider = to think carefully about

Contemplate = to observe and study thoughtfully

Converse = to talk and exchange views with the other(s)

Compose = to create and form the basis of. . .

Choose = to pick from preferences and decide

Commit = to entrust, emerge agreements and pledge

Conduct = execution

Consider/Contemplate = to reflect upon the experience and learn. . .

Some ‘problems,’ ‘paradoxes,’ ‘polarities,’ and ‘dilemmas’ will require the process to take significant time and some of these will only require a brief time (the art of the process is to discern the amount of time, energy and resources that will be required).  If one chooses to use the process as a way of preparing to be appropriately reactive then significant time and practice via imaging will be required (ask any firefighter, police officer, or soldier how much preparation time it takes for them to be able to be prepared to appropriately react when certain situations present themselves).  

Let’s briefly explore the eight step process.  ‘Consider’ requires that I ‘think carefully about’ the challenge.  Depending upon the challenge and my understanding of the challenge this step might require significant time.  One of my goals is to ‘understand’ the challenge.  As I am considering the challenge I also begin to ‘Contemplate’ the challenge by observation and thoughtful study.  As I ‘Consider’ and ‘Contemplate’ I will also seek to ‘Converse’ with the other(s).  We explore together; we exchange ideas and we stimulate our collective thinking via inquiry – especially framing questions from a place of ‘not knowing.’ 

At some point in time I (or we) will begin to ‘Compose’ – to create or emerge options.  The options themselves are then explored.  Again after some time I, or we, will choose an option and then ‘Commit’ to the option.  The option chosen is then enacted; it is executed.  Results will occur.

Given the results I, or we, will once again ‘Consider’ and ‘Contemplate’ – we will take time to reflect upon the experience for I, or we, want to learn.  Charles Handy’s insight is helpful: ‘Reflection plus Experience is the Learning.’ 

So, Gentle Reader I invite you to consider sailing these ‘Seven Cs.’ 

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