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Too many of us panic in the dark.  We don’t understand that the idea is to surrender to it and journey through to real light. –Sue Monk Kidd

For some, they can journey along for a long time and then in less than the blink of one eye they can step into the ‘Forest of Darkness.’  For others – I am one of these ‘others’ – their journey’s path borders the ‘Forest of Darkness’.  These folks are always aware of its presence and they know that a step or two will put them in this forest. This one step will not just put them into the forest but will put them deep into the forest.

Sometimes the ‘Forest of Darkness’ is not a forest but is a ‘wasteland’.  The following image brings to life the wasteland that I have often wandered in (now there is a bit of irony, or is it paradox).

Wasteland

When I am in this ‘wasteland’ I am not only feeling lost, I am feeling terrified.  I have a spiritual/psychological ‘thirst’ that cannot be quenched – I am dying of thirst.  I am disconnected from myself and from God.  I cry out from the depths of my abandonment: ‘Why have I been forsaken?’

When I am in this ‘wasteland’ I do not know which way to turn – there seems to be no path to follow; I just wander around – no direction.  I add to my own thirst by ruminating about all of my failures and my flaws.  The darkness has been replaced with the wasteland of depletion and self-violence.

If I am not care-full I can easily be swallowed by the siblings I call ‘Discouragement,’ ‘Depression’ & Desolation’.  I also become more aware of the collective evil that covers the earth like a heavy black shroud – the evil that is consuming and destroying us.

When I choose to feel empathy and compassion for others – when I experience their pain as my pain and root this experience in empathy and compassion I begin to feel and experience that in reaching out to others that the springs of life, hope and love begin to quench my thirst.  I begin to see a light in the distance and know that if I walk toward the light that I will emerge out of my ‘wasteland.’  I also know that even if I cannot ‘see’ them that others are walking with me and this gives me hope – hope for all of us.

As I journey towards the light – I am no longer simply wandering aimlessly – I also begin to notice that the ‘wasteland’ contains life.  It always has, I was blinded by my own darkness and could not discern the life that exists there.

As imperfect human beings there is no way that we can avoid our inner darkness – whether it be the ‘Forest of Darkness’ and/or the ‘wasteland.’

Rather than becoming fear-full of the darkness we can…

…fear of the dark is not limited to childhood – it just changes direction. –Joyce Rupp

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The land of darkness, and shadow dark as death, where dimness and disorder hold sway, and light itself is like dead of night. –Job 10:21-22

During my lifetime I have found myself lost in two ‘Forests of Darkness.’  John of the Cross calls one of these forests, ‘The Dark Night of the Soul’ and Sigmund Freud calls the other ‘Depression’ (for some it is the ‘Forest of Despair’).

For me, the photo below captures my experience of being in these forests.

Walking in the darkness

‘Darkness’ is a shape-shifter and arrives – mostly unannounced – in many guises.  No matter his guise, ‘Darkness’ is not an easy visitor.  When ‘Darkness’ visits me he comes packed for a long stay and he brings the ‘Forest of Darkness’ with him.  I, then, become the visitor or resident of his forest.

The dictionary defines ‘darkness.’  This definition does not begin to capture the human experience of ‘Darkness.’  The ‘Darkness’ of the human heart and soul includes (but is not limited to) the following: lonely, dead, shattered, anxious, forlorn, bereft, despairing, dis-couraged, dis-eased, numbed, grief-covered, damaged, empty, bleak, fear-full, and aimless [feel free, Gentle Reader, to add to this list – or subtract from it].

The two ‘Forests of Darkness’ have similarities; they might contain some or all of the following:

  • A time in which my energy and focus of my life is almost completely funneled into physical, intellectual, emotional, and/or spiritual pain.
  • An experience of being swimming in the depths of sorrow and grief.
  • A discouraging inner journey when ‘no way’ seems to be ‘the way’ and I wander aimlessly in the darkness.
  • A place of spiritual desolation in which the darkness hides from me God’s presence and God’s presents. This isolation drains my desire to search for God – to, at the darkest moments – to have no desire to search for God.
  • The pain of rumination that feeds my shame and guilt and my mantra becomes ‘If only I had…’
  • I become aware of my vices and potential evil and as I savor these I become aware of the ‘Pathway to Despair’ that opens before me and calls me to ‘come for a short stroll.’
  • I become aware of being whelmed over by a feeling of helplessness; I feel paralyzed – like the deer in my headlights I freeze.
  • I not only have negative thoughts – I become my negative thoughts. This ‘becoming’ is an identity that I all quite familiar with and in an ironic way this awareness brings comfort.

I ‘know’ that these are deceptive mind-messages about who I am and the way life is.  Their power lies in the reality that as an imperfect human being I am not all light and that I am capable of fomenting great evil.  The darkness, indeed, is deep.

Thus far in my life, I am not ‘Despair’ – I search and seek for little pieces of light that reside in the ‘Forest of Darkness.’  Caryll Houselander captures this for me in the following poem:

God will enter into your night,
as the ray of the sun enters
into the dark, hard earth,
driving right down
to the roots of the tree,
and there, unseen, unknown,
unfelt in the darkness,
filling the tree with life,
a sap of fire
will suddenly break out,
high above that darkness,
into living leaf and flame.

The darkness around us is deep. –William Stafford

Nine years ago, my friend George sent me this photo.  Periodically I open the file and sit with this photo.  I have been sitting with it for a few days savoring what emerged into my consciousness.  I have decided to share with you, gentle reader, some of what has emerged for me.  I also invite you to sit with the photo and savor what emerges for you.

by George-'What I See Right Now'-29October2012

There is much darkness in the world today; it surrounds us.  Yet, all is not darkness, there is light.  Is the light that appears so far off fading or emerging?  In order to reach the light it appears as if I have to immerse myself into even more darkness; I must step into the darkness and travel in the darkness before I reach the light.

This journey will require me to have courage.  The Japanese Kanji symbol for courage is:

courage-kanji

It is pronounced Yuuki.  Two symbols represent ‘courage.’  The top symbol – yuu – represents ‘courage’ and the bottom symbol – ki – It represents ‘heart or spirit.’  Thus courage is nurtured by ‘heart and spirit.’ Thus, if I am going to journey into the darkness I must not only have courage, but I must also have the heart and spirit necessary for such a journey.

Since I do not know if the light is fading or emerging the journey also requires that I take a risk; the risk of journeying into the darkness without the guarantee that the light will be on the other side.  This risk requires faith.  Or to put it another way, if there is a guarantee that the light will be there then the risk is not as great.

I have choice.  I can stay where I am and pray (or ‘hope’ or ‘trust’) that the light is actually emerging and not fading or I can choose to enter into the darkness, risk becoming lost in the darkness, and journey towards the light.

Both are risks.  I cannot avoid the risk but I can choose which risk to embrace and live into.  Both risks require me to embrace my anxiety – or is it ‘fear’ – and engage the courage standing behind it, waiting to be called forth.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. –Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

Act as if what you do makes a difference.  It does! –William James

The people in organizations are charged with measuring.  What are they to measure?  What should they measure but choose not to measure?  In all organizations – but perhaps particularly in not-for-profit organizations – it is crucial to discern ways of measuring the quality of relationships.  Why?  Consider that the quality of the relationships determine the quality of thinking, decisions and actions taken.  What are some of these qualities that might/should be measured?

The first is the quality of trust.  A close second is captured by this: Is the Culture (which includes the sub-cultures, the climate and the environment) ‘safe’ for all (consider physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual and relational safety)?  We are also charged with measuring the quality of communications.  And we are also charged with measuring the quality of the behavior of the leaders.  There are two types of leaders: Leaders by role and/or Leaders by situation.

When folks in organizations are looking for examples of acceptable – or exemplary or dysfunctional – behavior they look at the behavior of the leaders.  Leaders are the walking and talking manuals of behavior.

When the leader speaks the followers, even though they might not be listening to the leader’s words, are recalling what the leader did when there was a problem or a challenge or a crisis.  Followers watch leaders just as children watch their parents.  They watch and learn.  They watch in order to have their judgments about the leader confirmed or disconfirmed. [NOTE: This also leads us to the topic of ‘Loyalty-Commitment.’  A person ‘loyal’ to the leader will be tempted to censor out information that puts the leader in a ‘bad light.’]

Followers measure the behavior of the leader(s).  They measure the leader(s) against their own ideals, against their own values, against what the organization espouses (the vision, the mission, the values, the guiding principles, etc.) and what is actually enacted by the leader.

I am now recalling what William Ayot wrote: The Contract – Consider and be Mindful of those who are led: And in the end we follow them — …simply because of who they are: the man, the woman… We give them our trust. What we seek in return is that they stay true.

Staying True’ does not mean ‘to be perfect’ it means, more realistically, striving to be consistent.  Rather than ‘walk the talk’ the leader is more likely to ‘stumble the mumble.’  The leader will not always be able to bring a ‘clear voice’ and the leader will, at times, stumble and fall.  This is why ‘trust’ is so crucial.

The leader is challenged to embrace the following ‘Ways of Being.’

  • Be Authentic – Being congruent: Feelings/emotions, actions, thoughts are in alignment
  • Be Faithful – What is the leader ‘faithful to’ even though he/she might not be effective or efficient? Think: ‘Core Values’ for example or ‘Acting rooted in Integrity at all times.’
  • Be Useful – Being a resource for others. Being a sounding board for others.  Being a good thought partner to others.
  • Be Present – They live ‘in the now’. When one talks with the leader he/she knows the leader is fully present to/with them.
  • Be Vulnerable – The leader is ‘transparent’ (think: is fully human). The leader models taking risks.  The leader trusts and models ‘being trust-worthy’.  The leader ‘carries the wound with grace’ [‘Vulnerable’ comes from the Latin root ‘vulnus’ which means: ‘To carry the wound with grace.’]; the leader will be wounded and the most painful are the wounds delivered unintentionally (via ‘misunderstanding’ for example).
  • Be TrustWorthy – The leader builds and sustains trust and ‘models’ trust. The leader ‘leads with trust.’ The leader also seeks to re-build trust that is broken via forgiveness, reconciliation and healing.

Leadership is a serious meddling in other people’s lives. –Max De Pree

 

 

A lot of my enemies call me simple…  The answers to America’s problems are simple. –Presidential Candidate Senator Barry Goldwater, 1964

Gentle Reader.  This will be my last posting on this important topic (important to me at any rate).  There is much more to be written and reflected upon but these six postings will have to suffice for now.

Goldwater was overwhelmingly defeated in 1964.  Up to that time most presidential candidates who lost the election would respond to their defeat by stopping, stepping back and reflecting upon what contributed to their defeat at the polls (or in the Electoral College – the ‘College,’ not the popular vote, elects our president; we are not, in this sense, a true democracy).  Goldwater and his followers took another path.

They interpreted Goldwater’s thrashing as another sign that the system conspired against Goldwater; the ‘conspiracy’ was real.  Goldwater’s candidacy was subverted by the moderates, the independents and the ‘left’.  An observer raised an interesting question: Was Goldwater’s goal to win the election or to sow the seeds of a new Party – still called ‘Republican’ but no longer the Party of Lincoln?

After the San Francisco convention in 1964 it was clear that Goldwater would not win the election (few independents and moderates supported him and his new philosophy).  Yet, the right-wing, the pseudo-conservatives, interpreted the election as a success for their cause.  Goldwater, his ideologues and the far-right wingers were ecstatic.  For the defeat was not the defeat of their idea of conservatism – it was the defeat of the Republican Party.

For Goldwater, et al the defeat was a victory.  Their new ideology had replaced the traditional Republican ideology.

Goldwater noted: ‘I don’t feel the conservative cause has been hurt.  Twenty-five million votes are a lot of votes and a lot of people dedicated to our concept of conservatism.’ [5 November, 1964 – the Election had taken place on 3 November, 1964]

Their goal was to make the right-wing’s notions more popular and they succeeded.  For the first time in generations a brand of ultra-right wing individualism and aggressive nationalism and ‘fear of them’ had been embraced by such a large number of folks in our Country.

The seeds were sown and the garden would be tilled for more than 50 years and then the fruit of their labor, in the guise of Donald Trump, would come to fruition.  Finally, the Republican Party of Lincoln (my party) would be transformed into the Party of Trump.

Ironically, for us in our Country, one of the most wonder-full consequences of the 1964 elections was that our Country became more just and more caring and the New Deal of the 1930s was extended (broader and deeper).  I wonder: If Donald Trump continues to self-destruct and if he is soundly defeated in 2020 will this result in another version of the New Deal – a version that is broader and deeper still.  On the other hand, even if Donald Trump continues to self-destruct there remain a number of scenarios that, if enacted, could result in his being re-elected.

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. –George Santayana

My life is my message. –Gandhi

After winning his party’s nomination in 1964, Goldwater and his team presented their platform to the assembled delegates.  Their platform repudiated many Republican policies.  The proposed amendments to the platform endorsing civil rights, reasserting civilian control over nuclear weapons, and condemning extremist right-wing groups were crushed by Goldwater and his followers.

Goldwater upped the ante when he selected fellow Arizonan Dean Burch as national chairman – ‘a politician of limited experience who had never even been a county chairman and who was a complete stranger to hundreds of eminent Republicans around the country.’ [Robert J. Donovan]

Finally, to bring this all to a crescendo, Goldwater’s acceptance speech, far from offering a conciliatory note that was so necessary after the contentious experience divided folks even more.  Goldwater said that ‘those who do not care for our cause we don’t expect to enter into our ranks in any case.’  He then hurled his famous challenge: ‘I would remind you that extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.  And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!’

This two-sentence manifesto was spoken by Goldwater, written by a hard-core right-winger whom Goldwater kept by his side throughout his presidential run and approved by a dozen of his top staff members.  Goldwater’s moment of victory at his party’s convention found him firmly in the hands of his ecstatic pseudo-conservative followers.

Goldwater was openly supported by the John Birch Society.  Goldwater’s campaign gave focus to the right-wing movement.  He attracted, and supported, right-wing extremists (think: John A. Stormer & Phyllis Schlafly for example); these extremists’ conspiratorial views gave voice to the mental passion that supported the pseudo-conservatives and right-wing radicals (there was they claimed a conspiracy afoot to undue all that Goldwater wanted to accomplish and there was a conspiracy directed against Goldwater himself by the moderates, progressives and liberals).

Earlier, Goldwater had offered us these words: ‘this country would be better off if we could just saw off the Eastern Seaboard and let it fall into the sea.’  John A. Stormer, author of ‘None Dare Call it Treason’ offered the following counsel to Goldwater and his team: ‘For treason to prosper, none dare call it treason!’

Unlike Trump, Goldwater did not agree with all of his right-wing pseudo-conservatives.  But he had been caught in an unintended trap of his own making.  For example, he did not fully support the John Birch Society but he was not able to distance himself, much less repudiate the members.  Any path away from extremism was blocked by the right-wingers he needed [Think: Donald Trump and David Duke and the white supremacists that support Trump; unlike Goldwater, however, Trump continues to demonstrate by his words and behavior that he is a fellow-traveler with the white supremacists.  Trump is not trapped by them; Trump openly supports them].

For the first time in our history, the 1964 convention showed us how well organized the radical right-wing movement had become.  The convention also revealed during the campaign that followed that the right-wing was organized for a fight it was not organized to conciliate or persuade.  They had convinced themselves that the forces they were fighting were conspiratorial and sinister and perhaps treasonous and so they found it impossible to let go of the mental models they had integrated.

Goldwater and his followers were filled with a desire to punish and humiliate – they were not interested in appeasing nor in pacifying.  Goldwater went on to conduct a right-wing campaign.  He was overwhelmingly defeated.

BUT…

A Culture cultivates whatever is honored there. –Plato

…as often happens, reasoning and imagination stifled the voice of conscience. –Leo Tolstoy (1881 – ‘What Then Must We Do?’)

Goldwater’s deviation from the Party of Lincoln was marked by his conduct and his ideas.  When it came to both behavior and thinking, Goldwater’s close advisors in 1964 brought him as close as any presidential candidate had ever come to subverting the whole pattern of our American politics rooted in coalition and consensus.  In 2016 Trump completed this process.

Now we know that, above all, in our Country politicians want to win.  Their conduct is shaped by this obsessive goal.  Sadly, it seems, for many of them, they also know that if they are elected then they are charged with governing.  Their behavior in dealing with opposing factions in their own party, with the opposition and with the electorate is constantly molded and adapted by a traditional understanding that they are charged with organizing a government capable of coping with the problems placed on their plates.

These politicians are quite aware, for example, that their promises, which express what they think they should offer more than what they can actually do, cannot actually be fulfilled.  They are also quite aware that if ‘progress’ is to be made that they must work with the opposition.  They are charged with searching for compromises that benefit all and that frustrate all [remember our Founding Fathers were brilliant in ensuring that our democracy will only work, thrive and survive rooted in compromise].  At their best they seek consensus (sadly, they are not often at their best).

Goldwater’s career – and Trump’s career – are distinguished by their lack of training and development when it comes to learning, experiencing and integrating this unwritten code.  Goldwater did have one leg up (as we say) on Trump.  Goldwater had been elected to Congress – he was Senator Goldwater.  Now, as a Senator he assumed no important role.  He was involved with no legislation when it came to major National Challenges.  His main business – supported by his own record – was simply to vote ‘NO’.  He did not command the ear of his fellow senators – not even the ear of those who shared his views.

As a presidential candidate, Senator Goldwater, like presidential candidate Donald Trump, made decisions that reflected the outsider’s mindset.  Again, candidate Trump elevated this mindset to a new level.  The ground was seeded and tilled by Goldwater and nurtured and harvested by Trump.

As ideologues, Goldwater and Trump were/are more interested in preaching than in addressing the challenges of State.  Goldwater addressed us via his speeches and Trump refined this as he addresses us via text-messages (Ah, the blessings of technology).  Goldwater, like Trump, ensured that he only spoke to audiences that were converted to his views (sound familiar).  For both men, the resounding applause that followed them whenever they spoke to their audiences reinforced, confirmed and affirmed that they were ‘right-just-accepted-important.’  Both bring salvation to the saved!

Again, does this sound familiar:  Goldwater held no press conferences during his campaign.  When he visited the cities he generally avoided the crowds, the slums, and the ghettos and appeared only in halls filled with militant pseudo-conservatives and white-supremacists who needed no persuasion by him.  There was precious little effort on Goldwater’s part to take his case to the unconvinced [Thanks: Robert J. Donovan, 1964].

Goldwater’s team of amateurs and provincials trumped the political professionals – this team was called ‘The Arizona Mafia.’  They were new to politics and found it easy to abandon the familiar rules of political conduct.  They were moved by the desire to dominate the party.  Again, Trump has reaped what Goldwater had sown.  For Goldwater, his true victory was not in being elected President but in winning the party.  Thanks to Goldwater’s good work, Trump was able to do both and, it seems, Trump also finished Goldwater’s vision as the Republican Party is becoming – or has become – the ‘Trump Party.’

Ah, Gentle Reader…We are not finished yet (or, perhaps we are).  Stay tuned for more…

The world we see clearly has already been distorted by unconscious mental processes.  –RW Smith