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People should not consider so much what they are to do, as what they are. –Meister Eckhart

Good morning, Gentle Reader.  If you have been following my posts for some time (a few of you have been reading them since day one in February, 2012 and I thank you for doing so), you might remember that I write for and to myself (I learned this discipline from reading and savoring Marcus Aurelius’ ‘Meditations’); I write in order to help me ‘consider.’  This morning, Gentle Reader, I invite you to ‘Consider’ that we are living into and out of a ‘Grand Illusion.’  Our ‘Grand Illusion’ is rooted in a ‘Grand Promise.’  This ‘Grand Promise’ has failed for it was (and is) rooted in an illusion.

So, Gentle Reader, if you are still reading and considering you might be inquiring as to what I am referring to.  Well, consider this: The Illusion is rooted in the Grand Promise of Unlimited Progress.  This includes (but is not limited to) the promise of the domination of nature, of material abundance, of the greatest happiness for the greatest number and, of course, unimpeded personal freedom. 

The ‘Grand Promise’ itself is rooted in our Industrial Revolution.  The Industrial Age promised – and at times continues to promise – unlimited production and, hence, unlimited consumption.  A by-product of this illusion is another illusion (we don’t openly affirm this one, however): the Illusion that ‘We Are Gods!’  We create a ‘new world’ using the natural world as one of our building blocks for our new creation.

As a by-product of the Industrial Revolution and the Industrial Age that followed humans emerged a new sense of freedom: humans became, they believed, masters of their own lives, masters of their own fate, and truly ‘free’ to do as they wished.  Now this was only true for the upper class and for some in the middle class AND the ‘Grand Promise’ engendered ‘faith’ in the others that eventually they, too, could, and would, become ‘masters of their own fate.’ 

The ‘Grand Achievement’ of wealth and comfort for all was intended to result in unlimited happiness for all.  A new trinity was created: the trinity of unlimited production, absolute personal freedom and unlimited personal happiness and this trinity formed the foundation of a new religion, the Religion of Progress.  A new Earthly City of Progress replaced the City of God.  This new religion provided its believers with hope, energy, and vitality while feeding the believers ‘Grand Illusion.’ 

The grandeur of the Grand Illusion, the Grand Promise, needs to be understood in order to comprehend the trauma that comes with the realization its failure continues to engender today.  The industrial-technological-informational ages continue to fail us, continue to fail the Grand Promise.  Ironically we are aware of this failure and at the same time deny it.  Consider the following:

  • We seek unrestricted satisfaction of our desires and yet we know that unrestricted satisfaction is not conducive to our well-being.
  • We are becoming more and more ‘tribal’ and yet we know that Democracy must be rooted in ‘compromise’ if it is going to survive.
  • We seek to be independent masters of our lives and we embrace and have integrated two Cultural Metaphors that negate our being ‘independent’ – the mechanical metaphor which transforms us into ‘cogs’ in the great machine and the banking metaphor which transforms us into commodities, assets and resources to be used and used up.
  • Economic progress continues to widen the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘not-haves.’ 
  • Technology continues to offer us the illusion that we will have more ‘time for self’ and yet has increased our addiction to technology so that our relationships with others and with ourselves continues to deteriorate.

Our two powerful Cultural Metaphors guarantee that we will continue to become less and less human and they will continue to support the failure of the Grand Promise.  So, Gentle Reader, you might be asking: ‘Why did the Grand Promise fail and become the Grand Illusion?’  [Then again, you might have stopped reading a few paragraphs above.]  Next time we will briefly explore the ‘Why.’ 

Few are guilty.  All are responsible. –Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

‘I know no advice for you save this: to go into yourself and test the deeps in which your life takes rise, at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must (create, attempt, live life fully, wake-up, serve, etc.).  Accept it just as it sounds, without inquiring into it.  Perhaps it will turn out that you are called to be an _______.  Then take that destiny upon yourself and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what recompense might come from outside.’

‘I do only want to advise you to keep growing quietly and seriously throughout your whole development, you cannot disturb it more rudely than by looking outward and expecting from outside replies to questions that only your inmost feeling in your most hushed hour can perhaps answer.’ 

‘…in the deepest and most important things, we are utterly alone and for one person to be able to advise or even help another, a lot must happen, a lot must go well, a whole constellation of things must come right in order once to succeed.’

‘…the natural growth of your inner life will lead you slowly and with time to other insights.  Leave to your opinions their own quiet undisturbed development, which like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be pressed or hurried by anything.  Everything is gestation and then bringing forth.  To let each impression and each germ of a feeling come to completion wholly in itself, in the dark, in the inexpressible, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own intelligence, and await with deep humility and patience the birth-hour of a new clarity…’

‘There is here no measuring with time, no year matters, and ten years are nothing.  (Living) means not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer.  It does come.  But it comes only to the patient, who are there as though eternity lay before them so unconcernedly still and wide.  I learn it daily, learn it with pain to which I am grateful: patience is everything!’

Good morning Gentle Reader.  Recently I have been spending time reading through some of my journals.  I have decided to share three entries with you.  I entered in my journal in August, 2009.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus believed that humans have a tendency to go to their opposites; light, then, would have a tendency to move to darkness – to paraphrase the poet Yeats, the center of light cannot hold and things fall apart.  One way I move from light to darkness (and hence have things fall apart for me) is to choose to become less aware, less awake and put myself to sleep (the sleep of the unaware).  For the most part, I am actually aware of making the choices that I KNOW will put me to sleep.  I used to struggle with trying to understand ‘why’ I choose to go to sleep.  I found this to be a trap.  My reality is that I do so choose to go to sleep and my question is: ‘At this time, in this moment, am I willing to choose to stay awake?’  AND, if I choose to go to sleep to then accept that I am choosing to do so because I WANT TO GO TO SLEEP!  I know there is more that can be said about this. . .

As a culture we are out of balance.  When we moved to embrace the mechanical metaphor at the time of the industrial revolution we moved more and more to valuing the ‘outer’ in our lives and hence the ‘inner’ has been, and continues to be, diminished in value.  Even our churches and our educational institutions have made this move for they are run more like businesses than ever before and have become more and more concerned with ‘doing’ and ‘being effective’ and less and less concerned about ‘being’ and ‘being faithful.’

I believe that we are embracing an illusion in our workplaces: the illusion is that we espouse that we value the ‘humanness’ of the employees.  We use language that supports their being ‘human’ and yet there are powerful metaphors afoot that de-humanize the employees for we label them as ‘cogs’ in the machine or, to use our current banking metaphor employees are ‘assets,’ or ‘resources’ or ‘commodities’.  We also act as if employees are ‘cyborgs.’  That is they are ‘living-machines’ – if you cut them they bleed and yet they have the ‘heart of a machine’ and if they wear out we simply discard them.  ‘Assets,’ and ‘Resources,’ and ‘Commodities’ we ‘use up’ and worn out ‘cogs’ and ‘cyborgs’ we discard.  There continues to be a huge gap between what we espouse and what we live out when it comes to employees and their being fully human beings.

Good morning Gentle Reader.  This morning I am going to offer you a few quotations from the great poet, Rainer Maria Rilke.  If you have not spent time reading and savoring his ‘Letters To A Young Poet’ I invite you to do so.  The following quotations can be found in this wonder-full little collection of letters.

‘Be patient that is all unsolved in your heart… and try to love the questions themselves.  Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them.  AND the point is to live everything. Live the questions.’

‘Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other.’

‘For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all  our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work of which all other work is but preparation.’

‘I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.  Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps some day, far into the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.’  

NOTE: In this next quotation I have substituted the word ‘WRITE’ with the word ‘SERVE’ – one can substitute any number of words and Rilke’s counsel will hold true [for example: teach, parent, guide, write, etc.].   

‘You are looking outward and that above all you should not do now.  Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody.  There is only one single way.  Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you SERVE; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to SERVE.  This above all — ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: MUST I SERVE? Delve into yourself for a deep answer.  And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple “I MUST,” then build your life according to his necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it.’

‘…I do only want to advise you to keep growing quietly and seriously throughout your whole development; you cannot disturb it more rudely than by looking outward and expecting from outside replies to questions that only your inmost feeling in your most hushed hour can perhaps answer.’ 

‘There is here no measuring with time, no year matters, and ten years are nothing.  Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer.  It does come.  But it comes only to the patient, who are there as though eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly still and wide.  I learn it daily, learn it with pain to which I am grateful: PATIENCE is everything!’

Good Day Gentle Reader.  On 29 March, 2010 I wrote the following in my journal.

In our culture we frequently interchange the concepts of fear and anxiety.  More often we use the word fear to describe anxiety.  So it might be helpful to distinguish between the two. 

Fear = a feeling of agitation caused by the presence or nearness of danger, evil or pain.  The intensity one feels is directly related to how one interprets the threat; if one interprets the threat as severe then the intensity of the feeling will increase.  When faced with a fearful situation one will engage the situation, flee from the situation, or get stuck and neither engage nor flee. 

As soon as we perceive the threat we develop some automatic physical responses – our heart rate increases, adrenaline is rushed to certain muscles groups, we become hyper-focused on the threat, we sweat, our blood pressure goes up, and our higher level mental functions seem to slow down, if not shut-down as we move to protective reaction. 

Anxiety = a state of being uneasy, apprehensive, or worried about what may happen or about what might possible happen. 

The following example might help distinguish between the two: You are walking along and come to a street and you want to cross the street.  You look in all directions and don’t see any vehicle coming so you begin to cross the street.  All of a sudden, as if out of nowhere comes a car speeding down the street coming straight toward you.  Your normal reaction is one of fear for danger is bearing down upon you.  You quickly assess the situation and decide to engage the speeding car, jump out of the way or freeze in your steps hoping the car will miss you [an aside: if one is intoxicated one might well determine that taking on the car will be the best idea]. 

Now, let’s back up.  You are walking along and come to a street that you decide to cross.  You look all ways and see nothing coming.  You begin to cross the street and still nothing is coming and yet you have the same response as the person who is being threatened by the speeding car.  This response is as intense and since there is, indeed, no car coming – no real threat is present – what you are experiencing is high anxiety.

So what are some of the fears and anxieties that leaders might hold?  Here are some to consider:

–Financial failure [perhaps financial dependence]

–Not being loved or not being ‘wanted’

–Being ‘’alone’ or being abandoned

–Chronic/protracted illness and/or pain

–Being repulsive to self or others

–Believing that you are a failure [especially in some important aspect of your life]

–Dying – growing older and running out of time in your role

–Not being good enough

–What lies deep within one’s self – the darkness, if not the ‘evil’ [that one might see or that others might see]?

There are some questions that might help if we choose to engage them:

–To what extent are you motivated by, controlled by, and/or demotivated by fear and/or anxiety??

–At this point in your life, what are the fears and anxieties that you carry with you?

–What were the fears and anxieties that you carried 5-10-20 years ago?

 –If you continue on your current life-path what might be some fears and/or anxieties that you will be ‘invited’ to carry during the next 2-5 years? 

–What is the difference between being fearful or anxious and being your fear or your anxiety? 

–In what ways do you project your fear or anxiety on to others?  What is the effect and affect of doing so upon yourself and upon the other(s)?