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Creating a Viable Future Principle 4: Respect

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The fourth of the five principles undergirding the collaborative society envisioned in The Doorkeeper’s Secrets is Respect. Community, Vigilance, Faith, Respect, and the Common Good are the five foundational principles needed to create an interdependent society.

One definition says “due regard to the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others… avoid harming or interfering with….” While deep trust needs to be earned—respect should be granted.

Like Vigilance (the second principle) respect starts with the individual. Just as awareness of the world around us is an attitude one must adopt and practice, treating other’s rights, feelings, and traditions in a manner that will not harm them start within the individual.

So, what does it mean if I grant respect to every person I meet or never meet but only hear about from others or the news? Continue reading “Creating a Viable Future Principle 4: Respect”

Creating a Viable Future Principle 3: Faith (Part 2)

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Last time we lifted up the need to have faith in ourselves and others. Part of what will make our culture more sustainable and predictable is a return to basic trust. Over the years I have worked with enough people struggling with addictions, to know that there are times when we cannot trust ourselves. That’s why we need others.

That is true whether it’s an inability to resist “just one drink,” or our inability to understand that (fill in the blank) Continue reading “Creating a Viable Future Principle 3: Faith (Part 2)”

Creating a Viable Future Principle 3: Faith (Part 1)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe third of the five principles undergirding the collaborative society envisioned in The Doorkeeper’s Secrets is Faith. When pictured in a diagram the Plan is supported by five pillars with Community, Vigilance, Respect, and the Common Good as the four corners and Faith in the center.

When we speak of faith in the first part of the 21st century, we tend to think of some form of religious tradition, or belief system. That is a powerful meaning of the term which we will discuss in the next posting.

I would like for us to begin with other applications of “Faith.” Ones I believe will become universally important in the coming years. I mean faith in oneself and faith in others.

 

Our age has an appalling lack of faith. It is especially apparent in absence of trust we see all around. Conspiracy theories abound. Individuals we used to trust, disappoint us. We feel betrayed by their behavior. We often move off into our little tribes, and complain about those in the “other tribes.”

It matters not what the subject might be: politics, economics, education, the latest action (or inaction) of our congress, state legislature, governor, president, favorite sports team, the role of the press, gun control or freedom, money, the power of the rich, or who makes the best pizza. When any of those come up, there is an abundance of opinions (stated as fact) and little light directing us toward a shared understanding. We soon find ourselves wanting to be with those who think sort of like us—because—well it’s easier than taking blood pressure medication.

And we haven’t yet mentioned the most significant parts of lives: our belief system, career choices, mate choices (or choosing not to mate). What about how we will spend our time and energy on earth (will we be a life-long-learner or quit when the diploma is in hand?) will we accumulate friends, possessions, dollars, or goodwill? And what’s our attitude toward those who are different from us?

 

Yes, we all know these things. But have you thought of them as Faith Issues? They are. Our lack of trust in large groups of “others” is one reason why we do not have a sense of interdependence in our day and age.

For nearly three decades I worked with volunteer organizations in conflict. Usually, there had been a major disruption shortly before I was called. In the first days, I would see the various camps, plus a lot of accusations and finger-pointing. Early in the process, I state my belief: everyone—even those you disagree with most violently—was doing what they believed best for the organization. In-other-words, everyone was acting in “good-faith.” I then encouraged others to adopt the same view.

Once this process gets started we could move toward the perspective of having a “Problem to solve together,” rather than “Turf to defend against others.” In an interdependent society, people work together to address common concerns. When that happens, everyone uses their skill, wisdom, and energy to address the issue. Even when solutions are slow in coming, we still have confidence that we are not alone—and as long as everyone else has not given up—we will get there.

Another stage is finding what we have in common. What is holding us together? Often it is the commitment to a particular mission, vision, goal. In the process of recovering our “glue” or commonalities, we may begin to trust the others—at least a bit more.

Perhaps we can begin such a process as a city, state, nation or international community. If I reach the point of being interested in what you think, and how you reached your conclusion, then I can stop seeing you as someone to be kept off my turf.

 

Which brings us to the other point for today’s blog. We need to have faith not only in the other but first of all in ourselves. Part of the reason we have so many tribes is lack of trust in our ability to reason out an answer—so we join with others—the group thinks for us.

Even in a group where I agree with the mission, vision, strategies, and general directions being proposed, I am still responsible for raising questions and looking at the broader picture. In other words, joining a tribe does not mean I lose my need to think critically about the issue.

We need to have faith in ourselves: our skills, abilities, curiosity, and wisdom. We need to know our ideas, opinions, values, lives and dignity count. We need to remember that our experiences are different from others, and not sharing our perspective is often a disservice to the overall goal.

We also need to have faith in others: family, friends, teachers, leaders, and those who challenger our lethargy. We believe that our particular “perspective group” has integrity, and is working for the best outcome for all—not just the few. And when we are honest, we must believe the “opposition group” to have integrity and desire what they believe is the best outcome of all.

Then we can begin to rely on a process to bring us closer together. To be discussed next time.

Creating a Viable Future Principle 2: Vigilance

img_20170429_163330584.jpgWhile in graduate school, a speaker at one of our weekly convocations appeared with a patch over his right eye. He explained that he was not trying to start a fashion trend, but had an eye issue.

He had gotten a piece of debris in his eye and tried all the usual “do-it-yourself” remedies. Nothing worked. He even did the unmanly thing of asking his mate to help. That too was unsuccessful.

A call to his doctor got a referral to an eye specialist. After removing the offending bolder from his eye, the doctor said, “I’d like to do a complete exam. The swelling and redness I see could be caused by something more severe.”

Long story short—the specialist found a condition which—left untreated would have produced blindness in that eye in a matter of weeks. Now the doctor could have simply accepted her fee for the emergency, and scheduled a more thorough exam in a couple of months. Instead, she followed the professional practices and saved his sight.

This was a case of Vigilance.

The second of the five principles for creating a more viable society is Vigilance. It has to do with paying attention. Along with Community, Faith, Respect and The Common Good, Vigilance builds the foundation for a self-learning, adapting, compassionate, and egalitarian social order.

Everyone in the US is regularly told, “If you see something—say something.” Of course, that generally is interpreted “if you see something suspicious, or questionable—then say something about it.” We need that sort of attentiveness as long as there is the kind of dangers we hear of too often.

But there is also a positive side to being aware of our surroundings. Those who see someone drop their wallet and point it out, or pick it up and chase them down. Or the one who stops to help a motorist change a tire on the side of a busy highway.

Another positive form of vigilance comes from those who see hard-fought victories toward tolerance and respect being undermined by action or inaction of government or commerce. The reason the US constitution lifts up the press, public speech, and religion for special treatment is to create a voice. Those voices can be raised against the established procedures or dangerous directions which dehumanize, or put tribe and profit above dignity and compassion.

But for that part of the American experiment to work the press, faith communities and all of us with a voice must be vigilant. We need to measure our practice against our best values and speak out about how we can do better.

 

The Doorkeeper’s Secrets is futuristic fiction. However, the social justice envisioned in the book is within our grasp. Next time we will begin to look at Faith as the central essential for a collaborative social order.

 

Creating a Viable Future Principle 1: Community (Part 3) Obstacles to Community (continued): Biases & Values ​

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Continuing our discussion of community, we must consider the impediments to building a more desirable future. How we associate with; connect to, and support one another is key to undergirding a more resilient tomorrow. In other words, we must create a better sense of connectedness.

  1. Biases. Call them what we will: racism, sexism, nationalism, ageism, snobbery, elitism, homophobia, tribalism, prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, chauvinism, or narrow-mindedness–our biases get in the way of collaborative community. To the degree we indulge one or more of these attitudes, we prevent ourselves from entering into deeper understandings of what it means to be human.

Whether we learned them from our parents, school, others, or simply our limited experience they serve no useful purpose. Most of us will not overcome all our intolerance, but building community demands that we keep it from warping our decision making.

 

  1. Values. For the most part, having solid values is a good thing. As long as I am operating in an arena with others who share similar visions things are fine.

The problem comes when we assume “everyone thinks as we do,” or try to convince others “our way is the only way.” That’s true whether we are talking about our nation, political party, economic theory or religion.

For example, I value education. I believe everyone should have opportunities to learn. But that doesn’t mean I approve of everything happening in schools (bullying, abuse of power, stifling creativity, waste of resources). Nor does it mean I believe there’s only way or time for people to learn.

But when I run into people who believe education is a waste of money, kids don’t need to learn to write or add, much less art, history, literature, science, or music–well, that poses a roadblock to my being in community with that particular person. It doesn’t make it impossible–just a barrier.

The same would be true if we were talking about a political position or deeply held point of faith. Shared values help solidify community.

Differing values cause us to work harder—to find those things that bind us together. All too often we decide not to do the work, but simply exclude that person from our tribe. But, when we behave that way—we miss an opportunity to expand our horizons—and settle for an incomplete vision of our future.

If we hope to move toward a future that has equality, dignity,

and respect for all–not just “the few,” then we must begin by strengthening our community building skills. Are there other significant barriers I have overlooked?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Next time we will look at Vigilance the second of the key principles, that need to guide us.

Creating a Viable Future Principle 1: Community (Part 2) Obstacles to Community: Distance & Boundaries

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In the future envisioned by The Doorkeeper’s Secrets, five key philosophical principles function–the first is community. Last time we looked at some factors creating community. Now we need to address the impediments to building community. I see four main stumbling blocks to forming a sustainable sense of community: distance, boundaries, biases, and values.

 

  1. Distance. Traditional definitions of community include something about being “in proximity to others.” In the distant past, a village, tribe or clan needed to work together to secure the necessities of life and fend off danger from animals or enemies.

But as the centuries have passed, some of the original needs for binding together have changed. Other than our family of origin we regularly make choices about our lives. School, work, friendships, religious connections, professional associations, avocations, clubs, as well as community and civic responsibilities are all examples of connections we choose (at least in part).

With our capability to travel long distances and instantaneous access to events anywhere in the world, one could argue that geographic closeness is no longer required to establish community. “Virtual communities” are limited only by our willingness to find, or create one around a subject or connection of our choice. We often select a LinkedIn or Facebook group based on our interest, or a real “time connection” with some of the other members.

There are obvious limitations but much of our “emotional need” to be connected to people “similar to us” can be met through social media as well as personal interactions.

 

  1. Boundaries. Mostly arbitrary lines divide us into cities, counties, states, nations, or ethnic groups. Some of us believe those divisions should carry less significance than they do. Of course, practical reasons remain for some of these lines regarding responsibilities, taxation, or voting. Those demarcations used to define a community “within the lines” but not so much anymore.

Yes, there are those who would like to make some of the lines harder to cross. However, my being born Caucasian male in the US is purely an accident. Why should I then have more control of my life than people from Mexico, Egypt, India, Japan, South Africa, Palestine, or anywhere else? We are all human regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, nationality, age, education, language, or favorite sports team. None of those distinctions should inherently impact the respect and dignity granted to everyone.

However, there is another type of “boundary” needing attention. I refer to the “personal space” and privacy surrounding each of us. Everyone has a right to expect those boundaries to be respected. We (especially us white males) must rededicate ourselves to observing other’s boundaries.

This is about inappropriate sexual behavior. It is also about respecting others’ information and creating a safe, respectful environment all around us.

I can’t prevent someone from using a racial slur, or vulgar “joke” when elsewhere, but in my house, my office or my presence such behavior will not be tolerated. Respect needs to become the norm; division the exception.

Next time the obstacles of bias and values.

 

Creating a Viable Future Principle 1: Community (Part 1)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANovember 22, 1963, I was a Sophomore in college. My campus job included making trips to the bank to pick up change for the men’s dormitory offices. I was three blocks from the campus when a red sports car pulled to the curb beside me, and a man I had never seen before or since, rolled down the window and said, “They’ve shot the President.” Stunned I asked him to repeat himself, which he did. We exchanged a few more words, and he moved on.

I arrived at my destination three minutes later, and the news was being “pipped” over the bank’s public-address system. No usual chatter about the weather, or ball games, or the hype about opening a “Christmas Club” account. Everyone focused on the broadcast and his or her internal reflections of what this was going to mean.

In that shared tragedy, the customers and tellers became a community. No one was anxious to get back to their regular activities; we lingered, listened and shared shock and grief.

By the time I got back to campus, classes had been canceled, and everyone was gathering in the recreation rooms of each dorm, where there were TVs. We didn’t have smartphones or internet, but word traveled from one end of the country to another in the matter minutes. For the next few days, we became a national community.

The same can be said about September 11th or the many towns and neighborhoods that have experienced a school shooting, or other acts of violence. The same happens when there are fires, tornados, hurricanes, floods, and devastating snow or ice storms. When there’s trouble; people help. Helping one another makes us into a community.

There can be positive experiences that create a community: Neal Armstrong stepping on the moon, or your team winning a championship. While the achievement may live on; the community formed around it seems to be more short-lived, or self-selected (as in the case of shooting events).

All the examples I’ve used involve a “shared experience.” Sharing experiences with others tends to create some lasting memories or even long-term relationships. Another key to community is focus. If you were in a coma during the week of 9-11, you likely wouldn’t have the same intensity of response years later, as one who experienced it moment by moment as it happened.

 

So, if Community is to be one of the focal points drawing people into a positive future, where do we look for a sense of community other than tragedy or chosen focus? In the mind of the characters in The Doorkeeper’s Secrets, my book about a possible non-dystopian future, a sense of Community is an essential element.

These are Foundational Principles. The absence of any one will create instability in the philosophical underpinning of the culture. We will continue our exploration next time by looking at the barriers to effective community. Understanding the barriers to community will give us a starting place for creating a “better version of ourselves.”