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.”

Starting Over

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHave you ever thought what we would create if we could start over? Not just in our personal lives, as fruitful as such reflections can be, but our whole culture.

What if we took the resources, technology, infrastructure, and skills we currently possess then reorganize their distribution and use? What if we could restructure the economy to be more appropriate, fair, inclusive, and progressive? What if we created a system that rewards compassion and initiative rather than greed and manipulation?

When I began developing the inspiration that became The Doorkeeper’s Secrets, it quickly became obvious that many aspects of life needed to be different. Central among those differences are work and money.

I had the privilege of working for 48 years at a fulfilling job. It kept me learning, growing and using skills. It’s also a job I continue to affirm as valuable and true.

In the course of my work, I’ve met and/or counseled people who hated their jobs. Sometimes it was because of the people they had to work with or take instruction from. But more often, the dislike of work came from disillusionment.

Of course, some parts of many jobs are less appealing: writing reports, documenting encounters, and researching the company manual to be sure you haven’t broken any rules come to mind. The disillusionment may also come from a perspective that the thing you have given your life to is relatively insignificant–or you no longer believe in the mission–or the vision has changed.

Sometimes, at midlife people desire to choose another path, but realize they cannot “afford” to start up in another field. A driver’s education instructor in a public school expressed the dilemma when he told me, “I would rather be teaching outdoor survival skills. But I can’t because I have two kids entering college in the next four years. It would take ten years to build up a reputation and client base to earn what I now make. During the time we’d lose our home, cars, and savings. Assuming I don’t have a career ending accident or illness.”

For my friend, each day was a drag. His life passion no longer matched his job.

What if he could have retrained for the job he loved without putting everything at risk? It would require a complete reorganization of how we treat work and finances.

As for money. What if every young person were raised knowing they could be trained for a job they would find meaningful and enjoyable, without concern for what it will pay. What if the person who repairs streets and the University President (with the same years of experience) made the same?

What if people did a job because of “love for the work” and had what they need for participating in the economy. More about a possible future economy in future posts.

 

The next paragraphs provide a glimpse into some of the inner-workings of my mind as I write the series.

While working on The Doorkeeper’s Secrets, it became clear to me, that none of this is possible without a renewal of the emotional contract. In the context of The Sheltered Cities Series, a complete reweaving of the fabric of society was initiated by President Jim Earldrige (in the 2050’s).

Key to making the “Plan for the Future” (developed in the 2040’s) work is a renewed commitment by citizens and leaders alike to a society that functions for the good of all. That foundation includes five primary principals: Community, Vigilance, Faith, Respect and the Common Good.

I’ll address each of these over the next five posts. Maybe you have some ideas to share about a new start. I welcome your comments.

Thanksgiving–Not Just a Day

Thanksgiving is not just a day but a season. It is no accident that the Christian season of Advent begins shortly after the US’s national day thanks. The whole season from harvest (preparation for lean times); to the diminishing of light (shorter days); to the anticipation of a new future (increasing light, warmth, another planting, and harvest); and the cycle repeats.

I use Christian language because that is my faith stream, but I’m aware of similar celebrations in other faith traditions. It is time to be grateful. We remember the creative, life-giving spirit that sustains us and all other life on earth.

 

As individuals, the Thanksgiving season calls us to remember those who have supported, encourage, challenged and assisted us: parents, teachers, coaches, counselors, spiritual leaders, our heroines, or heroes. None of us would have become the people we are today without a lot of help. That is true if we think we are “sitting on top of the world,” or are depressed and despondent.

Those of us who think we are primarily responsible for our success, must stop and remember the people who believed in us, called out our better efforts, and supported our endeavors (financially as well as emotionally). Likewise, when we see someone who does not “measure up” to our standards (no matter how broad or narrow those standards may be), then we must remember they too had “help” being pushed down to the place where we encounter them. In fact, where we observe them now, maybe a significant advancement over how they were a few months or years ago.

At the very least, we are called to give thanks that we could have easily found ourselves in a similar situation without the support we received.

Even if we claim to overcome “great odds,” or that the “deck was stacked against us” we had help along the way.

The story goes that a new patient went to see a psychiatrist. While explaining his reasons for coming he haughtily proclaimed his many achievements in business, personal wealth building, and his fame. To punctuate his successes he said, “… and I’m sure you’ll appreciate what I had to go through when you discover I was raised in an extremely dysfunctional family.” The patient waited for a response. The therapist looked up from his notepad replying, “There is no other kind.”

 

At every holiday, there are those who do not get the holiday because of their work. Keeping us safe (military, police or firefighter) maintain health (nurses, doctors, or other medical personnel) or care for us in other ways (those who keep the transportation system working, the power on, and countless other responsibilities). Thanksgiving is a time to remember them with appreciation.

Expressing gratitude is one of the signs of a healthy relationship: lovers, parents, children, communities, schools, hospitals, business associates, customers, as well as state, national and international leaders. But the appreciation needs to be real. We don’t say thanks to the state legislators who passed a tax bill giving the wealthy and small businesses breaks while putting the burden on the poor and those who attempt to assist them.

 

In the future envisioned by The Doorkeeper’s Secrets and other books in the Shelter Cities Series expressing appreciation is encouraged. Not only in person but also through anonymous commendations. The compliments are collected electronically and shared with each person during their annual visit with his or her counselor.

Of course, that is all in the future. But what about now? We often hear that our society is divided and becoming more so. What if we could find a way to celebrate and lift up those behaviors that are supportive and build up the common good.

From time to time the “Opinion Line” in the local newspaper prints a note of appreciation for “the stranger who found and returned my (wallet, driver’s license, cell phone, etc.) or paid for our meal ….” Appreciation is a good thing.

Maybe I disagree with much of what a person says or does, but observe an act of kindness, gentleness, or standing up for someone unable to do so without help.

What do you think readers? Would our lives be richer if we started looking for acts of compassion and respect rather than focusing on the dysfunctional all around us? If that occurred even in a small way, would that begin to create a greater sense of unity?

If we can begin to see good in others, and our culture perhaps we can address the conflict, anger, fear, and differences all around us. We must address our problems from a perspective of strength and stability—supporting one another may be where we start.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

To Plan or Not to Plan?

Wisdom from many writers says – “Write what you know.” Well, I know a few things for sure. Not many, but three maybe four things I know. One of them is: To Plan is Better than Not Planning.

A friend has a wall plaque which reads, “No Amount of Planning Will Ever Replace Dumb Luck.”

It is true that sheer circumstance may produce unexpected results. Some people seem to live by the mantra of “Luck will see me through.” The problem about depending on luck – is that it’s just as likely to be negative as positive.

Those of us who want some control over our lives –  Plan. Another message on a wall: “If you have no Destination Then any Road Will Do. The Problem is – you Won’t Know When You’ve Arrived.”

Planning begins with a “Destination” in mind. A goal is essential to any plan. What is it you want to accomplish? What skill do you want to learn? What place do you wish to visit?

Anything from a secure retirement, or a beautiful garden, to a family gathering at Thanksgiving works better with a plan.

Planning involves steps. The Thanksgiving dinner purchase and preparation of food (keeping in mind who is allergic to what) arrange a space (including keeping the belligerent family members apart) making invitations and dozens of other details. The dinner doesn’t just happen because it’s the 4th Thursday in November, and everyone’s going to Aunt Joann’s.

One of the great things about plans is that they can be changed. If you have a procedure, you can modify it when an emergency intrudes, or the situation changes or new information presents itself. But without a plan, you may be blown about by the winds of change, and end up somewhere you did not intend.

Plans are not chipped into stone. They need to be living, growing and adapting. There must be an evaluation to see if goals are being reached, and sometimes the findings lead us to replace all or part of the plan.

Planning helps us anticipate the obstacles we may encounter along our journey. If a surprise pops up – well at least we have experience making adjustments.

The Doorkeeper’s Secrets has a social and economic foundation: “The Plan for the Future.” Developed decades before our story begins, it outlines policies supportive of an interdependent society, with true “Liberty and justice for all.” It’s the elements of compassion, integrity, respect, and dignity mandated by “The Plan” that is under attack. Our protagonist finds herself in the middle of a controversy with more power than she wants.

IMG_20170730_151742635One more “wisdom slogan” about planning: “Life is what happens while we’re planning something else.” The real key to happiness may be our ability to unite our plans along with all the surprises that come our way.

 

 

Collaboration and Interdependence

If the human race is to have a future, we must learn to be respectful and honor the dignity of each person’s contribution. In other words, we must listen to one another and learn from each other as we seek the common good; collaborate and become dependable.

Today, if someone is called a “collaborator,” it’s often an accusation. Suspicion of collaborating with the enemy of one’s nation, company, family, political party, or religion may be grounds for dismissal from work, friendship, or society.

However, most collaborations are positive: Rogers and Hammerstein, Lewis and Clark, or Ben and Jerry’s are only a few. When parents agree on discipline principles for a child; when educators agree on the essentials for a course of study; or when communities develop infrastructure plans we see this skill at work. To collaborate is simply working with someone else on a project. It’s the essence of teamwork. No baseball team can win without each player contributing their skills at the right time—both at bat and in the field. When a batter hits against a pitcher, she or he knows there are eight other players on the field ready to take charge and make the best of the situation.

Teamwork is similar to interdependence. To be in an interdependent relationship with colleagues, spouse, or friends means each person contributes their best to the situation. Interdependence happens only when those involved are dependable. Everyone must carry their weight, because all others are doing the same.

So why are we talking about this? Well, my picture, in The Doorkeeper’s Secrets is based on a cultural shift. The change required includes moving our economy and social structures away from greed and competition toward collaborative and interdependent leadership and relationships.

When I learned about leadership from a collaborative stance, it quickly became the only kind I wish to offer. Interdependence means it is not all up to you – whether you are at the top of the organizational chart, or think of yourself as a “flunky.” It’s a gift to know all the ideas and wisdom (in or out of the organization) is available for the asking.

We can begin taking steps in a cooperative-supportive direction. Some are small like looking for “Fair Trade” and “Ethically Sourced” marks on foods we purchase. Recycle and buy products that are at least partially made of recycled materials. Other actions include supporting cooperative ventures; seeking sustainable everything (especially energy) and asking our politicians what they plan to do to ensure a habitable planet for the fifth generation.

The future of planet earth is bright because we can work together to address issues. We have wisdom, intellect, and technical capabilities sufficient to address and solve many of our problems. In my picture of the future – we do. The real question is: will we?