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?