Foundational Principles Revisited

IMG_20180407_192528841Let’s take one more look at the Five Foundational Principles of an Interdependent Society. In my novel, The Doorkeeper’s Secrets, the goal is to birth a society where everyone is dependable; therefore, we can expect others to act with our (and their) best interest in mind.

 

The five foundational principles create a matrix enabling everyone to give their best efforts, be safe, and find joy in their work, families, activities, and lives. The diagram attempts to illustrate how that might work.

Continue reading “Foundational Principles Revisited”

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 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.