Enlightened Conflict

have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss

October 13th, 2017

red shoes_adventure_by_zvaella

 

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“We all have one foot in a fairytale, and the other in the abyss.”

 

—–

Paulo Coelho

 

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My anger at the world coils inside of me.

It’s a directionless seething, there’s no name or face to aim at.”

 

————–

Claire Zorn

 

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Well.

 

color outside the linesLife demands us to draw a lot of lines.

 

And more often than we would like to admit … it demands we place one foot on one side of a line and the other foot on the other side of the line.

 

That may not sound … well … right.

Or maybe the best thing to do.

It may even sound like I am suggesting you ‘straddle the fence.’

 

This isn’t straddling … this is about being grounded or balancing oneself.

 

If you don’t place one foot solidly on either side, you can be quite easily consumed by the extremes of Life which are, more often than not, found on only one side of a line.

 

If you don’t place one foot solidly on either side, you can be quite easily consumed by others who seek to consume what you may think you don’t really care that much about <but you should … and actually do when you care to think about t enough>.

 

If you don’t you can be quite easily … well … consumed.

 

I guess what I am saying is that Life demands you pragmatically be active in drawing some lines so that you have some sense of when you are getting too … well … “too”. So you can have some sense of … well … where to actually place your feet that is meaningful.

 

Maybe what I am saying is that many of us have no problem ‘making a stand’ but if you really aren’t sure where your line is then it is quite possible you aren’t really sure you are taking your stand in the right place.

 

Maybe think of it this way.

 

It’s kind of like making sure you have things in perspective when you take a stand.

 

It’s kind of like demanding realistic hope.

It’s kind of like demanding some hopeful despair.

It’s kind of like demanding you believe in some fairytales and some abyss-like darkness.

 

It’s kind of like demanding lines for yourself so you can deal with the lines Life is going to demand of you.

 

Look.

 

I don’t really believe there are angry people … they just have so much anger within themselves that their line is drawn differently than others.

 

I don’t really believe there are dreamers … they just have so much imagination within themselves that their line is drawn differently than others.

 

But here’s the deal.

 

You have to draw some lines.

 

draw your lines and choose your side moralThere has to be some reality to ground some imagination.

 

There has to be some truth to ground some questioning.

 

There has to be some principles to ground some rebelliousness.

 

There has to be some fairytaleishness <I made up that word> to balance out some of the inevitable abyss.

 

You do have to have one foot somewhere other than where your other foot resides.

 

I know.

I know.

 

That sounds a little of whack from conventional wisdom because far more often you hear “both feet on the ground” and shit like that.

 

But if you have two feet on the line … well … you have chosen to stand on a thin balance beam and will teeter your entire life. That is tiring & dangerous.

But if you have two feet on one side … well … you have chosen a life of fairytales … or a life in the abyss.

 

All that said.

 

Yes.

 

There are times you draw a line and make a choice to shift both feet solidly onto one side. I would suggest this is a situational decision and not a “living Life” type decision.

 

That is right and that is wrong.

That is good and that is bad.

That is normal and that is not normal.

 

Those are most likely the moments in which Life says “now, in this time and place, here is the line … on which side to you choose to stand?”

I would suggest sometimes we fuck this up by confusing a ‘Life one foot here & one foot there’ decision and a contextual situational decision. What I mean is that in that time and place you may try and keep your fairy tale foot in place and your abyss foot in place … and mistakenly take on a different type of decision demanding a different type of line.

 

That would be a bad decision.empty shoes

 

In that time. in that place. In that moment.

 

You shift your feet.

 

Sigh.

 

I never suggested lines were easy. Just that Life demands we draw a lot of lines. I would suggest that if you do not draw some lines you will find yourself lost in anger coiled within, or maybe constantly living a less than fairy tale life dreaming it all away, or stuck in some dark abyss seeing no way out.

 

Yeah … lines come in pretty handy at times. Pretty handy in managing Life. I can tell you <for sure> that lines can be pretty handy at helping you decide when something should end … and something should start.

what horrifies me most is

July 11th, 2017

 

completely useless me

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“What horrifies me most is the idea of being useless: well-educated, brilliantly promising, and fading out into an indifferent middle age.”

 

Sylvia Plath

 

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“My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean.

Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?”

 

David Mitchell

 

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Being useless.

 

legacy great shit noticeWhew.

 

Can you think of anything worse than feeling like you are, or have been, useless?

 

Well.

 

Of course.

What is worse is actually being a useless fuck.

 

Regardless.

 

 

99% of us think we are smart <or smart enough>.

 

99% of us have felt a sense of promise.

 

99% of us want our Life to amount to something.

 

So what happens if that 99% actually thinks they may … uhm … be useless?

While I imagine depression or becoming extremely depressed would be the first thing most people would think about … ‘horrified’ may actually be the more appropriate sense.

 

Maybe it is a general sense of meaninglessness?

 

Ah shit … I don’t know.

 

But just thinking about the possibility of thinking I am useless is a fucking depressing thought. And I am not a wildly ambitious person and I think it would be pretty fucking depressing to think that way.

 

This came to mind after I had a discussion with one of the kindest, nicest, most generous … and smart … people I know.

 

falling down the rabbit hole

After scanning Facebook updates and thinking a little bit about Life and ‘what do I have to show for it all’ their mind, quite expectedly from my point of view, started going down the ‘fucking useless Life’ rabbit hole.

 

<note: I did remind them that Facebook is not typically where you advertise your losses, disappointments and failures but rather is a place where one goes to conflate their wins, supposed happiness and successes>

 

But the conversation did remind me that assessing usefulness is not an easy task.

 

Yeah. yeah. yeah.

 

We talk about integrity, doing things the right way, honesty and kindness as well as the infamous “a flower doesn’t judge itself next to the flower beside it … it just grows” but reality continuously punches us in the face with ‘proof, proof, proof.’

 

Where is the proof for your Life and usefulness?

 

And this gets even more difficult when you look around and see people who obviously are not doing things the right way, who have a dubious relationship with integrity, truth is something they store in some closet to pull out for special occasions and, yet, they have a lot of useful stuff to showcase proof that competition compare yourself to themin some way they have been useful.

 

Usefulness can occur in a variety of ways.

 

And 99% of us know that but it sure don’t make it any easier to actually not be horrified when looking around and assessing one’s own usefulness.

 

It doesn’t make it any easier when we realize we may actually be no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Because I tend to believe 99% of us know that but felt we would be smarter enough, have enough promise and do things the right way just enough to be a little more than just one drop in a limitless ocean.

 

All that said.

 

Feeling useless, or feeling like what you have to offer is being wasted, or even feeling that doing it the right way and having integrity hasn’t got you shit compared to others assholes who have no real desire to do things the right way or do not really care much about integrity <unless they feel a need to check that box> … well … sucks.

 

I feel like I should offer some optimistic and hopeful and positive thought now … but I don’t really have one to offer at the moment.

Why?

Because what horrifies me is the thought that I may end up useless despite not being the dullest knife in the drawer, despite that fact I most likely still have some promise and despite the fact I imagine I would really like to contribute to Life in some positive morally driven thoughtful way.

 

Because what horrifies me is the thought that I could pass over into an indifferent age in which I would be viewed as useless.horrify this is bad

 

Because what horrifies me is that I do not have any advice or can even offer some semblance of an answer today.

 

Because what horrifies me is that I had no answer for the person who teetered on the edge of feeling useless … and, well, that kind of made me feel a little useless too.

 

And THAT horrifies me to no have an answer for someone else … because what happens if it is me at some point?

 

Here is what I know.

Just thinking about the possibility of thinking I am useless is a fucking depressing thought.

Paddington goes home

June 29th, 2017

wondering i we could help you paddington

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“In London, everyone is different and that means that anyone can fit in.”

 

—–

Paddington Bear

 

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The great advantage of having a bear as a central character is that he can combine the innocence of a child with the sophistication of an adult. He gets involved in everyday situations. He has a strong sense of right and wrong and doesn’t take kindly to the red tape bureaucracy of the sillier rules and regulations with which we humans surround ourselves.

As a bear he gets away with things. Paddington is humanised, but he couldn’t possibly be ‘human’. It just wouldn’t work.

 

Michael Bond <Paddington author>

 

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Well.

 

paddington collection booksMichael Bond, the Paddington Bear author, died yesterday.

 

First.

 

Michael … thank you for a fabulous contribution to millions of people’s lives.

My sister and I poured through your books as children.

 

 

I still have the original set of Paddington books our parents bought for us and in the first book, A Bear Called Paddington <where the marmalade-loving bear from Peru arrives in London>, you would find a neatly placed label where my sister’s name is written as the owner of the book.

 

Second.

 

To many in this generation Paddington is a charming movie. But it is within the books where children find some of the lessons which bear fruit in growing up and viewing Life.

 

In general … it is a story about fitting in and helping someone fit in … and the struggles that inherently come with this.

 

While Paddington is a refugee … or a likeable harmless immigrant without a home … what child hasn’t found themself looking in the mirror thinking they were different? How many children have found themselves in a new school or a new home or a new neighborhood facing the struggles of what you think you know and what other people think they know? Paddington, as a bear, permitted any child to step into his life and see what he sees.

 

He also taught us we can change not by changing but by seeing things about ourselves or about Life that we have overlooked.

 

He taught us to always polite and well-meaning <always addressing people as “Mr.”, “Mrs.” or “Miss”> but through his simplistic well-meaning ways he is consistently faced with spectacular gaffe after spectacular gaffe within the traditional 1950’s middle class world.paddington paint smiles

 

He also taught us to view Life as if in a mirror to showcase some of the absurdities we place upon ourselves and … well … how we have a nasty habit of making the unimportant important and the truly important often gets overlooked.

 

For example.

When he makes his well-intended errors he finds that ‘very proper persons’ <adults and those in authority positions> tend to glare at him.

What does he do?

He responds with a penetrating, long hard stare of his own <thinking this is the proper response>.

 

Lastly.

 

One of my favorite parts is this:

 

Mary: We can’t just leave him here.

Henry: Of course we can, he’s not our responsibility.

 

Paddington is as much about the people around Paddington as it is about Paddington himself. Time after time in his simplistic slightly bumbling way he reminds people of … well … our general source of humanity.

 

Responsibility for others.

The importance of home.

Friends.

Intentions.

Perspective.

Not all mistakes are created equal.

 

Paddington bear book 1stThe list goes on and on.

 

Within a charming tale about a Peruvian bear in London a child gets glimpses of many things that adults seem to have forgotten.

 

Within this charming tale a child learns some of the little lessons parents forget to tell you when you are growing up.

 

Within this charming tale adults, like me, can pull a well-worn book off the shelf and be reminded that a good heart and good intentions can defeat the most established stuffy rules adulthood can often, quite absurdly, place upon all of us.

 

RIP Mr. Bond. Paddington finally found his home.

questionable civil discourse, calm the rhetoric … and leading

June 14th, 2017

obama sad thoughtful tough

 

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“We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.”

 

—-

Barack Obama on January 12th 2011

 

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On a day which we are faced with someone who decided to take a gun and shoot words rememberpoliticians … and appear to target politicians … I am reminded of several things.

 

The first thing is the rhetoric.

The rhetoric of the citizenry but mostly the rhetoric of our elected leaders. I say that because words have repercussions.

 

Yes.

 

I do believe in personal responsibility and choices are made by individuals.

 

But I also believe leaders lead with words <because most of us cannot view their actions>.

 

And if our elected leaders treat their words as if we will not remember them forever.

 

And if our elected leaders treat each other as if they are truly enemies <and even use that word on occasion>.

 

And if our elected leaders treat each other as if the opposite’s behavior is unfathomable behavior for sane, moral people.

 

And if our elected officials treat each other with verbal hyperbole as the standard rhetoric discourse … and the highest of the elected leaders, the president, tosses out the word ‘unity’ on occasion but 99% of the time does nothing verbally or behavior wise to unite … well … the electors will be tempted to do as leaders do.

 

We need to calm our rhetoric. We need to remind ourselves what we teach our children … that you don’t always get what you want and that most progress sis made in mutual effort.

 

We all need to be speaking more calmly and acting more civilly but we should be demanding our elected leaders do so. I get angry with how they act and what they say because it suggests to people that is behavior we should all embrace — and it is not.  Stop, and stop it now.

 

speechless

 

The second thing I am reminded of is one of the best speeches President Obama ever made.

 

To share my thoughts I will borrow <steal> liberally from a NY Times article written by Helene Cooper and Jeff Zelenyjan. The article was Obama Calls for a New Era of Civility in U.S. Politics and it shares the speech Obama gave on January 12th 2011 in Tucson after the shooting of a US Congresswoman and the deaths of 6 other people.

 

Apparently Obama wrote much of the speech himself the day before.

 

I suggest everyone read the speech but today I will share highlights because it is a nice reminder on a day on which we need some reminders.

 

 

President Obama offered the nation’s condolences on Wednesday to the victims of the shootings here, calling on Americans to draw a lesson from the lives of the fallen and the actions of the heroes, and to usher in a new era of civility in their honor.

 

The president directly confronted the political debate that erupted after the rampage, urging people of all beliefs not to use the tragedy to turn on one another. He did not cast blame on Republicans or Democrats, but asked people to “sharpen our instincts for empathy.”

 

It was one of the more powerful addresses that Mr. Obama has delivered as president, harnessing the emotion generated by the shock and loss from Saturday’s shootings to urge Americans “to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully” and to “remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.”

 

“At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do,” he said, “it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”

 

The president led an overflow crowd at the evening service at the University of Arizona in eulogizing the six people who died on Saturday and asking for prayers for the wounded, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who the authorities said was the target of an assassination attempt.

 

He warned against “simple explanations” and spoke of the unknowability of the thoughts that “lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.”

He suggested that the events should force individuals to look inward, but also that they should prompt a collective response against reflexive ideological and social conflict.

 

While the tone and content were distinctly nonpolitical, there were clear political ramifications to the speech, giving Mr. Obama a chance, for an evening at least, to try to occupy a space outside of partisanship or agenda.

 

“If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost,” Mr. Obama said. “Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.”

 

suicide losing care“If, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse,” Mr. Obama said, let us remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy — it did not — but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud.”

 

In the end.

No, I do not believe we will learn anything from today’s event <or the other shooting events that cost people’s lives today> but maybe, just maybe, we can start talking to each other like we don’t want to shoot the other person if given an opportunity. That is a good start.

the fraying of organizational communication

May 8th, 2017

fraying communications

 

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“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

 

—–

Benjamin Franklin

 

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Ok.

 

It seems like in today’s world leaders are getting the shit kicked out of them if they communicate in a precise fashion, in a measured way and in what appears bland magic in the headto be calculated communicating.

They are called unauthentic, bland and blamed for being ‘less than truthful.’

 

This is creating a sense that semi-impetuous blurbs of ‘here is what I think’ communication is deemed of higher value from our leaders.

 

Well.

 

It is a sad state of affairs if we value the latter in a leader more than the former.

But let me point out the flaws in the impetuous less-than-thought-out thought communicating.

 

I call it the fraying of organizational communication.

 

You learn fairly quickly once you begin leading a larger group of people, and desire them to grow beyond simply being order takers, that precise communications matters.

 

You learn you cannot be everywhere at once, you cannot be in every meeting and you cannot have people simply parrot your own words because … well … they are your words and not theirs <and for them to grow they need to figure out how to articulate things on their own>. Therefore, you learn that you need to precisely communicate an idea so that they can offer up their own words to share that idea.

 

You learn this because impreciseness means people start having to answer not only unnecessary questions … but are also being demanded to explain ‘what you meant.’

 

This is a dangerous slippery slope.good and bad thoughts words

 

People work for you for a reason <you most likely have more experience and have some skills they do not have>.

People have different titles for a reason <they most likely have different or less experience and have yet to learn some skills they do not have>.

 

This means that farther out your words & thoughts have to be explained the more likely the explanation is not going to be exactly right.

Oh.

 

And let’s ad in ‘the stress factor.’

 

This is where ‘fraying’ becomes obvious.

 

The less precise a leader is the more likely the communication fabric is going to be tugged at the edges. The edges being where many of your least experienced people reside. The less precise a leader is the more the pressure at the farthest point of communication.

 

This is where the ‘fraying’ becomes most obvious. As more and more questions are piled upon the person on the edge with regard to the “whys” and “whats” the communication becomes more and more stressed … and mistakes are made.

 

wrong faultThings are said that just may not be exactly right.

 

Something is said in exasperation.

 

Something is communicated as a ‘well, could be’ scenario to offer some space.

 

This is not the fault of the person on the edge … the responsibility lies with the person at the center.

 

Anyway.

 

As a leader, the people closest to you most likely don’t need the precision, calculation and measured words … but you give it to them anyway. You do so because those closest to you will find their own words to say what you said … without losing its meaning.

 

A flawed message at the top doesn’t lose its flaws as it expands … its flaws become increased.

 

Some people call it ‘getting your talking points in line’ … I do not. I simply call it “clarity & precision from the top.” I do that because while it may seem bland and it may seem calculated … it avoids the more difficult problems and criticisms.

 

ato normal center abnormal societyA leader must hold the center verbally. It can sometimes be held with vision and soaring rhetoric but more often it is captures in the calculated pragmatic words which are easily carried by those on the edges out beyond the organization.

 

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‘Things fall apart, the center cannot hold….

The best lack all conviction,

While the worst are full of passionate intensity

 

—–

William Butler Yeats < The Second Coming>

 

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As a leader there may be nothing worse than confidently saying the wrong thing. For when you do the rest of your organization feels compelled to support your confidence … uhm … and the wrong thing.

 

And if the ‘wrongness’ is compounded with any sense of vagueness in meaning ‘wrong’ becomes his multidimensional blob of slime which mucks up the entire organizational engine.

 

I am fairly sure mom & pop businesses don’t learn this lesson <or maybe not as well>. They have no real need to do so. Most words are in the domain of the ‘mom & pop’ and any family members or close knit employees will most likely simply regurgitate whatever the mom & pop say with earnestness … but no real understanding. There is no need to understand … it just is.

 

And maybe that is where leaders, who are precise and calculated in wording, understand what truth about success within an organization is — that understanding matters.

 

People cannot defend what they do not completely understand and, well, you know as a leader you cannot always be there to defend and you need to depend on others to do so … not by interpreting what you said but through understanding what you said.

 

In the end.

 

We may beat the crap out of ‘bland colorless calculated’ communication from leaders but we should all recognize that it isn’t necessarily done out of fear of saying the wrong thing or political correctness but rather done because … well … good leaders know they hold the center. They know that understanding limits spotlight seat lead follow center alonefraying at the edges of the organization.

They know they have a responsibility, boring as it may be on occasion, to pragmatically say what needs to be said in a way that doesn’t encourage guessing or questioning.

 

Clarity really does matter.

And ‘bland’ can be underrated.

But fraying communications farther from the center is a reflection of a leader not assuming responsibility for holding a strong center.  A good leader knows that while they may have a dozen things they really want to say 11 of those things will most likely make the people on the edges edgy and miserable.

A good leader knows that an organization is not just about what the one wants to say <the leader themselves> but rather organizational effectiveness resides in ‘out of many, one.’

 

I imagine what I am saying is that if you see some people on-the-ground who are part of an organization and you start hearing verbal mistakes … 99% of the time it is a reflection of the fact the leader was vague, imprecise and didn’t hold the communication center <that would make them a bad leader>.

 

Enlightened Conflict