Pathways to Change

In the previous post I spoke of Rosamund Zander’s guidance for individual change. She also dealt with bringing change to families and organizations by recognizing that others, like ourselves are walking stories.  As the book progresses she focuses on energy.

She starts with a scientific analogy.  Energy becomes amplified, she says, when in proximity to waves of similar tone and length.  Visionary people use it that way too – though her she defines energy as commitment to something broader than our personal concerns.  And it’s not just about  getting one’s own way.  We enter relationships of collaboration and become catalysts to create a new story.

The physical world is dynamic – an ecosystem where things connect, react and change. The canopy of trees outside my window is awash with green where weeks ago there were naked limbs. Blossoms will turn to fruit, seeds will scatter, new growth will erupt and old growth with succumb to lightning or disease..

It’s a fractal universe too – in nature and in computer simulations and even in emotions when we share feelings and experiences that cross cultures and times.

When we want to change things, we traditionally  develop goals, objectives, strategies and tactics as though we are totally in charge – usually forgetting that there are other forces and energies operating around us – in a  playful universe of galaxies.

Zander suggests we try to think of ourselves less as actors and doers and more as conduits that interact with the energies of others – especially in bringing about change. That story is called possibility and it mirrors natural evolution.  Humans act and talk. How we do both has a marked effect on the bigger picture. She observes

We reconcile by acts and words; we restore through how we relate and how we grow; we inspire through what we build and the art we make; and we cure ourselves by how we care for others and what we give away. In those ways we bring our hearts into a collective resonance – and that is where the power lies.

Nations have child stories that often need a re-write. As we work on our personal maturing,  we change our habits and find new insights and truths that become more like the patterns of nature.  Rather than either/or we learn to live with ambiguity.  We lessen our need to always be right or to avoid the realities staring at us.

Our caring for the earth needs a rewrite even more.  Evolution has always favored invasive species – yet humans are the most invasive of the lot.   Urban living divorces us from the natural world. Nature embraces all systems, Zander says, while we have primarily looked after ourselves.

She has several prescriptions –  get out and walk in nature, question the child stories that place man at the center as the hero. Stop treating nature as a thing to exploit and re-frame it as an evolving system constantly becoming more complex and beautiful.  Take the same stance toward human relationships. “What would be a more compassionate or collaborative way of doing things?  Through the practice of what art may I expand my heart?”, she asks.  It’s an invitation to join an infinite story.

She closes with what she terms infinite games:

  • Take an infinite leap and find someone who has been lost to you
  • Get the love you want
  • Make a decision in a different way that you normally do – change a habit
  • Choose a guiding principle – some examples are wonder, service, courage and authenticity – and commit to making every decision based on it for a day or two.

The entire book is an entertaining reminder that I am not the center of the universe – and at the same time, there are plenty of new possibilities ahead.

GREATNESS

Remember the lines from Julius Caesar

Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them

One can watch leaders as The Independent did this weekend and make their own assessment of what leadership really is:

The German Chancellor,  Angela Merkel was born in a family of modest means.  Donald Trump was born to a wealthy one.  Both achieved greatness on their own though one started with additional advantage; and both had additional greatness come their way.

But as The Independent observes.  Angela Merkel has now become the leader of the free world – a role usually ascribed to the leader of the US. The current one has squandered what was thrust upon him.

What it says is that character and integrity matter. How one fulfils the role is what counts – not titles. Most of us have modest titles in life – if any!  But how we carry out those roles will matter in the long run.

Light

candleFor most of my life I have been an inveterate self-help reader – expecting resources from the not-for-profit or the churchy world to provide the answers to my recurring shortcomings.  This isn’t totally bad but it gets complicated when I try to integrate about a dozen of the gimmicky solutions.

Most of the resources have lots in common.  The churchy world ones are often simpler and better – but they come with a lot of baggage that doesn’t make them useful in more secular settings.  So to talk about them without seeming totally arrogant is a challenge.

But here is a small one.  Silence is necessary.  Just shutting up simply allows the quantity of stuff in our minds to come to the fore.  One way to tamp it down a little is to focus on something – and a small candle helps.

This one is more than 10 years old and came from a visit with my late husband to beautiful Butchart Gardens in Victoria BC. Lighting it, looking at it and just sitting for a half hour is one way to try to move into the silence.

AWOL – but with a couple of excuses

One should not be a blogger and be absent without leave for months at a time.  What it means in my case is that personal projects too often get cast aside as other projects take precedence.  There were some bright spots and hard work though.  I was part of a team writing several grant proposals.  Two out of three where I played a role were fully funded.  One produced a yellow light and the granting body wanted us to come back to answer questions – which we can. In May I visited Harvard for the first time to celebrate a graduation in the family.  Two inspirations came out of that.  I posted an article on Medium about the Harvard visit that was picked up by others. And I was so inspired by higher learning that I looked at some Harvard/MIT MOOCs in the fall.  In the interim I signed up for a course on Coursera on surrealist art out of the University of Pennsylvania – and as of today I have graduated with distinction.

Online courses are well worth a try.  Most who sign up of course never finish them. The only real requirement is self discipline and determination to learn – and you are responsible solely to yourself.  My course included readings, videos, quizzes and studio assignments.  There were two of the last required to graduate with distinction.  I did five.  I have done art courses at an excellent school but there are advantages in the online process.  In my local art school, one basically had to complete a project (usually a still life or portrait in pastels) in a three hour time frame.  In this case I took as much time as I needed – and I was able to stretch the assignments over a week. Here is one example:

Choose a portrait
Choose a portrait in black and white
Recreate it using torn paper from newspapers or magazines
Recreate it using torn paper from newspapers or magazines
Close up
Close up

The studio assignments included mainly collages based on the historical aspect of the course. Assessment of one’s work was by peers. I was gratified both with the responses to my own work and the opportunity to assess the work of others. It was a chance to learn to be a good and fair critic.  Mail art was fun too.

2013-06-15 16.53.35

While the course was an introductory one, I now feel that I have a context for modern work that I didn’t have in the past.  So now I’ll move on to song writing and jazz improvization.  But I’ll try to write about the experience as I go.

And what about the media history – probably online is not the best place to do it – but it is still on the to-do list.

Leadership – the Road Ahead

As promised, here is the start of a series on leadership. It is based on research that I undertook two years ago and also gives me an opportunity to reflect on what I learned since then.

There are several things to consider:
How have our views of the world changed?
What are the roles of vision and mission?
How is leadership exercised?
What are the necessary personal qualities?
How must the leader develop once he or she assumes the role?

All of these were of interest and took me on an extensive journey through the writings of the past two decades. So a revisit will involve not only those findings but what has been learned since.

Where arts and technology meet

This inspiring story shows how using what we have – or don’t have! – can lead us in positive new directions. It’s all about convergence of different kinds of capability coming together to produce a beautiful thing.

Being the board

Being the board

No – this is not about becoming a director – except perhaps of one’s own life. The Zanders note that when bad things happen to good people it is rather easy to become a victim. This stance, as others have noted, is really a form of self punishment that allows one to be stuck in a mindset that is ultimately self-destructive.

So rather than be a loser in a situation where one should have been a winner, The Art of Possibility suggests that one treat one’s self as the board on which the game is played. Life isn’t predictable – and just because we want it to be a certain way, doesn’t mean that will be the way it plays out. By doing anything, being anywhere, saying anything – we are exposing ourselves to risk. It’s part of life.

And rather than obsessing about why other people act the way they do, enter our path in a negative way or say hurtful or outrageous things – and we have all encountered these situations – the book invites us to ponder what our response might be. Rather than playing injured innocent, there may be some opportunities for learning.