Stand for Discourse

While the great religions have been attractive to a certain type of person, mainly men, who see it as career, status, and power, the great religions have always fostered an idea bigger than that, and so we can also see that the great discourses and services to humanity have come out of religion.

The inability for many of us, religious or not, to reckon with the forces of culture – the normalisation of social behaviours that might exploit or disadvantage or even attempt to annihilate another group; and the failure to be able to provide access to everyone in the discourse, is at the heart of disenfranchisement and leaving so many people vulnerable to the ‘wolves’ of this world.

Nonetheless, there is a huge well-educated class of people who can foster discourse among ourselves in a vulnerability about our own experiences and beliefs, without fear or rancour. That is there for us to be, and when we can be that discourse among each other, then there is no one with desire for power, political or status, that will not be moved to be at least that their welfare is tied to openness and participation and equity.

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USA Trip May-June 2016

My USA trip was a real zinger.

Coming on the beginnings of a new relationship with a generous, caring, successful, playful and creative woman, conferences, courses, projects, visiting with my son, and chilling out, was interspersed with lengthy viber or skype conversations that were flirty, jokey, intellectual, dissonant, honest, vulnerable, happy, and teary.

The Landmark Global Transformation conference, my entry event in San Fransisco, rode on the theme of ‘Wonder’. One of my all time favourite topics, wonder would anchor the whole trip and come back, specifically, again during the Alba Emot Course in Asheville, North Carolina, a couple of weeks later.

Although Global Transformations took the ‘Wonder’ theme, it was a wondering about leadership that took my ear. Gladly, presenters I had met a couple of year ago, facilitated a couple of beautiful engaging structural movement communication work. I attended those sessions for my work in dance and it gave me another access to my hearing on leadership. Initially that hearing on leadership was all about what I need to be a leader of my rEvolve project. As my trip comes to a conclusion, that has transformed into rEvolve being the possibility of a leadership training program, ‘Moving into Leadership’.

The idea of moving into leadership is a more clear consolidation of the work I am doing around sustainability and climate change, men’s culture, and dance, into an integrated work, a leadership training program.

From San Fransisco, I flew over to Denver, Colorado, for a few days, to catch up with my friends in Art as Action. Staying at an Air BNB nearby, I was able to ride a hire bike into the city, and even on the light rail to Jefferson County where I could ride to hiking paths. As with my previous experience in that part, life at one mile high can make the legs ache in bike riding unusually earlier than at my home altitude in Australia of half a mile. I learnt how to use Lyft.

It seemed that each time the past two years I’ve seen my friends in Art as Action they have been grieving over the loss of a loved one. Last year the grandfather of the director had passed away. This year one of their music/dance colleagues and his partner were killed in a car accident. I want to make some bigger sense of this coincidence. It only mattered that I could be some community of listening around the grief. Sarah Leversee welcomed me into her Reconnect Class based on Dance for PD and it was wonderful to see the liveliness of that ‘older’ dance class.

It was a special treat to spend a few hours over lunch with Wayne Gilbert, performance poet, retired literature teacher, and recent (having Parkinson’s Disease) dance performer with Art as Action. Wayne is a volunteer poetry teacher to the State prison to the north of Denver. His experience of the attraction of poetry to some hard men, has been profound. At one of his earliest classes, having delivered a poem on Parkinson’s Disease, he was astounded that a hand immediately shot up. The owner said, “Yeh, I get that poem. It’s like how I feel about being in this prison.” I find myself amazed by the nature of the human being around their limiting circumstances, their authentic relationship with those limitations, the access they find to some expansion of those circumstances and they contributions they choose to make, nonetheless. There is some inspiration there, for all of us, and I store that idea away for a way to provide access to that inspiration for everyone.

It was great to spend a week chillin’ at my son’s place in Riverside, California. We had a number of social outings together including a Baha’i meeting. We played an hour of table tennis every night. I got a little heat stroke doing a hike in the desert hills at the back of his place, and the effects of that took quite a few days to remedy, reminding me, among other things, that I’m not as young as I used to be. It was lovely to spend a sedate four hours with my son in the UCR library while he played with an assignment for his masters degree in social work. Sometimes I think I should be in conversation with my son, seeing that we can’t see each other much across the seas, but I profess one of my greatest joys is just to be in proximity.

The next phase of my travel was to spend a few days with Sue Blythe on the Sustainable Farm, Hampton, Gainesville, Florida, around her Future Flash Climate Change Project. Sue’s work has expanded to engage commitments from some fabulous environmental players in Florida, including the manager of the ‘Sustainable Floridians’ volunteer training program out of Florida University, Lanny the Earthman, Actor Jan Booher, and Dave Room San Fransisco based creator of Pacha’s Pyjamas. As I write this I’ve just finished a Skype conversation with Dave Room, opening the way for his work to find expression for children environmental education in Australia.

From Gainesvile to Asheville to the Alba Emot course with Laura Bond. What a fantastic 9 days, learning and training in primary emotional expression, Feldenkrais movement, and exploring related experiments in life story, text, voice and dance with an extraordinary teaching team. So much to bring back to my dance and theatre work but also into the possibility of leadership training.

And so, this week another chill out and exercise at my son’s place in California. It’s a hot summer week in the desert, 113 F early in the week. Time to meditate, play with movement training (God I need it), and have dozens of small conversations with him around his life. He became an American citizen while I’ve been here. Looks like another feather in his global citizen’s cap.

Two nights ago I woke in sadness. My time here is slipping away. Today, I’m prepared for a great weekend with my son, at the beach, in LA. It is time to go home.

At Tio’s

Burrito’s and chips
at Tio’s outside diningimage
under the songs
of MeH~He~KoH
and the gaze of giants
made of wire mesh
stuffed with plastic bottles
and metal caps.

A girl whispers in her father’s ear.
I wonder at the open family secret.
And the memory of an excited woman
so imminent by Skype,
our ages fading away
to a younger coyness
and wanting her,
breezes through my mind
from so far away,
clashing with an ancient threat,
an irate disappointed parent,
a confused, querulous child,
my religious community,
in the background, now.
Yet, soon enough,
asking questions,
turning a blind eye
to the entanglement of arms and legs
showing that they saw it all the same
and not yet asking whether
I will marry this woman
who no longer wants marriage
as her badge,
that I am left wondering who
I am to her and who we are
as she opens her heart and
mind and body
and I like it all as I flounder,
weighing the balance
of my life:
she and companionship;
they and an aspirational community;
beautiful delightful love;
a loneliness of vague possibility;
energetic risk;
plodding safety.

My gaze rises from the thought
on the book, to an empty place,
alighting on the boy riding
his tricycle on the roof,
frozen in time and space
against hurtling down,
a mild mannered smile on his
doll-face, as if the consequencesimage
of gravity don’t exist,
while I notice my imbalance
and my hurtling down
is a sense of something
contrived of a physics I
don’t know.

… in no answer for my life
I give up forcing as if I live in a 3 dimensional world,
and, turning, turning, turning,
trying to see out of the corner of my mind
the access to that other dimension
to the essence
to as it is
to what I need to see
and where I need to stand
and how is my humility
and what is my contribution
and how is my leadership
and does the will of God
move through the awkward,
messy, yearning, striving state
of me.

I could tell myself any story
and I know the one I choose
for now, and no one
is wrong about it.

CHARACTER AND MARRIAGE

Sapiens_neanderthal_comparison_en_blackbackgroundI recently read an essay on character listing the wonderful characteristics that a person should look for in a life partner. It made me think of that fictitious place, Lake Woebegone, in which all the children are above average. It seems to me that Having an ideal view creates useful distinctions as aspiration. However, looking for ideals in a marriage / life partner, apart from as their aspirational view, is entirely the wrong way to go about it.

In the first instance, it would be a miracle if you found someone who fitted those ideals, and especially our individual interpretation of those ideals.
In the second instance, unless you are also perfect in your potential partner’s eyes, there’s already a significant mismatch in expectations.
In the third instance, given that you may have found that perfect person (probably through your rose coloured glasses), and they through theirs, there is little doubt that both of you will change your relationship with the ideal within the first year of being together.
There definitely can be a great benefit to the longevity of companionship, of getting to know each other’s character in a rigorous manner (getting to take off the rose coloured glasses). The first benefit is so that we can get to know ourselves, more clearly, through their eyes. Knowing ourselves, being authentic about who we are for another, is the best way to for them to see your character. Likewise, knowing how we are being as authentic and inauthentic (for the two are constantly in play) gives us access to seeing those areas in which others are authentic or inauthentic. It also subverts our desire to dominate others through judgement because our recognition of how we are when others dominate us, tends to activate an empathetic response, in itself a desirable trait in most people’s eyes. Recognition of the authentic way of being, allows us a certain conversation in inquiry of the other. Without any expectation we can explore the attitudes, commitments, and actions of the other.
The conversation around reality becomes crucial to any empowering conversation. Reality just means how it is in actual living structure, form and action. So, conversations and inquiry around what we are in action about, becomes crucial to an understanding of authenticity and integrity.
A word on authenticity. Authenticity is just saying how you are being around some circumstance rather than covering up or pretending or repressing or condoning. It is not about being right, just showing who you are, what you need, and want, regardless of what others or society might think. It is a stand in courage, for oneself.
Integrity is a function of honouring our word, either keeping our word to ourself and others, or cleaning up when we haven’t. Integrity is not a set thing that we can achieve, but a dynamic in which we are often out of integrity either because we are playing such a big game for our personal capacity or because we are playing too small a game. Much like walking is constantly falling, standing still on one leg is harder that jogging, although both will lead to falling due to fatigue. One, however, will lead to some progress being achieved, the other, not so much.
So where does that leave understanding another’s character, in terms of life partners? Within the conversation in reality, integrity and authenticity, it becomes apparent to the couple that a relationship could either have workability or not, around that each other are regularly out of integrity and inauthentic, as a way of striving for authenticity and integrity.
Does the ideal matter at all? The aspiration around an ideal can be useful in the conversation between two people. In the first instance to gauge how far apart are the aspirations in viewpoint, current achievement, and capacity. While each persons specific visions and goals will be different even when there is a general match in aspirational viewpoint, empathetic responses are less likely to be strained. Secondly, after an aspirational match, a personality-identity match is important. This match does not mean ‘same’ but more importantly, ‘fitted’. For example, an extremely frugal person and an extremely generous person may be a poor fit, while and generous person and a modestly frugal person may make a good fit, neither having to compromise far from their personal range, while their relationship now has twice or more the range of each individual. Inside of the conversation that makes use of that greater range, is an ‘person’ who is a ‘we’ not a ‘me’. And that ‘we’ models and creates a vaster ‘we’ circle of human relationships, the basis of a whole new society.

The Paradox of the Authentic Self

Much is mentioned about our authentic self as, like, we have to know what it is and be true to it.

I worry that I don’t know what mine is and so I’m sure I can’t possibly be true to it.

But, because it seems that a lot of people think it is important, I keep trying to understand what it is. However, pretty much at a stand still on the issue, I decided to make an enquiry into the possibility that an authentic self doesn’t exist. With that enquiry in mind, I found myself getting down to the tin tacs of the issue.

So, finally, my conclusion is that, yes, there is an authentic self, and no, there isn’t.

How did I get to this?

Well, perhaps it is because I like the idea of fuzzy logic, that things can either exist, not exist, exist and not exist (as a way of being) or, exist or not exist (as a way of being). But I also get to the conclusion in realising that an authentic self is a label for something that is in play with another thing that is called being inauthentic.

Those who promote a notion of the authentic self include, Dr Phil; Life Coaches whose idea about this seems rote, like a belief; psychologists; and gurus. Philosophers can be both hazy and clear about it.

This is what the promoters say:

  • There is a composite of skills, talents, wisdom, attitudes, perspectives that, when expressed, are going to be identifiably “YOU” like a fingerprint.
  • That “YOU” might be different from the expectations of those around you, including family.
  • “YOU” are hidden when living by others expectations that drain you of the critical life energy you need to pursue the things you truly value.
  • “YOU” show up as a calling, an expression in action, fulfilment.
  • “YOU” are a complete, whole being in integrity
  • “YOU” as a calling, impacts others.

keepItRealFrom various writers there are a range of characteristics about how you live life that point to you being authentic or inauthentic:

  • Anxiety is a reaction of hiding something or pushing to accomplishing something and is a sign of inauthenticity.
  • Inauthenticity shows up as protection of self
  • Authenticity is action focused on process.
  • Certain habits ‘feel’ inauthentic.
  • It is seen as a peaceful, centred feeling.
  • A calling requires silence, reflection
  • It shows up when you are doing things that make you deeply happy
  • Authenticity is finding friends that go with those activities
  • It is supported by the ‘feels good for me”
  • It is unsupported by fear, doubt, conformity, manipulation, gossip and group misery, pride, shame or guilt.
  • Shows up when you trust your gut and common sense
  • Shows up when you find your talents and explore them
  • Shows up when you appreciate the thing of yourself that are different than most people.
  • Shows up when you ‘enhance’ yourself
  • Shows up when you value your beliefs; forgive yourself; believe your dreams; know you are needed by other; are respecting yourself; make up your own mind
  • Being authentic is how you feel at the moment and you can say it.
  • As action without guarantees
  • You can ask for help
  • You can be okay as rejected
  • You can embrace negative emotions.
  • Is thinking things through independently, arriving at beliefs and ways of living that you can personally take responsibility for
  • Has a connection with what you loved as a child
  • When you own the values you have
  • What you have fun with
  • What about life are you drawn to
  • Is comfortable in your body

As I run down this list that seems so lovely, I find that there are many paradoxes. For example, my ‘common’ sense tells me trust science and that what is ‘common’ belief is rarely true. Likewise, deriving an idea from the common meaning in society is quite at variance with a special “YOU”. Another example is when I am caught in the expression of negative emotions like anger, it could be considered authentic to express that I am angry as long as I do it calmly but would be inauthentic if I expressed my anger, angrily or with in overt physical response. It is, however, inauthentic, to respond that we SHOULD not be aggressive, yet authentic to be peaceful. And to be sure, the former is bound to be inachievable because the effort to contain anger cannot be maintained, while being peaceful achieves non-aggression as a side-effect.

Other paradoxes can be seen in applying authenticity to the pathological mind. In a certain way, a psychopath can never be authentic, even though their psychopathy might be exactly their special identity. To be sure, the psychopath is invariably manipulative, just as the person with anxiety disorder is invariably self-protective. Each are, authentically like that. If they hide their real selves in an attempt to be socially acceptable, then they are considered inauthentic, even though we would all respect the effort.

On the altruistic side of the coin, if a person consciously chooses to serve others needs, they are authentic servants.  Yet if they unthinkingly take on the values of their upbringing to serve others they are, by definition, inauthentic servants. If the latter person is happy, they are still inauthentic, although their happiness is authentic. If the former person is happy, it is a sign of their authenticity.

It might also be noted that our special array of talents etc, are not so much different from everyone else’s, just as all fingerprints are recognisable as fingerprints. And, indeed, there may only be a small range of values that contribute to authenticity such that all humans host them in one way or the other, and as such, their expression may look very close to living by others expectations becasue we might be authentically living within and around each others expectations  So I find myself sitting in this strange web of paradoxes, on the one hand, entirely clear about Authenticity, and on the other, entirely convinced that it we do not have a thing that is “US” that is stable, whole, in integrity, ie authentically me.

In the Baha’i Faith, there is not this issue of an authentic self. There is an aspiration that each person shall become independent in thought and spirituality and the resources for life. There is acknowledgement that there are processes of education in the family and as a life-long endeavour, that this independence will flourish, that the independent person comes from the interdependence with others. For sure, there is “YOU” as an authentic Baha’i who lives as a calling for impact of others. And that Baha’i “YOU” is impactful as open to engaging with all the diversity of the human planet, learning from that diversity and teaching into that diversity, and learning as the response from teaching into that diversity. It has been useful, as a Baha’i to enquire into the authentic “ME” and use tools to check for the signs of authenticity and inauthenticity, on a path to independence and interdependence. That Baha’i path reaches out and catches the hands of everyone, testing what it means to be a Baha’i, to be human, to be in unity. Here, on this path, the “ME” wobbles around among the others, as it goes off on its very unique route, and, so, I can only reckon that this wobbly path is authentic while every individual responses and reactions is awash with authentic and inauthentic drivers. And it is only in acknowledging that there is no authenticity, that I might be indeed, authentic.