"The weak lose themselves in God; the strong discover Him in themselves." ~ Allama Iqbal

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Black & White Birds

People's relationships can be compared with two facing walls.  Each wall is full of small holes in which nest black and white birds.  Black birds are dark thoughts. White birds are pure thoughts.
Because of their size, white birds can only enter into the white bird holes.  The black birds likewise.  Now let's suppose there are two people, Usuf and Ali. Usuf, convinced that Ali thinks evil of him, emits thoughts full of hate.  In doing so he releases a black bird and, at the same time, a nest/hole from his wall is freed.  The black bird flies towards Ali and looks for a nest there.  If Ali has not sent his black bird towards Usuf (i.e., if he has not made any negative thoughts about him), then none of his black holes will be free.  Not finding a nest, the black bird will return to Usuf, caring with it the evil vibrations, thus destroying Usuf. 

Lets suppose that Ali has sent an evil thought.  In doing so he releases a hole in his wall in which Usuf's black bird can nest fulfilling its mission!  At the same time, Ali's black bird flies towards Usuf and, finding another empty nest, does the same.  So the two black birds fulfill their mission which is the destruction of their target.

But as soon as they fulfill their mission, they return to their base according to the ancient law: "Everything returns to its source." 

The evil returns to the sender, thus damaging him.  Same with white birds.  If we only send good thoughts to our enemy, while he is sending negative thoughts, then his black birds, not finding a nest, return to him.  While the white birds, not finding a nest, return to us full of positive energy.

In conclusion, if we only send good thoughts, they will return and strengthen us.  That's why we must always bless and wish the best for our friends as well as our enemies.  That way, the blessing not only goes towards others, but also some day returns to us with its blessings.   

This story is from the teachings of Tierno Bokar, a sufi from Mali

Saturday, May 11, 2013

How to Escape Education's Death Valley

Please relax with this brief TED talk.  I find this deeply inspiring. 

For me, when listening to Sir Ken Robinson, I'm thinking not only of the education of children, but also of the education of adults, and the passing of cultural depth and height from one generation to the next. 

I'm also thinking of having social leaders such as politicians who are not about command & control, but rather are devoted to creating a climate of possibility.  A climate of possibility implies to me a melioristic evolving of humanity. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Mary Parker Follett Walks the Talk

I am a big proponent of walking.  Listen to this brief video wherein Nilofer Merchant speaks to the value of the walking-meeting.  Pay especial attention, though, to what she shares at from about 2:30 to 3:00 in the video.  


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Mary Parker Follett on Constructive Conflict

In an essay entitled Constructive Conflict, Mary Parker Follett suggests that we reconsider conflict, not as something that is good or bad, or that must judged one way or another, or that is even considered warfare. Rather, she states, conflict is, essentially, "the appearance of difference, difference of opinions, of interests." 

She shares that it's not useful to condemn conflict, but that we ought to put it to use.  I ask the reader to reflect on the similarities between Follett's psychology of constructive conflict and Allama Iqbal's philosophy of the nature of the social organism, consensus-seeking, and how to achieve a dynamic social stability.

I personally find Follett's commentary on conflict as difference to be quite useful in consideration of a spiritual psychology for not only the individual but for nations as well.  If we think of the political contention in various nations (and between those nations), how refreshingly useful it would be to put to work this re-framing of so-called conflict as difference toward attaining a new social harmony.

On the inevitability of difference, in life, Follett references a passage from her very interesting book, Creative Experience:
"What people often mean by getting rid of conflict is getting rid of diversity, and it is of the utmost importance that these should not be considered the same. We may wish to abolish conflict, but we cannot get rid of diversity. We must face life as it is and understand that diversity is its most essential feature...Fear of difference is dread of life itself. It is possible to conceive conflict as not necessarily a wasteful outbreak of incompatibilities, but a normal process by which socially valuable differences register themselves for the enrichment of all concerned."
Follett speaks to how conflict can indeed be constructive.  She shares an analogy of how the friction that comes about from the driving wheel of a locomotive and the track is necessary to haul the train. She shares: "All polishing is done by friction. The music of the violin we get by friction."  In this manner, she points out that the arising and meeting of differences is what brings change.
Follett outlines three main ways of dealing with conflict: domination, compromise, and integration. She describes domination as the easiest way to deal with conflict, but not the most successful in the long-run.

She states that compromise seems often appropriate as a way to deal with conflict, but that it almost always leads to the conflict arising again and again, in different forms. This is so, she states, because we have to give up part of our original desire and, not being content to rest there, we seek to get the whole of it. Conflict, therefore, continues to re-emerge in various forms.  
With integration, unlike domination and compromise, differences are brought out into the open so that a solution can be found in which both desires (differences) find a place in which neither side has to sacrifice their wishes.  Each party's (underlying) needs are identified and met in what, in today's world, might be called a win-win arrangement.

Integration is, then, an appearing and focusing of differences wherein something new is created out of an original set of seemingly incompatible choices.  Integration involves "invention, and the clever thing is to recognize this, and not to let one's thinking stay within the boundaries of two alternatives which are mutually exclusive." While domination and compromise deal with what already exists, and thus nothing new is created, integration, as "a moment in the interacting of desires," creates something new.  What Follett describes is nothing less than Deep Consensus through a psychological, and one might even say alchemical, coming-together of people and their differences.  
She argues that "progressive differings" can lead to "progressive integrations." This, she writes, is how an individual and a society "becomes spiritually more and more developed as our conflicts rise to higher levels."  If conflict means the appearance of differences, as Follett describes, progressive differings and integrations may then point to a path of evolution wherein an individual or groups of individuals create more and more unity (integration being the channel of birth) in diversity.

So how do we integrate? Follett writes that the first step is to bring the differences out into the open. She warns, however, that one barrier to this is that, if our real aim is not to integrate, but to dominate, then integration will fail. We must strongly desire to bring the differences out into the open, to meet in a field of desires, and to create something new for the benefit of everyone. We must really want conflict (i.e., differences) to become settled, and thus rise to higher conflicts (i.e., a higher form of dealing with ever more subtle differences), and new creations of individual and social harmony. 
Only integration, she argues, will stabilize differences.  She highlights, however, that “stabilize” is not static.  She states very simply, “Nothing ever stays put.”  Particular conflicts are settled after which further ones arise, but on a higher level.  There is a deep spirituality implicit in her discussion of integration. 
When the differences are uncovered and squarely faced, there is often a revaluation of them. She argues that many contentious conflicts can be avoided by bringing "the desires of each side into one field of vision where they could be viewed together and compared." In her very quotable style, Follett writes: "Revaluation is the flower of comparison."
If the first step is to bring differences out into the open, the next step is to  “take the demands of both sides and break them up into their constituent parts,” something Follett refers to as the “breaking up of wholes” in order to create something new, a new whole.  She advises, for this step, that one must seek to “find the significant rather than the dramatic features,” and that a thorough “examination of symbols” occurs.  By this, she means that we must sink beneath the claptrap of dramatic look-at-me behaviors (of the individual or group), seeking instead to find the real, underlying reason behind conflicts.

She mentions how the person “with a genius for leadership” is indeed the wo/man who can articulate the whole-demand, instead of merely part of it. Focusing on only part of the entirety of demands (differences) is a pathway into domination and/or compromise.  It is the wom/an who can speak for all people, including all, and excluding none.

Follett’s psychology of integration is impressive.  She goes on to describe how we need to be very aware of the “circular response.”  She writes: “We must remember that whenever we act we have always ‘started something,’ behavior precipitates behavior in others.”  She adds, “I can never fight you, I am always fighting you plus me.  I have put it this way: that response is always to a relation.”  In a very practical way, Follett argues that we “should work always with the evolving situation, and note what part our own activities have in that evolving situation."  She very much expresses an understanding of human interaction that is nowadays put forth as Emotional Intelligence.

Concluding her essay, she highlights some obstacles to integration.  These include:

1.  The tendency for people to want to fight instead of coming together. This would even include the addiction some people might feel toward the thrill of fighting.
2. Over-emphasis on intellectual agreement alone. Follett warns against this, stating that genuine integration is more likely to spontaneously arise when intellectual theorizing ceases, and a definite course of action is initiated.  
3. She mentions that the language used to work toward integration is of vital importance.  We need to choose our words carefully, when seeking to come together with others (e.g., political parties) just as we would choose our words carefully to soothe the feelings of a spouse.
4. She also cites the “undue influence of leaders – the manipulation of the unscrupulous on the one hand and the suggestibility of the crowd on the other," as another obstacle.  She cautions that the “whole emotional field of human intercourse has to be taken fully into account in dealing with methods of reconciliation.”  This is, again, an example of Follett’s identification of priorities that would later become known as Emotional Intelligence.  Having said this, however, I also acknowledge that Follett's philosophy is, in my opinion, of a unique depth distinct from Emotional Intelligence.
5. Follett states that, by far, the greatest obstacle to integration is our lack of training in it.  She points to how we are taught to debate with others, seeking always to be right.  This, she argues does not support our skills or our desire for integration.  She states, and I agree, that “there should be classes in discussion which should aim to teach the ‘art’ of cooperative thinking."  Follett points out not to confuse cooperative thinking with simple openmindedness (i.e., to others’ opinions).  Cooperative thinking “needs just as great a respect for your own view as for that of others, and a firm upholding of it until you are convinced.  Mushy people are no more good at this than stubborn people.”  
In conclusion, Mary Parker Follett shares this as the most important process, not only for business and government, but for all human relations.  
We are "not to adapt ourselves to a situation – we are all more necessary to the world than that; neither to mould a situation to our liking – we are all, or rather each, of too little importance to the world for that; but to take account of that reciprocal adjustment, that interactive behavior between the situation and ourselves which means a change in both the situation and ourselves."
Follett was a change-agent, disseminating her astoundingly progressive ideas for the benefit of everyone.  Perhaps we can pick up these ideas, create something new, and discover a new unity in our diversity.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"No bird soars too high, 
if he soars with his own wings."

~ William Blake