Friday, September 26, 2008

New Blog

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Understanding Chakras

The Book of Chakra Healing, Liz Simpson, Sterling Publishing Co., 1999, 243 p

This is a good reference book and a good first book to read. The book is illustrated wonderfully in color throughout. And, in a small book is very comprehensive. But, it is not a powerful book to understand chakras form a Western perspective. However, I recommend reading it.

The organization of the book is around the seven major chakras. It begins with a description of the spirit of energy and chakra balancing. Each chapter thereafter is devoted to a chakra. And, the book ends with a discussion of integrated approaches.

She discusses the seven ways to balance your chakras:

  1. Archetypes
  2. Altars
  3. Physical exercises
  4. Crystal healing
  5. Meditation
  6. Daily questions
  7. Affirmations

Each of the seven chapters devoted to a chakra covers each of these seven ways to balance that chakra.

The main chart of correspondences that occupies four pages in the book is extremely valuable as a reference to the chakra system.

She describes the energy flow from the crown to root chakra, and from the root to the crown chakra through the energetic equivalent of the spinal cord, the sushumna.

In the last chapter, she describes four integrated approaches to chakra healing:

  1. Aroma therapy
  2. Reiki
  3. Reflexology
  4. Astrology

Chakras and their Archetypes: Uniting Energy Awareness and Spiritual Growth, Ambika Wauters, The crossing Press, 1997, 164 p

I had great hopes for this book as it purported to relate the chakras to Western archetypes. And, to a certain extent it did that. However, the language got confusing at times, and made it difficult to discern the differences between some of the archetypes and the correlation to the chakras. Never the less, it was a helpful book for me to read, because it helped me take an accounting, in Western terms, of how balanced my chakras were and where I might have blockages. I would recommend it to any Westerner trying to understand chakras.

The book begins with a discussion of archetypes, myths, and chakras. The archetypes she selected for each chakra are:

  1. Root: Victim/Mother
  2. Sacral: Martyr/Empress(Emperor)
  3. Solar Plexus: Servant/Warrior
  4. Heart: Actor(Actress)/Lover
  5. Throat: Silent Child/Communicator
  6. Brow: Intellectual/Intuitive
  7. Crown: Egotist/Guru

In her model, the first of the paired archetypes listed above is the result of a blocked chakra, the second is open chakra spinning freely and allowing energy to flow up and down through the other chakras. It’s possible to have a blockage in one chakra and not another. But, the energy flow is diminished.

These seven pairs of archetypes provide a quick way for a Westerner to understand the health of their chakra system.

The author writes well, sometimes almost poetic as her introduction to chapter six on the heart chakra:

“The Heart chakra functions as the core of our physical bodies and our spiritual essence. As the heart is the most important organ in our body, known as the Emperor in Chinese medicine, so love is the center of our lives. The Heart chakra allows us to imbue our physical life with the radiance of love, joy, unity, and kinship, and stimulates our sense of touch and delight in life. It is from the spiritual heart that the deepest meaning of life is felt and expressed.

To flourish and develop as a compassionate and loving person we need to be receptive to love. When our hearts are open we are at peace with ourselves and with those around us and we feel harmoniously balanced within ourselves. The experience of love helps us make fuller connections to the beauty and light of other people, as well as ourselves. Love is, after all, the foundation of life.

We are born with open Hearts, but as we enter into the illusions of life which separate us off from the eternal presence of love we shut our hearts down. In this world we need protection for our innocence, our purity and our joy. It is not safe to stay open and vulnerable to the harsh reality of other people's negativity and fear. We could not survive feeling totally exposed to others' pain. As we grow older we learn to protect this vulnerability by closing our Heart center down. Unfortunately we lose our capacity to trust in the ever-present goodness of life and find ourselves fixed in a groove of discontent and unhappiness. What we most long for and desire is then unavailable to us and we may find that we are starving for love. We may try many things to cover the feeling of emptiness, from drugs and sex, to overeating or overworking. We can pretend we are sophisticated and that love doesn't matter to us, but we know in our hearts that it is the only thing that truly counts in our lives and there is no substitute to cover its loss.

When we fall in love we are the most alive and joyful we can possibly be. We have found a significant other to share ourselves with and to know all the glory that God intended us to experience. When we are in love we are at one with ourselves and with all life.

The two archetypes which exemplify the energy of the Heart chakra are the Actor/Actress and the Lover. One is an archetypal portrait of the pretense of love which is not truly integrated in its experience. The other archetype is completely open to and enjoys the wonder of love.”

Wheels of Life: A User’s Guide to the Chakra System, Anodea Judith, Llewellyn Publications, 1987, 453 p

This is the most comprehensive of the three books I’ve read on chakras. It’s obviously stood the test of time as it’s been through severed edition and 27 printings.

The book, like the other two is organized around the seven chakras. It begins with a chapter entitled “And the Wheel Turns” that describes the chakra system, its history and its correlations with other systems of thought.

In her model the energy flow through the sushumna represents in Western terms the balancing of the pull of mind and spirit with the pull of soul and body. The journey from the crown to the root chakra she calls the manifesting current for it moves towards form, density, boundaries, contraction and individuality – the pull of soul and body. And, the journey from the root to the crown chakra she calls the liberating current that moves towards freedom, expansion, abstraction and universality – the pull of mind and spirit.

Besides the excellent descriptions of each of the chakras, each chapter begins with a meditation and has numerous exercises and movements that can help balance the chakra. I also found her one word associations for each of the chakras useful:

  1. Root: Solid
  2. Sacral: Liquid
  3. Solar plexus: Fire
  4. Heart: Love
  5. Throat: Communication
  6. Brow: Light
  7. Crown: Thought

The ending chapters are not as powerful those that came before, but it in no ways detracts from the value of the book. Throughout the book, she mentions how chakras interact between people. Her descriptions ring true to my experience. She sums this up in one of the end sections and expands the concept out to cultures. This direction of thought is something that really interests me, for I see the correlation between how groups of people function and the chakra systems of the people in the group.

This is not an easy read, but a book that requires study, and as a result, a book I would recommend for anyone seriously interested in learning about chakras.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Democracy in America

“Americans of all ages, all stations of life, and all types of disposition are forever forming associations…In democratic countries knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all others.” Alexis de Tocqueville

“In Democracy in America, published in 1835, Tocqueville wrote of the New World and its burgeoning democratic order. Observing from the perspective of a detached social scientist, Tocqueville wrote of his travels through America in the early 19th century when the market revolution, Western expansion, and Jacksonian democracy were radically transforming the fabric of American life. He saw democracy as an equation that balanced liberty and equality, concern for the individual as well as the community. A critic of individualism, Tocqueville thought that association, the coming together of people for common purpose, would bind Americans to an idea of nation larger than selfish desires, thus making a civil society which wasn't exclusively dependent on the state.

Tocqueville's penetrating analysis sought to understand the peculiar nature of American civic life. In describing America, he agreed with thinkers such as Aristotle, James Harrington and Montesquieu that the balance of property determined the balance of political power, but his conclusions after that differed radically from those of his predecessors.

The uniquely American mores and opinions, Tocqueville argued, lay in the origins of American society and derived from the peculiar social conditions that had welcomed colonists in prior centuries. Unlike Europe, venturers to America found a vast expanse of open land. Any and all who arrived could own their own land and cultivate an independent life. Sparse elites and a number of landed aristocrats existed, but, according to Tocqueville, these few stood no chance against the rapidly developing values bred by such vast land ownership. With such an open society, layered with so much opportunity, men of all sorts began working their way up in the world: industriousness became a dominant ethic, and "middling" values began taking root.” Wikipedia

Tocqueville’s Democracy in America is a classic. His penetrating insights into the nature of American society and our form of democracy enabled him to make predictions about its future, many of which are still valid today. This work is credited at inventing sociology.

Looking back at the history of America’s development Heffner points out that, “…our early leaders, even the Jeffersonians, were themselves far from equalitarian in outlook. They believed in government of and for the people, but not by the people. And, more important, they were much too dedicated to the principles of individual liberty and freedom ever to equate them necessarily and irrevocably with equality and democracy.” When Tocqueville was studying America, a democratization process was underway through Jackson. He questioned ,”…whether American’s older concern for individual differences and freedom, could long survive their new penchant for equality and democracy. For as conditions became more equal, Americans seemed more and more to take pride not in their individuality, in their personal liberties, in their freedom, but rather in their sameness. So that as Tocqueville wrote: ‘…every citizen being assimilated to all the rest, is lost in the crowd, and nothing stands conspicuous but the great imposing image of the people at large.’”

“Through out history”, writes Heffner, “kings and princely rules had sought without success to control human thought, that most elusive and invisible power of all. Yet where absolute monarchs had failed, democracy succeeds, for the strength of the majority is unlimited and all-pervasive, and the doctrines of equality and majority rule have substituted for the tyranny of the few over the many the more absolute, imperious and widely accepted tyranny of the many over the few.”

The concept of equality was so important to Tocqueville’s analysis, and to our consideration of the future of democracy, that the history of the concepts’ development is worth repeating. And, since I can’t improve on his writing, bear with me as I allow him to trace the history. “…when the territory was divided amongst a small number of families, who were the owners of the soil and the rulers of the inhabitants; the right of governing descended with the family inheritance from generation to generation; force was the only means by which man could act on man; and landed property was the sole source of power. Soon, however, the political power of the clergy was founded, and began to increase: the clergy opened their ranks to all classes, to the poor and the rich, the vassal and the lord; through the Church, equality penetrated into the Government, and he who as a serf must have vegetated in perpetual bondage took his place as a priest in the midst of nobles, and not infrequently above the heads of kings.

The different relations of men with each other became more complicated and numerous as society gradually became more stable and civilized. Hence the want of civil laws was felt; and the ministers of law soon rose from the obscurity of the tribunals and their dusty chambers, to appear at the court of the monarch, by the side of the feudal barons clothed in their ermine and their mail. Whilst the kings were ruining themselves by their great enterprises, and the nobles exhausting their resources by private wars, the lower orders were enriching themselves by commerce. The influence of money began to be perceptible in state affairs. The transactions of business opened a new road to power, and the financier rose to a station of political influence in which he was at once flattered and despised.

Gradually the diffusion of intelligence, and the increasing taste for literature and art, caused learning and talent to become a means of government; mental ability led to social power, and the man of letters took a part in the affairs of the state. The value attached to high birth declined just as fast as new avenues to power were discovered. In the eleventh century, nobility was beyond all price; in the thirteenth, it might be purchased. Nobility was first conferred by gift in 1270; and equality was thus introduced into the government by the aristocracy itself.

In the course of these seven hundred years, it sometimes happened that the nobles, in order to resist the authority of the crown, or to diminish the power of their rivals, granted some political influence to the common people. Or, more frequently, the king permitted the lower orders to have a share in the government, with the intention of depressing the aristocracy. In France, the kings have always been the most active and the most constant of levelers. When they were strong and ambitious, they spared no pains to raise the people to the level of the nobles; when they were temperate and feeble, they allowed the people to rise above themselves. Some assisted the democracy by their talents, others by their vices. Louis XI and Louis XIV reduced all ranks to the same degree of subjection; and, finally Louis XV descended, himself and all his court, into the dust.

As soon as land began to be held on any other than a feudal tenure, and personal property in its turn became able to confer influence and power, every discovery in the arts, every improvement in commerce or manufactures, created so many new elements of equality among men. Henceforward every new invention, every new want which it occasioned, and every new desire which craved satisfaction, was a step towards a general leveling. The taste for luxury, the love of war, the empire of fashion, and the most superficial as well as the deepest passions of the human heart, seemed to co-operate to enrich the poor and to impoverish the rich.

From the time when the exercise of the intellect became a source of strength and of wealth, we see that every addition to science, every fresh truth, and every new idea became a germ of power placed within the reach of the people. Poetry, eloquence, and memory, the grace of the mind, the glow of imagination, depth of thought, and all the gifts which Heaven scatters at a venture, turned to the advantage of the democracy; and even when they were in the possession of its adversaries, they still served its cause by throwing into bold relief the natural greatness of man. Its conquests spread, therefore, with those of civilization and knowledge; and literature became an arsenal open to all, where the poor and the weak daily resorted for arms.

In running over the pages of our history for seven hundred years, we shall scarcely find a single great event which has not promoted equality of condition. The Crusades and the English wars decimated the nobles and divided their possessions: the municipal corporations introduced democratic liberty into the bosom of feudal monarchy; the invention of fire-arms equalized the vassal and the noble on the field of battle; the art of printing opened the same resources to the minds of all classes; the post-office brought knowledge alike to the door of the cottage and to the gate of the palace; and Protestantism proclaimed that all men are alike able to find the road to heaven. The discovery of America opened a thousand new paths to fortune, and led obscure adventurers to wealth and power.”

And, here we are now with new tools that level the playing field, and value, not in the land, but in ideas growing. Both coming together to open the possibility of new type of democracy. Tocqueville concludes, “…that the gradual and progressive development of social equality is at once the past and future…” of history.

Democracy in America
Alexis de Tocqueville
Edited and abridged by Richard Heffner
Signet Classic, 1984

The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism

This is an incredible work of scholarship and insight. It is not an easy read, but a read filled with insights almost on every page. The magnitude of the task to identify and explain the spirit of democratic capitalism that gives the form energy and success is formidable. Michael Novak is almost uniquely qualified to take on this task. He is a theologian, deeply steeped in the Catholic tradition, a history, philosopher and an economist. The Wall Street Journal gave the book high praise when it published that the book was “The most remarkable and original treatise on the roots of modern capitalism to be published in many years.”

Many things, having full reference
To one consent, may work contrariously;
As many arrows, loosed several ways,
Fly to one mark; as many ways meet in one town;
As many streams meet in one salt sea;
As many lines close in the dial’s center;
So may a thousand actions, once afoot,
End in one purpose, and be all well borne
Without defeat.

Shakespeare, King Henry V

Is there anything about human nature that Shakespeare didn’t touch?

Novak begins the book with, “This book is about the life of the spirit which makes democratic capitalism possible. It is about the theological presumptions, values and systemic intentions.

What do I mean by ‘democratic capitalism’? I mean three systems in one: a predominately market economy; a polity respectful of the rights the individual to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by the ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, and economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is pluralistic and, in the largest sense, liberal.”

He argues that “…political democracy is compatible in practice only with a market economy. In turn, both systems nourish and are nourished by a pluralistic liberal culture.”

“The first of all moral obligations,” he admonishes, “is to think clearly. Societies are not like the weather, merely given, since human beings are responsible for their form. Social forms are constructs of the human spirit.”

Or, in religious terms, he writes, “The world as Adam faced it after the Garden of Eden left humankind in misery and hunger for millennia. Now that the secrets of sustained material progress have been decoded, the responsibility for reducing misery and hunger is no longer God’s but ours.”

The book is divided into three parts. “In Part One, I try to put into words the structural dynamic beliefs which suffuse democratic capitalism: its Geist, its living spirit. In Part Two, I examine briefly what is left of the socialist idea today, so as to glimpse, as if in a mirror, a view of democratic capitalism by contrast. In Part three, I try to supply at least the beginnings of a religious perspective on democratic capitalism.”

Novak comments in the introduction to the book that he was a democratic socialist. He know sees this a unworkable and the second part is devoted to discrediting the concept in theory and practice. As a result, I found Part Two of the book to be the least enjoyable or insightful. Part One provides to foundations of the concept of the trinity of democracy, capitalism and pluralism. Part Three is the most theoretical of the three sections and for me, was an indictment of widely held theological concepts that have kept areas like South America impoverished.

No short book review like this can do justice to this work. It is a work that needs to be studied and discussed in depth.

However, the one profound truth that emerges for me from these 460 pages is how delicate the balance is between democratic polity, capitalistic economy and a pluralistic society. And, any attempt to change this balance ought to be viewed with alarm, because I just believe that people in power are not thinking of our pluralistic, democratic, capitalistic system as a whole.

He does not cover the social technologies that extreme democracy covers. Almost in passing, he states, “…in a world of instantaneous, universal mass communications, the balance of power has shifted. Ideas, always a part of reality, have today acquired power greater that that of reality.”

Ideas are even more important now. And, we have tools beyond the mass communications he mentions. We are all responsible for the careful and thoughtful implementation of these tools to improving our pluralistic, democratic, capitalistic system.

The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
Michael Novak
Madison Books, 1991

Thursday, June 14, 2007

First Democracy

I really enjoyed this book, and I want to thank Paul Woodruff for making this academic research accessible. I think we need a lot more of this right now. We are in a time period of radical change, when much of what we accepted as “truth” is shifting out from under our feet. During times of great change, it’s wise to relearn the basics. Who are we? What are we all about? And, where do we want to go?

Woodruff opens his introduction with, “Democracy is a beautiful idea – government by and for the people. Democracy promises us the freedom to exercise out highest capacities while it protects us from our worst tendencies. In democracy as it ought to be, all adults are free to chime in, to join the conversation on how they should arrange their life together. And no one is left free to enjoy the unchecked power that leads to arrogance and abuse.

Like many beautiful ideas, however, democracy travels through our minds shadowed by its doubles – bad ideas that are close enough to easily mistaken for the real thing. Democracy has many doubles, but the most seductive is majority rule, and this is not democracy. It is merely government by and for the majority.”

So Woodruff goes back to the first democracy – the ancient Athenians. He traces the development of the first democracy and describes its principles. Voting, majority rule, and elected representatives are generally accepted ideas in American democracy, but they were not part of the first democracy.

“These three doubles are not democracy. Voting is not, by itself, democratic. Majority rule is positively undemocratic. And, elected representation makes for serious problems in democracy. I have begun to say what democracy is not. Can I give a positive account?

Democracy is government by and for the people. That is hardly a definition, but it will do for a start. As a next step, I shall propose that a government is a democracy insofar as it tries to express the seven ideas of this book: freedom from tyranny, harmony, the rule of law, natural equality, citizen wisdom, reasoning without knowledge, and general education.”

The tools of the first democracy are unique to the time, culture and size of Athens:

Legal system: No professional judges or prosecutors. Any citizen could bring charges against another, and any citizen could serve on panels of judges that correspond to both our judges and juries.
Governing body: The Assembly consisted of the first 6,000 men to arrive at the Pnyx (a hillside not far from the Acropolis)
Checks on majority rule: The powers of the assembly were limited by law.
Lottery: The lottery, chosen equally fro the ten tribes, was used for juries, for Council of the 500, and for the legislative panel.
Elections: Some important positions were filled by election, especially those that required expert knowledge in military or financial affairs.
Accountability: On leaving office, a magistrate would have his record examined in a process called euthunai (setting things straight)

Woodruff describes the progression of ideas that preceded the Athenian democracy. Then he devotes a chapter to each of principles of the first democracy:

Freedom from Tyranny: “Tyrant (tyrannos) was not always a fearful word, and freedom (eleutheria) was not always associated with democracy. The two shifts in ideas were gradual and simultaneous. By the time democracy was mature, Athenians at least knew what they meant by tyranny – a kind of rule to be avoided at all costs. And, in contract to that, they knew what they meant by freedom. These two ideas we have inherited. And they are priceless.” Woodruff writes. “No one sleeps well in tyranny,” he continues. “Because the tyrant knows no law, he is a terror to his people. And, he lives in terror of his people, because he has taught them to be lawless. The fear he instills in others is close cousin to the fear he must live with himself, for the violence by which he rules could easily be turned against him.” He warns that democracy itself can be come tyrannical, the tyranny of the majority, “…democracy could be come a tyranny of hoi polloi, literally, of the many.” In Athens this became to mean the poor who banded together, acting as tyrants, supporting the interests of the poor over the rich. This led to a two party system, as the rich banded together to form the party of the few (hoi oligoi), the oligarchs. “If the people’s party went too far towards tyranny, then the oligarchs plotted civil war. If the oligarchs succeeded in gaining power, then, the people’s party would withdraw to plot their own violent return.” The Athenians recognized this oscillation and came to agreements to limit the rise of tyranny.
Harmony: “Without harmony there is no democracy.” Woodson comments. “What would government FOR the people mean if the people are so badly divided that there is nothing they want together? Without harmony the government rules in the interests of one group at the expense of another. If harmony fails, many people have no reason to take part in government; others conclude that they must achieve their goals outside of democratic politics altogether; or, violence, or even the threat of terror.”
The Rule of Law (Nomos): “When law is the ruler, no one is above the law. This seems like an idea that everyone would welcome, but in truth if has had many enemies, and still does. Individuals are always looking for ways to put themselves or their government above the law. Big business seeks endless protections against the law, world leaders scoff at international law, and ordinary citizens see nothing wrong with obstructing justice.”
Natural Equality: “James Madison did not believe in the equality of the rich and poor, and so he and other founders of the United States Constitution made sure that the rich would have greater power than the poor. Voters would have to show that they enjoyed a certain level of wealth. Not so in democratic Athens. Penniless citizens – and there were many of these – insisted that they should be free to take part in their government. They went to battle for this. And they won.”
Citizen Wisdom: “In First Democracy, ordinary people were asked to use their wisdom to pass judgment on their leaders.” Woodruff concludes, “…the heart of democracy is the idea that ordinary people have the wisdom to govern themselves.”
Reasoning Without Knowledge: “Reasoning without knowledge is essential in government,” he writes. “Doing it well requires open debate. Doing it poorly is the fault of leaders who silence opposition, conceal the basis of their reasoning, or pretend to an authority that does not belong to them.”
Education (Paideia): “Paideia is the lifeblood of democracy,” he writes. “…paideia should give a citizen the wisdom to judge what he is told by people who do claim to be experts. So we should call it super-expert-education.”

Woodruff concludes the book with an afterword entitled Are Americans Ready for Domocracy? wherein he takes each of the principles and asks questions about the present state of democracy in America. He ends the book with, “Are we ready to shake off the idea that we are already a perfect exemplar of democracy? Are we ready to put the goals of democracy foremost in our political minds, as many Athenians did? Are we ready to admit our mistakes and learn from them, as they did? Most important, are we ready to keep the great dream alive, the dream of a government of the people, by the people and for the people?”

First Democracy: the Challenge of an Ancient Idea, Paul Woodruff, Oxford University Press, 2005

Friday, November 03, 2006

Applebee's America

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin

This book is at the same time engaging and appalling. Either which way you might interpret it; it is a book that you have to read. It provides clues into some of what has been happening in America. By tying together the success of the Republican Party in the last several elections, companies like Starbucks and Applebee’s, and the mega churches, the authors have pulled the curtain back on the tools, principles and mechanisms of manipulating people into doing what an organization wants them to do.

Life targeting, or micro-targeting, as it has been recently tagged, is a methodology of predicting the behavior of micro segments of a society based on lifestyle and demographics. Then identifying specifically who these people are by name and contacting them with a message targeted to their micro sector. It is not necessary that the organization really hold the values held by the members of the micro segment, only that the organization can make the people believe that the organization does.

In the 1980’s I came to realize that organizational values were the key to success in the marketplace. While at IBM, I developed an organizational change methodology to determine the values of the customers, and change the values of an organization to reflect those values. This was described in a book I coauthored entitled Innovate! (McGraw Hill, 1994). We pointed out that here must be a values match between the customers and the values those customers perceived from the organization. And, that it was set of values that differentiated one organization from another. Moreover, that same set of values controlled the type of innovation most likely to be produced by the organization. Efficiency and effectiveness of the organization depends respectively on the target of the values focus and the spread of the values focus.

We, the authors of Innovate!, assumed naively that organizations were really interested in changing their values…

Do I hear protests from the readers? Some of you may be saying, “But lifestyle targeting has been used by consumer companies for a number of years.” That’s true, but not in the same way. Examples in Applebee’s America are described such as Applebee’s convincing individuals that they really cared about what happened to them. (Remember the ad showing the coach retiring?) When’s the last time you believed that a large corporation really cared about what happens to you. It is a business and until business stops being totally driven by shareholder value, concern for the individual will remain a lost value. Yet many of us need to believe that the message is true, and the corporation continues to grow.

Sosnik, Dowd and Fournier repeatedly give example from politics, business and mega churches that can be interpreted as I have. Politics goes one step further however. With American divided nearly equally between the two major parties, and low voter turnout, a small group of voters actually determine who wins. Using concepts like business, politicians can calculate the cost per vote in these micro segments and allocate money accordingly. The message they delver to these micro segments, if effective, swings the election, even if the candidate holds the values projected or not. It’s not about the issues. The American public glazes over when issues are discussed. It’s about the values connection between the candidate and the voters. This technique will win elections but it will forever divide us for there is no benefit of collaboration among differences. It exploits the differences.

Hypocrisy is defined as “a pretense of having some desirable or publicly approved attitude.” This is the line we have crossed over in the current use of micro-targeting.

Eventually hypocrisy is revealed. It is just too difficult to sustain a pretense, and actions do indeed prove louder than words. But what America’s powerful have learned is that it takes a long time for people to perceive the pretense.

In First Democracy, Paul Woodruff points out that in Athens the primary role of public education was to prepare Athenians to be able to participate in their democracy. Unfortunately, we haven’t done that.

To the author’s credit, while they do not take the low view I have of micro-targeting as it is now practiced, they do point out that the values connections has to be real to be sustained:

“Navigating the Stormy Present - How to Be a Great Connector:

I. Make and Maintain a Gut Values Connection. Voters felt President Bush was a strong and decisive leader. They felt President Clinton cared about them and would work hard on their behalf. Both presidents fell out of favor when they were not true to their Gut Values, proving that authenticity matters in this era of spine, not spin.

2. Adapt. President Clinton realized he needed to change his message and methods to appeal to Swing Is and Swing IIs. Eight years later, President Bush determined that there were no longer enough swing voters to make a difference and that he had to find new Republican voters.

3. LifeTarget. President Clinton barely scratched the surface of the potential to find and motivate voters based on their lifestyles. President Bush took it to a new level in 2004.

4. Talk Smart. Both presidents broke new ground in niche and local advertising, constantly looking for ways to communicate to their voters through the channels those voters used to get information.

5. Find Navigators. President Bush's campaign identified more than 2 million people who could influence how their friends, family members, and associates make political decisions.”

In each of the three markets they analyzed, they provide the above roadmap.

Applebee’s America describes a methodology that is borrowed from Myer’s Briggs Personality Type, the concepts of lifestyle, the concepts of generations, demographics and the concepts of the tipping point. It’s pieces of these sets of concepts lashed together in a way that is incredibly effective, according the authors.

Oh, by the way, how did the Republican’s get the specific names, addresses, telephone numbers and in some cases e-mail addresses for the members of the micro-target sectors? Well, they got them the same way that business do from credit card transactions, and from the membership of some of the mega churches. Is this ethical?

So far I’ve been writing about the first part of the book – Great Connectors. I personally found the second part of the book – Great Change – much more professionally interesting. The chapters on anxious Americans, the 3 C’s (connectors, community and civic engagement), navigators and generation 9/11 give a good, insightful view of present day America with some views of the future. However, as a professional I would have preferred to get accessible references to the data they quoted to make a point (none are given). Example:

“…’protecting the family’ rose to become the No. 1 value of American’s (cited by 53 percent of respondents in a 2000 Roper analysis.”

Anyone who works with data taken from surveys knows that it is important to know the context and how the data was collected and what else the data indicates in order to interpret it.

The author’s provide:

“Ten steps for political, business, and religious leaders who want to take advantage of the public’s yearning for community:

1. Clearly define your purpose. It’s what galvanizes your community.

2. Give your staff the clear sense that they’re vital to achieving a common purpose.

3. Build your organization from the bottom up, not the top down. Technology makes grassroots organizing easier than ever.

4. Give your customers/voters/worshipers a say in how the product/campaign/church is marketed. Recognize that the consumer has more control than ever.

5. Tap into existing networks when possible. Create networks where none exist.

6. Be true to your purpose. Authenticity, accountability, and trust are the keys to building a bond or a brand.

7. Join the online community of bloggers to catch the first whiff of a crisis and to make sure your message is heard in the cyberspace community.

8. Wherever possible, make your enterprise a Third Place, a community outside home and work for people in search of connection.

9. Donate time and money to community causes. Customers are inclined to support civic-minded companies such as Home Depot, according to Bridgeland, the former head of UDSA Freedom Corps.

10. Identify the community’s leaders (Navigators) and get them on your side. Better still, use the Internet and other tools to create products that draw people together in online communities.”

In spite of my negative reaction to what they were saying in the first part of the book, I liked the book. It’s a book that should be read by many and the focus for a lot of discussion.

It was very curious to me that the book (inadvertently?) undercut the approach of the first part of the book with the second part. In politics, the battle between micro-targeting and grass roots civic engagement is being fought out in present and future elections. If I have a vote, I vote for the latter.

Applebee’s America: How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community
Douglas Sosnik, Matthew Dowd and Ron Fournier
Simon & Schuster (2006)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Urban Shaman

Serge Kahili King, the author of Urban Shaman, defines a shaman in the following way, "For the purposes of this book and my teachings, I define a shaman as a healer of relationships between mind and body, between people, between people and circumstances, between Humans and nature, and between matter and spirit. In practicing his or her healing, the shaman has a view of reality very different from the one most of the world uses..."

That last sentence is key. Shamanism is a very different paradigm than the commonly accepted paradigm in the west. I was constantly amazed and intrigued by the differences throughout this book. King writes about the shaman in straightforward, practical way, making the ideas accessible to the uninitiated.

I enjoyed the book immensely and I think I "learned" a lot. I put learned in quotes because the paradigm is so different, I'm not sure I can really learn through just reading a book. At the very least, I think I would have to practice the principles often, and perhaps I would need to apprentice, to really learn Hawaiian shamanism.

He clarifies one of the differences of the Hawaiian tradition, "...while all shaman are healers, the majority follow the 'way of the warrior'; some, a minority which includes the Hawaiian shaman tradition, follow what we might call 'the way of the adventurer'."

"A 'warrior' shaman tends to personify fear, illness, or disharmony and to focus on the development of power, control, and combat skills in order to deal with them. An 'adventurer" shaman, by contrast, tend to depersonify these conditions (i.e., treat them as effects, not things) and deal with them by developing skills of love, cooperation, and harmony."

It is apparent to me that we need healing in the world - as individuals, groups, corporations and nations. Albert Einstein is quoted as writing; "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." Well, I'm ready to at least look at something different. What we've tried isn't working too well. And, my guess is that if you've read this far, you're open to new ideas as well.

"But," you may ask, "what does this have to do with innovation?" I am dedicated to innovation that improves wealth and health (the common weal). I would like to not only make the workspace more innovative, but a healthier, gentler place of open collaboration. The Urban Shaman provides a different way to help make this happen. In addition, the Urban Shaman speaks effectively to our creativity.

Hawaiian shamanism is well adapted to modern times for four reasons:

  1. "It is completely nonsectarian and pragmatic. Shamanism is a craft, not a religion, and you can practice it alone or with a group.
  2. It is very easy to learn and apply, although, as with any craft, the full development of certain skills may take awhile.
  3. The Hawaiian version in particular may be practiced anywhere at any time, including at home, at work, at school, at play, or while traveling. This mainly because the Hawaiian shamans primarily worked with the mind and body alone. They did not use drums to induce altered states and they did not use masks to assume other forms or qualities.
  4. The nature of shamanism is such that while you are healing others you are healing yourself, and while you are transforming the planet you are transforming yourself."

The author's view on openness is refreshing. "Widely spread knowledge actually has more potency than secrets locked up and unused. Knowledge held secret is about a useful as money under a miser's mattress. And the sacredness of knowledge lies not in its reservation for a few, but it's available to many. He goes on to say, "...shamans recognize no hierarchy or authority in matters of the mind; if ever a group of people could be said to follow a system of spiritual democracy, it would be the shamans of the world."

The three aspects of consciousness according to Hawaiian shamanism are the ku (the heart, the body or subconscious), the lono (the mind, or conscious mind) and the kane (the spirit or super conscious).

Ku is a close equivalent of the western concept of the subconscious, but it is not identical. In this paradigm, memory is stored as a movement pattern or vibration. Genetic memory is stored at the cellular level and experiential memory is stored at one or more muscular levels. "The area of storage seems to be related to which part of the body was active or energized during the learning. When the part of the body in which memory was stored is under sufficient tension, then that memory is inhibited or even inaccessible."

"When muscle tension is released, any memory stored in that area and inhibited by the tension is also released." In this paradigm, this is why massage works.

The implications of the concept of ku are many. "This means that whatever memories you dwell on will be affecting your body in the present moment, producing more or less the same chemical and muscular reactions that occurred when the event first happened. A good memory can produce endorphins and a bad memory can produce toxins, all in the present moment."

It also implies that the ku does not distinguish between whether the experience came from an actual situation or a book, dream, intuition or imagination. "All the ku cares about is the intensity of the experience; that is, how much physiological (emotional, chemical, muscular) reaction occurred during the experience. That is the ku's only basis for how 'real' the experience was. The practical side of this is that an intensely imagined experience is just as good as the real thing, as least as far as memory-based behavior is concerned." Athletes use this fact when they imagine the body motions that have to go through to perform. King assets, "The same process can be used to train yourself in any skill, state, or condition whatsoever."

"The primary function of the ku is memory," writes King, "and its primary motivation is pleasure. To put it more accurately, the ku's motivation is towards pleasure and away from pain." This is the reason why we like to do some things and not others, and why certain things are very difficult. "The ku automatically moves towards what is pleasurable and does its best to avoid what is painful."

Remembering that the ku does not distinguish between actual and imagined experience, it becomes clear that imagination has extreme power. "If you create a future memory - in other words, if imagine what will happen if you do a certain thing - your ku's behavior will be strongly influenced by whether the memory carries the expectation of pain or pleasure. If you have created the expectation/memory that human encounters may result in painful rejection, you will find it hard to meet or be with people, to make phone calls (especially sales calls), and possibly even to write letters."

In this paradigm, the ku will provide the least painful solution if no pleasurable alternatives exist in memory. For example, if you have a stressful job, that is your job is creating pain, your ku will make you sick to get out of the job because it is less painful to be sick.

"In order to operate its memory function and engage motivation, the ku uses its primary tool of sensation. According to this concept, all memory is kinesthetic, or body related; all pleasure and pain as well; and all experience, even of emotions and ideas, produces physical sensation."

The second aspect of consciousness is lono. "The lono is that part of yourself which is consciously aware of internal and external input; of memories, thoughts, ideas, imaginings, intuitions, hunches, and inspirations, as well as sensory impressions of sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, depth, movement, pressure, time, and others. It hangs out on the border, so to speak, between the inner and outer worlds. The primary function of the lono is decision making." And, decision making requires attention, intent, choosing and interpretation: "...lono decides what's important and what is not and attention follows the decision."

"Intent is a kind of decision making that directs awareness as well as activity. It is a powerful way to manage your ku, with tremendous effects on health, happiness, and success when used properly." There are three ways to manage your ku - authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire.

"When you intend to walk across the room, the intention is followed by awareness, which is followed by action." If a controlling, authoritative style is used, the resulting movements are awkward and halting. If a cooperative style is used, a smooth, fluid movement results. An uncontrolled style results in too many distractions, too many pleasurable paths to follow.

In speaking, "A controlling lono interferes with the process by trying to make sure that the right words are said in the right way and usually creates havoc in the form of halting speech with a lot of 'uh's or 'ya know's or even stuttering. The cooperative lono holds the intent and lets the ku do its thing, which often produces spontaneous humor and unexpectedly good insights or phrases. The uncontrolling lono lets the ku wander off the subject or even speak gibberish."

"Choosing is what most people think of as decision making. Choosing is making a decision to turn your attention to one direction rather than another."

"Interpretation is a decision about the meaning or validity of an experience."

"I spoke of the primary motivation of the ku being pleasure which explains a lot of human behavior. Even more behavior can be explained by the primary motivation of the lono, which is order. Order doesn't necessarily mean neatness although some lonos may interpret it that way. It has more to do with rules, categories, and understanding."

"The primary tool of the lono is imagination. Since the lono is the only part of you under your direct control, the development of this tool is of supreme importance..."

The third aspect of consciousness is kane. "Kane is conceived of as a 'source' aspect; a purely spiritual essence which manifests or projects into realty our physically oriented being. It might also be called the soul or oversoul as long as you don't get the idea that that it is something that can be lost or separated form you."

"The primary function of the kane is creativity in the form of mental and physical experience. Simplified, the lono generates a pattern by deciding that something is true, ku memorizes the pattern, and kane uses the pattern to manifest experience. At the same time, kane is constantly giving inspiration to improve the pattern because its primary motivation is harmony." Kane's "motivation is to help the whole self integrate patterns more harmoniously with others in the community and environment."

"The primary tool of the kane is energy. The universe is made of energy and it is energy that that maintains and changes the dreams of life. The imagination of the lono directs the energy and the sensation of the ku lets us experience its effects."

King describes seven principles and fourteen corollaries of urban shamanism (Hawaiian word shown first in caps):

IKE - The World is What You Think It Is
Corollary: Everything is a dream

"...shamans also hold the exceptionally subtle idea that life is a dream; that in fact, we dream our lives into being. This does not mean that dreams are real and reality is a dream. It means that the reality you are experiencing right now is only one of many dreams," writes the author. He goes on to explain that the only way we "know" anything reality is through the detection of energy through our senses. Reality is our mind's interpretation of what our senses are reporting. The reality we experience in that sense is no different than a dream. And, sometimes we can't tell the difference. It also stands to reason that no two people will experience reality, even the same reality, in the same way. It's put together differently in different minds. We therefore tend to test for reality by whether other people share the same dream of reality. "Hallucination," writes the author means 'your dream doesn't match my dream'."

"For the shamans, the experience we call ordinary everyday reality is a mass hallucination, or to put it more politely, a shared dream. It's like we are all having our own individual dreams about life and the sharing occurs at points of agreement or consensus."

"If this life is a dream," he writes, "and if we can wake up fully within it, then we can change the dream by changing our dreaming."

Corollary: All systems are arbitrary
King comments, "The meaning of experience depends upon your interpretation of it or your decision to accept someone else's interpretation, and the decision to accept a basic assumption is also arbitrary."

KALA - There Are No Limits
Corollary: Everything is connected
Corollary: Anything is possible
Corollary: Separation is a useful illusion

The universe has no limits and therefore our experiences are limitless. However, in everyday life, we experience limits. There are two kinds of limits - filtered and creative. Filtered limitation is "imposed by ideas and beliefs that inhibit creativity rather than enhance it..." "Filtered limitations generate focus without the potential for positive action."

"...creative limitation assumes the purposeful establishment of limits within an infinite universe in order to create particular experiences." When we play a game, we follow the rules of the game; otherwise it has no meaning. "The rules of the game are limitations created so you can play the game." Later he writes, "Creative limitation allows us to improve our creative abilities by enforcing a focus on a certain range of interpretation of experience." "Even in the limited game of chess, human minds have not figured out all the possibilities," he points out.

MAKIA - Energy Flows Where Attention Goes
Corollary: Attention goes where energy flows
Corollary: Everything is energy

In discussing the third principle, King considers mediation and hypnosis. He explains that both are two aspects of the same thing - conditions of sustained focused attention. He writes, "You are meditating whenever you are engaged in sustained focused attention on anything, and according to this philosophy such attention channels the energy of the universe into manifesting the physical equivalent of the focus. However, the manifestation is not just the equivalent of what you are looking at, saying, listening to, or doing. It is the equivalent of the sum total of your entire attention, including habitual expectation, during the meditation. To put it another way, whenever lono is meditating, ku is meditating, ku is meditating too. Part of one's development as a shaman involves learning how to get lono and ku to meditate on the same thing at the same time. Then the magic happens."

In discussing the first corollary, the author writes, "Attention is quite naturally attracted to bright lights, shiny objects, and loud noises, but we may not realize that the common factor of all three is their energy intensity. Attention is attracted to any strong source of energy that stimulates any of our senses, even those subtle senses of which most people are unaware." He goes on to explain that we are likewise attracted to certain people or geographic regions because of their energy. In his view, the sacred geographic spots are actually spots of low energy where people can de-stress.

King stops short of calling on physics to explain that everything is energy, but I think that physics is the best way to explain his second corollary. Einstein proved that energy and mass were transformable one into the other. The conversion factor was the speed of light squared, E=MC². Mass or matter is just highly condensed energy. Therefore our bodies and our thoughts are energy as well.

MANAWA - Now is the Moment of Power
Corollary: Everything is relative.
Corollary: Power increases with sensory attention.

Some Eastern and Western traditions focus on the past or future. With the concept of karma we are trapped into either good or bad karma depending upon our actions in the past, and we create good or bad karma for our future depending upon actions now. "In these traditions karma isn't usually something you can change; all you can do is reap the rewards or work off the debts of the past."

Many Western traditions hold that you are rewarded in life or after life for obeying specific social or religious rules, and punished if you don't.

"The shamanic tradition, both warrior and adventurer versions, is in stark contrast to the above views. It says that the past did not give you what you have today, nor make you what you are. It is your beliefs, decisions, and actions today about yourself and the world around you that give you what you have and make you what you are."

"Now is the moment of power. But, how do we define what now is? The easiest and most practical definition is: the area or range of present attention." In other words, if your attention span is a second, or less, so is now. But, if you can focus longer, now becomes longer.

"Unfortunately, some people are obsessively locked onto the past, future, or elsewhere because of great fear and anger...Much of the fear and anger can be dissipated by shifting focus to the sensory present..."

ALOHA - To Love Is to Be Happy With
Corollary: Love increases as judgement decreases.
Corollary: Everything is alive, aware, and responsive.

In English, the use of the word love has become sloppy. "In Hawaiian the meaning of love is very clear and it provides a useful guideline for loving and being loved. Aloha is the word for love. The root alo means to be with, to share an experience, here and now. The root oha means affection, joy."

MANA - All Power Comes From Within
Corollary: Everything has power.
Corollary: Power comes from authority.

Many other traditions teach that power exists outside of us and that we are relatively powerless. "In complete and, for some, shocking contrast, Huna philosophy teaches that all the power that creates your experience comes from your own body, mind, and spirit. Logically speaking, if there are no limits, then the Universe or Source of Life is infinite, and if it is infinite, then all of its power is at every point of it, including the point which you define as you. Keeping the discussion at a practical level, nothing ever happens to you without your participation. For every event that you experience you creatively attract it through your beliefs, desires, fears and expectations, and then react to it habitually or respond to it consciously."

"Power comes from authority" is the second corollary to this sixth principle. But the authority is inside you, not external. "Speaking with authority means speaking with confidence that your words will produce results," he writes.

PONO - Effectiveness Is the Measure of Truth
Corollary: There is always another way to do anything.

"Many people have trouble with this one at first because they think that it says that the end justify the means. Actually it says just the opposite, that the means determine the end. Violent means will produce violent results, and peaceful means will produce peaceful results."

Other topics covered in the book are, the seven shaman talents, creating harmony in the body, initiating change through intuition, changing the world with shaman dreaming, shape changing and community service, increasing your creative energy, from inner peace to outer peace, the healing power of symbols, the healing art of ceremony and ritual, and the pooling of minds.

The book has many short exercises throughout. They are easily doable by an apprentice shaman, or just someone curious. King uses them to reinforce points he has made.

The book is about radical new paradigm for the western mind, but it is written very clearly and simply. It contains more wisdom than can be obtained from a simple reading so I suggest that if you are serious about learning from the author that you create a study group. That way you can learn and practice together at a pace slow enough to absorb more of what he has to offer.

Urban Shaman: A Handbook for Personal and Planetary Transformation Based on the Hawaiian Way of the Adventurer
Serge Kahili King
Simon & Shuster, 1990

To read a poem by King from this book, Ode to a Toad, go to the Innovation Road Map Travelogue.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The World is Flat

This book is a must read for anyone interested in an innovation commons. Much of the book revolves around and depends upon the successful creation of innovation commons in many different forms. The following are some excerpts from the book that seem to me to be most directly related to the subject of the innovation commons.

"…Satyam Cherukuri, of Sarnoff, an American research and development firm, has called ‘the globalization of innovation" and an end to the old model…" p29-30

His premise is that the "world is now flat", i.e. the global competitive playing field is being leveled. The world is being flattened. He identifies ten driving forces for leveling of the competitive playing field. The first three are events that marked the change:
  1. When the walls came down and the windows went up
  2. When Netscape went public
  3. Work flow software

The next six represent the new forms of collaboration, which the new platform created by the first three forces made possible:

  1. Self organizing collaborative communities
  2. Outsourcing Y2K
  3. Offshoring
  4. Supply chaining
  5. Insourcing
  6. In-forming

The last force is an enabler:

  1. The steroids: Digital, mobile, personal and virtual

Quoting Irving Wladawsky-Berger of IBM, "This emerging era is characterized by the collaborative innovation of many people working together in gifted communities, just as innovation in the industrial era was characterized by individual genius." p93

In discussing some of the problems of an innovation commons, he raises the following question:
"If everyone contributes his or her intellectual capital for free, where will the resources for innovation come from? And won’t we end up with in endless legal wrangles over which part of any innovation was made by the community for free, and meant to stay that way, and which part was added on by some company for profit and has to be paid for so that the company can make money to drive further innovation." p96

"How do you push innovation forward if everyone is working for free and giving away their work?…if innovators are not going to be rewarded for their innovations, the incentive for path-breaking innovation will dry up and so will the money for the really deep R&D that is required to drive progress in this increasingly complex field." (Paraphrasing Microsoft) p100

"Open source is an important flattener because it makes available for free many tools, from software to encyclopedias, that millions of people around the world would have had to buy in order to use, and because open source network associations – with their open borders and come-one-come-all approach – can challenge hierarchical structures with a horizontal model of innovation that is clearly working in a growing number of areas." p102

Writing about the power of search engines for collaboration: "How does searching fit into the concept of collaboration? I call it ‘in-forming’. In-forming is the individual’s’ personal analog to open sourcing, outsourcing, insourcing, supply chaining and offshoring. In-forming is the ability to build and deploy your own personal supply chain – a supply chain of information, knowledge and entertainment. In-forming is about self collaboration…" p153

"…this tenth flattener - the steroids – is going to amplify and further empower all the other forms of collaboration. These steroids should make open-source innovation that much more open, because they will enable more individuals to collaborate with one another in more ways and from more places than ever before." p 170-171

He then introduces the concept of the triple convergence: "First, right around the year 2000, all ten flatteners…started to converge and work together in ways that created a new, flatter, global playing field. As this new playing field became established, both businesses and individuals began to adopt new habits, skills and processes to get the most out of it. They moved from largely vertical means of creating value to more horizontal one. The merger of this new playing field for doing business with the new ways of doing business was the second convergence, and it actually helped to flatten the world even further. Finally, just when all this flattening was happening, a whole new group of people, several billion in fact, walked on the playing field from China, India and the former Soviet Union. Thanks to the new flat world, and its new tools, some of them were able to collaborate and compete directly with everyone else. This was the third convergence." p175

Writing about the parallel between the work of economists of the impact of major technologies on productivity, he stated: "The same thing is happening today with the flattening of the world. Many of the ten flatteners have been around for years. But for the full flattening effects to be felt, we needed not only the ten flatteners to converge, but also something else. We needed the emergence of a large cadre of managers, innovators, business consultant, business schools, designers, IT specialists, CEOs and workers to get comfortable with, and develop, the sorts of horizontal collaboration and value creation processes and habits that could take advantage of this new, flatter playing field. In short, the convergence of the ten flatteners begat the convergence of a set of business practices and skills that would get the most out of the flat world. And then the tow began to mutually reinforce each other." p178

"In the future globalization is going to be increasingly driven by individuals who understand the flat world, adapt themselves quickly to its processes and technologies, and then start to march forward…They will be of every color of the rainbow and from every corner of the world." p183
"The flatter the world gets, the more we are going to need a system of global governance that keeps up with all the new legal and illegal forms of collaboration." p217

"In the flat world, the division of labor is steadily becoming more and more complex, with a lot more people interacting with a lot of other people they don’t know and may never meet. If you want to have a modern complex division of labor, you have to put more trust in strangers." p326

The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century

Thomas Friedman

Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2005

A Simpler Way

This is a beautiful book with beautiful pictures and mental images. It is a hopeful book, and it is a profound book. Its mission is no less than to change our paradigm from competition to collaboration in how we perceive, think and act in all that we do. The authors opening line is "We want life to be less arduous and more delightful. We want to be able to think differently about how to organize human activities."

They question the "survival of the fittest" paradigm for evolution and our mechanistic view of the world. "The mechanistic image of the world is a very deep image, planted at subterranean depths in most of us. But it doesn't help us any longer."

The authors pose the question, "How could we organizes human endeavor if we developed different understandings of how life organizes itself?" They have six beliefs about human organizations and the world in which they come into form:
  1. "The universe is a living, creative, experimenting expereince of discovering what's possible at all levels of scale from microbe to cosmos.
  2. Life's natural tendency is to organize. Life organizes into greater levels of complexity to support more diversity and greater sustainability.
  3. Life organizes around a self. Organizing is always an act of creating an identity.
  4. Life self-organizes. Networks, patterns, and structures emerge without external imposition or direction. Organization wants to happen.
  5. People are intelligent, creative, adaptive, self-organizing, and meaning seeking.
  6. Organizations are living systems. They too are intelligent, creative, adaptive, self-organizing, meaning-seeking."

They argue that life has a natural and spontaneous tendency towards organization. "Whatever chaos is present at the start, when elements combine, systems of organization appear. Life is attracted to order - order gained through wandering explorations into new relationships and new possibilities."

The central part of the book is organized around a poem by A. R. Ammons:

"I look for the way
things will turn
out spiraling from a center,
the shape
things will take to come forth in
so that the birch tree white
touched black at branches
will stand out
totally its apparent self:
I look for the forms
things want to come as
from what black wells of possibility
how a thing will
not the shape on paper - though
that, too - but the
uninterfering means on paper:
not so much looking for the shape
as being available
to any shape that may be
summoning itself
through me
from the self not mine but ours."

The authors write, "Life is creative. It plays itself into existence, seeking new relationships, new capacities, new traits. Life is an experiment to discover what's possible."

They believe Darwinism has led us to believe that life wasn't supposed to happen, that it was an accident, and that life has to fight to continue to exist. In their view, "Life is about invention, not survival. We are here to create, not defend."

They point out that all of us are trying to describe our reality to others. But reality outside of us, in an absolute sense, evades us. "We peer out through our senses, describing our experiences of what we think reality to be. We choose images to convey our expereince. We create metaphors to connect what we see. We explore new ways of understanding what seems to be happening and what we think it means."

Peering out at the world, they describe seven principles of life's process of creating:

  1. "Everything is in a constant process of discovery and creating. Everything is changing all the time: individuals, systems, environments, the rules, the processes of evolutions. Even change changes. Every organism reinterprets the rules, creates exceptions for itself, creates new rules.
  2. Life uses messes to get well-ordered solutions. Life doesn't seem to share our desires for efficiency or neatness. It uses redundancy, fuzziness, dense webs of relationships, unending trials and errors to find what works.
  3. Life is intent on finding what works, not what's 'right'. It is the ability to keep finding solutions that is important; any one solution is temporary. There are no permanently right answers. The capacity to keep changing, to find what works now, is what keeps any organism alive.
  4. Life creates more possibilities as it engages with opportunities. There are no 'windows of opportunity', narrow openings in the fabric of space-time that soon disappear forever.
  5. Possibilities beget more possibilities; they are infinite.
  6. Life is attracted to order. It experiments until it discovers how to form a system that can support diverse members. Individuals search out a wide range of possible relationships to discover whether they can organize into life-sustaining system. These explorations continue until a system is discovered. The system then provides stability for its members, so that individuals are less buffeted by change.
  7. Life organizes around identity. Every living thing acts to develop and preserve itself. Identity is the filter that every organism or system uses to make sense of the world. New information, new relationships, changing environments - all are interpreted through a sense of self. This tendency toward self-creation is so strong that it creates a seeming paradox. An organism will change to maintain its identity.

Everything participates in the creation and evolution of its neighbors. There are no unaffected outsiders. No one system dictates conditions to another. All participate together in creating the conditions of their interdependence."

"There is no ideal design for anything, just interesting combinations that arise as a living thing explores it space of possibilities", Wheatley and Kellner-Rogers write, a combination of words that could be used to describe how an organization innovates.

Their assertion is that "life tinkers itself into existence". "It tinkers toward order - toward systems that are more complex and effective...Almost always what begins in randomness ends in stability...generates systems that sustain diverse individuals." But they conclude, "Life seeks order in a disorderly way."

"All this messy playfulness creates relationships that make more available...," they write. "Who we become together will always be different that who we were alone. Our range of creative expression increases as we join with others. New relationships create new capacities."

"Life invites us to create not only the forms but even the process of discovery," they conclude.

"The environment is invented by our presence in it. We do not parachute into a sea of turbulence, to sink or swim. We and our environments become one system, each influencing the other, each co-determining the other." Living systems they believe create more possibilities and more freedom for individuals.

In this systems behaviors emerge. "Science writer Kevin Kelly describes these systems as a 'messy cascade of interdependent events ...What emerges from the collective is not a series of critical individual actions but a multitude of simultaneous actions whose collective pattern is far more important'."

One of the important features of viable living systems is simultaneity. "Simultaneity reduces the impact of any one error. More errors matter less if the actors are not linked together sequentially. The space for experimentation increases as we involve more minds in the experiment, as long as they can operate independently. What links people together is their focus on a needed solution. But in discovering what works, they are not waiting for one another to act."

They very carefully describe the discipline of play required for success. "Playful tinkering requires consciousness. If we are not mindful, if our attention slips, then we can't notice what's available or discover what's possible. Staying present is the discipline of play. Great concentration and focus are required." As a result, "Playful enterprises are alert. They are open to information, always seeking more, yearning for surprises."

Over and over again they stress the role that diversity plays in creation. "Parallel process requires both diversity and freedom. There is more than one workable solution, and these solutions arise from many different forms of self-expression...Life is not driving us toward one solution. The world is interested in pluralism. Only in this way can it discover more about itself...The world's desire for diversity compels us to change."

Systems offer the possibility for more stability. But in a curious paradox, that stability for the system depends upon its member's ability to change. "When individuals fail to experiment or when a system refuses their offers of new ideas, then the system becomes moribund. Without constant, interior change, it sinks into the death grip of equilibrium. It no longer participates in coevolution. The system becomes vulnerable; its destruction is self-imposed...This broad paradox of stability and freedom is the stage on which coevolution dances. Life leaps forward when it can share its learnings. The dense web of systems allow information to travel in all directions, speeding recovery and adaptation."

If systems of life are self-organizing then we don't have to design how they will organize. We live in a universe where we get order for free. "If order is for free, we don't have to be the organizers. We don't have to design the world. We don't have to structure its existence."
And, in a prescription for systems that has a lot to do with an innovation commons, "As we organize, we need to keep inquiring into the quality of our relationships. How much access do we have to one another? How much trust exists among us? Who else needs to be in the room?"

"Stability is found in freedom - not in conformity and compliance. We may have thought that our organization's survival was guaranteed by finding the right form and insisting that everyone fit into it. But sameness is not stability. It is individual freedom that creates stable systems. It is diffferentness that enables us to thrive," they propose.

In writing about self, they suggest, "Life wants to happen. It calls itself into existence. Out of all information and all possibilities, an entity comes into form. An identity emerges. A self has created itself...No externally imposed plans or designs are required. The process of invention always takes place around an identity. There is a self that seeks to organize and make its presence known. The desires of self set a self-organizing world into motion."

Research suggests that we perceive the world based on who we have decided to be, " any moment, what we see is most influenced by who we have decided to be...At least 80 percent of the information that the brain works with is information already in the brain." The corollary to this is that "We will change our self if we believe that the change will preserve the self."

In answering the question about what conditions will allow self-organization to flourish, they state "We need to trust that we are self organizing...We live in a world where attraction is ubiquitous. Organization wants to happen. People want their lives to mean something. We seek one another to develop new capacities. With all these wonderful and innate desires calling us to organize, we can stop worrying about designing perfect structures or rules. We need to become intrigued by how we create a clear and coherent identity, a self that we can organize around...Identity includes such dimensions as history, values, actions, core beliefs, competencies, principles, purpose, mission...Identity is the source of organizations. Every organization is an identity in motion, moving through the world, trying to make a difference."

In search of that illusive concept of emergence, they write, "Emergence is the surprising capacity we discover only when we join together. New systems have properties that appear suddenly and mysteriously. These properties cannot be predicted. They do not exist in the individuals who compose the system. What we know about the individuals, no matter how rich the details, will never give us the ability to predict how they will behave as a system. Once individuals link together they become something different.

One of the current quandaries facing free, open collaboratives is compensation. It is very clear that participants benefit in many other tangible and intangible ways from the collaboration. However, in our present form of capitalism, no standard form of monetary compensation has emerged. The authors don't provide much hope of one being developed, "Once systems are called into the world by our individual explorations, it becomes impossible to work backwards. Systems cannot be deconstructed. We can't figure out cause and effect or who contributed what. There are no heroes or permanent leaders in an emergent, systems creating world. There are too many simultaneous connection; individual contributions evolve too rapidly into group efforts."

We often talk about synergy in a group, where 1 + 1 > 2. Their paradigm revolutionizes the way to think about a system, "A system is an inseparable whole. It is not the sum of its parts. It is not greater than the sum of its parts. There is nothing to sum. There are no parts. The system is a new and different and unique contribution to its members and the world. To search backwards in time for its parts is to deny the self transforming nature of systems. A system is knowable only as itself. It is irreducible. We can't disentangle the effects of so many relationships. The connections never end. They are impossible to understand by analysis."

In amplifying their concept that self-organizing systems merge through trust, they write, "Every act of organizing is an experiment. We begin with desire, with a sense of purpose and direction. But we enter the expereince vulnerable, unprotected by the illusionary cloak of prediction. We acknowledge that we don't know how this work will actually unfold. We discover what we are capable of as we go along. We engage others in the experiment. We are willing to commit to a systems whose effectiveness cannot be seen until it is in systems of trust, people are free to create the relationships they need. Trust enables the system to open. The system expands to include those it had excluded. More conversations - more diverse and diverging views - become important. People decide to work with those from whom they have been separate."

We long for meaning in our lives. "Each of us embodies the boundless energies of life. We are creating, systems-seeking, self-organizing, meaning-seeking beings. We are identities in motion, searching for the relationships that will evoke more from us."

A Simpler Way
Margaret Wheatley & Myron Kellner-Rogers
Berrett-Koehler, 1996

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Fourth Turning

This book by Strauss and Howe proclaims itself on the cover as "An American Prophecy", and the book has the subtitle of "What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny". Those are strong words when speaking of the future. H. G. Wells commented that demography is destiny. I believe that. For example, we know a lot about all the 20-year-olds in the U.S. in 2025. Why? Because they've all been born, even those that will immigrate into the U.S. But when you couple demography with social trends, I become less sure. Humans have a nasty habit of doing the unexpected, as well as responding to events in unexpected ways. Strauss and Howe couple demography with sociology and add in some ideas about generations to produce a prophecy. In doing so I think they fall prey to a weakness we all succumb too occasionally, especially me, of pushing their insights too far into specifics and detail. However, if their prophecy is 10% right, they still deserve to be listened to, and maybe even to take actions to prepare for the America they prophesize.

The book begins with a summary of their prophecy in Chapter 1. Winter Comes Again. "America feels like it's unraveling. Though we live in an era of relative peace and comfort, we have settled into a mood of pessimism about the long term future, fearful that our superpower nation is somehow rotting from within.

Neither an epic victory over Communism nor an extended upswing of the business cycle can buoy our public spirit. The Cold War and New Deal struggles are plainly over, but we are of no mind to bask in their successes. The America of today feels worse, in its fundamentals, than the one many of us remember from our youth, a society presided over by those of supposedly lesser consciousness...We yearn for civic character but satisfy ourselves with symbolic gestures and celebrity circuses. We perceive no greatness in our leaders, a new meanness in ourselves. Small wonder that each new election brings a new jolt, its aftermath a new disappointment. Not long ago, America was more than the sum of its parts. Now, it is less."

Remember as you read this that the book was published in 1997 - before 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The authors' views have been developed through several books including Generations and 13th-GEN. To understand their work, I recommend that you read all three of these books. However, The Fourth Turning is the best of the three.

The fundamental building block of their paradigm is that there are cycles in history of society called the saeculum by the "ancients".

According to the authors, there are three ways of thinking about time*: chaotic, cyclical, and linear. "In chaotic time, history has no path. Events follow one another randomly, and any effort to impute meaning in their whirligig succession is hopeless."

*Authors' note: I think that their description of chaotic time is really confusing. There are really four ways of thinking about time - random, cyclical, linear and chaotic. The characteristics they ascribe to chaotic time really apply to random time. In chaotic time, there is order, events are not random, but follow a higher order of organization not easily perceived. I think that the paradigm progression is from random to cyclical to linear to chaotic.

"Cyclical time originated when the ancients first linked natural cycles of planetary events (diurnal rotations, lunar months, solar years, zodiacal precessions) with related cycles in human activity (sleeping, waking; gestating, birthing; planting; harvesting; hunting, feasting). Cyclical time conquered chaos by repetition..."

"...linear time - time as a unique (and usually progressing) story with an absolute beginning and an absolute end...The Persian, Judaic, Christian and Islamic cosmologies all embraced the radically new concept of personal and historic time as a unidirectional drama."
The saeculum is approximately 80 years long and, according to the authors, is observable in Anglo-American history for seven cycles since 1435. The saeculum is divided into four turnings, each about 20 years long - a generation:

1. "The First Turning is a High, an upbeat era of strengthening institutions and weakening individualism, when a new civic order implants and the old values regime decays." In the current saeculum, this was the American High (1946 - 1964)

2. "The Second Turning is an Awakening, a passionate era of spiritual upheaval, when civic order comes under attack from a new values regime." In the current saeculum, this was the Consciousness Revolution (1964 - 1984)

3. "The Third Turning is an Unraveling, a downcast era of strengthening individualism and weakening institutions, when the old civic order decays and the new values regime implants." In the current saeculum, this was, and still is, the Culture Wars (1984 - 2005?)

4. "The Fourth Turning is a Crisis, a decisive era of secular upheaval, when the values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one." In the current saeculum, this era is left unnamed but would start around 2005 and end around 2026.

If Strauss and Howe are correct, at this point in time, we are at the cusp of entering a crisis era. The previous crisis era was introduced by the great depression and W.W.II. Prior crisis eras also began with wars - Civil War (1860), American Revolution (1773), Glorious Revolution (1675), Armada Crisis (1569) and Wars of the Roses (1459). Are the wars we are in right now the catalysts for our next crisis era?

The second building block in Strauss and Howe's model is the concept of generations. "Of all the cycles known to man, the one we all know best is the human life cycle. No other societal force - not class, not nationality, not culture, not technology - has a predictable a chronology. The limiting length of an active life cycle is one of civilization's great constants...Biologically and socially, a full human life is divided into four phases: childhood, young adulthood, midlife, and elderhood. Each phase of life is the same length as the others, capable of holding one generation at a time. And, each phase is associated with a specific social role that conditions how its occupants perceive the world and act on those perceptions." And, each phase is about 20 years long:

  • Childhood (0-20) - social role is growth, receiving nurture, acquiring values
  • Young Adulthood (21-41) - social role is vitality, serving institutions, testing values
  • Midlife (42-62) - social role is power, managing institutions, applying values
  • Elderhood (63-83) - social role is leadership, leading institutions, transferring values

Late Elderhood (84+) - social role is dependence, receiving comfort from institutions, remembering values

In this model, only the first four are considered active in shaping American society. This assumption is certainly suspect as the late elderhood bracket swells and people remain mentally and physically active longer.

These two building blocks of the Strauss and Howe model, the saeculum and generations, act together to create the engine for social change. Consider for example childhood. A childhood spent during a first turning, a high, would be vastly different than one spent during a crisis or fourth turning.

But the key thing to consider is the mix of generations in any turning of the saeculum. For example, in a fourth turning, the crisis era the author's predict we are now in:

  • The Midlife generation, whose role is power, experienced Childhood during a second turning, an awakening
  • The Elderhood generation, whose role is leadership, experienced Childhood in a first turning, a high
  • The Young Adulthood generation, whose role is vitality, experienced Childhood during an Unraveling
  • The Childhood generation, whose role is growth is getting its first life expereince during a Crisis

The Late Elderhood generation, whose role according to the authors, is dependence is the only generation to have experienced the last crisis.

The third building block of the Strauss and Howe model is the naming of generations, depending upon their place in the saeculum at different life stages. The naming implies that we can, to a first approximation, group people in a generation and ascribe some common characteristics. This is a dangerous assumption, but useful if you're going to make any sense of generations and social change. The characterizations are general tendencies and do not apply to individuals within a generation.

The fourth building block of the model is the concept of archetypes. Strauss and Howe identity four archetypes - Hero, Nomad, Prophet and Artist. These four archetypes cycle through our society as generations.

The generations in play right now are:

  • The Silent Generation (1929-1946) - an Artist archetype, suffocated during childhood, sensitive during youth adulthood, indecisive during midlife and empathetic during elderhood
  • The Boomers (1946-1964) - a Prophet archetype, indulged during childhood, narcissistic as a young adult, moralistic in midlife
  • The Thirteen Generation (1964-1984) - also called GenX, a Nomad archetype, abandoned during childhood, alienated during young adulthood
  • The Millennials (1985-2005) - Hero archetype, protected as a child

If the authors are correct, we have just entered a Crisis that will last for the next 20 years. In this Crisis the elders will be Prophets, those in midlife will be Nomads, young adults will be Heroes and our children will be Artists. According to the authors, families will be strengthening and we will over protect our children. The gap between genders will widen. Ideals will be championed, new institutions will be founded and our culture will be practical. Our interest in community will be growing and our social structure will begin to unify. Our worldview will be moving from complexity to simplicity. What will motivate us socially will be a concern over blots in our record. We will develop a sense of urgency and a sense that we need to fix our outer world. If wars occur, they will be total.

The morphology of a crisis era will is:

  • "A Crisis era begins with a catalyst - a starting event (or sequence of events) that produces a sudden shift in mood"
  • "Once catalyzed, a society achieves a regeneracy - a new counter entropy that reunifies and reenergize civic life"
  • "The regenerated society propels toward a climax - a crucial moment that confirms the death of the old order and birth of the new."
  • "The climax culminates in a resolution - a triumphant or tragic conclusion that separates the winners from the losers, resolves the big public questions, and establishes the new order."

While I am reluctant to present their recommendations, I do so for your own analysis. To me the recommendations appear to have a political bias. According to the authors to prepare for the fourth turning, or crisis, America should:

  • Prepare values - forge the consensus and uplift the culture, but don't expect near-term results
  • Prepare institutions - clear the debris and find out what works, but don't try building anything big
  • Prepare politics - define challenges bluntly and stress duties over rights, but don't attempt reforms that can't now be accomplished
  • Prepare society - require community teamwork to solve local problems, but don't try this on a national scale
  • Prepare youth - treat children as the nation's highest priority, but don't do the work for them
  • Prepare elders - tell future elders they will need to be more self sufficient, but don't attempt deep cuts in benefits to current elders
  • Prepare the economy - correct fundamentals, but don't try to fine tune performance
  • Prepare the defense - expect the worse and prepare to mobilize, but don't precommit to any one response

For individuals they recommend:

  • Rectify - return to the classic virtues
  • Converge - heed emerging community norms
  • Bond - build personal relationships of all kinds
  • Gather - prepare yourself (and your children) for teamwork
  • Root - look to your family for support
  • Brace - gird for the weakening or collapse of public support mechanisms
  • Hedge - diversify everything you do

It is incredibly important that we as a society understand the predictions in this book. We must decide not only if they are right or wrong, but also even if they are right, are we predetermined to this future, or can we through collective decisions and actions avoid the future they say is inevitable. Is technology a wild card in their scenario? Will it accelerate the Crisis or help us avoid it? And, for all the cases, what are we going to do about it?

The Fourth Turing - An American Prophecy
What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny
William Strauss and Neil Howe
Broadway Books, 1997

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Being There

It was Sunday. Chance was in the garden. He moved slowly, dragging the green hose from one path to the next, carefully watching the flow of the water. Very gently he let the stream touch every plant, every flower, every branch of the garden. Plants were like people; they needed care to live, to survive their diseases, and to die peacefully.

Yet plants were different from people. No plant is able to think about itself or able to know itself; there is no mirror in which a plant can recognize itself its face; no plant can do anything intentionally; it cannot help growing, and its growth has no meaning, since a plant cannot reason or dream.

It was safe and secure in the garden, which was separated from the street by a high, red brick wall covered with ivy, and not even the sounds of the passing cars disturbed the peace. Chance ignored the streets. Though he had never stepped outside the house and its garden, he was not curious about life on the other side of the wall.

Thus begins this amazing novel by Jerzy Kosinski. This 1971 book has stayed mostly dormant in my brain for over thirty years only occasionally popping to the surface. However, in my recent studies of McLuhan, it surfaced and requested that I reread it. I believe after rereading the book that Kosinski was drawing a metaphor for the impacts of electronic media on perception and thinking, and the emergence of the post-literate man.

Chance went inside and turned on the TV. The set created its own light, its own color, its own time. It did not follow the law of gravity that forever bent all plants downward. Everything on TV was tangled and mixed and yet smoothed out: night and day, big and small, tough and brittle, soft and rough, hot and cold, far and near. In this colored world of television, gardening was the white cane of a blind man.

By changing the channel he could change himself. He could go through phases, as garden plants went through phases, but he could change as rapidly as he wished by twisting the dial backward and forward. In some cases he could spread out onto the screen without stopping, just as on TV people spread out onto the screen. By turning the dial, Chance could bring others inside his eyelids. Thus he came to believe that it was he, Chance, and no one else, who made himself to be.

Chance, you find out in the story, is a person of unknown origin who lived his entire life tending the garden of a very wealthy man. His education was TV and the garden. When the old man died, his life was abruptly changed.

He rose early as always, found the breakfast that had been left at his door by the maid, ate it, and went into the garden.

He checked the soil under the plants, inspected the flowers, snipped away dead leaves, and pruned the bushes. Everything was in order. It had rained during the night, and many fresh buds had emerged. He sat down and dozed in the sun.

As long as one didn't look at people, they did not exist. They began to exist, as on TV, when one turned one's eyes on them. Only then could they stay in one's mind before being erased by new images. The same was true for him. By looking at him, others could make him clear, could open him up and unfold him; not to be seen was to blur and fade out. Perhaps he was missing a lot by simply watching others on TV and not being watched by them. He was glad now, after the Old Man died, he was going to be seen by people he never been seen by before.

Chance is called in to meet with the executors of the Old Man's will. He is found to have no papers, no record of his existence. The executors are unbelieving and fear a scam. Chance retorts,

"But you have me. I am here. What more proof do you need?"

He is told that the house and garden will be locked the next day and he must leave. On the morning of the next day, he dresses and packs his suitcase with the old, very expensive suits that the Old Man had given him, now back in style, and prepared to leave.

He turned on the TV, sat down on the bed, and flicked the channel changer several times. Country houses, skyscrapers, newly built apartment houses, churches shot across the screen. He turned the set off. The image died; only a small blue dot hung in the center of the screen, as if forgotten by the rest of the world to which it belonged; then it too disappeared. The screen filled with greyness; it might have been a slab of stone.

Chance got up and now on the way to the gate, he remembered to pick up the old key that for years had hung untouched on a board in the corridor next to his room. He walked to the gate and inserted the key; then, pulling the gate open, he crossed the threshold, abandoned the key in the lock, closed the gate behind him. Now he could never return to the garden.

Chance is now on the hero's journey described by Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

He almost immediately has an accident. A chauffeur driven limousine crushes his leg. The wealthy man's wife, Eve or EE, brings Chance back to her house to care for him. There through a series of misunderstandings his name gets changed to Chauncey Gardiner. Her powerful husband is old and very ill. The doctors already in the house care for Chance.

Chance thinks,

"When one was addressed and viewed by others, one was safe. Whatever one did would then be interpreted by the others in the same way that one interpreted what they did. They could never know more about one than one knew about them."

Chance wondered whether Mr. Rand would ask him to leave the house. The thought that he might have to leave did not upset him; he knew that he would eventually have to go but that, as on TV, what would follow next was hidden; he knew the actors on the new program were unknown. He did not have to be afraid, for everything had its sequel, and the best that one could do was to wait patiently for his own forthcoming appearance.

Benjamin Rand has a meeting with the President. He is prepared for the meeting by his handlers. Chance comments:

"I hope that you're feeling well, sir. You do look better."

Rand moved uneasily in his chair. "It's all makeup, Chauncey - all make-up. The nurse was here all night and through the morning, and I asked her to fix me up so the President won't feel I'm going to die during our talk. No one likes a dying man, Chauncey, because few know what death is. All we know is the terror of it. You're an exception, Chauncey, I can tell. I know that you're not afraid. That's what EE and I admire in you: your marvelous balance. You don't stagger back and forth between fear and hope, you're a truly peaceful man! Don't disagree; I'm old enough to be your father. I've lived a lot, trembled a lot, was surrounded by little men who forgot that we enter naked and exit naked and that no accountant can audit life in our favor."

Chance participates in the meeting with the president. The President and Rand are discussing the economy, which has recently taken a turn for the worse. Chance observes trying to emulate what he has seen on TV about how to act making sure that he looks straight into the President's eyes. The President turns to Chance and asks him a question.

"And you, Mr. Gardiner? What do you think about the bad season on The Street?"

Chance draws on the only knowledge he possesses, gardening, and replies.

"In a garden, growth has its seasons. There are spring and summer, but there is also fall and winter. And then spring and summer again. As long as the roots are not severed, all is well and all will be well."

Rand and the President are pleased. The President incorporates Chance's philosophy into his thoughts and in a national TV speech quotes him. This leads quickly to a TV appearance for Chance on a talk show.

Chance turned on the TV. He wondered whether a person changed before or after appearing on the screen. Would he be changed forever or only during the time of his appearance? What part of himself would he leave behind when he finished the program? Would there be two Chances after the show: one Chance who watched TV and another who appeared on it?

When Chance went to the studio for his telecast, Kosinski observes and comments.

Chance was astonished that television could portray itself; cameras watched themselves and, as they watched, they televised a program. This self-portrait was telecast on TV screens facing the stage and watched by the studio audience. Of all the manifold things there were in the world - trees, grass, flowers, telephones, radios, elevators - only TV constantly held up a mirror to its own neither solid nor fluid face.


Facing the cameras and the audience, now barely visible in the background of the studio, Chance abandoned himself to what would happen. He was drained of thought, engaged, yet removed. The cameras were licking up the image of his body, were recording his every movement and noiselessly hurling them into millions of TV screens scattered throughout the world - into rooms, cars, boats, planes, living rooms and bedrooms. He would be seen by more people than he could ever meet in his entire life - people who would never meet him. The people who watched him on their sets did not know who actually faced them; how could they, if they had never met him? Television reflected only people's surfaces; it also kept peeling their images from their bodies until they were sucked into the caverns of their viewers' eyes, forever beyond retrieval, to disappear.

When Chance gives his garden answer to the host's question on the economy, he becomes an instant national, and later even an international, celebrity. The story concludes with Chance being considered as a presidential candidate.

Chance is attending a large party for international dignitaries as the novel ends.

He crossed the hall. Chilled air streamed in through an open window. Chance pushed the heavy glass door open and stepped out into the garden. Taut branches laden with fresh shoots, slender stems with tiny sprouting buds shot upward. The garden lay calm, still sunk in repose. Wisps of clouds floated by and left the moon polished. Now and then, boughs rustled and gently shook off their drops of water. A breeze fell upon the foliage and nestled under the cover of its moist leaves. Not a thought lifted itself from Chance's brain. Peace filled his chest.

Marshal McLuhan wrote about three stages in the development of mankind - preliterate, literate and post literate. Preliterate society existed until the development of an alphabetic phonetic language. Literate society's development was accelerated by the invention of the moveable type printing press. Post literate society began developing with the invention of the telegraph and was accelerated by the development of TV and computers. Most of what we know is based on literate perceptions and means of communication.

McLuhan believed that the real impact of a change in a medium is in the medium's ability to alter our perception of reality. This altered perception of reality is nearly impossible for anyone to consciously notice, and therefore its impacts are profound. Media, which are extensions of man's senses, alter the ratio of our sense usage. Kosinski opens and closes the book with sense driven descriptions of reality.

McLuhan's post literate society has many of the characteristics of the preliterate society of the distant past. He labeled the society "acoustic", not that it was going back to being only an oral - aural environment of the preliterate age, but that it was going to be more "wavelike", as in the wave nature of matter. However, the post literate age was going to rely more heavily on the spoken word, rather than the written word of the literate age. And, instead of gathering around fires, we gather around the TV screens (TV or computer), in our caves.

Chance is Kosinski's conception of what someone would be like if they skipped the literate age entirely. Chance's learning is preliterate and post literate. He learned from nature and TV.

He draws a distinction in the second paragraph between nature and humankind in the ability to be aware and have intention. Later he points out that TV could portray itself, a feat unmatched in nature.

Kosinski gives hints about TV's ability to alter our sense ratios and it's impact on our perception of reality when he writes, "The set created its own light, its own color, its own time. It did not follow the law of gravity that forever bent all plants downward. Everything on TV was tangled and mixed and yet smoothed out: night and day, big and small, tough and brittle, soft and rough, hot an cold, far and near. In this colored world of television, gardening was the white cane of a blind man."

The last phrase is a particularly important piece of advice about how to cope with the changes when he advises the perception of nature as a way to achieve balance.

Chance is so altered by his TV education that he's not sure of his existence outside of the TV, and he thinks that he can change himself by changing channels.

In a literate world, existence is proven through demonstration of literacy and a written record. In Kosinski's post literate world, existence is proven by being seen.

"The cameras were licking up the image of his body, were recording his every movement and noiselessly hurling them into millions of TV screens scattered throughout the world," writes Kosinski. "Television reflected only people's surfaces; it also kept peeling their images from their bodies until they were sucked into the caverns of their viewers' eyes, forever beyond retrieval, to disappear." In a chaotic post literate world where electronic media have altered our perceptions of time, space, sequence, cause and effect, past and future, the present moment and temporality, Chance appears to be a wise man. He is "post literate" and wise in the way of the garden.

Being There
Jerzy Kosinski
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971

Also the movie:
Being There
Lorimar Production
United Artists, 1979
Screenplay by Jerzy Kosinski

For more information about McLuhan read my article The Wave of the Future.