Saturday, March 17, 2018

Creatively Maladjusted

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, There are some things in our world to which I’m proud to be maladjusted.” Dr. King, no doubt, was referring to being creatively and necessarily maladjusted with respect to a variety of important societal issues of his day and can be applied to others in our day (and in relation to the the society at large (das man).

• Racial equality 
• Religious tolerance 
• Economic fairness 
• Peace
• Ecological sustainability and energy security 
• Individual liberty 
• Fighting psychiatric profiling and human rights abuses in the mental health system
• Transparent and corruption-free government 
• Community and family values

How might we briefly define those who are creatively maladjusted?
First, critical thinkers: The creatively maladjusted focus on a problematic area of society (something to which people of good will simply can’t be adjusted) with critical thought, examining the history of a bad idea, its extensions and consequences—the better to weed it out, roots and all.
Second, architects of alternatives: Not merely content with tearing down an existing structure, the creatively maladjusted offer alternatives and are willing to demonstrate those alternatives with good cheer and positivity in public places. They believe that loving and strident public action is the foundation of a true non-violent revolution.
 Thirdly, believers in humanity: Most importantly of all, the creatively maladjusted resist the pressure to dehumanize any and all of their fellow humans. They believe in the inherent uniqueness and worth of every individual and demonstrate this belief in every action they take.
Thus, creative maladjustment is a natural human response to oppression, an organic and highly adaptable way to oppose injustice.
 See International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment - Fulfilling Martin Luther King's Vision 

Monday, January 15, 2018

A Reflection – Wonder and Courage to Be

2018 comes into being after a strangely mixed year of brave, awaited change and surrounding ominous happenings—hope and woe. Gladly I recognize in me, a reorienting universal energy, bārāq, a capacity that flows out of humility to listen to the universal wisdom that is resident in old and new traditions ("Let one who hears, hear") and a readiness to respond meaningfully with the gift of life (embodied intentionality), the courage to be and wonder among all that we view and experience around us.

Mark Jarman lyrically captures this spirit in “Psalm 5”.
Lord of dimensions and the dimensionless,
Wave and particle, all and none,

Who lets us measure the wounded atom,
Who lets us doubt all measurement,

When in this world we betray you
Let us be faithful in another.[1]

I am concentrating on the virtue and dynamism of wonder, conveyed in this paradox of thought by John O'Donohue: “All thinking that is imbued with wonder is graceful and gracious thinking . . . And thought, if it’s not open to wonder, can be limiting, destructive and very, very dangerous.[2]

James Baldwin embodied much woe in his bones of experience, learned and preached with his life and writing courageously of the need for wonder and offered to the world the all-important call to each individual—“to know yourself.” “An artist is a sort of emotional or spiritual historian [whose] role is to make you realize the doom and glory of knowing who you are and what you are.”

We are doomed, in the sense that we cannot unshackle ourselves from the world. Yet each one of us is privileged to be stewards of the inner life, which is accessible only through thought--a proper reverential of attention. We human beings carry with us a human identity and potential for ongoing human growth; this requires finding some kind of balance between the privilege and the doom or the inevitability of carrying within us this incurably painful human condition—reality as a whole, which Karl Jaspers called “the Encompassing.

Jason Silva is a post-modern philosopher who acts out rhetorically philological thought as the ancients did. Here he challenges his audience to take over the cognitive (perceptional) mechanisms to become what it is you are beholding.
Stewardship of internal life ultimately means taking control of your movie—this is key to any and all satisfaction; to invest in immersive experiences that catapult you into trance that steers/captivates one’s awareness so that you enter a state of liminality that fuses cognition and dream, the space of poetry, the space of reverie [transcendence].[3]
This year’s challenges reveal the ground of being, more fully known, felt, more stable, feeding the courage to be among the growing circle of influences within the inner river of life while facing and engaging the outer world more awakened. For me and you: what kind of habits or practices might cultivate a way of imaginal wonderment that becomes a bridge between the two worlds, the inner self and the outer world and  turn our minds toward the good for the sake of self, the other and the planet?

[1] Mark Jarman, “Five Psalms” from To the Green Man. 2004 
[2] John O'Donohue Four Elements: Reflections on Nature, New York, Harmony Books, 2010
[3] Jason Silva, “Engineering Magical ExperiencesShots of Awe (12/17/17)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Moving from a Place of Strengths

Various factors play into making career decisions and managing its development.  While goals, interests and education play key roles in career development, it is strengths that are often untapped when making career considerations. Qualitative strengths (character and cultivated virtues) are perhaps a more accurate place for reflection when visioning one’s self in a life-career whether vocational or avocational (gratifying work that contributes to human fullness and fulfillment). 

Parker Palmer encourages the search for authentic vocation that “turn[s] inward and downward toward the hardest realities of our lives, rather than outward and upward toward abstraction, idealization, and exhortation." These inscapes are the stories of simple accomplishments along the lifespan that reveal our innate resources and strengths that when embraced have the greatest potential to reveal the deep gladness that meets the world’s deep need. 

Western modernity has taught us to focus on pathology, weakness and deficiencies (quantitative aspects).  While it should and is intuitive with trained minds, it is strengths (traits, character and virtues) that when assumed and developed yield genuine, intrinsic success and effectiveness.

By example meta-analyses shows that curiosity accounts for approximately 10% of the variance in academic learning and performance and 36% of the variance in self-selected career choices. Greater curiosity-related behaviors and cognitions are consistently associated with greater learning, engagement, and performance in academic settings and work organizations.[1]

A study reported that those who develop more in justice reasoning report more career fulfillment, continue their intellectual stimulation, are more involved in their community, and are more socially conscious in young adulthood.[2]

A powerful strength that can have an immense impact on ones work is attention or flow, “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”[3]

I myself have a followed serious questions derived from the depth of  personal formation and being that landed me in a seminary where I cultivated various practices that highlighted strengths and virtues that now make up my person in relationship to the customers I serve. I am not in a “ministry” in the conventional sense, but facilitate challenging contexts with people with complex needs in a community of care.   

Today there are few decent models for reflecting on personal strengths. You can try Virtues In Action, Institute on Character. VIA Survey of Character Strengths is a self-assessment that results in a report that can be vital for creating a plan for charting or developing a career, building on signature strengths and for reflecting on improved human functioning in all of life domains.  

Gallup’s StrengthsFinder profile asks: What's the right career for me? What should I consider doing now? What is my best fit? It supports movement for the vantage of strengths

Move from strength.
   i] Assess your talents, knowledge, experience and capabilities. Sort out what you can learn from that which is innate and enduring.
  ii] Don't rule out a career possibility because you lack knowledge or experience. Those things can almost always be acquired. Evaluate whether you have the needed strengths or talents instead.
 iii] Take a close look at why the role seems attractive to you. Resist being drawn to a role for the wrong reasons (for example, by prestige, glamour, or power). Make sure you love to do what the role requires.

[1] Christopher Peterson, Martin E. P. Seligman, Character Strengths and Virtues:a Handbook and Classification. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 135.
[2] Rest, J., Deemer, D., Barnett, R., Spickemier, J., & Volker, J. (1986), “Life Experiences and Developmental Pathways. In J. Rest, Moral Development: Advances in Research and Theory (pp. 28-58). New York: Praeger.
[3] Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper Perennial, 1990.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

On Patience: Reclaiming a Foundational Virtue

We can all quote some pithy adage that recalls the virtue of patience.  “Time and tide wait for no man”; “Life is short”; “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle” (attributed to Abraham Lincoln). The tortoise and the hare tale narrative remind us that it is the slow and steady the win the race.  And by race, we should mean the important stuff of life.

Matthew Pianalto, in On Patience: Reclaiming a Foundational Virtue, lifts the notion of patience from its philosophical obscurity, defends it as a multidimensional virtue which we cannot have too much. He reminds us of its deep roots such as Gregory the Great’s dictum that “patience is the root and guardian of all virtues”. The author’s overarching thesis may be succinctly summarized as “patience is a foundational virtue,” e.g. , which plays into one’s courage to act decisively when it is expedient and wisdom that purposely exercises patience in all situations.

Pianalto selects three major virtues—love, courage, and wisdom –to argue that there is a close connection between them and patience. In a broad conception of patience (gathered from Gregory), he argues, “When we wait, forbear, endure, or persevere with patience, we maintain an attitude of acceptance toward the various burdens thrust upon us by a situation” (57). This is to say that there are various aspects to the virtue of patience, viz., self-possessed waiting, forbearance, endurance, tolerance, and perseverance, while on the other hand we can wait with patience, forbear with patience or persevere with patience (buying one’s time). This is a crucial lesson for those who carry deep burdens for social change. One learns to temper virtuous anger or righteous indignation; anger is kept under rational control

Aristotle taught that patience like all virtues is constitutively valuable. Pianalto expands with the astute opinion that virtues derive their worth from their telos. That is they are valuable because they are instrumental to living a good life construed not primarily individualistically. This teleological dimension or a reference point (i.e., a worthy goal or a long term plan), informs us in a technological age where we are more prone to rely on instant responses and information that calm our anxieties and need for certainty. So what if it becomes evident to us that a goal we are pursuing is hopelessly unattainable? What if, e.g., one is terminally ill and in excruciating agony? Should she continue to be patient? Pianalto states poetically that “there is a kind of patience that endures — that can endure — even if our particular faith is shaken or our hopes are dashed” (134). Allow me to note that the opposite of faith is certainty and it is rather akin to doubt. Thus patience is more than necessary to live a fully human life. 

Text: Matthew Pianalto, On Patience: Reclaiming a Foundational Virtue, Lexington Books, 2016.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Cycling, a Catholicon for Holistic Health and Welfare

Cycling is by far one of the best fitness practices/sports all-around for its collective and inclusive benefits. I have been cycling to work, for pleasure and fitness since 2008 when the price of gas hit $3 per gallon. While I have saved much in out flowing cash, it's the other benefits that make more sense. Cycling has been good holistically with respect to an overall human functioning which has included finding meaning in a personal human response to the global climate crisis. I started small with an old bike riding to work to connecting with an archetypal image becoming an adventurist of local intersections amid landscapes (world of direct experience) via cycling field work and the inner landscape (inscapes) of narrative, language, human aspiration, poetry, paradox, myth, etc.  Nonetheless, cycling has proven to be almost a catholicon for holistic health and welfare and has potential to change the world if this account (logos) were considered and heeded by more.


Friday, October 7, 2016

The Human Condition Exposed Around the Election Cycle

Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them. - David Hume

Is the national election a telling barometer of people's en masse functioning with respect to the hierarchy of needs?  Perhaps it is, for you can observe large sections of party support and even third party supporters and surmise an aggregate sense of where people are in terms of needs on the scale of human motivations. Luis Durani in “The Teflon Don of Politics: Donald Trump andMaslow” strongly suggests that there is currently a large segment of American culture that hungers for a personality that produces a kind of drama that addresses their lower “base needs for security, including personal, financial, health and well-being.”  The very notion of the “American Dream” for any large constituency may simply be the next upper stage in their hierarchy of needs.

There are also those who are centered on vision for changing culture with creative foresight and want of leadership that shares in such pursuit of higher, more complex issues such as national and global economy, ecology, scientific innovation, education and—dare I say it—capacity for peace (vs. the long-standing, antiquated, conventional military industrial complex). I myself have experienced persistent shifting over the years with respect to how I view leadership based on my own maturation and movement toward self-actualization (human flourishing). I have come to appreciate a non-anxious presence in myself and in others, something that is revealed in times of crisis and in one’s everyday practices.

Of course, it would challenging to ever see an self-actualized leader elected as president, since less than 1% of the population gets to that level (according to Abraham Maslow). Perhaps the deep dislike of President Obama is due to the reality that he is closer to self-actualized, as suggested by some.  Caroline Presno lists the following self-fulfilling categories for which Obama demonstrates: possessing perspective, capacity to resolve dichotomies, being respectful and humble, problem focused, and understanding and acceptance of human nature.

If anything is telling during this election cycle, it is the instinctive need for safety and survival subconsciously driving a fact-bending way of seeing things. American political culture to the dismay of some cannot evolve into a multi-party contest (better alternatives) but rather must stay mired with strident, opposing views as people with whom we disagree—those who literally pose a threat. And so people overlook the flaws and lies of a candidate, twist and contort reality to fit their group’s view of, e.g., climate change, immigration, affordable health care, gun control, etc.

There is little doubt that lower motivational functioning is certainly at play this election. In past elections, you heard much ado about, e.g., the "family"; this election people at large are concerned about jobs, money, guns, ISIS. Out in the open are the magnifications of potentially dangerous aspects of the human condition and cognition, the exposure of salient vulnerabilities of peoples and the shear disappointment of many who find no consolation in the choices for leadership before us. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Integrity: More than Honesty

Integrity is more than simply being honest and authentic, for it has a complexity that extends beyond the literature of being “true to self” and connects with other core virtues. By definition "integrity" is derived from the word  "integer",  meaning  "wholeness".  Systems with integrity towards a common purpose are balanced, in step, and working towards a common purpose.

Psychologically it conveys the human need to recover being-in-the-world and in society. That is, with respect to extremes of the mean good, we identify the excess as self alienated at the expense of others, e.g., arrogance, boastfulness; and the deficiency as accepting external influences, that results in inauthentic self (persona), perhaps even splitting or fragmentation.
Integrity speaks into self-differentiation, as it informs us of the practice and need for goals and committed pathways even when it may costs us. In the helping field this translates in how one provides treatment of others and self with care, evidenced by helping those in need, sensitivity to the needs of others, and self-care. This examination is most vital in most professions, since they inherently require us to work outside the rigidness of policy while still meeting goals.

We get a glimpse into the complexity of integrity via Giotto Integrity Test which measures and supports reflection  of habits, attitudes and behaviors that have impact on organizations.  

Giotto Scale
Areas assessed within the context of Giotto
Low scores may indicate
High scores may indicate
Degree of care demonstrated when carrying out tasks [4]
Prefers to leave mundane tasks to others
Careful when carrying out given tasks
Attitude to work
Likes to keep work in perspective
Driven by a work ethic
The ability to control aggression in whatever form
Impatient of the foibles of others
Slow to anger and calm in the face of adversity
The fairness shown in judging the actions of others
Tends to be more emotional or suspicious when making decisions
Balanced, rational and impartial in decision- making
The sense of obedience to organizational policy
More likely to lead and innovate than follow rules
Shows obedience to authority and a sense of duty
The degree of directness, honesty and openness in dealing with others
Closed and secretive about intended actions
Honest and open when dealing with others
Assesses a sense of purpose and forward-looking approach
Somewhat traditional and wary of rapid change
Resourceful and enthusiastic about the future

The results of the Giotto Integrity Test stimulate interesting discussion and often uncover rationale for interpersonal feelings of distrust, interpersonal tension and conflict. The resulting information can be used to develop an individual’s ability to identify individual differences and respond accordingly to improve interactions in the tensions of an organization or perhaps being-in-the-world.