Lesson From the Pope

Today Pope Francis spoke about trust and our interconnectedness.  He essentially said that the more we focus on ourselves as individuals, the more we are lost and alone.   I believe that is true as well.   We have lost something of ourselves in our social media.   When I was a child,  I knew the names of the people who owned local stores and they knew me.    We don’t talk to each other, we broadcast and in that mode of communication, we are losing our humanity.    It is very difficult to build trust today.   It is difficult to read and listen to each other because we are overwhelmed with information.   It is difficult to know which information is true or false and we get so much information that it disables us.

We are so connected that we are disconnected.  It is that simple.   The lesson that I took from the Pope during this visit was to look up over the phone, the tablet, the laptop, the book, the newspaper or whatever it is that has us distracted and find ways to be a connector.

Just one day before, Pope Francis was late on his trip to Philadelphia, we had the news on in the background and I was pouring a cup of coffee.   The Pope was stepping off the airplane and into his car for his drive over to Philly.   I heard one of the commentators ask why the car was stopping.   I looked up and walked towards the television to see what was happening.  The Pope had stopped his car and gotten out, he walked over to a boy in a wheelchair, he leaned over and he kissed his head.  He looked up and held the hands of the boys mother; she was full of tears and saying, “Thank you, thank you.”  I immediately started to tear up in appreciation for the true kindness and totality of this act.   The world was literally waiting for him (Pope Francis) but no one at that moment was more important to him over this family.    For the boy, maybe nothing, for the parents it is hope.   It is this recognition that we must have hope and that we must build trust and relationships beyond some social network construct.   We must practice good listening and empathy over broadcasting.  We must become “connectors.”

I recently read, Synchronicity by Joseph Jaworski. This book is 20 years old, but speaks of both collective intelligence and our interconnectedness.  Awareness and belief that we are all connected is nothing new.  It is this knowledge that fundamentally drives us to a desired outcome of connectedness.  The challenge that we have is in our substitution of technologies as a replacement or placeholder for our actual human interaction.  The Pope demonstrated in his actions the other day his keen awareness of the spaces between.  It is no coincidence that change management starts with “awareness”

This brings me to the thinking about what I can actually do about this challenge.    I have to ask what being connected means?  I have to think about actions and activities that will help me be more connected but moreover, have better awareness.  I believe we must practice building trust by getting past the social network and building relationships with hand shakes and if you know me… hugs every so often.    To what end do we practice these behaviors and what do we aim to achieve? I think Joe Jaworski thought about this when he met with the physicist David Bohm.   They had a conversation around the connected universe, but Bohm boiled it down in some practical thinking as follows:

Dialogue: Collective Thinking and Listening

“From time to time, (the) tribe (gathered) in a circle. They just talked and talked and talked, apparently to no purpose. They made no decisions. There was no leader and everybody could participate. There may have been wise men or wise women who were listened to a bit more ­ the older ones ­ but everybody could talk. The meeting went on, until it finally seemed to stop for no reason at all and the group dispersed. Yet after that, everybody seemed to know what to do because they understood each other so well. They could get together in smaller groups and do something or decide things.” -David Bohm, “On Dialogue”.

Finally Peter Marino corporate trainer wrote on active listening… from Madelyn Burley-Allen and Michael Nichols respectively.

  • Taking in information from speakers, other people, or ourselves, while remaining nonjudgmental and empathetic.
  • Acknowledging the talker in a way that invites the communication to continue.
  • Providing limited, but encouraging input to the talker’s response, carrying the person’s idea one step forward.
    Listening is the art by which we use empathy to reach across the space between us. Genuine listening means suspending memory, desire and judgment, and for a few moments, at least, existing for the other person.

Summary

Religious or not, we can learn something from the actions of Pope Francis and this is coming from a Jewish kid from Co-op City in the Bronx.   We can work on a daily basis to find the space between and make ourselves aware in order to connect with others on a deeper level.  These connections will lend themselves to a more collective intelligence,  if we focus on people through our humanity and not through the lens of our IOS devices.

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