On Forgiveness

What is Forgiveness?

forgiveCohen.jpg

Stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/forgiveness

Mustering up genuine compassion for those who have wronged us, instead of allowing anger toward them to eat away at us, is the course of action recommended by most psychologists.

http://www.wikihow.com/Forgive

Forgiveness is the renunciation or cessation of resentmentindignation or anger as a result of a perceived offence, disagreement, or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution.[1][2] The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as ‘to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offence or debt’. The concept and benefits of forgiveness have been explored in religious thought, the social sciences and medicine. Forgiveness may be considered simply in terms of the person who forgives including forgiving themselves, in terms of the person forgiven or in terms of the relationship between the forgiver and the person forgiven. In most contexts, forgiveness is granted without any expectation of restorative justice, and without any response on the part of the offender (for example, one may forgive a person who is incommunicado or dead). In practical terms, it may be necessary for the offender to offer some form of acknowledgment, an apology, or even just ask for forgiveness, in order for the wronged person to believe himself able to forgive.[1]

The Forgiveness Problem

I recently read a book authored by Harold S. Kushner called How Good Do We Have to Be?  http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/133804.How_Good_Do_We_Have_to_Be_

The context is that my grandmother passed away and her sister provided me some valuable and powerful insight that allowed me to sleep on and think deeply about forgiveness.   My objective is not to offend anyone here and it may happen as I have allowed my frustration and anger to bubble up to the top in order for me to just deal with it.

An Excerpt from How Good Do We Have to Be: A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness by Harold S. Kushner

Rabbi Harold Kushner proclaims that God’s forgiveness enables us to accept our flaws and the failings of others. In this excerpt, he writes about transformation or to be whole before God.

“To be whole before God means to stand before Him with all of our faults as well as all of our virtues, and to hear the message of our acceptability. To be whole means to rise beyond the need to pretend that we are perfect, to rise above the fear that we will be rejected for not being perfect. And it means having the integrity not to let the inevitable moments of weakness and selfishness become permanent parts of our character. Know what is good and what is evil, and when you do wrong, realize that that was not the essential you. It was because the challenge of being human is so great that no one gets it right every time. God asks no more of us that that.

“The philosopher Immanuel Kant once wrote, “Out of timber as crooked as that which man is made of, nothing perfectly straight can be carved.” He is probably right, but the lesson to be learned from that insight is not to give up on humanity, but to give up on the search for perfection. Maybe human beings can’t fashion anything perfectly straight. But maybe what we are able to fashion, with its curves and knotholes, will be more interesting, more satisfying.

“Life is not a trap set for us by God, so that He can condemn us for failing. Life is not a spelling bee, where no one matter how many words you have gotten right, if you make one mistake you are qualified. Life is more like a baseball season, where even the best team loses one-third of all its games and even the worst team has its days of brilliance. Our goal is not to go all year without ever losing a game. Our goal is to win more than we lose, and if we can do that consistently enough, then when the end comes, we will have won it all.

“In the beginning, in the infancy of the human race as in the infancy of an individual human being, life was simple. Then we ate of the fruit of that tree and we gained the knowledge that some things are good and others are bad. We learned how painfully complex life could be.

“But, at the end, if we are brave enough to love, if we are strong enough to forgive, if we are generous enough to rejoice in another’s happiness, and if we are wise enough to know that there is enough love to go around for us all, then we can achieve a fulfillment that no other living creature will ever know. We can reenter Paradise.”

WOW 

We aren’t perfect.  In fact we do bad things to each other to get what WE want.  My friends that are religious and have deep faith will have a solid position on forgiveness.  In fact, most people I know that I have spoken with have a very clear position on forgiveness.   I thought that I did until I read this book and now that I did, I am backtracking.    When I say backtracking, I mean reassessing forgiveness.

In the recent past,  I was asking a very religious friend of mine to forgive someone else for his transgressions.  I asked for my friend to consider that this other person has grown up a lot and experienced new life altering events and that this person is essentially a newer version of himself.   My friend looked at me and said “I don’t have to forgive him , G-d forgives, not me.”   I argued my position (which was different) but ultimately religion itself is a boundary or barrier to conflict resolution and he would keep his stance.  As a matter of perspective aren’t most wars about religion?  Most conflict can be tied one way or another to religion and even if you seek religion as a crutch you may become bound by it.   Even the very basic 10 commandments is open to multiple interpretations http://www.godstenlaws.com/ten-commandments/#.UisuUWR4Zhk  

I have started to think that forgiveness may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing for humans. I said “for humans” because I am starting to think that forgiveness isn’t for us holistically.   Forgiveness is an activity.  You have to do something to forgive and you have to be aware of why you are forgiving.   You have to be able to put what bothered or hurt you behind you.   It is about closure.    I read the book and I spent some time thinking about it.  Frankly, it wasn’t days or weeks but it was enough for me to start to pull ideas together that were powerful to me.   I sat down and wrote to my aunt.    My thoughts were clear and literally poured out of me very quickly.   While I was writing, I discovered that ignorance was connected to forgiveness.  It was Kushner himself that pointed this out in the story of Adam and Eve.    I wrote this to my aunt:

Do I have forgiveness in my heart?  I have forgiveness for people that make an effort and a choice to be better.   When Rabbi Kushner advised the woman to forgive her father(for abandoning her), I found the idea that she should forgive him ridiculous.    Would you morn for Hitler?   The constant barrage of emotional abuse and destructive behavior is a holocaust on a persons emotion and psychological condition.   It forever changes that person.   We should forgive the deed of the rape but not condemn the rapist for he is human and people make mistakes.   If he never were to rape again and repent for his ways and realize that what he did was wrong.. we should forgive him not for him but for ourselves because we shouldn’t carry this anger.  It is destructive to us.    When I was a child, I was quick to forgive and I realized that forgiveness allowed for me (us) to move on.  The reason why it did was because there was closure.    Closure is an end to these feelings that you have about something and that you put those feelings behind you and move forward with a clean plate, a new start and a clear perspective.   Allow me to offer you a different idea on forgiveness.   What if forgiveness was tied to ignorance?   I would guess that you have never seen the movie Memento but in that movie a man has no short term memory.  He was left only with his long term memory in place and he is on a quest to solve his wife’s murder.   He marks his body with tattoos to tell himself the story of where he is when he forgets what happens to him.   He has to interpret the markings every time he forgets.   He loses his memory within minutes of an event.   In the end, WE find that he sees the world differently than the world sees him and that his view of the world as unkind as it is, it much kinder than the reality of the world.   I think that is ground truth.   We are ignorant of most things and when we get to see the truth, it is mostly unkind.  That is not to say that there isn’t good in the world but that reality is much harsher than our ignorance allows us to perceive.   There is good in not knowing.   If you knew that you were going to die a painful and un-purposeful death tomorrow what would you do today?  After all faith itself is belief without knowing.   I would like to think that my grandmother loved me very much, my knowledge of her tells me she didn’t and my ignorance tells me that she could have.   If I stick with my ignorance, the less I know about her the more I could embrace and love her.  The more I could find myself forgiving.  I could close the door and start fresh, except she is gone now so there isn’t anything new to start.
Forgiveness is not for the person or people who hurt you but for you?   We should forgive and not forget.  That is another statement that I love.   We should forgive but not forget because if we forget than we could allow for history to repeat itself.   Forgiveness is like the thing that we would like to achieve but never seem to get there.    Do the Native Americans forgive the people who took their land and destroyed their lives for generations?  Do the African-Americans forgive the people who enslaved them?   Do the Jewish people forgive the people who have sought to exterminate them?   Shall I continue?   We don’t forgive.  We seem to pretend to forgive but we carry our anger and our hate with us through the generations.
970884_702492306444079_755484228_n

What if you didn’t know to hate?   The picture above was posted by my friend Kimani on Facebook one day ago.  What if the knowledge tree was the curse?  I am angry but not a G-d.  I am angry at man.  If a person does something over and again and exhibits consistent unrelenting behavior, should we forgive them?   We should forgive the person and not the deed itself?   I have written about conflict on this blog in the past.   An oversimplification of the work (in conflict) is that intractable conflicts are extremely complex in nature, so complex that it is difficult to sustain a mental map of factors that influence the conflict.  We act to simplify conflict, and, in fact, the tendency is to over-simplify, to reduce the conflict to a simple us/them, pro/con, I’m right/you’re wrong.  The complexity of the conflict is too much to handle cognitively.  Once the conflict is simplified, opposing forces can dig in, increasing intractability.

An easy way to simplify intractable conflict is to forgive.   What if we don’t seek to forgive?  What if we can’t forgive?  What if forgiveness itself doesn’t matter?   How about we turn forgiveness over to G-d and we just realize that for most of humanity that forgiveness is something we would like to aim for but depending on the deed in question may never attain.

Ignorance = ?

I wouldn’t say that ignorance is bliss per se but I would say that if we put less effort into having to forgive and more effort in having to forget then maybe we would simply be happier.   Maybe the demons that keep you up at night wouldn’t haunt you if you didn’t know they existed.    I told my aunt that the punishment for being disconnected is being forgotten.   Think about this.. in less than a few generations it is very possible that YOU will be forgotten.   All of your good and all of your bad could be nothing but a moment in time that no longer exists that no one knows of.    The interesting thing about this is that if you carried hate, love or indifference those tacit inside feelings and emotion may itself convey.  This historical narrative of people will carry across the generations.   Where is forgiveness there?

FIN

 

Fukushima vs. Syria

Harm or Help

If America is going to do something productive for the world and take on responsibility to police the world, shouldn’t we be spending more time in Japan?

I don’t normally watch the news but in the last day or so… I have.   I am absolutely disgusted with the media and not interested in perpetuating what they call or identify as any kind of journalism.   It is a freaking circus on television with commentators and opinion makers talking about world events like they are commenting on a sports game.   “You see the American people want..”  and “We are going to see Congress come up to the plate and..”  It is a joke and it is all for entertainment.   We are entertaining ourselves into oblivion.   We have real world serious issues here that are affecting us and all we can do from a media perspective is call the game.

I can come up with a very long and extensive list of things that America should be doing to help our world.    I am pretty sure that most of us would agree that we need to solve problems in health, energy, economy and global stabilization (warming or not).   I am going to be clear and honest here, I don’t care about Syria right now.   I care about the fact that our food supply isn’t safe.   I care about the fact that my children are inheriting  a foreign world that I don’t recognize.  I care about the fact that our country seems to be more divided than ever and we are arguing about nonsense.

Here is the deal, the Fukushima nuclear plant is leaking radioactive water into the sea.  Who is going to jail for this?  Who is being punished?  What is the world doing to prevent more damage to the earth?  How many lives will be lost?  What is the economic costs?

There are Ideas for Solutions

 Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer with Fairewinds Energy Education,  who has visited the Fukushima power plant in the past, said a solution would be to dig a two-metre wide trench down to bedrock level and fill it with a material called zeolite: a volcanic material that comes from Mother Nature.  

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2013/08/28/japan-fukushima-radiation-leak.html.  

“It’s incredibly good at filtering radioactive isotopes. So whatever is inside the fence will stay inside and whatever is outside the fence would be clean,” said Gundersen, who estimates the price tag for such a project would be around $10 billion.  Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/japan-s-fukushima-nuclear-plant-leaks-what-you-need-to-know-1.1423249#ixzz2deX4BQVd

World Nuclear Industry Status Report http://www.worldnuclearreport.org/-2013-.html

I submit that we look at outcome based initiatives to see where we invest our resources in order to receive the best value for our global investment.  I am looking to keep this simple.  How much will it cost to attack Syria?  What are the outcomes?  What does the US hope to achieve by hitting Syria?   Last I checked, when you punch someone in the face, even a bully it may only cause more fighting and tension.    The region is unstable and has been for years.  The Washington Post spells it out in short order here http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/08/29/9-questions-about-syria-you-were-too-embarrassed-to-ask/.

Bottom line,  before we go off and start another war, we should get our big brains together and money to start cleaning up Fukushima.   Let me be clear on why.   We will have to deal with the same type of nuclear plant disaster in the next 20-30 years on our soil.

The only plant in Vermont will close soon.   “America’s aging nuclear industry has been facing a firestorm of criticism ever since the March 2011 meltdown in Fukushima.  Despite the fact that the Fukushima failure was due to negligence — the operator defied its engineers’ advice to waterproof backup generators to save on costs — the incident has had a powerful impact in shifting American public opinion against nuclear power. That shift has helped the government escape criticism for giving solar and wind power handouts that it won’t give nuclear power.  It has also driven some states to try to kick out aging nuclear plants — including Vermont.

Of the 104 reactors in 65 commercial plants in 31 states in the U.S., twenty-three — or roughly a fourth — are 40 years old or older.  Another forty-two reactors are 30 years old or older.  These older reactors tend to not only be the least efficient — causing them to struggle more to compete with cheap fossil fuel power and artificially cheap alternative energy — they also require more in maintenance.”

These companies will be broke and they will walk away from these filthy death plants waving the white flag.    I would say that would force the US to have to prepare and deal with two fundamental issues.  The first would be stable and clean power generation and the second would be cleaning up the mess that is left over from nuclear power generation.   If we can figure out ways to offset or deal with radiation by some how neutralizing contaminated waste products, we will be prepared to deal with 70-year-old nuclear facility shut down.     If you aren’t angry by now, you should be.   I sure wish that our politicians didn’t feel as if they deserved a break (because they don’t).

Before we lob anything over at Syria we should know why what we are attacking for and what the positive outcome will be..

If there isn’t one, then send our Congress and Senate over to Fukushima and let us see them “roll up their sleeves”  for our future.    

Why I Think Business is Personal **Remembering Arden**

2013-08-11 13.48.47I met Arden (aka Spook) in the late 1990’s after I was lucky enough to get a job at a little internet startup company called ExisNet.    I was troubled by some of life’s lessons and I was looking for myself.   Spook was one of the supervisors at ExisNet, he was a Marine (retired) but still a Marine.   I was in my late 20’s and still very young minded.    I think in his years as a leader and warfighter, he has seen plenty of young men like me.    He was an expert photographer and private investigator, he chose to work in order to have purpose but also to fund his outside activities.

Spook

At work he was a tough and stubborn guy and he would be quick to tell me that he would shoot me if I messed up.   The not so funny part was that he did carry a gun all the time and I knew that he had experience in the matter of killing.   More than fear, our team respected him.   It was Thanksgiving time and I didn’t have family in the area, he invited me to come to his family’s house for the holiday.   I didn’t know any of his family and they welcomed me in with open arms.   This was the beginning of our family connection.    As this is a simple blog and I could write many Spook stories on here, I want to point out that our relationship developed at work.  I wouldn’t have met Spook or known him otherwise.  He was my supervisor and a mentor, later he became a father figure and a friend of the highest order.   I am reminded at times that at work (it is business).   I have thought about this over and again and I disagree.  We are people and we build, maintain and grow relationships.   There are times when work relationships become something else and it could be inappropriate but more often working relationships are some of the best and deepest relationships we can in our lives.   To forcibly seek to separate these or to state that “business is not personal” is to ignore our humanity.   My best friends have come from my working relationships.   I still love and care for my relationships built while on active duty (at work).   My active friendships came from my work relationships and my family was built from my friendship with Geoff O’Brien (who reluctantly introduced me to his awesome sister).

399
Sammy is named for Spook (Sam Arden) Cohen

Next time someone says “business isn’t personal” think about your experiences and ask yourself about your life.   Isn’t business personal?

Spook passed away Jan 2010, his love and kindness are missed by many.    His impact on my life forever changed my path and I am reminded of him everyday.

Words for Spook

For those of us that are parents we love our children unconditionally.
In a way we are programmed to potentially have maybe a little more
patience with our children because they are after all a part of who we
are. Most of us never turn our back on our children and further we
protect them as much as we can even as they become more responsible
for themselves. We have a responsibility to care for them, after all
they are our children. We love our children unconditionally, even if
they make mistakes that are hurtful and harmful. In a way we have
limited choices when it comes to our children because they are always
ours. Spook chose to extend this same kind of love to me. He always
believed in me and pushed me to do better.984 Boys

He would tell me of the things that I can do and the success that I will
have. I didn’t have family in the area and I hardly had enough money
to make ends meet. Often Jane would pack an extra sandwich and send
it with Spook. He would tell me that he wasn’t hungry and that he
didn’t want to waste food so I should eat the sandwich.
During the holidays he would take me with him to visit with family who
would graciously accept me into their homes.
Spook was probably the most religious man I have ever known. He
didn’t practice by going to church but instead he acted on the most
fundamental principles of religion. Spook put others before himself.
Often he would enroll me in his campaign to help someone. His efforts
never ended even towards his final days.
We are all here today to celebrate Spooks life. I thought it might be
interesting for me to tell you a little about how he has impacted
potentially millions of people. Spook often told me about how he was an
orphan as a child and how he believed that family was more than just
blood relations. When I first met spook he had already retired from
the military and effectively had dealt with hundreds if not thousands
of young knuckleheads like me. He had taken many people under what
I would call Spook and Jane foster care. Spook and Jane fed and
cared for countless Marines and many friends outside of the Corp.
Spook gave to everyone, I am willing to bet that almost everyone here
today has something from him. I would even venture to say that some
of us may even have something from him with us today.
Spooks nature-wildlife website was an example of him sharing his love
of animals and nature with the world. His website still to this day gets
hundreds of thousands of hits a month. He has electronically touched
millions.
Spook loved gadgets, flashlights, tools and he loved to share them.
Often he would buy something for someone and then buy one for
himself, he couldn’t resist. He would call me to talk about new things
and new technology. He would call me almost every day. If he had
nothing to talk about we at least had an opportunity to say hello.
People.. he loved people, as I am sure most of you know.
Sorry to jump around but there is more to say than I have time. He
was a patriot, he believed that he fought as a marine for our freedom.
He believed in our country, our way of life and he believed we should
be responsible for ourselves and each other. Each of us has a personal
responsibility to do the best we can to do the right thing. Each of us
should have the courage and the integrity to stand up for what we
believe in.
Yeah.. so Spook was different. He bought what he wanted, he did
what he wanted, he did things his way. He didn’t regret. He didn’t lie.
He did what he always said he would do. He played hard and he loved
people in a way that was generally unconditional.
Our world was changed by his presence, his life, his values and his love.
I can tell you that I would not be here today and I would not have my
life if it were not for him. I would like to leave you with this one short
recent story. I was traveling to Europe not long ago and Spook gave me
some things to take with me that I was meant to return. He also
asked me to do some things which wasn’t unusual for him. When I got
back I did the things he asked and he told me to keep the things he
gave me. I started to question him as to why he was giving me this
stuff and he replied “Howie.. I am not dying, when I am dying I will tell
you I am dying and then I will tell you what you need to worry about
then.” The past two weeks have been crazy and Spook has been under
special care, pain medicine, and really a lot of pain. The day he realized
that he was dying he looked at me and said “Ok.. now I am dying and I
am telling you the things I want you to know.” He faced death as he
faced life. I hope to be more like him in my days and I hope my
children will love me as much as I love him. On behalf of myself, Erin,
William, Bryce, and Drew on behalf of my extended family and friends,
on behalf of the children reading about Lions on his website, thank you
Spook.. Thank you!

Howard’s Holocaust

The Most

I have been writing and posting now on this WordPress site for about three years.   Most of the things I write about are a little generic.   In a sense, I have sought out ways to help people by looking to subject areas of interest and providing some insight and maybe a little abstract thought.  Today I am doing something different.

I lost most of my explicit memories in a tragedy of significant  proportion.   On more than one occasion, pictures, videos, music and writing that I had saved was lost.   Most of this was out of my control but some of the loss I did to myself by not taking action.  This very weekend I was driven to clean out some of the things that I did save.   I have very little from my youth and when I find something, I normally examine for a hint of who I was.    As I have written many times in the past, I am a kid from The (DA) Bronx.

The Bronx offered an intercultural, wide variety of ethic diversity.   It was a place that represented the best and worst of blending communities.   In my youth, my ignorance was learning about what made people different as opposed to why we should focus on our commonality.   In high school, I was a white Jewish boy with mostly black and hispanic students (friends).   There was hate and there were trials but in person these challenges were overrun by teachers and other students that could see through the color of our skin and reach into our hearts.  In other words, we always focused on building a community of acceptance.   I am not the person I was then but the kid I was still lives in the background.   I don’t look at people as a kind or a race.  I look at people as individuals and judge them by their actions.

Transition:

Today we are facing the same issues that we did over the history of our country and human kind.   This weekend in particular I have seen a lot of people writing and speaking of the past 50 years of civil rights.  While reading this and watching the news I was sorting through old tapes that I managed to keep.  I found one labeled “Howard’s Holocaust.”   I had no memory of this tape.  Even when I found a tape player to put it in and heard the sounds of a younger me  I didn’t remember this conversation.

The recording was made sometime between 1987 and 1989, most likely my second year at University Heights High school located in the Bronx at 181st and University Ave.  As a Jewish kid, I understood the Holocaust from a culture of remembrance and an integration of pain and suffering into the daily vernacular of my people.   That being said, I was emotionally disconnected.   I had seen the branding serial numbers etched into the arms of my neighbors.  I had seen and heard the stories of people jumping from the trains.   I had lived with a man whom I love that was buried at night as a child to protect him from the Nazi’s.   All those things and I was still not connected or maybe partially connected.  Not in the way that it would rattle my soul today.  It was an immaturity that was innocent.   I was honestly incapable of connecting the dots in a way that deeply allowed me to better myself as a human.

I understood what things meant, I think that I just didn’t allow myself to live in my understanding of this history.  In fact, I didn’t know that I was myself living in history just by interacting with witnesses and victims of this great inhumane and painful series of events.  Someone tried to wipe an ethnic and cultural line of people from the planet.   This within itself doesn’t take anything away from any other tragedy or traumatic events of our time but it is a stain that can’t be washed away.   What pains me the most is that we still allow genocide and the young disconnected me knew that it would happen again.   I knew as a disconnected child that our world was not healing.

From what I can tell, I was asked to read a book by Elie Weisel http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elie_Wiesel that had to do with the holocaust.   Since I don’t remember what I read or didn’t read, I can only guess that I did a half ass job of reading.  I didn’t have a keen interest in education as teen.  I became much more passionate later on.

There is an interesting ignorance as well that is wrapped into the conversation.    This is probably the most revealing post I have ever made.   It deals with the fact that as a youth I had values that were similar to my values today but I was lacking in information and ability to rationalize what I didn’t know.    I am sharing this today because I think generally the public is doing the same thing.

We make statements and assumptions on areas of complicated matters that we have trouble deeply understanding.  The facts alone are not enough information to provide good insight.   It also points to something else.   We need to take personal responsibility to help each other and learn about each other.  We can’t know each others pain but we can mirror and reflect our understanding to get close enough.

I am sharing three audio files, each are about 15 minutes long.  I tried to clean up the audio a little but I didn’t edit the content.  For me personally there was a story at the end that I didn’t truly understand then (age 15-16) that I deeply understand and associate with now.   Most of the audio is the teacher interviewing me on what I think about the holocaust with some role playing.

cropped-howard.jpg

Howard’s Holocaust Audio

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/1d5aphuc4wxpvja/c429P7PUL4

Who is Responsible When Crowdsource Becomes Murder?

Question : Who is accountable or responsible when a false accusation or false report results in the death of a person?

Brown University student Sunil Tripathi was wrongly tied to the Boston Marathon bombing.   The result (may have been) his death.  There are indications that he may have died before the bombing.  The questions still remain. 

Reddit General Manager Erik Martin wrote:

though started with noble intentions, some of the activity on reddit fueled online witch hunts and dangerous speculation which spiraled into very negative consequences for innocent parties. The reddit staff and the millions of people on reddit around the world deeply regret that this happened. We have apologized privately to the family of missing college student Sunil Triphathi, as have various users and moderators. We want to take this opportunity to apologize publicly for the pain they have had to endure. We hope that this painful event will be channeled into something positive and the increased awareness will lead to Sunil’s quick and safe return home. We encourage everyone to join and show your support to the Triphathi family and their search.

Angry and Disconnected

Increasingly we are disconnected.

It is as simple as that and as complicated as that.  We are disconnected from each other.  The relationships that we have are finely strung interwoven webs of very fragile connections.   The connections are fragile because of all of the miscommunication.  Even when we stand in front of each other today and talk person to person we are still communicating less effectively than we did years ago.

People in all walks of business are becoming more increasingly angry and frustrated and as a friend puts it we are all suffering from some form of “disaster fatigue.”   As I watched the news last night, and we wrapped up and closed the latest great tragedy that will surely get a name and a conspiracy theory assigned to it, I was troubled by the thought that all we seek is closure (quickly).   After 4 days and exhaustive efforts and incredible detective work, it is finally over.  Oh thank G-d it is over! Now we can move onto the next great tragedy and forget about this one unless we want to make some great point in a position paper or argument.  The media is disgusting at times.   There is no such thing as journalist integrity anymore, shame on them.  Shame on us too, because we watch it and we let them entertain us with their constant barrage of tragedy and despair.  They keep us on the edge of our seats and then wrap up people’s lives like it is a novel.

I most appreciated and still have the images of the “experts” smiling as they discussed this case and the situation.   I am not being too sensitive, the world is no longer sensitive enough.  It is desensitized and disconnected.   We are turning into a culture of racing changes and closure.  It is as if in our lives we are rocks that are being skimmed across a pond.   Every surface contact is the experience of a major event or situation only to end sunken and somewhere.

It isn’t as if humanity is new or that we haven’t experienced changes or tragedy in the history of our world.  It seems as if there is just more for us individually to consume at a faster rate and more knowledge to handle in multiple levels of thought and conscience.  It is overloading people on an individual level.  What happens is they effectively shut off noise.   Noise may be important but can’t be handled.   It takes time to deal with noise and we have no time.

When you walk into your bosses office and you ask to talk to him or her and they are reading their email or texting or doing something else other than paying attention to what you have to say, it becomes personal to you but isn’t to them, they are simply filtering.   The problem is that this is our world.  This is what we are morphing into.  A noisy place with no time to think and no time to listen.  We get less than half of a story and it needs to close so that we can move on to another story.

When Martin Richard, 8, Dorchester, Massachusetts was murdered in cold blood by the senseless act of these young men in Boston, will you remember Martin next week?   For his family,  my heart hurts today.  It is true that my heart hurt yesterday for the senseless Newtown killings but as far as we are concerned (mostly) it is over and behind us.  How many of the children do you remember?  How many were killed?  What were their names?  Do you know? What about 911? How many were killed?  What were their names?  Time heals all wounds except the ones that are everlasting. The everlasting wounds that run deep in the families of those who have lost or the left over feelings that are underlying in our hearts.  The undertone of despair and sadness that we carry with us.   Only to be added onto by the next tragedy and the next and the next.  Never forget, always remember but if you do forget in your mind, you may not forget in your heart.  What do we do when we feel so much?  We disconnect so that we don’t have to feel.  We don’t need our tears anymore because we don’t have the capacity to manage all of our feeling input and we have nothing left in our emotional tanks that would allow us to cry.  Although there are times when someone is close enough to us that we will be compelled by overwhelming emotion to feel.  We are mostly.. away.

The only point I will add here is that this behavior and situation impacts us at work beyond the obvious.  Since we are failing to communicate effectively, we are augmenting our communication with explicit and highly technical surrogates.   One of my areas of work and great concern is Knowledge Management.   Why is KM one of the top concerns of leadership around the globe today?   Because knowledge is happening faster and change is happening faster and everything is happening faster.   The demands for fast and short term solutions and short term thinking and short term closure of issues is driving organizations around the world to dismiss the criticality of the long term and strategic thinking.   This speed need is creating demand for the 15 minute manager, the short term rockstar, the idol (American) or other.  The quick win.  Snatching the bird from the hand and forgetting that there are a few in the bush.  Lack of patience, lack of quality, lack of service, lack of value, lack of kindness and other mass effects.

 

Lack of connection… lack of a real true connection.  The ultimate result is that there is no trust.  No trust = failure.


How Many Know Me?inmap

How many know me? My passion, my hopes, my dreams?  How many know my intent?  How many trust me?  I am connected.. I am connected digitally to a lot of people.  I don’t even know a number to tell you but let us say a lot.

So, as I said in the beginning it is simple and simply complicated.   It is not about unplugging ourselves and disconnecting from the world.  It is about taking steps to engage and listen to the noise and to turn it off when someone is standing in front of us.  It is about, responding to those who reach out to us and building trust where we can and when it makes sense.  It is about love and looking for small simple small acts of kindness within ourselves without any measurable expectations.

 We need to manage our connections and make time to disconnect.  We certainly can’t hold the world in our hands but we can grab a piece of the world when we need it, put it back on the shelf when we don’t and trust that the rest is beyond us.

To Compromise with The Sun

The Who of You

Sam sold fruit in Spanish Harlem, he would travel every day from his home in New York City to open his fruit cart and sell his fruit.  Sam could speak at least 3 languages including english and spanish.  What we know about our family is really very limited isn’t it?  Unless you are into genealogy or your family member was famous.  What we do know is that these people shared something with us that may go beyond a simple transfer of DNA.  It is our love and hate, our fears and hopes that are transferred in the hidden undertones of our upbringing.  It is more than white noise because it is thematic.  Even if you were raised by a family other than your own biological family, you will carry some familiar theme.  It is what it is.  As generations are born and raised maybe some of the themes are altered a bit and some things can change but there are still faint remains.   I expect that is what is meant when my grandmother would say to me that I remind her of my grandfather whom I never met.  I didn’t meet him physically but through my father I am given the good and maybe some of the bad as well.    We are who we are and there is no grand bargain that can change certain aspects or characteristics of our being.  If Stephen Hawking could change his condition wouldn’t he?  If he did would he be able to contribute to our world and to science as he has over and again?

To Compromise

“The man who refuses to judge, who neither agrees nor disagrees, who declares that there are no absolutes and believes that he escapes responsibility, is the man responsible for all the blood that is now spilled in the world. Reality is an absolute, existence is an absolute, a speck of dust is an absolute and so is a human life. Whether you live or die is an absolute. Whether you have a piece of bread or not, is an absolute. Whether you eat your bread or see it vanish into a looter’s stomach, is an absolute.

There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil. The man who is wrong still retains some respect for truth, if only by accepting the responsibility of choice. But the man in the middle is the knave who blanks out the truth in order to pretend that no choice or values exist, who is willing to sit out the course of any battle, willing to cash in on the blood of the innocent or to crawl on his belly to the guilty, who dispenses justice by condemning both the robber and the robbed to jail, who solves conflicts by ordering the thinker and the fool to meet each other halfway. In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit. In that transfusion of blood which drains the good to feed the evil, the compromise is the transmitting rubber tube.”
― Ayn RandAtlas Shrugged

A compromise is a settlement.  You have to let go of something and make a concession to compromise.  Can you compromise with your being?  In other words, we still don’t have the technology today to compromise on all things.   As a matter of fact, there are many things that we can’t compromise on because we don’t have the power to do it.

Compromise is the issue of today.   It is THE issue because so many of us are unwilling to do it when we can and others demand it when it isn’t really warranted.  There doesn’t seem to be a good balance today when it comes to compromise.   It doesn’t even seem to me that we are looking at compromise from a reasonable and rational perspective.

We can put on some very basic hats and come up with fairly intractable conflict.  Just for quick reference (IC)

Intractable conflicts are clearly different from other conflicts. The major characteristics of intractable conflicts can be summarized as follows:

  1. In terms of actors, intractable conflicts involve states or other actors with a long sense of historical grievance, and a strong desire to redress or avenge these.
  2. In terms of duration, intractable conflicts take place over a long period of time.
  3. In terms of issues, intractable conflicts involve intangible issues such as identity, sovereignty, or values and beliefs.
  4. In terms of relationships intractable conflicts involve polarized perceptions of hostility and enmity, and behavior that is violent and destructive.
  5. In terms of geopolitics, intractable conflicts usually take place where buffer states exist between major power blocks or civilizations.
  6. In terms of management, intractable conflicts resist many conflict management efforts and have a history of failed peacemaking efforts.

Here we are in 2013.  Martin Luther King had a dream of people being simply being treated fairly as people.   It started with compromise, didn’t it?

Now we have what I would call a dysfunction compromise system.   This is a system where we recognize that we need to make concessions or that we have a desire for concessions but we act in ways that are counterintuitive and counter productive concerning concessions.

For example, we should respect all religions except that SOME religion directs us towards violence.   We must make every effort to compromise.  This also is interesting because religion (at least in the past 30-40 years) is changing.   Religion is being forced to compromise with desired outcomes.   I want to state for the record that I am simply talking about this by observation.  My issue and concern isn’t about any one particular thing, it is about our sociological disconnect from reality that is becoming the new normal.  Hot topics of the past 40 years are racial, religion, women’s rights, jobs, economic and political gridlock, global trends, global warming, freedom and democracy for people of the world.

What changed?  I can pull open a newspaper from the 1900’s or the 1800’s and see similar issues if not the same exact issues.   And, so.. I go back just a few short years ago, maybe 50 or 60 years ago.  A middle aged guy named Sam, he gets up every morning and puts his pants on one leg at a time.  He kisses his wife or just yells goodbye as he heads out to sell fruit to his customers.   To sell fruit to people in Spanish Harlem, he had to learn to speak spanish (that was something he had to do) they didn’t compromise with him.    Sam and other immigrants from
“the old world” or from Italy, Ireland, Spain and other places came to America in search of something new, something different.  They had to change their behavior to become American but the interesting part is that they were unwilling or unable to stay where they were .   No one really talks about that part too often.  Why couldn’t they just stay where they were and work things out?  Why couldn’t they compromise?   There is a delicate balance in life, it is give and take but there are also factors in which we have little or no control.  No matter how much we want men to bear the burden of carrying a child, science isn’t there yet.   Should it get there, I am sure some group somewhere will stand up and demand that women have been carrying children for their families for far too long and that men have an obligation to share this extremely difficult burden.   You may read this and think that I am being unreasonable or maybe just because I am saying this that I am being sexist.  Well, that is exactly why I am writing this today.  If I say something that is true even if I don’t believe one way or the other that it is right or wrong, it creates conflict.  We can’t even talk about it because it is offensive.  It is offensive because we have compromised ourselves into dysfunction.   If people wonder why we can’t anything done in Washington DC, this is the reason.

Summary

The next time you write something on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, your blog, my blog, your website, company post, newspaper, chat and the list goes on and on, just consider for a moment that false compromise isn’t always the answer and further that if you have an honest belief stand up for it.  If you have room to truly compromise, consider that as well but be mindful of the truth and your intent, the world will be a better place for it.