Human to Human is a daily blog. It’s journalling and learning in public, Monday through Thursday, in which I post current learnings (taking sporadic weeks off to write longer pieces or to rest). Posts are 300-500 words, often with photos, intended to be read in five minutes and inspire reflection, individually and communally, on varied aspects of participative leadership practices, insights, and human to human depth.

In Complexity, Hard Rules Don’t Work

Sometimes it’s the little throw-away aside comments that stick the most. Spoken only as an aside. Perhaps a sub-commentary. Yet, wowza, sometimes these are the blossoms that hang around to open us to a bunch of beauty.

I had one of these a couple of weeks ago from my friend and colleague Amanda Fenton. Amanda and I have been convening circle gatherings for a number of years now. I love her thoughtfulness and integratedness of circle practice and presence.

Amanda and I were talking about CoVid and some of the changing conditions. She lives in British Columbia. I in Utah. She was talking about how one of the key health ministers there was doing an impressive job of adapting to incoming data and experience. Then came this gem. “In complexity, hard rules don’t work. There must be an ‘adaptive why’ that is rooted in principles.”

CoVid is an example of a complex environment and needed adaptation. But it is one that has some prominence. There’s a bunch of questions that are rooted in hard rules, that many people continue to ask. Understandable in their desire to bring some certainty, but really just misguided in the context. Hard rule — when will the government OK opening restaurants and public gatherings? Hard rule — when will a vaccine be ready for distribution? Hard rule — when will professional sports resume regular play? Each of these questions comes from a desire for hard rule.

The answer is always, “it depends.” That may not be the most satisfying answer for those accustomed to imposing certainties, or marketing, that doesn’t know what to do with a narrative of uncertainty and very complex, changing circumstances. In complexity, hard rules are more about comfort for the psyche. They aren’t about intelligent adapting to many moving and interconnected parts. In complexity, commitment to a principle — we will continue to pay attention and experiment, following the learning and insights that we gain while working with our colleagues and neighbors — is what we can offer each other as truth. I would suggest that these principles are what we need to grow ourselves to even be capable of living in such complexity.

Well, I know that Amanda and many of us that facilitate groups have been cultivating capacity to be in complexity for a long time now. I think that many of us continue to create formats in which more group-generated awareness can arise. More connected and collective presence. I’m glad for the simple witnessing with a friend, that pulls out the pithy, to help guide the path, not of hunkering down in certainty (and the inevitable blame that follows — the USA’s infectious disease expert, Dr. Fauci is and example of a person now being blamed through the unfulfilled hard rules frame), but instead to be in adaptive learning and sensing.

Here’s the adaptive and principle-based mindset that so many of us are growing and practicing these days. And here’s the the courage-lending that so many of us are doing to invite thoughtful presence amidst very complex circumstance.

The Undressing — Rumi

Thank you Rumi. For your often-present invitation, to get to what is simple, on the other side of the trouble, that shines in the sunlight.

The Undressing
by Rumi

Learn the alchemy true human beings know
the moment you accept what troubles
you have been given, the door opens.

Welcome difficulty, as a familiar comrade.
Joke with torment, sent by the Friend.

Sorrows are old rags of clothes
and jackets that serve to cover,
and then are taken off.

This is the undressing,
and the naked body underneath
is the sweetness that comes
after grief.

Circle Buffet

Quanita Roberson and I have been giving ourselves permission to harvest some learning and some wonder from our practice of circle. As always, it’s a bit of circle as methodology, and, as way of being. I love circle for the way that I experience it creating connection. In self. In group. In broader fractal of life. There is a buffet of insight to draw from.

Circle Buffet, Part 1 is 23 minutes.
Circle Buffet, Part 2 is 21 minutes.

Here’s to continued good practice for any of us, through this simple form that deepens who we are and how we go together.

Holding Up the Sun

I found all of this post by Barbara Jo Shipka to be really helpful. I’m excerpting here, with gratitude. The photo. The quotes from Gaiman and Krishnamurti. The attention to how beliefs and assumptions create worlds and behaviors in them. The “enemy making” that can happen when humans lock into othering. The chasms in contemporary life, particularly in the USA, that I find escalating to gut punch and sick in the stomach toxicity.

Here’s a bit. Go read the rest of Barbara to get more of the detail. And some really helpful sense-making.

I can believe things that are true and things that aren’t true
and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not.
~  Neil Gaiman

When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European or anything else,
you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence.
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti


I am more aware than ever of the powerful role beliefs and assumptions play in our lives and where they take us – especially when we come to think of them as ‘the truth’. Sometimes when we become convinced that we have a better line on ‘the truth’ than others have, we can slip into some level of intolerance toward those who see ‘the truth’ differently.