And, well, because this is a clear statement that I so much relate to.
And, well, because, in a conversation with a friend yesterday to plan a series of workshops, we asked each other what was at the heart of it — this was after listing some good skills and expertise that we have individually and together. My answer, as it has been for some time, was because I’m drawn to the energy, simplicity, and practice of being a better human being. Individually and collectively.
From Mark Nepo’s Exquisite Risk,
“I want to open a conversation about the pain and joy of being awake. I want to inquire into the personal practice of being authentic, of being fully here, of being human.”
It was almost two years ago that I renamed this blog. It went from “Blog” to “Human to Human.” The content that I’ve always shared is connected to participative leadership. That’s the field that I work in. Facilitation and meeting design, strategic imagining from a participative leadership framework. The short version of that is about being smarter together. Or more centered together. Or more clear together. Or more imaginative together. The “together” part is consistent. It comes from my years learning with and from Margaret Wheatley — “Who we are together is different and more that who we are alone.”
I began publishing pretty much daily, Monday through Thursday (compared to the sporadic weekly I’d been doing). My friend Charles LaFond inspired my writing a lot then. He’s a priest with the Episcopal Church. He’s outstanding at telling a story. And from the story, really nailing the main point. He is as thoughtful a human being as there is. Best guess is that I’ve posted about 350 pieces since then. Some on projects. Some on ideas I’ve developed with colleagues. Some on family, because I learn a ton in that context. Some with poetry to inspire, or just because. Some on just human wondering. “Human” is a significantly bigger category to me that “Leadership.” And it is just where my interest lays. The subtle and nuanced qualities of being human are deeply relevant to me in the arena that is our “jobs.”
I chose the name Human to Human (H2H) because I’ve wanted to emphasize that leadership is very personal. It’s definitely about knowing stuff. It’s definitely about being able to see a bigger picture. There’s sometimes a blurry line between those that manage and those that lead. The part that has always been more compelling to me has been the deeply human stuff. Being able to reflect on what it’s like to be you, or on the process of projecting inner perception to an external world. Being able to explore more fully the unknowns and uncertainties of what it means to do things together and what that has to do with a society evolving.
Just being better humans. It is the most honest summary statement I can name. Or at least to provide some overarching direction to working together. It’s far from “just being nice” together. It has everything to do with deep listening to self, each other, and to what arises between us. The process of writing, 350 ish times, has been a deeply satisfying practice to clarify voice, thought, and the connection of leadership to good old human being. Thanks for coming along. I’m grateful.
Last night my spouse and I had dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant. We shared a fajita. When I reached for a toothpick, I saw an invitation to a King County poetry contest under the theme, “Your Body of Water.” Fifty words or less. Selected entries will be used in a year-long initiative, Poetry on Buses.
I love stuff like that. It’s compelling. Like a rising full moon that you can’t not pay attention to.
I shared the brochure with my spouse, telling her, “you should enter this.” Then I couldn’t help myself. As we drove home, to Little Brook, I scribbled a few words myself that connect water’s flow to human variability.
Varied, Like All Of Us
Just as my Little Brook
slows to a summer’s bare trickle,
and yet can quickly torrent
to massed tributary of cascading emerald rain,
so flows human life.
It isn’t flawed.
Just like Little Brook,
it is varied.
Like all of us.
It was as an undergrad university student that I remember first learning about the corpus callosum, the connective tissue that links the left and right hemispheres of our brains. I was at the University of Alberta in the early 1980s. I was studying psychology. One of my grandmothers had taught me before about typical differences in left brain and right brain. I remember my professor marveling about the millions of connections that help these two hemispheres (I thought of it as two brains) talk to each other. Without the connective tissue we are very different humans.
That image of the corpus callosum has remained with me through these years. A bit like an old postcard buried underneath papers and pens and scissors and paperclips and rubber bands in a junk drawer — I don’t think of it every day, but it is there. The corpus callosum — the connective tissue — has proven really helpful as I’ve tried to understand more about energetic fields in groups of people meeting, learning, and planning together. You see, I’ve hosted many groups over the years (sheesh — decades). I’ve hosted many circles. I’ve hosted many times when I’ve been trying to understand more about what is happening in those groups that feels so energizing. Why are they connected so well? What further questions will help connect the group? What will help them / us move our attention to actions and experiments?
I have observed many times the phenomenon that is, “when together, it all seems so clear. But then when apart, what once was so clear, becomes much more difficult to remember.” I’ve felt silly. What’s wrong with my brain. With groups, thinking about designs for upcoming workshops, feeling it is crystal clear and that I don’t even need to write it down (or save writing it down until after the workshop). More times that not, I’ve lost the clarity after the workshop. A bit like losing the dream that felt so unforgettable in the the night that is completely beyond awareness a mere thirty minutes later in waking. The connection is gone. The connection to a kind of group knowing.
Energetic fields are like that. In short, I believe that interaction emits energy (never mind good or bad or other for the moment). Interaction — conversations, sharing stories, asking questions, playing. I feel like my work, a layer of the deeper work, is so often about hosting a container to help organize the energy of many interactions. It’s creating a kind of connective tissue. A corpus callosum. The group brain connected to itself, if only even for a momentary experience that can be remembered later.