Master of Juxtaposition

In graduate school twenty years ago, as final evaluation of a readings class, my professor, Bonner Ritchie told me that I was a master of juxtaposition. I didn’t know what that meant.  I just remember feeling excited that Bonner would call me a master at anything. He was someone I respected a lot. He was somewhat legendary in the program of which I was a part.

For that class, I had chosen several books to read. With Bonner’s invitation, they could be about anything. I read a couple of novels. I read Meg Wheatley’s Leadership and the New Science — that is when I first came to know her and her writings. There were six books as I remember. The paper that I wrote at the end of the class (as well as the presentation I offered to my classmates) shared some of what I learned in those books and the thoughts they stirred around leadership. The beauty of Bonner was that the learning could apply to life, to community, or whatever we wanted. He didn’t want summaries — oh, how fresh I remember that being. He wanted what interested us. Bonner was a master at welcoming critical thinking anywhere. I realize I miss him as I write this.

That kind of sharing, that kind of linking, juxtaposing of ideas, I realize is what I do a lot of now. It is a lot of what I do in facilitating groups. Connecting ideas. Connecting questions. Looking for what emerges. Looking for the insights that none from the group came with yet that became available because of being in association with each other.

These days, this way of working and thinking has even more meaning to me, in part because of my perspective from a quantum world view. To give attention to something is to create it. To observe creates physical form. To observe, tunes the channel so to speak, so as to make visible a world that already exists. Naming the links — this contributes to an evolution of consciousness, I feel. Seeing a bigger picture and naming connections helps evolve an ability to see in broader levels of wholeness. Not just for one, but for many.

I’ll just pause with that, aware that there is much in that world view.

But there is something further about this pattern of notice – juxtapose – name. It has only occurred to me in the last few days. From a systems view, I have come to believe in the traditions that emphasize a consciousness of the whole. It is true for me in groups. It is true for me as I think of a broader consciousness in the world. I think of it as “the wholeness of the world.” I know it it names many things from many traditions. I further have come to believe that the wholeness of the world wants to be in communication with us. Or, is in communication with us. The kicker here is that that communication comes through symbols. The very symbols we see and notice just as I was learning in that graduate readings class with Bonner. Not the summary. Just the symbols that have energy. To then link those — as stories, images, reference points — to a domain of learning (for me about leadership, change, dialogue) provides the essential doorways needed to practice accessing that wholeness of the world. It is like receiving coded messages from a consciousness that wants to speak, evolve, and be in relation with us.

I offered a pop-culture metaphor with my friend Roq last week. It was from the movie Transformers. One of the autobots communicates with the boy he is protecting by playing lyrics from songs. It can’t speak directly. It can only offer the symbols of song.

There is much to be excited about. In working with organizations and teams, to give attention to the world views from which we are so busily engaged — yes, this is important and essential. To think that we can shift worlds by shifting our attention — yup, very cool. To think that we have numerously more, networked channels of communication and dimensions of consciousness — yup, that too is very enlivening.

Twenty years ago, I was following my nose. Learning as well as I could. Connecting ideas. Asking questions. As instinct. With support from people like Bonner. Today, that learning and practice carries forward with significance that I would not have imagined as I’m able to open myself further to world views that incorporate the sciences of our times. Thanks Bonner. And others. Good to be part of what feels like an evolution of consciousness, and an accelerated one at that.

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