Last week I got quite a gift. My friend and colleague Eric Bowers, shown above left on the zoom screen, invited me to an interview for his podcast on The Golden Repair.
Eric is an interesting guy. He’s an artist. A musician. A farmer. A group leader. An author. He plays a mean didgeridoo and guitar. I know Eric primarily through our connection at Soultime, a regular gathering for men’s work and men in community.
Eric recorded the program. The video is a bit wifi-challenged, but is here. If you prefer the audio only, you can download it here.
It’s a gift to be invited to reflect, which is what Eric did with me. I didn’t know the questions in advance, which is really how I prefer it. He surprised me with a few. It’s exciting to me to feel the improv-ness, the in-the-moment-ness of the encounter, the unscriptedness.
This is a long one (54 minutes). With slow-speaking. It covers a lot of territory, including some threads from my growing up years in Edmonton as a sports kid, my years in faith community when I was practicing Mormon. It carries forward to the work I do with groups and some of what I would call the fundamental issues of our times — being better humans, reclaiming an ability to live in the tensions, dislocating certainties, acknowledging the fears of our times, becoming adaptive, recognizing the medicine that men need from men, and sense-making that only comes with community.
It was fun to do, to reflect on these threads of life and work over the years. It’s some of my story, listened out of me in the moment, thanks to Eric.
I hope it might open some of your own reflecting.
There are many narratives that I find myself invoking in the work I get to do. I’m talking about leadership trainings (like the one above, last week in Portland, Oregon), customized workshops, building communities of practice, hosting spaces for deep listening and good connection. I work and live in contexts in which the surface of attraction is often about getting tools and skills. These are good and important. However, the narrative that I add, to give context to those tools and skills, is most often about “being better humans.” That’s the crux of it to me, in leadership and community, inspired of course by my desire to be a better human myself.
By better humans, I don’t mean Version 3.0 of an impressive cyborg (it’s summer in the US — the inevitable movie releases are upon us). Better humans is not about more impressive science fiction and weaponry. Better humans is about a more radical simplicity together. Being able and expectant about listening with one another. Not groaning and tolerating sitting in a circle together — so that we can get back to the “real work” as quickly as possible — that’s more like enduring a scolding from a parent. Better humaning is about leaning in to the inherent subjectiveness of life. It is about being able to show up in learning, being willing to be in relationship together, being honest (in particular about the things that we don’t know), and being imaginative together (fed by the energy and spirit of the group).
In thinking about better humans, I’m reminded of Christina Baldwin’s distinction about two seemingly related concepts — “speed” and “pace.” Speed is the guy running through the airport talking on his cell phone. Pace is holding the hand of a toddler as you slowly walk around the block noticing butterflies, daisies, and squirrels.
Adding more tools to your tool box is impressive. And sometimes impressive in the way it expands to a tool bench. However, better humaning is more stories in you story-catcher. It’s about more appreciations of the human condition, whether in isolation or in community. Better humaning is the kindness in the eyes of the person using those tools to make a rocking horse for a grandchild — not just putting a new spin on manipulating a modality to get through a meeting.
Better humans. It’s my hope for me. It’s my hope for us. It’s willing to get on the floor, away from the powerpoint. It is the work.