Kai The Dog

The old joke about the dyslexic atheist comes to mind, who didn’t believe there was a dog.

This dog, however, and this post by Reverend Charles LaFond, make oodles of sense to me. God, or goodness, and playfulness, and sacredness in the experience right in front of us.

Charles writes daily in The Daily Sip, which I find often shapes my day in such a good way. You can read his posts here, including this full post about his dog Kai, who does all of the things he describes!

Kai the dog


When you look at me I see God
perhaps more than in a chalice
silver and crimson red with wine,
and more than a paten with
ridiculous wafers nobody
enjoys eating.

I see God in those big eyes
which say over and over
again that you love me and
you like me.
You seem to look at me not
with eyes of justice or anger
like the God the church
has so long espoused;
but rather with joy and
great expectation for what might
happen in four seconds
which is as far ahead as you ever think.

And that too is like God for me,
since I am not sure God is a planner
as much as I think God
is an enjoyer of the
present moment.

“A stick?”
“A bone?’
“A cuddle?”
“A walk together?”
“A bit of spooning?”
“A biscuit?”
“Just some staring lovingly at each other?”
…What shall we do now?!?!?!

Something that involves us
being together?
Something that involves me
showing you I adore you?
Something that involves a tug or war or lots
of licking your face
while I wag my tail?

This is Kai-the-dog
at Miss-Meg-camp.
He is this way everywhere,
with everyone.

How is it that we look to
altars and books to find God
and cannot see God in
everything else,
all creation.

And in Kai-the-dog?

Head, Heart, Belly

I’m thinking of creating an exercise that I might use in the coming weeks. It combines three layers of engagement with three most basic questions.

The layers of engagement are head, heart, and belly. When I think of these layers I still think of Jane Lindsay, a colleague and friend in Ottawa, Ontario that I worked with a few times five to six years ago. Jane would have people very deliberately speak from these layers. For example, “Say a bit about why being at this event matters to you.” In partners, I remember her having us pair up to speak first from mind. Then from heart, which tended to drop it down a bit. Then from belly, which dropped it even further. It was all a simple process of getting more honest with each other and with ourselves. There are many patterns to interrupt aren’t there — including just staying in our minds, albeit good minds.

The three questions I’m wanting to combine this with are some of the most basic in participatory process. Why talk? Why listen? Why harvest? I find that once people have had some experience with dialogue and engagement, the good experience of that is enough to compel them forward into this next layer of story under the story. They’ve tasted the goodness of good process together. They’ve typically tried some of it back in their offices or in their communities. They realize that they want to go just a bit deeper, and they begin looking for more explicit anchor points to those questions. It helps get rid of some nervousness. It helps ground the processes that they are leading.

I have a few anchors that help me with these questions. I think of them as four pillars.

If you want a system to be healthy, connect it to more of itself. This is a biological principle that I connect back to Humberto Maturana, the Chilean biologist and philosopher. Talking and listening are part of that, right. Telling stories. Sharing observations. Asking questions of each other. To create a healthy system, which is the work of leadership.

If you want to go faster, go alone. If you want to go further, go together. This is an African proverb that I learned in my early days with The Berkana Institute, where we were encouraging process to help us go together. To help us remember a kind of belonging together. Talking, listening, harvesting creates belonging.

People support what they create. This is a principle that starts to lead to action. It’s easy to get that people want to act together. People want to do good. Talking together creates essential condition for that action to occur in a more sustainable way. So does listening. So does harvesting.

Who we are together is different and more than who we are alone. This is one that I learned over and over with my friend, mentor, and colleague Margaret Wheatley. Sine the early 90s she has been encouraging people to see systemically, knowing that engagement with one another gives us access to the magic, or difference, of who we are together.

It’s basic, right. Sometimes, many of us just need a bit of permission to return to some basics to discover out loud, together, some of the things we already know. And that makes all the difference.

Hold the Tension

I’ve been learning a lot about holding tension, particularly in the last six months. One kind of tension is that of not knowing, even despite my innate habit of wanting to know and reduce tension. And I think I’m reasonably good at not knowing. I can wait. Often longer than many around me. I can shrug it off for the moment with a, “well, I guess that’s not ready to be clear yet.” I can put it on a shelf, like an heirloom vase, up high in the kitchen, knowing it is there but not really paying attention to it for a while.

I get that holding the tension can have many levels of scale. The tension of everyday decisions, saying no to good things. The tension of relationships, trying so hard but just stuck. The tension of playing many roles — I’m a dad. I’m a colleague. I’m a community member. I’m a partner. I’m a friend. I’m a son. I’m a writer. I’m a do-er. I’m a be-er. There is tension just being a human, isn’t there.

Most of us have been taught, or perhaps habituated, to do things that would remove tension. Yup, that’s good. Maybe an essential survival skill. I’m all in as anyone for a quiet walk. But it’s not always good to remove that tension. Holding the tension, I would suggest, is a massive skill in human development, and is becoming even more important in the complexity that most of us live in.

As a facilitator and host, there are many times when I want to remove the tension for a group. Make it pretty. Make it neat and tidy. Make it simple. Hope that they like me for doing that. But often, my job is to help hold them — I’d say host them — in the tension for the moment when an insight comes that can’t come without the tension. It’s a tension of seeing themselves as a system, and learning to act more as a system and in relation to each other. Could be a breakthrough. Could be an aha. Could be a surrender (not a giving up) to what is emerging.

I don’t think we are designed as humans to always hold extreme tension. That sounds like a formula for early death — cortisol overload. Let’s be clear on that. But increasing our ability to be in the unknown, together — yup, that’s gold.

Dave Pollard is a writer I’ve referenced a few times along the way. I love his depth of thinking and patience in writing. From his site, How to Save the World, this morning I saw this narrative that names some of the big layers of tension. It’s a series of suppositions. It’s brilliant.

Enjoy this, and then snoop around his site too.

suppose that
the world is not at all what it seems,
and that the scientists
trying to map and explain the universe,
macro- and microscopically,
are actually just mapping their minds’ perceptions of it,
perceptions that are no more than the brain’s way
of making sense of an infinitesimally small part
of the infinite complexity of all-that-is,
that tiny part that our senses and instruments
can, vaguely, sense.

and suppose that
what we see as evolution
is just a game, a random experiment,
not anyone’s or anything’s experiment, mind you,
but rather just perturbations
of, say, for want of a better way of putting it,
nothing into everything,
for no reason, no purpose.
and that like fractal patterns of ice
creeping across a window in the dead of winter,
this apparent evolution just plays itself out —
some of the things that emerge continue and flourish,
while others fail and die out,
in infinite variation.

and then suppose that
one of the things that just happened
in this wondrous experiment, one variation,
following from the random emergence of brains
and central nervous systems
in some of the experiment’s creations,
was the imagining of a seemingly separate self,
an unexpected idea of the brain
of the creature in which it resided
that it was, somehow,
apart from everything else.

would that creature thrive, or shrivel and die out?
would this self-referential thing
so punctuate the equilibrium
of that small part of the experiment
that it would take it in a wholly new
and interesting direction
(enabling the invention of time, and space,
and science, and art, for example)?

or would that sense of separateness
be so terrifying, so traumatizing
to the suddenly self-ish creature that had it,
that it would quickly self-destruct,
unable to handle its implications,
the terrible uncontrollable world it conjured up?

or both?

and finally suppose that
(despite the convincing nature of the separate self,
reinforced by other self-conscious creatures
using other strange new inventions
like language and culture)
a few of these creatures suddenly found
this sense of separateness dissolving
until they had lost their selves
and were, again and always
just parts of the lovely, astonishing experiment
of all-there-is.

would (or could) what was left
of these self-extinguished creatures
(using their brilliant and awkward inventions)
persuade the others, still with selves
to join them, to come home, self-less-ly?
and if persuaded, could these others find their way too?

the answer, it seems, must be no:
there can be no volitional escape
from the gravitational prison of the self-made self,
since the self is what gave rise to the prison
and the self is, in the end,
just an idea,
one that cannot forget itself,
an idea that, in hindsight,
as promising as it was, apparently
wasn’t a very good idea after all.

still, if this is true
(and we cannot know)
there might be, if not escape, an inkling
of something that came before the self,
that somehow pokes its way through
the self’s tautological veil
and says, first, that
something is not quite right,

and later, just perhaps, has
(not a path, not a process, not a key)
a glimpse, a remembering
of all-there-is without a self:

of freedom.

Two Songs

The wizardry of my calendaring program reminds me that it is my friend’s birthday tomorrow. I sent her the performance, “God Danced” by the trio, Hot Soup. It’s a great alternative to celebrate and wish a happy birthday. Just under three minutes. It’s got some funky chicken and blue suede shoes — I know, good, right.

You know how You Tube loads related videos. Well it did, and loaded up a musician that I was not aware of. I was hooked in seconds to this beautiful song by Mary Gauthier, “Mercy Now.” She’s a folk singer and musician from Louisiana. I love her progression through the song — from father, to brother, to everyone, to the world — inviting a bit of mercy among us. It’s six and a half minutes and well worth it.