A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song.

01 April 2010


Not that I recommend this strategy, but being sick for a few days offers an opportunity to catch up on one's reading, and I have been. I'm not a particularly fast or voracious reader, yet I've finished two books in the last two days and am well on the way to finishing a third. All this to say, I have some reflections to share about my recent reading.

I saw some parallels between these two very different books -- one called "The End of The Dream" by Philip Wylie (1972, long since out of print) and the other called "A Simpler Way" by Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers (1999). Wylie's book is a classic speculative fiction "if this goes on" cautionary tale of a global apocalypse brought about not by war, but by a systematic ransacking of the natural environment that led to a dramatic rise in sea level, widespread disease and starvation. The other book is an imaginative nonfiction exploration of human evolution, starting from the premise that species evolve, not because they have to, but because they can. Creatures adapt, then, in highly creative and experimental ways, not with any particular end in mind, but to see if the change has a desirable benefit. Not exactly to avoid death, but to enrich life.

Wylie's premise is that human greed and shortsightedness ultimately led, in his imaginary future, to environmental ruin and thus human ruin. Wheatley and Rogers operate from a very different premise -- that humans, like all animals, will choose life and life-affirming activities, and that the over-structuring of organizations, rules, processes and procedures interferes with those life-affirming aims.

Einstein said, "you cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war." While this may not be literally true, in the sense that when you have enough resources to work with, you can have both a Peace Corps and an Army, the essential contradiction makes it nearly impossible for any one individual, entity, or even nation to apply equal resources to both. The same is true of any two contradictory notions. It is difficult to apply equal resources to environmental protection and explosive industrial growth. Or to individual freedom and excessive regulation or bureaucracy. Or even to "struggling for survival" -- avoiding death -- and embracing the fullness of life.

To bring this heady monologue back to earth, then, here's the question: what are the fundamental contradictions preventing you from creating a full life, a free spirit, a thriving business? What beliefs are getting in your way, about yourself, your community, your industry, the economy, the government? What do you need to let go of, in order to reach for what you really want?

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