Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mountains to climb, vistas to view, reflections and promises

I needed that Veterans’ Day Hike we took, back two weeks or so ago; the Sunday after the elections. Most especially, I needed to reach a certain scenic overlook and immerse myself in the spaciousness of it, as well as its historical significance.  I was after that experience of awe that is so much a part of my inner landscape when it meets the outer and all is well, as it should be.  Nothing in this world can compare.
Maryland Heights
Scenic Overlook
There hasn’t been much awe of late. The threat and upheaval of Hurricane Sandy had prompted me to stay with neighbors for a few days where, along with good company and the comforting presence of a generator, we worried  about the storm and kept ourselves informed, communally, about the storm, minute by minute, and about others not as fortunate as ourselves.

Then there was the cancelling of our Overcoming Polarization kickoff event, resulting from the hurricane.  My volunteer team and myself had looked forward to the event and had put effort into it for months.  Now our only accrued benefit was a large supply of stale-dated fliers . Next it was the election, with its front runner campaign hostilities that had been high level stress, to say the least.
The combination of these circumstances had, definitely, gotten my, generally well-balanced, relatively contented emotional system askew.

Thus by Veterans’ Day, I, hungrily, felt the need to be at this one spot, particularly; the scenic peak at Maryland Heights, overlooking the historical town of Harpers Ferry. From high up here you can visually re-trace the route, along the C & O Canal, where John Brown made his approach to hit the town, attempting  to generate an uprising in rebellion of slavery. Brown had taken the armory and hostages and then been taken prisoner here, himself, after his effort failed. 
Not long after, Harpers Ferry and its surrounding environs became home to cannonball batteries for both Union and Confederate soldiers, armed to do damage to the “others” as well as the land. Here they had seized the highlands to lodge their Civil War encampments and stake out the “enemy;” the enemy they would come to know later as themselves, when the country, at last, began to heal from its war torn divisions.

Since I have lived in these mountains, surrounding Harpers Ferry, I have done my best to visit these sites, at least once a year, and bring others with me. On Veterans’ Day, our mission specifically includes giving thanks to veterans, past and present, for their sacrifices for our freedom. This Sunday, however, the only real battles, close by, had been in the political arena where, thank goodness, no real blood had been shed.  On this Veteran’s Day, I, thus, hungrily sought the clear view, the challenge of the climb and the clean, fresh air of that Maryland Heights vista, remembrances and gratitude.
The view from this height and position allows one to see the town, the rivers and the mountains that embrace them for miles around. The scene is so majestic, from both the heights and the ground, as to have prompted Thomas Jefferson to describe it  as “worth a voyage across the seas” at a time when peace reigned. In particular, Jefferson was describing the confluence (or flowing together) of the two beautiful  rivers, the Potomac and the Shenandoah, that happens here.

I could have stayed at the overlook all day, even into the night, once we reached it. The sunset would have been glorious. I wished we could have stayed to see it. We had been gifted with such a clear, crisp Indian summer day for our hike.  I wanted to linger on at this peak, feeling the “awe” that has seemed illusive in recent past weeks.
But I was with a group of people,  enthusiastic responders to my invitation to do this (almost, annual) New Horizons’ Veterans’ Day hike and, having reached this spot, after close to four hours of hiking with about another hour, yet, to reach ground level, again, they were  eager to get back down.

Still hungry for something, somehow, left behind for me at that peak, I have been drawn, ever since, to reflect, not infrequently, as to what my lingering sense of deprivation since this day had been about. This morning it came clear to me.
In blindness I had learned, in my mind, to climb many mountain peaks (with Murat as my guide). This day, Veterans’ Day, I yearned, almost desperately,  to experience another confluence; the one that brings my inner landscape into a beautiful flow with the outer. Now that I can SEE with my new eyes/corneas once more!  

I knew I could experience and SEE this at the Maryland Heights scenic overlook. I need to keep experiencing and SEEING, again and again, the awe that is truly present inside of me, on the ground or at high level heights, and behold all that I can of that confluence with other people and nature.
It is this feeling of rightness, inside every cell of my being, in unity and peace with all people and all of life for which I hunger.  So, having reached this clarity, once again, today, it is time for me to get back to my postings here and do whatever is the next right thing for me, ground level and beyond, in our brave new world, post Election 2012. I have much to offer to our possible society in motion.

I hope I have been missed.
I return, like any other hero of a thousand miles, with many stories to tell from the past and the present, pledging, again, to do my best. Particularly, I want to share what I learned from living and .working in a Camelot tainted by the dark side of politics and politicians. Mostly, however, I want to offer what I know that might be of some benefit to others regarding how to deal with the dark side of Washington politics and politicians.

It is very important that I, now, pass this on -- with the greatest of gratitude that I can, once again, SEE with both my mind and my eyes and SAY what is mine to say.

These lessons are our gifts to you, being the foundations upon which, combined what Sue has brought and she and I co-created, New Horizons' Small "Zones of Peace" Project and our Possible Human, Possible Society Study, have been developed. Many of them are priceless so keep coming back and doing your best to put the pieces together of our gift sto you.

We will make every possible effort, now that we can move past Election, 2012 to make all that we have available to you so that, collectively, we can join together in the coming years to build small "zones of peace" everywhere we go and transform the dark into the light.
More to come.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Election Demographics and the “Peter Principle”

Study Report
Or, how, we, the citizens of the U.S.A., raise ourselves up to our highest level of incompetence and stay there, while blaming the other guy, especially our political leaders.

If you want to really learn a few new things about this subject, just ask the right questions, and, listen carefully. I did.

As a result,  I have really had an interesting and fun-packed year, using the best of my professional skills (and, still, totally imperfect).
This past year, as the designer and primary researcher of New Horizons’ Possible Human, Possible Society Study, I have, particularly, appreciated my clinical and research background and my passion for understanding group dynamics (i.e. the possible human striving to build the possible society).

What fun I have had! And, how very much I have learned! Not to mention my meeting of interesting people with much to share, if asked the right questions in the right way.
Of course, the bare nitty-gritties of the raw data are still a long way from being analyzed and clarified; our premises interpreted. With that fact in mind, only the topmost from the study can be skimmed off to share at this early date, lest the process be compromised before we are done.

Nonetheless, I offer you this.
So far New Horizons’ Possible Human, Possible Society Study, along with the intriguing observations garnered from programs we have thus far planned and presented (programs to date are listed below), have been afforded us untold opportunities. Working side by side with select individuals actively engaged as possible humans doing community unity building activities, we have learned more than anticipated.

Conclusion (interim): Doing our best with one another to be our best, none of us has been quite able to reach that magical peak at the top of the Mountain of Awe.

(Programs to date are listed as follows –)

  • Possible Society In Motion, Dialogue and Dinner event (October 23, 2011);
  • Possible Human, Possible Society Think Tank (September, 2011 – January, 2012);
  • New Horizons’ (Almost Annual) Abkhazian Dinner event (March 25, 2012);
  • The Bus Ride Story Adventure, rehearsal series (May, 2012 – August, 2012);
  • Frederick County “Overcoming Polarization” kickoff event (planning process, event cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy, September – November, 2012).
So what does this all tell us?

Allow me to answer that question rather obliquely for now, with the promised intent to develop specificity in the future, over time, as appropriate.

Conclusion follows (interim):  
Remember the best seller, The Peter Principle, way back when?

That book and the related study it was based upon presented an illuminating perspective on how people in organizations keep moving up the organizational ladder until they outstretch their optimum capabilities, leading, next, to their reaching their highest levels of incompetence.

Conclusion (interim) here is one item revealed by our study to date:  
This is what we are all doing; raising ourselves up to our highest level of incompetence, give or take a few saints here and there, as far as being best possible humans, building the best possible society directly with one another goes.

Example: We can put a man on the moon and still not sustain harmony in many of our homes and schools.
Are you surprised? I hope not. It’s a complicated issue; this raising up to one’s highest level of incompetence, what falls out as consequences, and, the discovery of new ways (i.e. elegant solutions) to do better. It all takes time. Compassion and patience with ourselves and one another is strongly urged.

The subject of the "Peter Principle" in motion, hereby introduced, as discovered through our Possible Human, Possible Society, is an intricate weave of elements.  Thus, it behooves me to acknowledge that, for me, to lay out one simple piece, here, is to, perhaps, reach my own highest level of competence. I am about to go over the top of the ladder to the next rung of my human evolution; reaching my own incompetence.
As our study progresses with its intended objectives, please do check out the premises of the Peter Principle (see Wikipedia) for a prelude to what our Possible Human, Possible Society Study is revealing. And, do, please, try to humble yourself in the process, should any remnants of arrogance still have a hold on you, following, of course, the role modeling of our esteemed president, Barack Obama.

And, please do come back for more.
Over time, I/we will do my/our best to share what we are learning on how each and every one of us may be, at this very moment, in the process of living out our dreams while, concurrently, sabotaging them (including what we contribute to our success as a nation).

Nonetheless, we will continue to strive to inform, along with persistent hints, as already introduced, on how we can all do a whole lot better.
Trust me, if you dare, we can all be doing better than we are!

So, I ask you, why all the excessive focus and blame on our leaders?
Are you, honestly, on every front of your life so much more perfect?

I ask you, now, to take a close look.
Or, perhaps, for him/them it is simply karma (good or bad) to have been given the assignment to be … President of the U.S.A. or the head of the CIA and have your poo regularly be under the microscope, for better or worse.

There by the grace of God goes each and every one of us at our highest level of incompetence. How truly beautiful are we, as humans!
More to come.

Election demographics showed us this, but not this –

Study Report
Ok, the majority of our voters chose Barack Obama to lead our country. The demographics especially spotlighted that minorities, women and students have a far different value system than what Mitt Romney and the GOP seemed to want to foist upon us.

But they didn’t yet tell us this –

Now that we’ve got our election results settled, for the time being, there is still a whole lot that is up to us to tackle, other than voting. That is, if we truly want to become a country with a highly diverse population that works well together, for the good of all.

If the “good of all” is truly our desire, as the demographics seem to suggest, how can we go about achieving the result?
Main point: How exactly do we go about overcoming the polarization that shows up in our politics?

From our Possible Human, Possible Society Study

  • Better than 85% of the people we interviewed report that their vision of a healthfully functioning U.S.A. includes building bridges to overcome the problems of diversity that hinder unity (i.e. overcoming polarization).
So far about eighty of our targeted 400 by December 31, 2015 have been interviewed.

  • Fewer than 10% of those interviewed say they make any effort, at all, to interact with people who are markedly different from themselves.
‘Markedly different’ is described as having differences of ethnicity or culture, religion, value systems or viewpoints including political perspectives.

Contemplate this, if you will, and the significance of fewer than 10% of the collective in our country being unwilling to interact in meaningful ways with anybody distinctly different from themselves. Especially in a country where more and more people, every day, are born who are, most likely, different than those with whom you grew up and/or have ever known, especially if you are white.
This sampling includes individuals from each of the four sub-groups for our study.

Question: If you are ready to accept (especially if you are white and middle class) that you are living more and more in a world full of strangers and strangeness, is there anything different that you think you might be willing to do to help this country be all that it was meant to be and can be?
More to come.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Morning After, Part II

Divide and blame is the wrong game for America.  The path of “elegant solutions” wins my vote.
My way or the
Imagine that you are the child of divorcing parents. How is taking sides going to be helpful for your growth and development? Please take a good look, if you think otherwise. You may not be right. (Or you might be right and me be wrong.)

Divisiveness is not going to help our country get on track!  

Differences of opinion? Yes!
Standing up for what you believe and what you hold to be true? Yes!

Excess reactivity? No!

Taking sides in a divorce, if you are the kid, might not work. Same deal about the “morning after” Election 2012.
We, as voters, are not to be like the children of divorced parents, divided in two, pulled between sides, or, not, at least, unless we want things that way. We’ve got to, somehow, personally, be a part of solutions, not the problems. Whatever does that mean for you?

Here’s some guidelines from my formula –

  • Be clearheaded about what you can do, personally, to help us get out of the tangles we are in;
  • Make careful, well thought out decisions about what you can do to help find the way to the best possible path forward, on your own and with others;
  • Always do your personal best to head for the high road, no matter what you face.
I don’t recall too terribly much about the mornings after Election, 2008 when Barack Obama became the American hope for tomorrow. As I was, at the time, right in the midst of packing for an extended trip to South America, I was not particularly caught up in much of the election aftermath.  As it turned out, however, that trip brought me a great deal of clarity about where I stood as an American with Barack Obama as president.

Out of that trip was born the Possible Human, Possible Society Study because I really wanted to know how I and we, Americans, were going to support the platform of a new American dream to back up Obama’s vision.  In other words, who was going to really be walking the walk and who was, instead, going to just be a talker about the new America, hanging on the coattails of this next possible Messiah?
On landing in Ecuador, I recall being happy and hopeful that we had an African American soon to take office.  The idea seemed to bode well for America’s progress; the prospect held promise, I thought. I had my doubts, however, that this somewhat, seemingly over-confident, inexperienced  in the ways of Washington, but highly charismatic idealist, could truly carry through and deliver what he promised.  Of course, my healthy skepticism turned out to be quite right.

Obama could not deliver all that he promised, but what about us? What did we want to see of ourselves that would support Obama’s  2008 election win? What did we want to see happen? And, how much of our hoped for outcome was our own personal responsibility, not only that of our being carried to some promised land by a Messiah?
Dismayed at what seemed to be a premature Nobel prize for Obama, I sat back and watched as the walls of his Jericho (and our’s) came tumbling down.  Washington had not changed too terribly much over the years since I had first come to it. Playing the D.C. game still required a certain kind of finesse; actually artistry, if you will. And, Barack Obama was far and away, not an artiste.

But what about you, and me, and our personal responsibilities? Did we, somehow, get off the hook for the hoped for results to be gained or the lack thereof? I think not.
I hope you think not, too, and will be taking your own inventory, about things being the way they are, presently, and for our future.

Some people have worked really hard these past four year to support a new, positive American identity while some sat themselves comfortably on the fence, observing the action and letting the next guy put out the effort. Some haven’t even climbed up far enough to take a careful look at what is going on around them and how changing some of their ways might help us all.
In early 2009, after I had returned to the United States from my sojourn to South America and designed New Horizons’ Possible Human, Possible Society Study, I had the suspicion that, as a collective, we might be heading into a human foibles set-up that I labeled the “Messiah failed me/us. Let’s now crucify him” syndrome.

But here we are a handful of mornings after Election, 2012 with Barack Obama assured of his renewed lease for living at 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. In the midst of this I am hoping you are shining some light on your own self, now, to find out what you can do to reach across that aisle of divisiveness that separates us from one another and do something different from here forth to help build our national unity, even if only with your neighbors.
And, if you are living within the one hundred mile radius of the White House and haven’t yet decided on your next right actions in the realm of “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” how about participating in our Possible Human, Possible Society Study and letting us know, at least, what you are thinking about for –

“Your vision for a healthfully functioning U.S.A.”
We will pass on some of what you tell us to help inspire others as our study has been doing, already, still in our beginning stages. (Deadline for data gathering completion, December 31, 2015.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mountains to climb, vistas to view

New Horizons’ (Almost Annual) Veterans’ Day hike
There are mountains to climb, vistas to view and so we did just that on Sunday, November 11 in honor of Veterans' Day.

The hearty of New Horizons, once again, made that trek high up into the mountains of Harpers Ferry National Park to honor our vetarans. Taking pause to remember and give thanks, we visited the Civil War encampment, climbed to the Maryland Heights Overlook, looking over the historical town of Harpers Ferry and, took a respite with the many others similarly inclined on this almost perfect Indian summer day.

At the joining of two rivers; the Potomac and Shenandoah:
"a view worth a voyage of a thousand miles," said
Thomas Jefferson

And, North (Face) meets
South (Butt).
We pause and give

Finally, close to five hours later, devoted friend, Linda, lifts
we weary day warriors back to where we began at
the New Horizons Harpers Ferry Retreat Center,
a work in progress, if there ever was one.

Back In The Saddle

Oh, so glad that election is over, so wearied of the race for the occupancy of the White House. Much relieved to know who will take the reins for the leadership of our country.
Now what? If each one of us can now securely seat ourselves in our own saddles of choice, to where do we head?
Like everyone else,  New Horizons has needed to ride with the pack and get ourselves down to the “ole election booth to be appropriately in the game.

Election campaigning, Hurricane Sandy, a few leaks in the roof – and – now very much needing to stand back, take a pause and re-group to keep pace with all the changes.

Today, on the mountain,  the sun shines, the birds vy for eating space at their feeder and I, Anastasia, am looking to find the next best trails for re-engagement for New Horizons.  It is a bit tricky for me, today, as Sue, my astute collaborator, is off on her own new trail, moving into her dream house with her husband, Paul, over the coming week and into Thanksgiving
Nonetheless, here are some of what you can expect from us, as the holidays come and go and the New Year beckons. Hurricane season will abate, God willing, and the end of the world, according to the Mayan calendar will either affect our plans or not.

  • Long overdue Peace Buddy of the Month Profiles, beginning with a story about our much appreciated, wise, dedicated and respected volunteer, Jim French;
  • Possible Human, Possible Society Study reports, with the now added benefit of perspectives derrived from the election just passed;
  • Tips on how real deal Peace Buddies carry their load that might inspire your own activities;  
  • Stories on how New Horizons is contributing to our “possible society in motion;”
  • Updates about the availability of the soon–to-be-published in hardback, Ahmsta Kebzeh: The Science of Universal Awe, Volume II, by our mentor, Murat Yagan and our contribution to it.
  • Links that will tell you how you can make your tax deductible contribution to our fundraising efforts.
And whatever else show ups next.

We are back in the saddle again.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Our Brave New World

Well here we are, at last, the brave new world fought so hard to reach.

Now be thankful.
And, then next?

But now that we have arrived, what comes next?

We are the fighters that, like the Arab Spring, have been victorious in our crossing over to a new way of living. That is, if we are wise in the choices we make from here forth. After all, living the life of a winner is more than just crossing the finish line in the race to get there.

What comes next on the morning after and the ones after that.

What can we learn from other similar victories on this planet of our's? Has victory in politics been enough? What comes next?
So far, we have made just one, major, right choice, electing Obama and not that yukky Mitt Romney. My choice was really for the Democratic party instead of the Republican. Your’s was for whatever your choice meant for you.

Now what? I think to pause and be thankful, take a breath.

Dreams come true, but what is the vision? Your vision, my vision, our vision?

What is your vision for a healthfully functioning U.S.A.?

What does it look like? And, how does it work?