Saturday, June 30, 2012
When school ends I’m often plagued by a feeling there’s something I
should be doing. Multiple projects compete for my newly released
attention but I’m wary of pouncing on anything too fervently just yet.
I see it as like the rebound effect after a relationship breaks up
where there’s a tendency to be too quick to grab a replacement.
So I’m grateful when along comes Wimbledon, tennis on a lawn, the
pinnacle of the sport where with all the rest of the highly refined
skills, adaptation comes into play, grass less predictable than a
And quickly I’m saying Wow! And Geez! Just like a kid. I’m pulled out
of my head and immersed in admiration. My endorphins and dopamine are
flowing with the pleasure of witnessing outstanding athleticism, the
beauty of one-on-one contests between the best in the world. Seeing
the best inspires me do my best, to feel the pleasure that always
accompanies involvement in a challenge, resonating with capability in
action. Just like beauty guides us to rightness with proper
proportions and balanced alignment, watching excellence brings out the
best in us. Here the sport becomes art, physically like dance but
mentally more like jazz in that the skills must be mastered and
thoroughly internalized before the artist can play.
Watching Pironkova threaten Sharapova (Maria won) and Rosol threaten
Nadal (Rafa lost) is seeing the new blood rising and pushing the
accomplished to greater heights. When the underdog wins, it inspires
the younger players with a sense of possibility Different opponents
stretch the game in new directions and push champions into new
I’m still disoriented but now I’m happy. Vicarious excellence brings
out the urge to cultivate it in myself, to build skills and craft and
press the edges of possibility. I’m addicted to working because how
else will I find out what I’m capable of. And the great brain
chemistry proves that evolution supports an attitude like this as good
for survival. I remind myself of Michael Faraday’s advice to aspiring
scientists, to start anywhere- you get everywhere important
eventually- its not the specific project, but what’s learned through
the work- building new mental circuits and experience to draw on in
the future. It doesn’t matter much what skill we’re building, it’s the
extension of our power that makes the difference.
SO. We’re in the middle weekend of Wimbledon, the run up to the finals
next Saturday and Sunday, a week of opportunity to get batteries
charged by excellence. Pay attention and be amazed.
Saturday, June 16, 2012
So many of the problems that face us now could be seen as too few people having too much power. Major money movers can devastate whole territories, climates and lives, pollute the area, close the factory and defend the ruination caused saying it’s good for their stockholders. Power brokers in front of and behind the scenes make decisions with negative effects on large populations and dismiss it as the cost of doing business. Just a few people weren’t destined to have so much power. In the history of kings and emperors are myriad selfish decisions that disregarded the harmony of the whole in favor of competing for more control and resources. The pressure to keep up was bad for them too, a kind of slavery to the contest. An executive involved in large scale fraud, being interviewed on “American Greed” CNBC, said he felt so much more free in jail than he did locked into the complexities of a many layered deception that disregarded entirely all the people they were defrauding of their life savings. We have to question a worldview that puts so much more value on money than human individuals and the ecosystem we all share. The growth of a new elite society of the rich may be behind the increasing use of the phrase “little people” and “small people” by the media and celebrities. It shows how distant the elite feel from the rest of humanity. The biggest person in my life’s memory was a woman named Katy Phair, a person who saw into the depths of people and could love them with all their flaws and make them feel seen and accepted, a connecting force for everyone around her. What inspires love is far more important to the world and it’s future survival than competition to have the most money and power. That seems to bring out the worst in people, and we have choices about which aspects of our character we choose to cultivate. I think the “Little Man” referred to in Wilhelm Reich’s book with that name refers to the ignoble and petty instincts in us all that require strength of character to resist. As the “I Ching” says in many ways, character is not a given, but needs to be developed by strengthening positive qualities. Looked at this way, the struggle for money and power can be seen as a form of weakness. The word “decentralization”, has been popping up lately, most recently I heard it on NPR in regard to the size of banks. The small community bank once felt a more personal responsibility to the people it served. Some of my husband’s best memories from his childhood were when he and his father would go out fishing with his father’s boss. Virtue is the by-product of connection. We get endorphins from both. The days when the company was like a family weren’t bad for business (unless business is only defined by profit), and it was a way of life where people mattered. It’s not really an unreasonable idea to set limits on how big a corporation can be, how much money an individual can make. It would eliminate the competitive greed that’s been tearing up world economies. The maxim, “it takes a village to raise a child”, is one expression of a value system within a community where everyone’s aware of and concerned about every other member. It’s a structure where each person has a role, and is attentive to responsibility within the whole. The organic structure builds on our innate sense of what creates harmony and pain and how to fit into unfolding events. Our current culture of experts at the top telling us what’s good for us interferes with cultivating awareness and personal judgment based on that instinct. Just as the Internet has shown how well decentralization of information can work and provide a medium for growth, we can find smaller, more organic models that are attuned to the regions they inhabit and the expertise of the people involved. There’s talent out there being crushed by the pyramid. It will take all of us working together to build a new image.