Truly Powerful People (478)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

This is the day before I travel. I’ll be on the road for ten days and I’m excited to go; there is a bit of gypsy blood in my soul and it has been too long since my last adventure. I like these packing days because the usual patterns of my life suspend. I prepare; the abstractions fall away, my actions become concrete, there is a specific tangible achievement. That is a rare thing in my life. I generally live in the land of the ambiguous; transformational work is not for the engineer-minded. It is a life built upon discovery and clearing debris. No amount of math will solve for the equations. So, packing a bag for travel is nice. I know when I’m done.

Preparing to go is a combination of cleaning and reviewing. The work of planning the workshop is done. The notes and drawings that litter my desk and circle my chair are now “inactive” – so I can sort, file and throw. I’m an out-of-sight-out-of-mind guy so if I file things prematurely they disappear from my mind forever – thus the nest that rings my chair. The piles are necessary. They are living-thought-articles and although I recognize that it might look like a mess to some, it is never static clutter to me. It is a thing of beauty. It is a moving map of thought. My desk and the surrounding space are like a Jackson Pollock painting: a record of the motion of my work, a paper symphony of the inner workings of my heart and mind. Lovely chaos. Swirling patterns of possibility.

On packing day everything simplifies…. I will take it or I won’t. Do I need it or not. As I sort my piles and put them away I am aware that I am also cleaning the canvas. Not only am I preparing for travel I am preparing for the next “painting.” Making space for the next project. Inviting the next wild idea to come out of the cave and romp with me. Packing day is a perfect ritual of closure, necessary for opening to the new.

Truly Powerful People (477)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I am meditating on rage. Call it fire in the belly or call it “enough already.” This is not a meditation on simple anger; it is an internal forest fire. It is nature cleaning away the debris, opening channels of blocked energy, and making way for new life.

Rage, at first might look destructive – the forest fire rages out of control – and the aftermath of this rage is nutrient for the soul, rejuvenation of a landscape, and the long-term health of an ecosystem. The fire serves a purpose. The rage is an energy released. It is the fire of alchemy. It is a natural cycle.

I am not talking about road rage – people snapping because they feel so powerless that they explode – that is not the rage, I mean. My meditation is on the ferocity of love, the mother bear protecting her cub. The rage I am pondering assumes power is already at the center, it is the forge and hammer. It is the love of self sufficient to say, “This is the line and you will not cross it.” It is the love of self to say, “This will not stand.”

Where is our rage? Where is your rage?

I recently watched an interview Bill Moyers did with Thomas Frank about money in politics. The question implicit throughout the interview: where is our rage? What happened to the people in these United States that we now so willingly participate in the rape and pillage of our political system? Rather than rise in our rage like a fire and burn away the clutter and abuse, we took a seat, turned on our televisions and asked for more. We sighed, “Oh, Well,” when our supreme court sold our political souls in the Citizens United ruling. We tuned into Fox News or MSNBC and divided ourselves, turning our impotence on each other. It’s an old strategy of control called the giddy masses: If the people turn their rage on each other they will cease to focus it where it will do any good.

I was a little kid in the 60’s and my first memories are of a neighborhood with no fences. There was one big backyard commons where people talked and watched over other people’s children. There was rage stomping around the adult’s conversations – and their love had teeth. I had the sense that my parents cared for their neighbors and I know the neighbors certainly cared for me (literally). It seemed to me that we were in something together; agreement was not a requirement of the community; disagreement was catalyst for conversation and action. I’m certainly romanticizing a childhood memory. There were 4 billion less people on the planet so perhaps it was easier to talk to your neighbor – though that equation makes no sense. People are spatially closer and communally farther apart.

It leaves me wondering where’s the rage? What happened to our self-respect?

Truly Powerful People (476)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I am paraphrasing an email from Megan-the-brilliant. She recommended a book to me, “Take The Lead,” by Betsy Myers.

Megan: “It’s about how leadership in the 21st century is much different than our ideas about traditional leadership – and this includes parenting, teaching, etc., as “leading” opportunities.

“Myers writes about this guy, Warren Bennis, who understands leadership as self-knowledge… She goes on to write:
‘That successful leaders are those who are conscious about their behavior and the impact it has on the people around them. These leaders are willing to step back from the fray and get an accurate picture of what is working in their organizations–and in their lives–and what is not. Moreover, they want to know the why. They are willing to examine what behaviors of their own may be getting in the way. Successful leaders understand that if we don’t lead consciously, it’s easy to repeat patterns that could be keeping us from achieving the results we are hoping for. The toughest person you will ever lead is yourself. We can’t effectively lead ourselves, which starts with knowing who we are.’

This makes me think of the work that you’re doing in the world. Powerful People, yes?”

Yes. Lead first yourself. And you can’t do that if you don’t know yourself. You can’t do that if you are invested in the idea that others are responsible for how you feel, think, see, etc.

More from Megan: “The other thing I noticed this week? In how many places have we disconnected the “word” from it’s “meaning”…. the language from the action…! We talk about teaching as though it is separate from learning…. but

If they’re not learning, we’re not teaching.”

And to Megan’s thoughts I would add: when teachers are not allowed to teach, no one learns. What does it mean, “to learn?” What is the purpose of “learning?” Hint: information transfer is not learning. As any bumper sticker will tell you: information is not knowledge, and knowledge is not wisdom. Why would we shoot for anything less than wisdom? Hint #2: you can’t test for wisdom.

(oh, man…here comes a rant): Here’s an example of Megan’s observation that we separate word from meaning: excellence is never achieved through standardization (think about it, please). Yet we blather on an on, decade after decade, pouring our energy and our resources into standardization of education as if it were the holy path to excellence. If you want to dumb down your society, race to the bottom of the education ladder (and we are doing it), define excellence according to a notion of standardization. Better yet: make a test of standardization, position it as the central driver and definer of the verb, to learn. Structure your system around the passing of the test, refuse to acknowledge the disparity of resource (meaning, of course, only standardize the expectation but do nothing to standardize the circumstance, i.e. fund your schools according to the property values around the school – an excellent strategy for keeping the wealthy schools fully funded and the poor schools very poorly funded) while simultaneously binding available resources, teacher’s pay, etc. to the score on the test. Place the accent on failure (always a good strategy for making fear the driver of the system). Being so short sighted it’s no wonder we are so willing to offshore our economic health and outsource our thinking.

Forcing people to follow is not leadership. Lying to people so they might follow is not leadership. Leaders – true leaders – lead; they do not manipulate. True leaders can see beyond their profit motive and bottom lines. True leaders are dedicated to empowerment in others because they are seekers of self-knowledge (end of rant).

One of the many reasons I believe Megan-the-brilliant is brilliant: she’s awake.

Truly Powerful People (475)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I just listened to a very interesting interview. Jon Katz has written a book, “Soul of a Dog: Reflection On The Spirits of the Animals At Bedlam Farm” – book about soul and animals. He spoke of a survey taken a generation ago asking people if they believed their animals had souls; 98% of responders said, “no.” Recently, another survey asked the same question and 98% of responders answered “yes.” The doll flipped in a single generation.

Socrates and Plato wrote about the soul and believed that it was unique to humans; at least the human version of soul was something entirely different than the energy expressing through our farm animals, pets and all things wild. Western mythology would have us believe that we can sign away our souls for money, sex and power; that our souls are in constant danger of compromise and require vigilant, austere, restriction.

I think souls like to play. Many eyes in this world see soul in every tree, flower, spoon, and coffee cup: everything has a soul, everything is soul so there is no notion of temptation or need for protection, fear or redemption. Lack of appreciation is the single trip line. Forgetting that you are a part of everything is akin to casting yourself into hell. There is no judge or rulebook or condemnation: separating yourself from the whole is an inside job – you do it to yourself.

I remember watching an interview with Gary Zukov, physicist and author of The Tao of Physics; he was asked, “Where is the soul?” and replied, “Where is it not.” The audience applauded. I appreciated his answer and wondered how many people in that audience recognized themselves as soul-full – or was their applause aspirational: they wanted to experience themselves as an expression of soul. To recognize yourself as soul-full means you first must see everyone and everything as soul-full. I wondered how many of the audience members looked at the cabs (or the cabbies) that whisked them from the studio that day and thought, “I am soul participating with soul.”

Truly Powerful People (474)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

When I was a kid I used to draw the same cabin nestled in the same meadow next to the same tree. I became an expert at drawing that place. It was imagined. I never saw that cabin in that meadow by that tree but I liked going there. So, I drew it again and again and again.

As I drew, I allowed my imagination to fill in details and over time my imagining became sensual and specific. It was a log cabin and the tree rings were visible at the end of each log. I counted the rings. I ran my fingers over them, weathered and cracked, they told me that the cabin was built in another time, a time before electricity and power tools. My cabin was made of some very fine old guardians! There was a particular knot in the wood next to the doorframe. I loved the way the place smelled. There was a small porch and I could stand on that porch for hours. I can still feel the texture of the wood beneath my fingers, the creak of wood beneath my feet. Often, in my mind, I ran my hand along the logs, tracing the path from corner to window, window to door.

My favorite spot (it was the point of view of the drawings) was just beyond the tree. It was the place I could sit and look across the meadow to the cabin. The tree was very old and wise and I liked sitting beneath it. I liked walking through the leaves in the fall. It must have been an oak tree though I didn’t know that when I was drawing it. I sat there for hours and imagined my life as I lived in the woods. I liked the quiet of the place. I liked the wind moving through the trees, the rustle of the grasses, the symphony of bird and insect musicians. I was a boy Thoreau.

It is a place as rich and specific as any place I’ve visited outside of my imagination (if that is possible). Earlier today I read this phrase in a story from Patricia: “art is the only thing that makes sense to me…,” and it brought me up short. As I rethink my life I am revisiting my past and that is why I visited my cabin. It’s been a long time. And as I sat on the porch, remembering, I know that for me it is also true: art is the only thing that makes sense to me; it is the only way I know to make sense of the world.

Truly Powerful People (473)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

In class I said, “I feel like sailboat sitting in very calm seas. I’ve done everything I know to do and now I can do nothing but wait for the wind to come and fill my sails.”

Martha said, “Can I tell you a story?” I love it when people tell me stories. It is my preferred avenue to comprehension. Give me data and I will yawn. Throw numbers my way and I’ll say. “What’s the story behind the numbers?” Apparently, Martha has my number. “Please!” I said.

She asked, “You know the story of the Buddha sitting beneath the Bodhi tree for days and days awaiting his illumination?”


“Waiting does not mean stuck. Waiting can be opening to life. Waiting can be the final step. When I feel like I am waiting for the wind to fill my sails, do you know what I do? I finish things!” And then she laughed and added, “I’m a great starter of things but not a great finisher. When I am sitting beneath my Bodhi tree, I take the opportunity to finish things!”

I looked around my office at the pile of unfinished projects, the stacks of notes of “good ideas, the half written stories, and the sketchbooks awaiting my attention. Maybe these calm seas are more of an opportunity than I realized. Rather than wait this just might be my opportunity to open, to clean my inner and outer space. I think I might begin by finishing a few things.

Truly Powerful People (472)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Nicest moment of the week:

I wrote: I love you.
She wrote: I love you more.
I wrote: Oh yeah, I love you more than more.
She wrote: Really, well I let you win so it just proves that I love you more than you can possibly love me. So there! I love you more.

I surrendered. I waved my white flag and let myself be loved more. It’s a nice competition to lose. I recommend throwing the game the next time you find yourself locked in a vicious “I love you” match. Bet on yourself and then lose mightily. All the empty space in your coffers will soon fill up with something much better than gold. This little spontaneous “I love you more” competition left me smiling. All day. Later, when someone cut me off in traffic I said, “Oh yeah! I love you more!”

Language matters. I tried my new “I love you more” game on for size for the rest of the day and you’ll not be surprised to hear that I had an excellent day. It is nice to tell the world that you love it more than more, regardless of what comes your way. The real magic is what loving more does for you on the inside. It’s alchemy: the world may send you lead but you have the capacity to turn it into gold.

Oh yeah! Well, I love you more.

Truly Powerful People (471)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Quinn once told me that the downfall of western civilization began with 1) the salad bar and 2) attaching the garage to the house (he called it “inviting the car into the home”). To Quinn’s list I would like to add leaf blowers as evidence of the downfall of civilization. Other than to create the illusion of tidy – and I apologize profusely to the word “create” for using it in association with something that does nothing – what do leaf blowers actually do? If I did the same work with a broom, if I swept all the little bits of leaf and grass into the neighbors yard and left it there, wouldn’t you find me offensive? Why is it that blowing stuff into the neighbors yard and leaving it for someone else is considered appropriate?

If I planted a tiny microphone in your ear and recorded a mosquito buzzing in and out and then amplified the sound a thousand times, it would be the sound made by a leaf blower. If I ever have state secrets and you want them from me, no need to water board me or pull out my finger nails, simply turn on a leaf blower and rev the engine a few times – or better yet – blow stuff from here to there and back again and I will tell all. I will spill the secrets, reveal the mystery, give you the code and betray the nation. Just turn the damn thing off.

I am not good at digging holes and filling them in again –literally or metaphorically. It is the chief reason why I was worthless working in an office setting; or working anywhere, for that matter. Leaf blowers achieve nothing. They move stuff around. They shift the pile from here to there and then it is someone else’s responsibility to blow the stuff down the line. They are very loud abdications of responsibility.

I’ve decided leaf blowers are metaphoric of Wall Street. Blow the crap down the line, make a lot of noise doing it, and the user gets to walk away feeling like they’ve done good work because they’ve cleaned their space by sullying their neighbors.

And now, it occurs to me that in this rant I, too, am a leaf blower. Now that I have blown my leaves onto your lawn I think I will retire to the couch and have a congratulatory snooze. I feel so much better having vented. I hear my dear Albert’s voice in my head saying, “That guy looked in the mirror today and thought, ‘I look good!’”

Truly Powerful People (470)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

It’s late. It is now past midnight. This used to be my golden hour, the time that I was most productive, most energized and felt most creative. When I was a kid I’d lie in bed and wait for everyone in my family to fall asleep. And then I would rise and draw and paint. I would create worlds in the quiet of the night. In the summer I’d open the window (my room was in the basement) and listen to the crickets and feel the cool air.

I knew even then that art meant something different to me – it was not about capturing images or lifelike portraits. I could do that. It was about something else, something that I had no words for and would never attempt to describe. My dad had an old textbook on comparative religions and I would read it when I was looking to put words on what I felt. Sometimes a passage would describe the holy and I’d think, “That’s close. Art is when people come to know themselves as something bigger. Connected.” Close.

Later, much later, I read the poems of Rumi and thought, “Rumi knows. Rumi knows what art is. And he is looking for the words, too.” My friend Sam taught me that poetry is language attempting to describe what cannot be described with language. Isn’t that remarkable; not that we use language to reach beyond language but that we want to reach, we cannot help but reach. We are compelled to reach beyond what we know. Always. We are glorious in our attempt to describe the indescribable, to full-fill (or full-feel).

This is what you discover if you know the night: every person you pass on the street is reaching. They also want to full-feel. They are just like you and like me. They are looking for the art, too, and wish they had the words to describe it. We are not so different as we pretend; we are not so separate as we believe.

Truly Powerful People (469)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

As I dust off and relearn the story of Parcival I have decided that it will be the spine of the work I do next week with teachers; we will follow the metaphors; we will open the story so the stories of our lives might open. As I work I am discovering that everything you need to know to be a great teacher is in this story! Parcival is a knight of the Round Table and, depending upon the version you read, he is the knight that finds the grail. Metaphor alert: the grail is not a thing to be possessed. It is what Maslow called self-actualization. It is a metaphor for finding your truth and fulfilling your purpose. What is the purpose of learning if not to seek and find your truth (do not be fooled, passing a test is far from the point of learning and will ultimately leave you empty and the test full)?

I love many aspects of this story and the section I reworked today made me smile. I giggled in the coffee house where I was rehearsing. The other patrons, afraid of the man in the corner talking and cackling to himself, gave me plenty of room to work (have I mentioned that I can’t talk without flailing my hands all over the place. If you ever want me to be quiet, simply bind my hands. I’ll make noises but words will be impossible). The story describes Parcival’s first entry into court. He grew up isolated, deep in the forest (not unlike Arthur, though Parcival did not have Merlin to school him) so he knew nothing of people or manners or custom. He thought dressing like a knight meant he was a knight. He approximated some armor, weaving a breastplate from reeds, a helmet from fronds, and he wielded a stick as a sword. He “borrowed” a mule and rode into Camelot. Arthur and his knights, thinking Parcival was a clown, laughed at him.

Growing up without instruction meant that he had the ideal upbringing for a trickster. He followed his nature without inhibition. Parcival had no inner-editor so the civilized world viewed him as a fool. He acted purely so he threatened custom. He spoke what others could not; he carried no conventions so he had no limits. He had no rules of conduct. Parcival would be the boy in the crowd to say, “This emperor has no clothes!” It would not occur to him to lie. When you are not doubting or protecting your purity you have no reason to deflect or manipulate or withhold. Lies are a byproduct of rules. He was powerful yet his power was raw, unrecognizable, so the world he wanted to enter could only laugh. And their laughter was his fuel. Their laughter propelled him into the world to learn. Arthur was capable of seeing his purity. And Arthur gave him hope. Arthur sent him into the world to prove himself, to learn the rules of society, and invited him to return to court once he’d learned the code and conduct of a knight.

The story is a story of desire; it is a story of following an inner imperative. It is a quest for fulfillment. It has laughter and despair, triumph and shame, obstacles that seem insurmountable; it is a story of perseverance and letting go. It is a story of 2 teachers: one provides the rules for conduct; the other helps Parcival shed the rules of conduct. Both are necessary if you want a shot at entering the grail castle.

If it were a poem it would read like this: Revel in your nature. Betray your nature. Rediscover you nature: grail.