Choose Your Path

another detail of And Now

a detail of my painting And Now

Months ago Steve told me that he’d read my book. “I liked it,” he said, “But the only thing I don’t get is the first chapter. What do you mean when you say that we don’t have problems, we have patterns?” Since we were in the middle of a rehearsal we didn’t have the chance to discuss it. I forgot about that conversation until yesterday. I was digging through some old notes and found my original note, the first time I told a group that they didn’t have a problem, they had a pattern. I was facilitating a very dysfunctional group and having a great time untying their collective dedication to misery. Afterwards, I wrote extensive notes because the day’s conversation spun my dials. In rereading these notes I find them more relevant today than ever. Here’s what I recorded:

On the road to power the path splits: one path leads to power-with-others. The other road leads to power-over-others. The fork in the road is determined by where you seek your worth. It is, when all else is stripped away, a matter of focus placement. Where do you seek your worth?

            1) If you seek your worth from others, you will take the path to power-over others.

          2) If you seek your worth within yourself, you will take the fork that leads to power creation with others.

If you seek to glean your worth from others you are essentially trying to control the uncontrollable (what other people think, feel, see,…is out of your control). Control is a fear path and requires protection, shielding, etc..

When people stop trying to control what they cannot control, when they place their energy and focus not on what others think of them but on what they think of themselves, they open. They become safe in the world primarily because their safety is not located in what others think (it is located in themselves).

To pay attention to the self brought from the group an assumption that they would become self-absorbed; they would ignore or disconnect from others. I asked them to imagine this: make the basic assumption that they were loved, that they were already worthy beyond measure. A healthy self-worth does not require self-absorption but its opposite. Respect for others is not possible in the absence of self-respect. Given the imagined assumption of self worth, what might be possible? It all depends upon where they place their focus (where they aimed their focus). Focus placement is a learned pattern.

I have always been interested in comparative religions and have often been confounded by the split that runs through the three primary western faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – all people of the book sharing a common root). To stir my pot Linda and Bill loaned me a book that speaks to the split in the Christian tradition entitled If Grace Is True by Philip Gulley. The essence of its message: what you see (and therefore, what you believe) depends upon where you place your focus. You can focus on the god of righteousness and retribution or you can focus on the god of grace. If your focus is on righteousness and retribution, you will necessarily believe in a chosen people, an us-and-them paradigm, and fear will be your driver (power-over). This god will send hurricanes to punish. If, however, you focus on the god of grace, then there can be no divisions. Grace is for everyone. This god does not send disasters nor takes sides with who wins wars because division is made-up by humans seeking power. Grace creates power-with.

Our nation, at this moment, is in a heated debate about where to place its focus. Standing at the fork it is embroiled in a dispute about which path to take. The danger on the path of power-over is that it invariably and inevitably eats itself. Fear is a potent driver for a little while. Pushing others down to elevate your self might feel good for a time but will always blow back on itself. Diminishing others is a lousy path to (dare I say it?) true power.

For a short time in the 80’s I did work at a school in Los Angeles that served children in gangs. We played a lot. We laughed as a way of loosening the grips of fear-seeing. The epicenter of our work together always came down to this truth: any idiot with a trigger finger can take a life. It is easy to push others down. It takes a heart and a mind (and a community) to give life. The real work of courage is to lift others up; that is what using your gifts in service to the world is all about. And, in the end of the day, the only difference is which path you choose, where you decide to place your focus, and which pattern you decide to reinforce.

 

joywithframecool stuff/prints/mugs/notebooks

WATERSHED on iTunes:  Kerri Sherwood track 10 on AS IT IS

watershed: an event or period making a turning point in a course of action or state of affairs.

Save

2 Responses

  1. An interesting topic, David. Of course, we are together with how this power path impacts education. However, I was interested in the book Linda and Jim loaned you. The sentence: “If your focus is on righteousness and retribution, you will necessarily believe in a chosen people, an us-and-them paradigm, and fear will be your driver (power-over).” The notion of a “chosen people” as it relates to Jews is one that most do not understand. Throughout history the understanding off that term has, too often, been that Jews believe that God chose them so they think they are better than others. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Society at the time was totally self-focused. The social/ethical construct was very different from what we think of as the Judeo/Christian belief system. So, God selected Abraham to establish a different value system, one that was focused on a healthy “collective”. The requirements were significantly different that what existed. It meant that people had to live by a totally different code of values. It is hard to be different. It is hard to not eat certain foods, treat women as equal (if not in a preferred status when the norm was to treat them like chattel), pray to only one God (when others prayed to many), etc. It was, in fact, considered a burden to be a Jew. So much so that up into recent times if you went to a rabbi and asked to convert he would discourage or refuse your request. Why? Because to be a Jew is a burden and the rabbis said only those most determined should convert (not because you want to marry a Jew or you are religion shopping and confused). So the term “chosen” does not mean that Jews are better than others. It means that they “chose” a different and difficult path. That is a significant distinction over a group that feels superior to others. I would be interested in hearing more about the book by Gulley to understand how he understand the word “chosen” as it relates to Jews.

    In the meantime, I am at my computer ready to check-in for my flight to Milwaukee tomorrow morning. It is supposed to rain tomorrow (this happened last time I visited) so who knows what SFO will do to the flight. I’ll keep you posted by text if there are any mis-adventures tomorrow morning.

    Can’t wait to see you.

    Love and hugs,

    Arnie

    >

  2. Important post, David, thank you.

    And Arnie — I appreciate your explanation of the ‘chosen’ people, something I’ve had a hard time swallowing. Much food for thought!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: