Friday, May 8, 2015

Community as a Safe Place

Movement through groups and between people will be unique, from moment to moment; even amongst the same persons.

There are unique identities in individuals. Formal workplaces too have their own identities. When these social entities begin to adopt structure over process, there is a reduction in the experience of individuals in the group. Then conversation by conversation, the group itself becomes less than a community – less friendly, and less safe.

To be vital, vivacious and energizing, a crisis can become an opportunity even among strangers, if the cause unites them to community. Expecting community by accident is not everyone’s option, however. Here are some ideas for how we may initiate our designs for community. But before we go there - a snippet that places the safety dimension upfront.

A science journalist was given an appointment with the famous Dr. Einstein. In the fall of day, the journalist said, “I have only one question. We’re asking every scientist we can find the same key question. The question is : What is the most important question that a scientist can ask?” Acknowledging the might of the question, Dr. Einstein was sure it deserved a serious response. After quiet stretching on his rocking chair, in pensive reflection, Dr. Einstein stunned the reporter. “Young man, the most important question that any person can ask is whether or not our universe is a friendly place”. 

Significance of Questions? We get answers that mean something to us

On pondering over its significance, Einstein elaborated “It is the answer to that question that determines what we do with our lives. If the universe is a friendly place, we will spend our time building bridges. Otherwise, people use all their time to build walls. We decide! I learnt of this story from Marilyn Atkinson, my Master coach, from the Erikson Institute. Along with this story, I got in touch with the power of many aspects of our social brain, some of which I will attempt to narrate
. Of course, it is YOU who will decide on how you will use this sharing from me.            

1.        Friendly disposition could be pseudo-community, and yet, lonely forays are the greater risk!
Being friendly and nice, seem important and necessary. However, vigil is called for when you see instant agreement, experience extreme pleasantness and witness quick conformance. The making of community requires time, and the experience of sacrifice. Do we quickly sell ourselves to people who withhold their own feelings and truths about themselves? Being included implies that time is invested mutually in each other. If this phase of getting to know people seems difficult, then try joining the pack!

2.        It’s because of….CHAOS! –

 Individual differences take time to surface, to express and to understand. The tense attempt to ‘convert’ others to their point of view is often an untested plan going berserk! “No, it’s because of this..” is the common refrain for lack of community. In an age of abundant diversity unlocked by age, gender, language, creed and faith, non-constructive and non-creative struggle is the epicenter of chaos. And you thought YOU were normal! Normalsing others is the under-reported radicalism of our age. Vitality is heard in the voice of struggle, and is a shade better than pseudo-community. Chaos is the outward activity that precedes inner awareness. It is so for individual members, and therefore for the group as a whole.

3.        Emptiness as a bridge between Chaos and Community –

Communication barriers can stifle the transition from individuality to community.  Preconceptions, prejudices, ideology and activity addiction are some of the ways in which noise permeates our relationships. Silence is the freedom from these noises, an emptiness in which the need to control others is overcome. The surrender into vulnerability is a multi-faceted dance between visions of clarity and the sharing of brokenness, defeats, inadequacies and shortcomings. Blocking out expressions of pain, suffering and forbearance are resistances composed of pretenseful shields against irrational or illusory fears. Death of pseudo-community is also the ability of members to recognize their capacity to die for each other, when the calling is through such mutual understanding of crisis and opportunity. Emptiness can precede truly powerful community. When authentic expressions are made, our social intelligence picks up threads of opportunity of the larger collective good. Humility perseveres despite myriad odds. Mindless group unconsciousness is no threat to the humble, who sense the emptiness to follow as vital to community.

4.         Community -  

Comme une –in the French language literally suggests – as one. Quiet ensues hard emptiness with soft eyes and deep listening, when community emerges from the emptiness of overcoming prejudice, invalid preconceptions and obsessions with ‘normalizing’ others. One-size fits all rules assumptions in large corporations today. In community, even a paradoxical decision may be taken as to whether it should maintain itself in the first place. In more presenceful or aware groups,  the discretionary wisdom to sense suppression from repression is a living reality. The world out there is fearful of not earning a living, when genuine wealth comes from giving of oneself to others. This oneness from human love is a deep joy, that dares community to greater glory of responsible power respectful of mutual needs. 

In community, inclusion yields consensus, commitment breeds realism, humility begets contemplation and the notion of safety is through an assured laboratory of personal disarmament. Yes, graceful conflict occurs when people realize their collective - as a group of leaders - unafraid to express and willing to listen, in a spirit’ of peace. 

Sounds or reads idealistic? 
This note is adapted from the works of Martin Scott Peck – particularly, his book – The Different Drum. It is written as an invitation to youthful leaders –to- be , so that they can be realistically open to the possibility of community, as they transition to focus on workplaces

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