Jeff Bloom's Blog

Mullings on teaching, learning, schooling, society, ecology, systems, spirituality, connections…
  • .: Welcome to my blog :.

  • Responsibility and Relationships: From You and Me to Society

    Posted By on March 9, 2016

    Over the past eight months or so, my wife and I have been renting a house after moving from a different city. Several weeks ago we found a house to buy. We approached our landlord, who lives out of state, and proposed that if he can let us out of our lease we could help him find a new tenant and fix up the place to move-in ready condition before the new tenant moves in. To us, this seemed like a perfectly normal proposition and apparently so did our landlord.

    So, for the past two weeks we have been advertising the house, letting people view the house, and handing out applications and landlord contact information. But, what has been surprising about this whole process is that the people who call and come to see the house cannot figure out why we are doing this. They can’t make sense out of why we would be advertising the house, why we would be showing the house, and why we would be discussing the terms of the lease. When they ask “why?” I want to just say, because we’re responsible adults. But, I just give them a rather lengthy rationale instead.

    I don’t think people have any models for how to develop straightforward relationships with people and how to assume responsibility for situations. The relationships they encounter with housing are all adversarial and based on distrust. Gregory Bateson’s complementary (dominant–submissive) and symmetrical (competitive or adversarial) types of relationships seem to characterize the vast majority of relationships encountered in the business of everyday life. As for “responsibility,” schools don’t really address it, even though they talk about teaching it all of the time. Their parents have been caught up in the same messy relationships and have lacked any experience in responsibility. And, most workplaces are based on the same dysfunctional sorts of relationships and lack of trust.

    We live in a society where the relationships are out of whack. In such contexts, a number of the social characteristics we all discuss and say that we value are just not supported. These social characteristics include responsibility, ethics, empathy, moral reasoning/judgment, and so forth. We’ve created a social context where these sorts of positive personal and social characteristics are not supported, encouraged, or developed. There are few positive models for others to emulate. The vast majority of relationships are problematic at best. What we see in the media are dysfunctional relationships. The vast majority of our politicians do not model functional (reciprocal, negotiable) relationships or any of the positive social characteristics. I’d like to say that looking at the Republican debates is clear evidence of dysfunctionality, but the same holds true for almost all politicians. It’s just that the Republicans seem have taken the bar to a whole new low point. However, the point is that the predominant model of behavior as represented in film, TV, news, and everyday encounters is one that does not value reciprocal relationships and the values and behaviors that are intertwined in such relationships. Reciprocal relationships (Bateson’s third type) are those that are based on some sense of trust, and where terms and issues are negotiated rather than becoming the source of conflict and resentment. This sort of relationship should be what we strive to achieve with our partners, our friends, our families, and our adversaries. What would Congress look like if reciprocity was the basis for interactions. Instead of blockages and other childish games, we may see adults sitting down together in serious conversation. Disagreements would be a source of negotiation, change, and growth. But, instead we are left with childish, self-centered antics that only serve to prevent growth and destabilize the whole of society.

    As The Turtles said, “You don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.” But, here we are and not quite in the way The Turtles saw it.

    We can step back from this precipice and change our ways of thinking and acting, but that will take an overwhelming desire from a vast majority of people to just say “NO MORE” to this nonsense.

    Epistemology, Epistemological Shock, and Schooling: Part 1

    Posted By on December 18, 2015

    I want to elaborate on a discussion that followed a re-posting of call for university students to stop whining and suck it up when “scary new ideas that challenge your beliefs…” (supposedly by Larry Winget) are presented. In my re-posting, I said:

    Mary Catherine Bateson called this experiencing epistemological shock. I have felt that as a teacher (even when I was a grade school teacher) I was obligated to provide opportunities for students to experience epistemological shock. For what other reason was I in the classroom? Reading, writing, and all the rest were important, but the most important reason was to provide opportunities for children or adult students to grow, to learn how to think more deeply, to re-evaluate what they thought they knew. Everything else was secondary. Some of my own and biggest epistemological shocks occurred in junior high and high school. And, I don’t even think the teachers knew what they had done to me, but the impacts were huge. I’ve tried tracking them down to thank them, but by the time I found them, they had already died. They had given me a great gift. I hope they knew.

    The more I think about it, the more this idea of epistemological shock seems to be of critical importance to teaching. We formulate epistemologies or explanatory ideas for just about everything about our world: cultures, relationships, communities, natural phenomena, living things, technology, and so forth. We are epistemological beings, but then most living things are probably epistemological beings. Dogs, cats, horses, rats, and birds certainly have epistemologies. They have understandings of their social and physical worlds and their relationships. They have expectations of their relationships. My dog expects to go to the dog park or go for walks at certain times during the day. She knows where the rabbits hang out. And, she knows where each PetSmart store keeps their Guinea pigs. My cats expect to be given attention, especially if we are sitting on the toilet or sitting at specific locations. The rats I’ve had acted much like dogs and had expectations for petting, cuddling, and receiving treats. I haven’t had horses, but from what I’ve heard they have complicated expectations and thought processes. I suspect epistemologizing (to make it a verb) is a common characteristic of living systems. Bacteria, plants, fungi, protists, and the full range of animals most likely have epistemologies that provide frames for understanding or making sense of the world.

    That’s what we do… we create epistemologies to help us make sense of the world. But, such epistemologies do not guarantee any sense of accuracy or truth. They just provide a frame of reference that may seem to work. A racist may have an extensive epistemological framework that justifies his or her views of the world. Every input seems to make sense in terms of this framework. If it doesn’t make sense, then it is dismissed as nonsense, as a lie, or as some other blasphemy. At the other extreme, we may create what seems to be a fairly equitable and accurate epistemology. But, whatever epistemologies we create, they certainly are not absolute truths. They are subject to change, no matter how much we’d like to solidify them and believe that they are absolute truths. Every time there is a scientific revolution at whatever scale, there is an epistemological shock running through a particular scientific community. The scientists in that community may have thought they had pretty solid evidence for a specific theoretical framework, then all of a sudden it’s turned upside down. People get defensive, angry, and lash out. But, the old epistemological framework no longer works.

    As teachers, at whatever level (K-graduate school), we are faced with the responsibility of confronting a vast array of personal and “official” epistemologies. These epistemologies may have to do with the subject matter we are teaching or they may have to do with students’ assumptions about the nature of the professional community or the nature of our professional work or the nature of one’s relationship to oneself as a learner or inquirer or whatever. If we take our work as educators seriously, we examine where our students are and teach to their particular needs or situations. We may feel obligated to cover certain material (depending upon our field and the particular course), but somewhere along the continuum of [student situation—-to—-subject matter] we are going to address epistemologies of students and epistemologies of the field.

    However, the way the institution of education is moving, grade school is more concerned with subject matter coverage than with any concern for epistemology, whether personal or official. The approach is to memorize content to pass a test. The content doesn’t have to make sense, which would be an epistemological concern. At the university level, we’re not that far away from the grade school version. We don’t have the high stakes tests, but the underlying drive for profit is still there. Online learning, large classes, and multiple section classes that follow the exact same template are all aligned with the same approach to minimizing a concern for epistemology, while maximizing superficial coverage of content.

    There were times when I was teaching multiple sections of the same course when I felt like I needed to keep all sections at the same point along some arbitrary continuum of content and to cover the exact same material. But, every time I tried, I found it impossible. Each group of students took the material in class in different directions. They had different questions, different ideas, and different interests. Each section became its own distinctive epistemological context. And, this epistemological context is what we need to remember when teaching. Each individual makes sense of the material in her or his own way by drawing on individual experiences, previous epistemologies, and all kinds of idiosyncratic contexts of meaning. Put a bunch of people together in a room and you have a social context of epistemologizing that can’t be replicated.

    To view teaching as an epistemological endeavor, you need to see classrooms as social contexts where students are trying to make sense of whatever it is they are studying. As an epistemologizing mentor, you as the teacher need to encourage exploration, inquiry, questioning, critiquing, challenging, and examining things from multiple perspectives. You need to encourage your students to be scientists, poets, artists, writers… and not just get stuck in one perspective. We should be encouraging epistemological flexibility.

    Epistemological shock occurs when a solidified structure is shaken by a new insight that undermines the solidified epistemology. If we can help students create flexible epistemologies based on the idea of changeability, maybe the shocks will not occur, but will be part of the expected changeability.

    Media, Learning, Schooling, and What We Should Do

    Posted By on December 9, 2015

    Children are deeply in touch with what is happening in the world… much more than we might expect. Around 1990, I did a study that asked grade 5 children to describe life on Earth and the major issues we faced. Most of the children had a fairly extensive understanding of the issues we were facing at the time. And, some understood the complexities at much deeper levels, including how money was behind almost all of the issues. I suspect that with the Internet and the prevalence of technology in most children’s lives, their exposure to and knowledge of issues is even more extensive than in the 1990’s. But, the big difference between 1990 and now is that the news media seems to have been co-opted by the entertainment industry and by the corporate entities that control most of what happens in this country either through organizations, such as ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), or through lobbying and other relationships to governing individuals or groups. General Electric is part owner of NBC news. GE is involved in the nuclear power industry with its primary funding sources coming from military contracts. Microsoft (the “MS” is MSNBC) is also part owner. Microsoft also has a specific right-wing political agenda to which it has been making large donations. So, just how “liberal” is MSNBC with such ownership controlling what they air?

    But, from Fox at one end to MSNBC at another end (which isn’t really at an end), with all kinds of misinformation on Facebook and other Internet sites, this is the news to which children are exposed. It’s a cartoon version of news on speed with no substance, no depth, no criticality, no values, no ethical framework. It’s awful for adults, and it’s even worse for children.

    Then, children go to school, where they receive instruction that is fundamentally the same thing without the extreme violence and hatred (but, that violence and hatred is just toned down and hidden). They are subjected to a predetermined curriculum with no substance, no depth, no criticality, no values, no ethical framework. Children are growing up with no guidance on how to deal with all of the craziness that surrounds them and which seems to be getting increasingly crazy all of the time.

    We desperately need teachers and schools that provide a sane environment and an environment that provides them with opportunities to grow and develop as decent, caring human beings who are capable of thinking critically about the issues that arise. We can do this. A few schools do this, but this is not part of the agenda of public schooling (or private or charter schools, for that matter). We need to provide an alternative to the speed and superficiality, to the hate and distrust of everyday life. We need to revive a love of learning. We need to revive a love of human diversity.

    And, we need to boycott media triviality, speed, superficiality, indulgence, lack of intelligence, and lack of integrity.

    Variation, Diversity, and Survival

    Posted By on November 24, 2015

    What far too many people seem to forget (or they never knew in the first place) is that variation is key to the survival of living things. From an evolutionary perspective, genetic diversity is necessary for the survival of species. If there is too much similarity or too little variation, species have very little to draw upon for adaptation. In fact, we know what happens when too much in-breeding occurs among animals we raise and among human beings. We need genetic variation just to stay reasonably healthy, not to mention adapt to changing circumstances.

    In sociocultural contexts, the same idea applies. Variation and diversity is healthy. New and different ideas can breathe life into situations that can become quite stale or stuck. Creativity and problem solving need variation. Democracies need diversity. Businesses and institutions of all kinds need diversity.

    We need diversity and variation in people and ideas, because they help us grow. They help us expand our horizons, our understandings, and our appreciations. They help us develop empathy and compassion. They help us develop wisdom.

    A Day in the Life … Terrorism and Bigotry

    Posted By on November 24, 2015

    It’s a fairly typical day for people to get up and get ready for work, get the kids ready for school, eat breakfast, then rush out of the house. Maybe after you drop the kids off at school, you have time to stop at a coffee shop, sit down, read the paper, and drink coffee, then go off to work. At the end of the day, you come home, eat, help kids with homework, maybe go to a park with the kids for a while, then prepare for bed. During the week, maybe you work in a dinner out with the family and maybe a movie. Yes, this was probably a typical day in the city of Homs, Syria in the not too distant past. But, not now. The city has been devastated.

    Imagine going to work and getting a phone call from home that you neighborhood is being attacked by those who should be protecting you, and that you’ve got to go get the kids. When you leave work, you find you car has been bombed and shortly after, your office building is destroyed. When you find you kids and wife, you are left with nothing but the clothes you’re wearing, and with no place to go. What would that feel like? What would you do? This is what hundreds of thousands of people are facing right now in Syria, Nigeria, and other places.

    People with professional careers, homes, iPhones, and nice watches, all the typical middle class goods and services… but left with nothing. No jobs, no homes, nothing, nothing. It could happen here, but, it is happening to these people. And, all they want is a safe place for their families to live, and a job. Not too much to ask after having your life turned upside down.

    It’s pretty disgusting how our politicians are reacting to the refugees. It’s as if they have to intelligence and no compassion whatsoever.

    And, just for some perspective… here are some numbers to digest. These are the top 5 countries with mass killings. The numbers reflect those from January 1 to November 23, 2015. The number injured is much higher. These deaths are from terrorists. Many are attacks on mosques and market places. In Nigeria, they’ve included whole villages and universities, killing anyone who wasn’t a conservative enough Muslim.

    Nigeria2,405 deaths
    Saudi Arabia823 deaths
    Syria462 deaths
    Iraq327 death
    Pakistan259 deaths

    By the way, France had 162 deaths during the same time period.

    Data from Wikipedia with additional links to original news sources.

    Meanwhile, back in the United States our own homegrown, white, “Christian,” terrorists continue to kill men, women, and children, with a government that refuses to take action. It is just so perplexing when the bigotry of our own people, including our leadership, just keeps on going, taking no action.

    Blame and Fear

    Posted By on November 16, 2015

    I blame you.
    You blame me.
    They blame us.
    We blame them.
    Blame fans the flame
    Of aggression and hatred.
    Rage burning….
    Churning through senseless cycles
    Of twisted, knotted stomach wrenching
    Heart ripping agony.

    Who’s to blame?
    We pin it on someone… anyone
    We don’t even care anymore
    We don’t even know anymore
    Who’s to blame.
    It matters not.
    Just need someone to blame.

    Blame teachers
    Blame politicians
    Blame Republicans
    Blame Democrats
    Blame ISIS
    Blame the U.S.
    Blame Iraq
    Blame immigrants
    Blame ….

    Whatever the problem
    Must have someone to blame
    Like a child falling off a bike
    Then blaming the bike.
    Gotta be someone’s
    Or something’s fault.
    Gotta have a cause to blame.
    Can’t just be mutuality.
    Gotta have a bad guy.
    Can’t just be a tangled web.
    Can’t just be relationships gone awry.
    Can’t be MY fault.
    Can’t be OUR fault.
    Can’t be WHITE people’s fault.

    The endless recursions of blame
    And hate
    And fear
    And blame
    And hate
    And fear
    Run our lives
    Ruin our lives
    Without us even knowing
    We sink deeper into the darkness.

    The only way out …
    Gotta stop the blame.
    Gotta stop the hate.
    Gotta stop fear.
    Care for everyone.
    Everyone who is alive
    Has the same desires …
    To be loved
    To be safe
    To feel wanted
    To love
    To be happy.

    Something has been twisted
    Completely out of kilter.
    When blame, hate, fear take over….
    We’ve succumbed…
    The strength of humanity
    Is in our power to care…
    And not to succumb to
    Blame, hate, fear.
    We need to
    Feel our shared humanity.
    See our shared humanity.
    Taste our shared humanity.
    Smell our shared humanity.
    From every pore
    From every molecule
    From every breath
    From glimpse of life.

    Learning Content is the Trivial Part of Learning

    Posted By on November 5, 2015

    We really have it all backwards. We are completely focused on having kids and adults learn copious amounts of content as the supreme goal of education. But, such a goal is really rather trivial within the entire scope of learning. This is blasphemy in the politico-corporate controlled institutions of education, testing, and publishing, but I do believe we’ve completely gone astray. We’ve lost sight of the depth and extent of learning. We’ve lost sight of children (and adults) and all of their abilities, capabilities, characteristics, and needs. We no longer value curiosity, creativity, inquiry, play, time to ponder and process, time to make mistakes and try again, time to explore, time to talk and argue, time to negotiate.

    I’m not suggesting that content knowledge is useless or irrelevant, but it is superficial knowledge compared to other kinds of learning. And, what we have done is create a world of superficiality, while thinking it’s the most sophisticated knowledge ever. It’s an extraordinary illusion. Or, rather it is an extraordinarily confused view of knowledge and what is worth knowing. A mistake that is strikingly apparent in the move to online courses and online degrees, which really amount to no more than a grand scam.

    And, let me say here that while this superficial knowledge may have some importance and interest, when it stands as alone as the total package of knowledge, it is more or less meaningless, disconnected, and irrelevant. The way we package knowledge into textbooks and then test the supposed acquisition of this knowledge is just further testament to the decontextualized and disconnected approach we have developed to our relationship to knowing and knowledge. We think that all of these bits of information mean something, like money in the bank, but unlike money in the bank they are worthless without context, meaning, and relationship. On the other hand, these bits of information are money in the bank for testing companies, publishers, and politicians; and very big money at that.

    But, what is misunderstood and misrepresented about learning is the big issue. Learning is dynamic and continual. We are always learning … in all situations, whether we like it or not. Learning is not an accumulation of static information in neatly packaged structures. Learning about any kind of relational information is always changing and morphing as new connections are made and lost. Learning doesn’t just happen in the brain, but is distributed throughout our bodies. And, in fact, there seems to be ample evidence that social learning is distributed among people. Look at a highly coordinated sports team where the thinking and immediacy of learning is taking place within the team and no one individual. In fact, learning seems to be distributed among individuals in coordinated contexts much more often than we ever imagined. Our bodies are comprised of more microbes than human cells. And, on top of that, we have millions of other inhabitants living in most parts of our bodies. This vast ecosystem is not just a bunch of individuals disconnected from one another, but is a community of different species living in an interdependent, coordinated way. And, this whole ecosystem has to learn together in order to survive. We are just beginning to understand how complex these interactions are, but we can get a sense that our learning is not just what some book says, but is about how we respond to, adjust to, react to, and make sense of all kinds of information with which we are confronted all the time. Most of the time, we don’t even know we’re learning or where the learning is taking place, but it is happening.

    So, we have this distributed learning happening all of the time as we encounter new situations and new contexts. We walk on a new hiking trail, swim in the ocean, ski, ice skate, go to a new country or any new place, we are renegotiating the ways we do things, re-assessing our assumptions, reworking our relationships and ways of relating. These new renegotiations are new learning.

    But, let’s return to what I’ve referred to as superficial textbook learning. What this textbook learning tries to address is the accumulated depth and expanse of learning that has occurred by organisms, ecosystems, and living systems of all kinds. Authors and publishers try to condense this knowledge down to discrete bits of disconnected, decontextualized, static informational strings. The vast depth and extent of interrelationships are never explored and discussed. The dynamic, changing, and uncertain nature of our knowledge is never recognized. The knowledge claims are all very clinical, dry, lifeless. We are not presented with the complexity of interacting systems that affect one another in countless ways, and that within these systems are even more relationships affecting aspects of all of the players in the systems.

    In a world where the issues are increasingly intense and increasingly important to our continued survival and well-being, we and especially our children need to be learning in ways that enable us to make sense of what is happening. We need to be able to dissect out the nonsense from the sensible. We need to see the complexities and interrelationships. We have to see the faulty assumptions that we and others are making and then take appropriate actions. We can’t do this by learning lots of disconnected, superficial information. We must be learning at deeper levels of relationship and context.

    For a great treatment of a different way of viewing learning, read Nora Bateson’s Symmathesy: A Word in Progress.

    Being in a Learning System

    Posted By on October 25, 2015

    Last evening, I had the pleasure of participating in the International Bateson Institute session at the October Gallery in London with a number of wonderful IBI colleagues and extraordinary guests. Our discussion skirted around the notion of how systems learn. At one point, one of the guests asked, “What is it like to be in a learning system?”

    Of course, all living systems are learning systems, but I think what he meant was what is like to be in a learning system that has the characteristics of the kind that supports the learning the IBI team had just observed at a Reggio Emilia inspired nursery school a few days before. This school and schools with similar learning “systems” lack the typical authoritarian relationships between teachers and children. Children control the flow of their own learning within stimulating contexts developed by the teachers. Learning emerges, percolates, and loops back and winds its way through the day. Children follow their curiosities and interests. They share and negotiate knowledge, while developing relationships with one another and among rich conceptual contexts. They seamlessly integrate sensory and disciplinary explorations.

    But, back to the question about what is it like to be is such a learning system. As I pondered this question, it struck me that I had experienced such learning systems with my dog. I, of course, took her to dog training classes, which were as much about training the owners as about training the dogs. However, much of her learning was outside of these contexts. And, some of the most powerful learning for both of us occurred on our twice daily excursions into the forest near our home. For her, she lives in a world of relationships. It’s incredibly apparent as you walk through the forest with her. She is completely engaged and paying attention to as many sights, sounds, and smells as she can handle. She watches birds and things I couldn’t see with great intensity. She followed scent trails, and listened intently. And, with all of this she kept an eye on me. She’d run off exploring and following smells, but she’d keep track of where I was. And, sometimes our communication became coordinated without any verbalization needed. Sometimes just a glance and eye contact was all that was needed to coordinate which direction to go or when we needed to stop for a drink or a snack. At one, point we were off trail and climbing up the side of a mountain. We reached a point where the only way to go was both me to crawl under a tree to reach a more open area beyond. Part way under the tree, she became very agitated and looked at me saying, “we have to leave.” My initial impulse was to push on, but I “listened” to her, and backed out, then proceeded back down the mountain. I realized, she probably knew there was a mountain lion nearby.

    The only other time she acted with such intensity was after we had moved to another city and went to a new veterinarian for an ear infection. When the new veterinarian entered the exam room, she reacted as if a threatening entity had just entered the room. I controlled her, but dismissed her behavior as a weird aberration, but I shouldn’t have. She was right. The veterinarian was a genuinely nasty person, not only in her demeanor, but also in her approach to sucking as much money out of her clients as possible… $677 in this case. I will listen to my dog from now on. (A week later we went to another veterinarian for a urinary tract infection. When the vet walked in to the exam room, she greeted her as she usually does with a kind of “oh, you’re okay” greeting. It was an interesting contrast… and $77 in comparison to the previous vet.)

    But, the point of this learning system between my dog and I during these outings is that they involve mutual learning based on relationships of trust and respect. In the good learning systems of children in schools, the learning systems are based on relationships of trust and respect. But, most schools blow it. They may say they value trust and respect children, but it doesn’t take long for them to undermine the very tenets they say they hold.

    The minute they raise their voices or exert authoritarian control, they have undermined trust and respect. The minute they take away what the children value as important, they have undermined trust and respect. And, of course, with most schools, when children enter and are immediately subjugated by the official curriculum, codes of conduct, grading systems, and high stakes tests, we have taken away all trust and respect.

    The same holds true for taking a dog and putting her into a cage, followed by harsh treatment with hitting, yelling, etc. The dog has received no respect and trust… and will not respect and trust its owner.

    What other learning systems function on trust and respect?

    What systems are not based on trust and respect?

    Solidification, Policy, and Fear

    Posted By on October 11, 2015

    For a number of years, I helped run a small satellite organization of a much larger international one. It was a place where people could gather and learn something about themselves within a nice social context. The number of people who came fluctuated, but there was a core group who came and helped support the week-to-week operations, including donating money to rent space. The group was loosely organized. We did have someone who took care of money and someone who took care of our web presence. Other tasks were more spontaneous, but it worked.

    But, when I moved away the larger organization stepped in (the timing was impeccably bad) with requests for aligning to certain policies, which related to getting insurance coverage through their carrier and giving a certain amount of money to the central office every month. Well, that little policy maneuver is going to end the group. They will quietly dissolve into nothingness, leaving a number of people high and dry. And, what hurts so much is that these people could have benefited by the continued existence of this group, even if it was struggling and hobbling along. The group provided support and inspiration for the people who came. And, now, because of the inflexibility of “policy,” they will be abandoned.

    I was around when this “big” organization was small and had no policies. It dealt with situations as they arose. There was a sense of personal connection with everything that was done. Now, dealing with the organization feels remote and cold. And, they talk about how to make it more personal, but they shoot themselves in the foot before they even begin.

    Policy solidifies everything. The minute you start creating policy, you doom your organization to an inability to change, to an inability to be flexible or to adapt. Such solidification of the ways in which “things” function has led to the extinction of organisms. If a species doesn’t have the ability to adjust to changes in the environment, it is not going to survive over long periods of time.

    Fossil 3248b

    Such a tendency to solidify things, such as creating policy, seems to be rooted in a fundamental fear of change. People are afraid of change and of things that are different. So, we solidify what we can. We solidify our view and opinions. We solidify who we think we are. We see this solidification in prejudices and biases of all kinds, in hate, in acts of violence and aggression, and in acts of avoidance. Policy and bigotry are parts of the same beast. “Policy” sounds official and legitimate and is easily justifiable with all kinds of seemingly rational reasons for the existence of policy, but it still arises out of a basic fear of change, uncertainty, and difference.

    How many of you have had issues with businesses where their response is, “well, it is our policy….”? Such statements are an immediate attempt to shut down the conversation. Problem solved. They do not have to think about the issue at hand. It’s policy. All the while, you have been screwed. My response to that statement is that I could care less about their policy. There is an issue here that usually borders on some level of illegality that needs to be addressed whether they like it or not and whether there’s a policy or not. I also recently encountered a new twist on policy with a medical practice. I had an appointment for my son with a top specialist, but he really needed to see someone sooner. My question was, could he see someone sooner, but still keep his original appointment. The answer was, “no, he would have to only see the new person. He could never see the original specialist. It was policy.” Who benefits from that policy? Not the patient. It’s for the convenience of the medical practice, or for the egos of the practitioners. On the other hand, I went to see specialist group where I’ve seen different doctors. They tag team so that patients can get in to see someone as needed. Who benefits from the flexibility? The patients.

    Policy and solidification is a way of freezing our hearts. We lose our hearts. We need more than ever before to re-connect with one another as fellow human beings. We need to try to understand one another. We need to empathize and share our humanity. Policy and other solidifications disconnect. They harden our hearts and narrow our minds.

    Living In Sync With Context

    Posted By on October 8, 2015

    It is difficult to live in sync with the natural context. In big cities, we are surrounded by cement, asphalt, steel, and glass with spots of grass and trees. But, such synchronization, as much as possible, should be our challenge.

    Take a stab at guessing in what natural context this house (in the photo below) belongs.


    When we think about where we live, what are the natural surroundings? What are the native soils, plants, terrain, etc? Our mere presence in a natural setting makes a difference, but what sort of dwelling and grounds will have the least impact on the local ecosystem? We may find that our impacts are more than we like, or less than we may have expected. But, this exercise can help us begin to think about how we can live and think in ways that are more in line with our local ecosystems.

    By the way, the context for the house shown above should look something like that shown in the photo below. It is quite interesting how people move into the desert, then try to make it look like they live in a temperate forest setting with a large pond, trees, and grass. What isn’t shown are the sprinklers for the acres of grass.

    DesertScene2015-10-8 142700

    There’s a fundamental disconnect here… not even an attempt to live in sync with the desert ecosystem.