A blog about our shared experience…

Anatomy of a Solution

When I try to look at challenges in my life, my community and in the world, I find it imperative to approach those challenges at the source rather than the symptoms. Having grown up with natural healing and chiropractic as preventative measures before seeking more intensive medical treatment, I feel that the approach of seeking the source of the problem is a good way of assessing what kind of treatment may restore health to system in question.

For example, the spine is the main pathway for messages between one’s brain and the rest of the body, most importantly the organs. If there is a vertebrae out of place, it could potentially cause those vital messages from the brain to be slowed, or far worse, not be sent at all. One can imagine that something that could be perceived to be a heart or liver issue might have been assisted by adjusting the vertebrae so that those organs could receive the regulatory information they needed. One could feel a lack of circulation or pain in their fingers, and choose to apply a pain medication, but would only be alleviating the symptom of a larger problem. In this way, I wish to approach the majority of the issues that come to my mind and attention.

This excerpt from a document entitled “One Common Faith” captures some elements of this idea:

“Few will disagree that the universal disease sapping the health of the body of humankind is that of disunity. Its manifestations everywhere cripple political will, debilitate the collective urge to change, and poison national and religious relationships. How strange, then, that unity is regarded as a goal to be attained, if at all, in a distant future, after a host of disorders in social, political, economic and moral life have been addressed and somehow or other resolved. Yet the latter are essentially symptoms and side effects of the problem, not its root cause. Why has so fundamental an inversion of reality come to be widely accepted? The answer is presumably because the achievement of genuine unity of mind and heart among peoples whose experiences are deeply at variance is thought to be entirely beyond the capacity of society’s existing institutions. While this tacit admission is a welcome advance over the understanding of processes of social evolution that prevailed a few decades ago, it is of limited practical assistance in responding to the challenge.”

Our world is riddled with challenges of many sorts, and most who are reading could present dozens of concrete examples of behaviors, systems and institutions that are not functioning optimally. This critical analysis, though very important, is often where we find ourselves stopping. I very seldom hear of viable solutions to these problems being offered, and if so, usually with an ideological agenda that proposes for that agenda to be promoted without questioning whether its approach will truly assist in solving the challenge. In most of the media I’ve consumed over the years, there are criticisms being thrown at the left, the right, the conservatives, the liberals, the school system, parents, capitalism, socialism, racism, sexism, industrialization, colonialism, and even human nature. Though I can see the validity of some of the arguments, I call into question whether an overly-simplistic treatment of any of these contributing factors to the problems of the world can adequately address the source of the problem.

At the heart of the mechanics of my human interactions is a certain covenant I have regarding respect, trust, and communication and how they contribute to a relationship built upon unity. My strongest interpersonal relationships were predicated upon a mutual sentiment of respect for each other’s inherent nobility, and our capacity to grow in ways that we can learn from. Within that experience of respect comes a degree of reciprocation, sharing and giving regarding resources; be they material, temporal, or emotional. The other person must trust that my words or actions are never, under any circumstances, intended to injure or insult. The other part of that agreement is that I have to be completely open to receiving honest and frank feedback when something happens to threaten that trust. This communication, in conjunction with the manifold others needed to convey thoughts, interests, concerns, needs and desires is the conduit for better understanding to be achieved among individuals. The unity achieved should not be mistaken for conformity nor any compromising stances that might poison the developing environment with value judgements that disenfranchise one or another perspective.

An individual’s engagement on the level of community has the same elements, but the scope and complexity of all the effected participants require more skill and attention to achieve and maintain unity. Within a community, there are so many nuances to each individuals cultural sensibilities and values about many things including propriety regarding etiquette and formalities of all kinds. One family may consider it a natural occurrence for a friend to visit their home with no prior warning, walk into their front door without knocking, and open the fridge to prepare refreshments. To another family, that set of behaviors could be unimaginable, with the appropriate procedure being that the visitor would email or call, get a response as to the time and date of visit, come to the door when the knock or doorbell is heard, and will bring out food or refreshments to the visitor. Neither is inherently right, but either is appropriate depending on the social contract that the community involved has made and negotiated regarding the navigation of even the simple matter of visiting a friend. Obviously, this isn’t a mechanical process, but rather one that is organic and fluid with many adjustments along the way. What is paramount to the community level is that no one participant’s cultural values or sensibilities be allowed to dictate the standards that the community will adopt, and that justice and flexibility be applied to policies and procedures.

The role of institutions as I see it is to serve as the stewards of the individuals and the communities they serve, and to assist in the evolution and creation of policies that will adequately administer justice and promote the well-being of the whole of the community. The capacity to create space for individuals and communities to learn–that avoids paternalistic, judgmental, greedy and patronizing behaviors–can be nurtured in the posture they take, what communications they transmit, and what actions come from decisions.

In the end, it seems to me that most of the problematic human negotiations (on an individual and collective level)come down to a breakdown in trust, communication and respect in the scenarios that we find ourselves in.

Some questions, if you choose to engage them, is:

What will it take for you to engage more justly, more positively, in a way more rewarding with those around you in the coming days? What sacrifices are you prepared to make to achieve a higher level of unity with those around you?

7 responses

  1. marcos lewis

    To engage more justly and positively with my “peoples”, whether they are familiar or unfamiliar. I want to focus on communicating my respect of them and my trust in them. This communication cannot be constrained to internal thoughts and feels, but must be manifested though words, deeds, and intangible “vibes”. How often have you heard of a conflict or entered one where the feelings and views being presented seemed at odds, yet when the motivation for those views came to light all sense of conflict quickly dissipated. My respect cannot simply be held by me, but repeatedly articulated and show to others.

    “Let your heart burn with loving-kindness for all who may cross your path…”
    – Baha’u’llah

    I have to strive so that all my words and actions indicate to those around me my respect for them. Ways I feel I could let my respect for other “burn” would be to not tease others or make them the butt of my jokes. Even when the tease is gentle and all parties present know I mean no harm, ,putting a person down does not recognize their nobility, it isn’t loving or kind.

    Instead of poking I need to praise and encourage friends and not-yet-friends, and listen to their needs in times of stress. Even if its a small compliment like, “thanks for your smile, I needed that.”

    Baha’u’llah has set the bar pretty high, to reach it i’ll have to sacrifice my sense of security, my system for avoiding harm. I’ll have to make myself vulnerable. Riding the emotional roller coaster of at times being happy, at times content, and at other times sad or frustrated as I work through a conflict. But all the while i’ll be working a true solution.

    March 27, 2011 at 3:32 am

  2. Jarrett

    Marcos: interesting perspective. We certainly must strive to manifest respect toward one another. Humility and recognizing the divine creation in other souls is a good place to start. I think with out this foundation any attempt at manifesting respect is bound to be limited in sincerity.

    Beyond that, perceptions of disrespect, while a universal phenomenon, are often predicated on cultural notions. If that’s true then we have to acknowledge that no matter how much we strive to be mindful of respect, when cultures mix, faux pas are bound to happen.

    The other part that seems as or more crucial is recognizing the false perceptions of value or attachment to status that often leads one to feel offended by someone else’s actions. Looking at history and drama, often times the feeling of being disrespected has led to disunity and even conflict, whether or not the disrespect was intended or not.

    From either side of the equation it seems that humility is key, recognizing that all power and value is simply borrowed from above. Unfortunately, solutions to the problem of disunity do not come so easily. Though humility begins with recognition, it has to grow and develop gradually as we strive to live,not by our own desires, but for that higher Power. And that’s where the hard work is.

    March 27, 2011 at 6:21 pm

  3. @Jarrett @Marcos: I appreciate hearing your perspectives on this.

    Nothing about navigating these complex spaces is easy. So often, I find myself trying to reflect on the language and expressions used during my childhood and youth, and have to weigh the nostalgia and comfort I feel with certain tones and words against how easily they could be misunderstood and create more boundaries than they break down.

    I heard someone describe certain tones and words as “less-than-decent”, and it got me thinking that I didn’t know what standard made that judgment. What defines words such as “decent”? Is it majority culture that gets to set the bar? Are there sets of criterion that we could turn to that could serve as a guide?

    March 29, 2011 at 6:56 pm

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