Monthly Archives: February 2016

Newsletter – February 2016

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THE CENTER FOR THIRD AGE LEADERSHIP NEWSLETTER – FEBRUARY 2016

1.  FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS

2.  INTEGRATION: A REPORT FROM THE SLOW LANE

3.  WHAT IS PSYCHOSYNTHESIS?

4.  THIS MONTH’S LINKS

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QUOTE OF THE MONTH – DAVID ‘LUCKY’ GOFF

                                  “Soft enough
                                  to be permeable,

                                  Solid enough
                                  to maintain integrity.”

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1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS

February Greetings, Dear Friends…

16-02 Wiz & Xavi This is a photo of my companion of twenty-five years, Merlin, and of my newest grandchild, three year old Xavier. I’ve had them paired like this since shortly after Xavi’s birth , and the quote above has helped me understand why. Xavi is the softness that is “enough to be permeable,” and Merlin is the solidity that is “enough to maintain integrity.”

Lucky has helped me see I’ve held one of elderhood’s most meaningful paradoxes in front of me until I could understand it. I’ve also had help from Abraham Maslow and Roberto Assagioli; this newsletter combines the thinking of all three and has given me a new understanding of Nature and Evolution.

The merging of Lucky’s ‘Evolving Elder,’ Maslow’s ‘Self-Actualized Being’ and Assagioli’s ‘Higher Self’ offers a vision of new possibility — that Evolution is not “a-moving-on-and-leaving-behind,” but “a-continually-including-all-that-has-come-before.” Here is where the illusion of time, or perhaps the necessity of time as illusion, makes sense; it allows us to mature into our experience of selves and Self. I’m drawn back to that last set of images in 2001 where time collapses into BOTH babe AND elder, into BOTH variety AND unity, into BOTH point and infinity…
16-02 2001 Babe-Earth

I saw this incredible movie in 1969 and was mystified by the ending then. Watching it now, the ending means just what Xavi and Merlin have come to mean to me, namely, that we humans are truly BOTH/AND and not EITHER/OR. I highly recommend watching this 2:29 minute video as a reminder before proceeding:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXS8P0HksQo

Here’s what its director, Stanley Kubrick, said in a 1970 interview with Joseph Gelmis…

GELMIS: The final scenes of the film seemed more metaphorical than realistic. Will you discuss them — or would that be part of the “road map” you’re trying to avoid?

KUBRICK: No, I don’t mind discussing it, on the lowest level, that is, straightforward explanation of the plot. You begin with an artifact left on earth four million years ago by extraterrestrial explorers who observed the behavior of the man-apes of the time and decided to influence their evolutionary progression. Then you have a second artifact buried deep on the lunar surface and programmed to signal word of man’s first baby steps into the universe — a kind of cosmic burglar alarm. And finally there’s a third artifact placed in orbit around Jupiter and waiting for the time when man has reached the outer rim of his own solar system. When the surviving astronaut, Bowman, ultimately reaches Jupiter, this artifact sweeps him into a force field or star gate that hurls him on a journey through inner and outer space and finally transports him to another part of the galaxy, where he’s placed in a human zoo approximating a hospital terrestrial environment drawn out of his own dreams and imagination. In a timeless state, his life passes from middle age to senescence to death. He is reborn, an enhanced being, a star child, an angel, a superman, if you like, and returns to earth prepared for the next leap forward of man’s evolutionary destiny. That is what happens on the film’s simplest level. Since an encounter with an advanced interstellar intelligence would be incomprehensible within our present earthbound frames of reference, reactions to it will have elements of philosophy and metaphysics that have nothing to do with the bare plot outline itself.

GELMIS: What are those areas of meaning?

KUBRICK: They are the areas I prefer not to discuss because they are highly subjective and will differ from viewer to viewer. In this sense, the film becomes anything the viewer sees in it. If the film stirs the emotions and penetrates the subconscious of the viewer, if it stimulates, however inchoately, his mythological and religious yearnings and impulses, then it has succeeded.

(Gelmis, The Film Director as Superstar, © 1970, p. 304.)

But between my cultural conditioning and my immaturity, I still have spent most of four decades since in EITHER/OR perceiving and thinking. One must be EITHER young OR old,  EITHER right OR wrong, EITHER higher OR lower. And this stage of being kept me consistently imprisoned in the metaphor of “The Journey” — the belief that there was always some place better to be (more grown up, beautiful, intelligent, powerful, spiritual, ad infinitum) and getting to the new place was the point of life.16-02 Stairway to SkyIn the 60’s and 70’s many of us sought and found intellectual and psychological reinforcement for this EITHER/OR belief system, even when the teachers’ intentions were to free us from polarizing perspectives. I personally misused Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ in this way for forty years.

It didn’t take much of a stretch to find “Better/Worse” judgments in a framework called a ‘Hierarchy’. Clearly the ‘Deficiency-Motivated Needs’ (D-Needs) were greatly inferior to the ‘Being-Motivated Needs’ (B-Needs), and, if you were still bothered by them, you were obviously an inferior person. So of course I and most other ego-driven psychology students were quick to deny them and pretend we were solely about ‘Self-Actualization.’ I don’t think this was what Maslow meant or intended, but that’s what many of us took from his work back then.

If you’d like a refresher on Maslow’s Hierarchy, check this link. It’s captures the essence of his work that impacted me in the 1960’s.

In more recent years, I, like Lucky, have come to believe that being human only comes with all our human needs for survival, security, belonging, status and self-actualization. And, while Maslow stayed away from highlighting sex, Nature’s need for our species to propagate and evolve certainly made that a biggie for many. Fortunately for us, the 60’s opened new possibilities for liberation that our more repressed ancestors were denied, and we reaped both their benefits and costs.

So while I believe Maslow was correct in describing the D-Needs as more powerful than the B-Needs for most humans, this changes as we mature and accept our human wholeness. Repression and hedonism are both forms of immaturity (dependence and counter-dependence) that delay our integration and maturity.

16-02 Maslow D:B Needs

At 77 it now seems nonsensical to have viewed Maslow’s Hierarchy as a ladder to climb so I could leave each level of needs behind. It may be such divine incarnations have occurred, but mine is not one. I continue to experience survival, security, belonging, esteem and self-actualization needs; what intrigues me  is to notice how the balance of the five has shifted over the decades — and can still shift from moment to moment.

My belonging and status needs are greatly reduced now, and, while my physical needs are greater, my maturity allows me to manage them so they rarely take up much of my attention. In other words, I spend most of my time at home in an environment that is safe and comfortable. This is not a sacrifice; I love staying home.

The self-actualization level is where I mostly live now, but it is not the ‘Merlin/Jedi Knight’ realm I imagined earlier. Mostly it is a mix of finding my earlier selves necessary for their times and a bit unsuited for my present. Flashbacks come regularly awake and sleeping, some delightful, some cringeworthy. What’s different now is accepting them all as legitimately me. I would not repeat many, and I would expand others. But this self wasn’t those selves, and, as far as I can tell, I was always doing the best those selves could at the time.

And that’s a gift Maslow’s Hierarchy has given me, now that I’m less trapped in EITHER/OR thinking. When I feel a D-Need is threatened, meaning I can behave very stupidly and hurtfully toward others, my best self manages my life so such times are as infrequent as possible. When it doesn’t, the best I can do is to make amends after the fear has passed.

And there’s another framework I’ve found even more useful…
16-02 P:S Egg Color

While Roberto Assagioli’s Egg Diagram can look like a vertical model, I suggest you think of it as a circular orchestra with the conductor as the conscious self at the center channeling the Higher Self. Then the different fields of consciousness can become sections of the orchestra, ready, willing and able to be guided by the wisdom of your Higher Self, whatever that means to you…

This metaphor of a conductor with an ongoing orchestra works well for me. Psychosynthesis presents the continuing existence of all our selves — and emphasizes they need to be conducted buy the Higher Self if our personal orchestra is to make music instead of noise.

Vertical EITHER/OR thinking leads us to believe we have to become someone we’re not to become a self-actualized Higher Self — and that we must leave many parts of our old selves behind. But nature presents wholeness as complete with all of its parts; the parts may change form, but nothing is left behind. It is managing the relationships among the parts that is the key.
16-02 Maslow Circle 2

Lucky’s ‘Slow Lane’ (#2) and more on Assagioli (#3) follow in this newsletter and and you’ll find excellent summary of Maslow’s work here

Love, FW

www.fatherwilliam.org

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2.  INTEGRATION: A REPORT FROM THE SLOW LANE

     BY DAVID ‘LUCKY’ GOFF, WWW.ELDERCULTURE.COM

                                                  “The seat of the soul
                                  is where the inner and the outer world meet.
                                                   Where they overlap,
                                           it is in every point of overlap.”
                                                            -Novalis –

I don’t know why I dread writing this piece so much. It seems like the assertion of a naturally occurring kind of integrative process would be good news. The overlap, as Novalis says in his brief aphorism, is the “seat of the soul.” For me, the amazing thing is that Nature seems to be guiding us (by that I mean we humans) towards greater integration as we age, and an increased likelihood of achieving the overlap. That realization thrills me, but something else bothers me. I don’t know what it is.

First, I’ll start with the good news. Aging has an unexpected effect. My guess is that the integrative process, which I have come to see as the principle developmental and instinctual thrust of later life, has languished out of sight, because of the blindness of ageism, and the inability to break wisdom down. Nature, never-the-less, seems intent upon ripening human beings into a fuller expressions of themselves. The instinct of integration kicks in during later life in some unexpected ways. The productiveness of commercial and economic activity gives way to the productiveness of increasing uniqueness and becoming more fully oneself. The outside moves in. Creation seems to matter more, in the long run, than the economy.

Devaluing the old, devalues our own future. The human potential movement reveals just how ageist our culture is. The most experienced, most mature, and ripest of us (humans) have been ignored, and worse yet, mistreated. The present is dominated with either/or thinking of the worst sort, and doesn’t acknowledge the benefit of any form of integration. The overlap is not even a possibility in this kind of polarized world, at least not in our human-made world. Fortunately, Life has a larger agenda. Some people escape the gravitational pull of mass assumptions and become more. They are the true elders. Their lives reflect a kind of wisdom that comes from a higher order of integration.

I can fairly easily grasp the warm pleasure that permeates my body when I consider, and notice within, the compelling attraction of freedom and integrity. These by-products of integration have a gravitational pull of their own. But I notice I still feel some trepidation, an unnamed anxiety starts flooding my being, I feel like I’m walking more deeply into a minefield. There is something dangerous here. What could it be?

I’m not sure. It does occur to me, as I dwell on this uncertainty, that pointing out the natural flow towards integration might be construed as an attack upon the other, earlier in development, positions. Am I doing another version of what is so prevalent in this world? Am I saying that polarization is bad? No. I realize that one has to live fully through each stage, to ever even hope to get to anything like the big picture and actual integration. Aging is fraught with lots of difficulty. Not the least of these difficulties has to do with the question about how to hold the past?

It is so hard to talk about the full-range of human development without giving full and essential recognition to every stage in the process. Being human is all of it. There isn’t a point where one is more or less human. All stages are essential to becoming a full human. What does this mean? I don’t know, I’ve only recently begun to grapple with this picture. I thank God, I have lived long enough to actually see this much of the picture. It’s a marvelous vista I get to behold. But it’s a demanding one too.

For instance, I can see that we (humans) are complex. It obviously takes a while for us to unfold fully. And at each step in the process the world looks different and we become capable of different things. None of these developments is all of who we are capable of being. And all of those stages are favored by some, as the way it should be. Human history is full of conflict. Much of it has had to do with asserting the preeminence of one stage of human development (as embodied by a particular culture or individual) over another. I don’t want to add to that misdirected hostility. I’m not asserting that the aged perception is better, only that is different, and that it adds to the larger picture.

I think a big part of what it adds is the perspective gained from integration. Later life is about the coming together of seeming opposites. Inner and outer, as the poet Novalis points out, and also action and stillness, anger and peace, solitude and relationship confinement and freedom. These are seen as opposites, but can also be seen as single points, spaces on the spectrum that overlap. I think our ultimate ripeness is like that, the places were opposites overlap, places of integration. And, each stage in the ripening process adds to that integration.

This is delicate terrain. I can feel the Great Mystery at work. What I think I know, which comprises the discoveries I am uttering here, are my best attempts to give voice to what I couldn’t possibly know. Integration seems to include not knowing. I wonder if it includes the audacity of expressing what one doesn’t know?

http://www.thslowlane.blogspot.co.nz/
 
Doesn’t that last paragraph capture another delightful paradox of elderhood? Now we BOTH know that we “couldn’t possibly know” AND feel the audacious responsibility “of expressing what we don’t know”!

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3.  WHAT IS PSYCHOSYNTHESIS?

BY THE SYNTHESIS CENTER

In its most basic sense, Psychosynthesis is simply a name for the process of personal growth:  the natural tendency in each of us to harmonize or synthesize our various aspects at ever more inclusive levels of organization.  In its more specific sense, Psychosynthesis is a name for the conscious attempt to cooperate with the natural process of personal development.  All living things contain within them a drive to evolve, to become the fullest realization of themselves.  This process can be supported consciously, and Psychosynthesis is one means to do this.

Cooperating effectively with this process can be assisted by a conceptual understanding of the nature of this evolution, and by practical techniques.  Psychosynthesis provides these and integrates them into an inclusive and ever-growing framework designed to support the individual, groups, and the planet in their process of unfolding.

As an inclusive approach to human growth, Psychosynthesis dates from 1911 and the early work of Roberto Assagioli, an Italian Psychiatrist.  Though one of the pioneers of psychoanalysis in Italy, Assagioli maintained that Freud had not given sufficient weight to the “higher” aspects of the human personality, and recognized a need for a more inclusive concept of humanity.  From this beginning Assagioli and an increasing number of psychotherapists, educators, physicians, social workers, clergy, and others have worked to develop and refine this inclusive view of human growth.  The task is considered to be an open one, one that will never by finished.  Each year, new discoveries in psychology, new developments in education, religion, anthropology, physics and other disciplines add to the principles and to the techniques of Psychosynthesis.  Psychosynthesis, by its very nature, is always open to new approaches to human development.

Over the past sixty years, a number of conceptual points and a number of methods have proven themselves to be fundamental.  These provide a working structure for Psychosynthesis.

A SYNTHESIS OF MANY TRADITIONS

Any comprehensive psychological and educational approach to the development of the whole person must draw from many traditions.  While Eastern disciplines often have tended to emphasize the spiritual side of being, Western approaches usually have focused on the personality level.  But humanity must be viewed as a whole and each aspect accorded  its due importance.  Psychosynthesis recognizes that we have a transpersonal essence, and at the same time holds that the individual’s purpose in life is to manifest this essence, or Self, as fully as possible in the world of everyday personal and social existence.

STAGES IN PSYCHOSYNTHESIS

Every person is an individual, and the psychosynthesis of each person follows a unique path.  At the same time, the overall process of psychosynthesis can be divided into two stages:  personal and transpersonal.  In personal Psychosynthesis, the integration of the personality takes place around the personal self, and the individual attains a high level of functioning in terms of work, relationships, and general living that is meaningful and satisfactory to the individual.

In the transpersonal stage the person learns to achieve alignment with and to transmit the energies of the transpersonal Self, manifesting such qualities as responsibility, the spirit of cooperation, global perspective, love and purpose, and having access to inner guidance and wisdom.

Often the two stages overlap:  there can be a considerable amount of transpersonal activity long before the stage of personal integration is complete.

METHODS EMPLOYED IN PSYCHOSYNTHESIS

Any method that assists in the personal evolution of a human being is a method useful in psychosynthesis.  To be maximally effective, we clearly need to have a broad range of methods and techniques to meet the needs presented by different situations and people.  As each person must be treated as an individual, an effort must be made to choose the methods best suited to each person’s existential situation, psychological type, goals, desires and path of development.  Some of the methods more commonly used include guided imagery, movement, gestalt techniques, self-identification, creativity, meditation, will development, symbolic art work, journal keeping, ideal models and development of intuition, and many more.  The emphasis is on fostering an on-going process of growth that can gain momentum and bring a more joyful and balanced actualization to our lives.

As this process goes on, we gain the freedom of choice, the power of decision over our actions, and the ability to regulate and direct many of the personality functions.  This entails developing the personal will—the will of the personal self.  Through this development we free ourselves from helpless or preprogrammed reaction to inner impulses and external situations and expectations.  We become truly “centered” and gradually become able to follow our own path, guided by our inner knowing, or true Self.

As we reach toward the transpersonal Self, we can liberate and encourage the synthesizing energies that organize and integrate the personality.  We can make ever increasing contact with the Will of our transpersonal Self, which provides clearer and clearer meaning and purpose in our personal lives and our social tasks.  We become able to function in the world more serenely and effectively, in a spirit of cooperation and good will.

Psychosynthesis is a powerful and effective mode of holistic growth and is rapidly gaining recognition in the psychological and transformational fields.  It is also a positive and dynamic framework from which to view the evolution of our planet.  Psychosynthesis principles and techniques have been used effectively in education, medicine, politics and business, as well as in all forms of counseling and psychotherapy and personal, business and group coaching.  It is rapidly growing in its sphere of application, range of techniques, and depth of understanding.

The two most well know diagrams that Dr. Assagioli created to depict the makeup of the Human Psyche and it’s psychological functions, the “Egg” and “Star” diagrams can be seen here.

http://www.synthesiscenter.org/ps.htm

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4. THIS MONTH’S LINKS:

     DALI & DISNEY CREATE 6 MINUTE FILM

http://www.openculture.com/2014/06/salvador-dali-walt-disneys-destino.html

     POLITICAL COMMENTARY FROM BETTE MIDLER & JOSEPH HELLER…

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/2/8/1473466/-Bette-Midler-tweets-50-year-old-quote-by-Joseph-Heller-that-sums-up-GOP-candidate

     THE SELF:  IS THERE OR ISN’T THERE ONE?

https://aeon.co/videos/if-as-shakespeare-suggested-all-the-world-s-a-stage-do-we-have-a-true-self?utm_source=Aeon+Newsletter&utm_campaign=b151837f28-Daily_newsletter_Thursday_11th_February_2_9_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_411a82e59d-b151837f28-68709313

     100 DRONES ACCOMPANY A SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA!

https://www.youtube.com/embed/mOBQXuu_5Zw

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© Copyright 2016, by William R. Idol, except where indicated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide. Reprint only with permission from copyright holder(s). All trademarks are property of their respective owners. All contents provided as is. No express or implied income claims made herein. We neither use nor endorse the use of spam.

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Newsletter – January 2016

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THE CENTER FOR THIRD AGE LEADERSHIP NEWSLETTER – JANUARY 2016

1.  FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS

2.  ELDERS COME IN ALL AGES

3.  “AMIDST ALL THE NOISE, TO WHOM SHOULD WE LISTEN?”

4.  “IT WILL ONLY HAPPEN IF WE FIX OUR POLITICS…”

5.  “THERE IS MORE THAN ENOUGH BLAME TO GO AROUND…”

6.  “TO CALL ON THE BETTER ANGELS OF PEOPLE’S NATURES…”

7.  THIS MONTH’S LINKS

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QUOTES OF THE MONTH – JUSTIN TRUDEAU & ANONYMOUS.

“Once you get elected through dividing people
it becomes very hard to govern responsibly for everyone.”

“10% of conflicts are due to differences in opinion.
90% are due to wrong tone of voice.”

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1.  FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS

January Greetings, Dear Friends…

As you can probably guess from the quotes above, this month’s newsletter is focused on the TONE rather than the CONTENT of communications. I was inspired in this direction by two personal emails, and, as strange as it may sound, three political speeches. You’ll find January’s Musings shared between those five items in Sections 2-6. Enjoy…

Love, FW

www.FatherWilliam.org

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2.  ELDERS COME IN ALL AGES

16-01 I'm Here for My Future

This came from German friend, Tanja, who’s less than half my age. She rightly took me to task for a flippant remark about the awful situation at the Cologne Railway Station New Year’s Eve. Thinking I was being humorous, the next day I texted, “Hope you weren’t hanging out at the Cologne Station last night.” Her response taught me a lesson in TONE I’ve needed more than once…

     “I always stay away from places with lots of drunk men. Like the Oktoberfest or German carnival.”

Good on you – and I apologize for joking about something so serious and disheartening. I admire Germany and Merkle for being compassionate toward the refugees, and things like Cologne just make it so much more difficult…

     “It’s ok.

     “Well, the thing with Cologne is, nobody knows who committed the crimes. Somebody said it was people that looked Arabic. But despite all the surveillance cameras there seems to be no footage. Therefore I won’t believe it was a refugee before anybody can prove it to me.

     “Apparently the train station in Cologne is well known for pickpockets. And it seems like all this has been a problem before, only now people seem to actually see that women are being harassed.

     “This is something that happens for weeks during the Carnival in Cologne and the Oktoberfest in Munich. Only then it’s obviously Germans committing the crimes and that seems to be OK.

     “And what about all the German tourists going to Thailand and treating women like shit there?

     “They are foreigners there as well. Nothing is being done about that.

     “Just saying.

     “And what apparently happened in Cologne led to German nazi idiots attacking foreigners who’ve got nothing to do with it. Just because they look Arabic they’re bad people now. People patrolling the streets to protect German women. Who’s patrolling the streets to keep idiots from trying to burn down refugee shelters? This is all so wrong.

     “We’ve been one of the few countries in Europe that didn’t shut down the borders, and I hope it’s going to stay like that. Because who’s been selling all the weapons to all the countries that are at war now? It was Germany. But this is stuff that nobody wants to know.”

This is inspiring and humbling, Tanja. Thank you. It’s what “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” means.

Given the hostility rampant in the world today, we each need to rediscover our best selves and the compassion we are capable of.

Yes, clever people can and do make seemingly persuasive arguments for almost anything; I know because, for a while, I got well paid for doing that. But at 77, what’s clear is that I must call on my best self to become the Elder I hope to be. To allow our Elderhood to emerge, we must mature beyond our fearful, competitive, and self-protective egos and their compensating behaviors of superiority, exclusion and hatefulness.

If only a lot more of the world, including me, could think and act like you, especially when such awful things happen! This is what Tanja’s response helped me remember so I thought I’d pass it along…

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3.   “AMIDST ALL THE NOISE, TO WHOM SHOULD WE LISTEN?”

16-01 Gunfight at Religious Corral

This email came as part of a on-going dialogue about how to make sense of all the data bombarding us these days. Jimmy, my friend of thirty years, lives in Texas and I live in Vermont/New Zealand; his leanings are conservative and mine liberal. We’ve learned from each other for a long time. He wrote:

     “I finally got the opportunity to read some of these articles. As I read them, the analogy of completely opposite polarities emerges. And I suppose this is my dilemma …. and why I cultivate people I completely trust to help me find the “Middle Way”, since you two select information from completely different philosophical roots.

     “This is both the blessing and the curse of the information age. I am finding it increasingly difficult and immensely frustrating to discern the “real truth”. What source of information and reality do I trust and to whom should I listen, since there are so many writings and voices insisting to be heard?

     “This excerpt from Stockman resonated with my own intuition and what I perceive to be the “pulse” of the citizenry:

     ‘The people are growing weary of the lies and their restlessness will morph into anger when the economic collapse resumes. You can sense things are not right. Trust in the system has turned to suspicion and cynicism. The growing anger in the nation and the world is palpable.’”

And so I responded with the best I’ve got at 77…

Jimmy, I strongly agree with your “analogy of completely opposite polarities” not just emerging, but being so polarized as to turn trust into suspicion, cynicism into palpable anger.

I’ve experienced this before in the 60’s and 70’s from when JFK, RFK and MLK were assassinated, Bull Connor was hosing demonstrators, we were carpet bombing Viet Nam, priests were burning draft cards, the KKK was murdering Freedom Riders and the Weathermen were doing their version of taking over Wildlife Refuges. Both then and now irrational fears on every extreme see terrifying Evils that must be exterminated in some God’s name.

Not much here is new. It’s a repeat of the Inquisition phenomenon. “Those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it.” And so we do.

Like you, I don’t find information overload, especially in the age of ‘Mad Men,’ much more helpful than information paucity, and most people have neither the time nor the patience to do sift through today’s staggering amount of news. The solution is to find a channel we ‘trust’ to sort and simplify for us.

There was a time when we got our news and commentary from we felt were trust-worthy, like Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Mr. Rogers and Gracie Allen. But that ended in the 60’s. Now while I may trust and rely on John Stewart, Rachel Maddow and The New York Times, others trust and rely on Rush Limbaugh, Megyn Kelly and Fox News. Too often “trust and rely on” means “limit our news to,” and then such limited versions of reality become THE REALITY. It’s no wonder we’re becoming more and more polarized…

16-01 30 Years of Polarization

So what sources of reality shall we listen to – or not listen to?

In my retirement I have more spaciousness than ever before, I love learning and I’m internet savvy. Still, there are not enough hours in the day to fact-check even a minuscule percentage of the relevant CONTENT available to me. So I mainly use TONE.

Whatever communication comes toward me has two dimensions: TONE & CONTENT.

CONTENT is the rational data communicated, and when there are so many contradictory versions of the same event multiplying ad infinitum, it takes Super PACS, Super-computers, and Super-staffs  to keep up. I don’t have or want those in my life.

TONE is the package the rational data is communicated in. It includes all kinds of non-verbal and emotional cues that determine how the message will be interpreted and acted on.

As a simple example, I’ll tell you a story of an exchange with my son Scott forty years ago when he was seven. We live in Vermont, and hard rock Maple is a common wood. As its name says, it is really hard wood. Scott was playing with a hammer, aluminum nails and a piece of Maple. He was getting frustrated because he couldn’t drive the nails into the wood – they kept bending. Well, nobody is likely to succeed at this because the wood is too hard and the nails too soft.

So, using the dimensions of TONE (Positive-Negative) & CONTENT (Accurate-Inaccurate), let’s see how I might have used their four combinations to communicate with him. The most frequent outcomes are in the BOLD TYPE…

16-01 Tone:Content Color

While I didn’t call Scott ‘stupid,’ I’m pretty sure my advice in 1976 more likely produced resistance than anything else. I do much better with the grandchildren in 2015.

But the point of all this is that, in terms of both material and emotional outcome, TONE is by far the most powerful part of any message – and, for me, it’s very easy to detect and classify. I might not know if the CONTENT of a message is accurate or inaccurate, but I always can tell whether the TONE is positive or negative. To me, positive TONE is affirming, loving, supporting, humble, inclusive, etc., and negative TONE is devaluing, hating, berating, righteous, separating, etc.

But your values for TONE may be quite different. That’s why I only give them the labels of positive or negative – your personal value system will fill them quite differently, and that will work for you. It has helped me force myself to make conscious what positive and negative TONE means to me in different situations…

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4.  “IT WILL ONLY HAPPEN IF WE FIX OUR POLITICS…”

16-01 Obama SOTUPhotograph © Evan Vucci/dpa/Corbis

This is the final part of Obama’s State of the Union address, and, for me, it is the TONE that matters. Yes, I think the CONTENT is spot on, but even if I couldn’t be sure of its accuracy, the TONE would encourage me to consider what is being said. And the same is true in the piece that follows – Nikki Haley’s “Republican Response’ that immediately followed Obama’s speech…

…“We the People.”

Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we’ve come to recognize mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise and fall together. That brings me to the fourth, and maybe the most important thing I want to say tonight.

The future we want — opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids — all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates.

It will only happen if we fix our politics.

A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions and attitudes and interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, …over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.

But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.

Too many Americans feel that way right now. It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.

But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task — or any President’s — alone. There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber who would like to see more cooperation, a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the demands of getting elected. I know; you’ve told me. And if we want a better politics, it’s not enough to just change a Congressman or a Senator or even a President; we have to change the system to reflect our better selves.

We have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around. We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections — and if our existing approach to campaign finance can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution. We’ve got to make voting easier, not harder, and modernize it for the way we live now. And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do.

But I can’t do these things on my own. Changes in our political process — in not just who gets elected but how they get elected — that will only happen when the American people demand it. It will depend on you. That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people.

What I’m asking for is hard. It’s easier to be cynical; to accept that change isn’t possible, and politics is hopeless, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter. But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future. Those with money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic disaster, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to secure. As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background.

We can’t afford to go down that path. It won’t deliver the economy we want, or the security we want, but most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world.

So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, our collective future depends on your willingness to uphold your obligations as a citizen. To vote. To speak out. To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. To stay active in our public life so it reflects the goodness and decency and optimism that I see in the American people every single day.

It won’t be easy. Our brand of democracy is hard. But I can promise that a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I’ll be right there with you as a citizen — inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that have helped America travel so far. Voices that help us see ourselves not first and foremost as black or white or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word — voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love.

They’re out there, those voices. They don’t get a lot of attention, nor do they seek it, but they are busy doing the work this country needs doing.

I see them everywhere I travel in this incredible country of ours. I see you. I know you’re there. You’re the reason why I have such incredible confidence in our future. Because I see your quiet, sturdy citizenship all the time.

I see it in the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open, and the boss who pays him higher wages to keep him on board.

I see it in the Dreamer who stays up late to finish her science project, and the teacher who comes in early because he knows she might someday cure a disease.

I see it in the American who served his time, and dreams of starting over — and the business owner who gives him that second chance. The protester determined to prove that justice matters, and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe.

I see it in the soldier who gives almost everything to save his brothers, the nurse who tends to him ’til he can run a marathon, and the community that lines up to cheer him on.

It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught.

I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote as long as she has to; the new citizen who casts his for the first time; the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count, because each of them in different ways know how much that precious right is worth.

That’s the America I know. That’s the country we love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future. Because of you. I believe in you. That’s why I stand here confident that the State of our Union is strong.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/13/us/politics/obama-2016-sotu-transcript.html

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5.   “THERE IS MORE THAN ENOUGH BLAME TO GO AROUND…”

      BY GOVERNOR NIKKI HALEY, WWW.CBS.COM  JANUARY 12, 2016

16-01 NikkiPhotograph CBS

“Good evening.

“I’m Nikki Haley, Governor of the great state of South Carolina…

“…At the outset, I’ll say this: you’ve paid attention to what has been happening in Washington, and you’re not naive.

“Neither am I. I see what you see. And many of your frustrations are my frustrations.

“A frustration with a government that has grown day after day, year after year, yet doesn’t serve us any better. A frustration with the same, endless conversations we hear over and over again. A frustration with promises made and never kept.

“We need to be honest with each other, and with ourselves: while Democrats in Washington bear much responsibility for the problems facing America today, they do not bear it alone. There is more than enough blame to go around.

“We as Republicans need to own that truth. We need to recognize our contributions to the erosion of the public trust in America’s leadership. We need to accept that we’ve played a role in how and why our government is broken.

“And then we need to fix it.

“The foundation that has made America that last, best hope on earth hasn’t gone anywhere. It still exists. It is up to us to return to it.

“For me, that starts right where it always has: I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants who reminded my brothers, my sister and me every day how blessed we were to live in this country.

“Growing up in the rural south, my family didn’t look like our neighbors, and we didn’t have much. There were times that were tough, but we had each other, and we had the opportunity to do anything, to be anything, as long as we were willing to work for it.

“My story is really not much different from millions of other Americans. Immigrants have been coming to our shores for generations to live the dream that is America. They wanted better for their children than for themselves. That remains the dream of all of us, and in this country we have seen time and again that that dream is achievable.

“Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory. During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation.

“No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.

“At the same time, that does not mean we just flat out open our borders. We can’t do that. We cannot continue to allow immigrants to come here illegally. And in this age of terrorism, we must not let in refugees whose intentions cannot be determined.

“We must fix our broken immigration system. That means stopping illegal immigration. And it means welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of their race or religion. Just like we have for centuries.

“I have no doubt that if we act with proper focus, we can protect our borders, our sovereignty and our citizens, all while remaining true to America’s noblest legacies.

“This past summer, South Carolina was dealt a tragic blow. On an otherwise ordinary Wednesday evening in June, at the historic Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, twelve faithful men and women, young and old, went to Bible study.

“That night, someone new joined them. He didn’t look like them, didn’t act like them, didn’t sound like them. They didn’t throw him out. They didn’t call the police. Instead, they pulled up a chair and prayed with him. For an hour.

“We lost nine incredible souls that night.

“What happened after the tragedy is worth pausing to think about.

“Our state was struck with shock, pain, and fear. But our people would not allow hate to win. We didn’t have violence, we had vigils. We didn’t have riots, we had hugs.

“We didn’t turn against each other’s race or religion. We turned toward God, and to the values that have long made our country the freest and greatest in the world.

“We removed a symbol that was being used to divide us, and we found a strength that united us against a domestic terrorist and the hate that filled him.

“There’s an important lesson in this. In many parts of society today, whether in popular culture, academia, the media, or politics, there’s a tendency to falsely equate noise with results.

“Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference.

“Of course that doesn’t mean we won’t have strong disagreements. We will. And as we usher in this new era, Republicans will stand up for our beliefs…

“And rather than just thanking our brave men and women in uniform, we would actually strengthen our military, so both our friends and our enemies would know that America seeks peace, but when we fight wars we win them.

“We have big decisions to make. Our country is being tested.

“But we’ve been tested in the past, and our people have always risen to the challenge. We have all the guidance we need to be safe and successful.

“Our forefathers paved the way for us.

“Let’s take their values, and their strengths, and rededicate ourselves to doing whatever it takes to keep America the greatest country in the history of man. And woman.

“Thank you, good night, and God bless.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/nikki-haley-sotu-response_56959342e4b086bc1cd5cf6e

Thank you, Nikky Haley, for the TONE of your response – it is one of an Elder who can lead us and, hopefully, “bring us together.” I’ve been hoping for such leadership since I saw that on a sign held up during one of Nixon’s campaign stops in 1968. Yes, please, Elders, come forward to lead us in TONE so we work together across our marvelous diversity! And there does seem to be a country with leadership that is doing just that…

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6.   “TO CALL ON THE BETTER ANGELS OF PEOPLE’S NATURES…”

      BY KEVIN J.DELANEY, WWW.QZ.COM, JANUARY 20, 2016

16-01 Trudeau at DavosGlass half full. (Reuters/Ruben Sprich)

The mood among world leaders is pretty gloomy. Reasons include the ongoing ISIL threat, the millions of displaced people in the Mideast and Europe, and disappointing economic growth, just to name a few.

But Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is amazingly unfazed by the storm clouds all around. “I can’t help but being tremendously optimistic,” the 44-year-old leader told attendees of the World Economic Forum’s annual Davos gathering.

His electoral mandate is to “provide a positive and good government for Canadians,” Trudeau says, “rather than focusing on what we’re scared of.”

But what about the prospect of terrorism attacks on Canadian soil?

“People are open to not choosing to live in constant fear,” Trudeau says. “We have to make a choice about how much we’re going to close and limit and crack down on our society in order to protect it.”

What about short-term costs and security risks represented by open immigration?

“Diversity isn’t just sound social policy. Diversity is the engine of invention,” says Trudeau. “It generates creativity that helps change the world. We know this in Canada.”

How about the impact of low oil prices on Canada’s energy-producing economy?

“The low oil prices are a challenge but the Canadian economy is a lot more than natural resources,” says Trudeau.

What about the costs of transitioning to a greener economy?

“We can fight climate change without sacrificing growth and prosperity,” he says.

Trudeau’s optimism is all the more stark against German chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to decline her invitation to Davos in order to stay home to deal with the migrant crisis. And his strategy for getting the Canadian electorate to share in his optimism sounds rather, well, optimistic—especially in light of the fractious situation gripping his neighbor to the south, where US president Barack Obama, in his latest state of the union address, highlighted the US political divisions he regrets that he has failed to erase.

“Once you get elected through dividing people it becomes very hard to govern responsibly for everyone,” Trudeau says. “The choice we made was to call on ‘the better angels of people’s natures,’ to use a great Lincoln line.”

Will future events make Trudeau’s optimism look foolish? Canada’s new leader has made it clear he’s willing to take that risk.

http://qz.com/598678/justin-trudeau-has-to-be-the-most-optimistic-man-on-earth/

I don’t see Justin Trudeau as “the most optimistic man on earth”; to me he is that rare combination of a leader who is psychologically astute, morally courageous and verbally superb. May we all have many more!

See you next month, FW

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7.  THIS MONTH’S LINKS:

     2015 IN INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING……

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/us/year-in-interactive-storytelling.html?em_pos=large&emc=edit_nn_20151230&nl=morning-briefing&nlid=73301161&_r=0

     COLBERT WELCOMES PALIN’S ENDORSEMENT OF TRUMP…

http://www.cbs.com/shows/the-late-show-with-stephen-colbert/video/D0E33012-1859-9AD3-CDAB-619C2022CD18/the-original-material-girl-is-back/

16-01 Palin Endorsing Trump
     AND JUST IN CASE U.S. POLITICS DON’T SEEM CRAZY ENOUGH…

http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/oregon-considers-wall-to-keep-out-angry-white-men

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