Mana: between ourselves and others

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In the west, we think about ourselves as individuals

We think of “individuals” as something real. Let me explain, what I mean.

You probably think of yourself as having a personality. You are introverted, or extroverted, for example.

And because that is “you”, you are always introverted or extroverted, wherever you are, and whomever you are with.  What’s more, because you are always the same, we can “measure” you, or your personality, with a test. And of course, psychologists do.

In other cultures, “individual” is not so central to thinking

It is quite hard to grasp, and quite hard to get our heads around the idea that people are not separate from their circumstances.

Where I grew up for example, people are described by their relationships to other people: mother of Jack, daughter of Sam, for example.  This not fuzzy thinking. It is very advanced thinking that we find hard.

People are not focusing on the person and the things around the person

They look at the space between the person and the things. Or, the space between one person and another.

Theory, philosophy, cultures, manners, all describe that space.

If you visit New Zealand, you will hear everyone, Maori and Pakeha, talking about Mana

Loosely, mana is a combination of status and respect.

Explained using our concepts, this is confusing. Mana comes partly from our character – who we are as an individual.  Mana also comes partly from our position, as a teacher, say.

Using our thinking, this seems untidy and undeveloped.

But mana, like concepts in other cultures, describes the space between people. When we we look at this space, mana makes perfect sense.

3 poetic phrases to explain mana for your new week

As a gift for the week, I thought I would share 3 phrases that I keep on my desk.   These quotations are from poets & scholars in the West who write about our need to look at the space between ourselves and others.

“put yourself inside the river”

“everything is waiting for you”

“strength is in contact with the environment”

Have a winning week!

And remember to look after your mana – the space between you and others.

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Simultaneity: The future is an arrow that arrives at our feet

Yesterday, I posted on my difficulty explaining the simultaneity principle in positive organizational scholarship and extrapolating the implications for organizational design.  If you can help me, please do!

Today, I followed up a review about a book on New Zealand history in The Economist.  I’ve extracted this quote wholesale:

“Christina Thompson is a New Englander from a trim town outside Boston with a white church and a green. Seven belongs to the Ngapuhi tribe and his family lives in a ramshackle settlement at the end of a dirt road. Ms Thompson is an intellectual in the tradition of the Enlightenment, an editor of the academic Harvard Review. Seven, with his belief in ghosts and aliens, is the very man that tradition hopes to enlighten. She weighs options and makes plans. He sees the future not as an arrow he shoots ahead of him, but as an arrow that arrives at his feet.”

The future is an arrow that arrives at our feet.

I intuit it.  Who can explain it further?

UPDATE:  I first thought of this as the future coming from behind me.  Now I think of myself as standing still and the future coming towards me.  How about you?

The art of living in the present

Does the value of gratitude and forgiveness come from living in the present?

I think much of the value of gratitude and forgiveness is in ability to live in the present: to be clear what is happening now, to listen to the “voices” or essential nature of what is happening, to list our choices for action, to take action.  When we ruminate, we are anywhere but here.

Why do we “mentally travel” away from where we are right now?

aaron(at)todayisthatday(dot)com describes the ho’oponopono that treats self and other and past, present and future holistically – a central idea in quantum physics and in many indigenous cultures such as Hawaii (what is the adjective) and their relatives the Maori of New Zealand.

Can we accept a challenge just to accept things like the weather, just the way they are?

Here is the challenge.  Can we can accept responsibility for bad weather? In our hands, that question smacks of superstition.    Of course, we did not make the weather.  Of course,  we cannot change the weather.  Of course, we may have predicted it better.  And of course, it is so silly to complain about the weather.  What we can do is note the weather, understand the weather, review what we want from the day, list our choices, and act.

Our emotions are part of now.  We see that when we grieve.

There are times, though, when hardship is severe.  Acting during a tsunami under the influence of adrenalin is probably easier than coping with loss and devastation after wards.  Maybe then to grieve, and to grieve fully,  is the correct action.

The New Zealand Maori concept of mana is an example of holistic thinking

I always  felt so silly in New Zealand teaching western ideas of management and leadership.  My apologies for the curriculum were always met with knowing nods from Maori and Pacific Island students.  The concept of mana, schizophrenically adopted by New Zealanders of recent arrivals but not included in the management curriculum, includes status and influence as a bundled idea, leadership and followership in one.  You have mana as teacher and you acquire mana from being a good teacher. So if something is going wrong in the classroom, one does not get emotional. One acts in appropriate ways to restore the  dignity of the classroom for all concerned.  That’s all.

Why do we separate ourselves from society and the present from the past and the future?

I wonder the philosophical origins of our need to separate self from society and the present from the past and the future.

Why not just accept the ground beneath our feet as what is there and what is right to be there?