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Tag: identity

Our lives but a poetry of place?

Birmingham Central Mosque by george daley via flickr“Birmingham’s what I think with.  It’s not made for that sort of job, but it’s what they gave me.”
Roy Fisher

    Is it true that thinking about the objects around us helps us see opportunity and choice?

    Are our lives poetry of ‘our place’?  Even if we not conciously writing its poems?

    • What thoughts did I have today because of my surroundings?
    • Did I even notice my surroundings?

    Would I think differently if I rearranged my surroundings and made them more attention?

    Would I enjoy thinking that way?

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    What do we learn about occupational identity from Amartya Sen?

    Sail Boat by Lee Cannon via FlickrPlural identities

    I’ve just finished reading Amartya Sen’s Identity and Violence.  He ends:

    “As an eleven year-old boy I could not do much more for Kader Mia as he lay bleeding with his head on my lap.  But I imagine another universe, not beyond our reach, in which he and I can jointly affirm our many common identities (even as the warring singularities howl at the gate.”  We have to make sure, above all, that our mind is not halved by a horizon.”  (pp. 185-186)

    Identities as a concept in organizational psychology

    I picked up Identity and Violence partly because of the author’s fame but also because identities are a hot topic in contemporary organizational psychology.  We encourage people to develop personal identities that are stronger than the identities of the companies with whom they work.  Instead of being a small boat bobbing about on the choppy waters of a stormy ocean, rather be the ocean and let the company bob about on you.

    It’s a fine aspiration and possibly the only way to stay sane.  But I wanted to be able to think about this core idea critically and what better way that to pick up a highly readable book by a Nobel prize winner with command of philosophy and world history and an inclusive outlook.

    What are the dangers of encouraging strong personal identities?

    I think Sen would not regard our exhortations as entirely foolish.  Sen counsels developing our commitment and appreciation of multiple stories and identities as parents, as children, as professionals, as members of churches, as patriots and as members of organizations that cut across international boundaries.  We are all of these at the same time.

    “To halve our horizon” by narrowing our world to one identity and then too, to narrow that world to a formulaic lifestyle laid down by others – that’s what he counsels against.  That’s what he believes is used easily to manipulate us into actions we might in other times and other places (my words) find unacceptable.

    Thoughtful multiple identities are strong occupational identities?

    A strong occupational narrative might narrow our world.  I suspect though, that narrow occupational narratives turn us into the small boat on choppy seas.  When we see ourselves as part of an ocean able to accommodate many small boats of identities, we feel more comfortable.

    That’s my humble reading, anyway.

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    If. . . We wouldn’t be We


    If freckles were lovely, and day was night,

    And measles were nice and a lie warn’t a lie,

    Life would be delight,–

    But things couldn’t go right

    For in such a sad plight

    I wouldn’t be I.


    If earth was heaven and now was hence,

    And past was present, and false was true,

    There might be some sense

    But I’d be in suspense

    For on such a pretense

    You wouldn’t be you.


    If fear was plucky, and globes were square,

    And dirt was cleanly and tears were glee

    Things would seem fair,–

    Yet they’d all despair,

    For if here was there

    We wouldn’t be we.

    E.E. Cummings

    Teaching the challenges of morality

    I’ve spent a lot of my life teaching young adults.  Every subject begins with teaching “declarative knowledge”, the labels for things, the things that can be tested with multiple choice.  Then we move on to “procedural knowledge”, getting our hands dirty, and the things you can only know if you have done the job yourself.  It is here that morality arrives.  We have to consider consequences.  And we have to consider that we will not always be “right”.

    Let me explain with two extreme moral positions

    At school, a friend of mine didn’t  like putting sulphuric acid on zinc chips  She was convinced that she could hear them squeal with pain.  That is one extreme.  She saw consequences which others did not see.

    In social sciences, we are required to fill in forms in lieu of considering ethics.  We even go to great lengths to remove the effects of what we do from experiments. That is the other extreme.  We pretend, indeed we are required to pretend that we are not acting in our self-interest and that our actions have no impact on the world.

    The world in flowing motion

    Of course, all this is a nonsense. Everything we do affects the people we do it with.  And we are affected in turn.

    This is the lesson that students should learn.  They need to learn to listen and to understand how other people are affected by their even seemingly innocuous actions.

    And yet moral choices are not ‘pc’ or paralysing

    And then they must decide. The students must decide.  Are they going to act anyway, and why?

    Students find it hard to accept that moral choices don’t leave us feeling good

    Somewhere buried in there is a hard lesson of life – that are our actions and circumstances don’t always reflect well on us ~ and that we are never comfortable with that.  But that is a good thing.  The day that we are uncomfortable with the uncomfortable,  then we have lost it.  We should feel bad about bad stuff.

    But we also have to make choices despite the fact we are not going to feel good.

    But feeling bad is shared and it important to recognize that the bad feelings are both valid and shared

    I like that Cummings ends with We wouldn’t be we.  Because the journey that brought us together into this uncomfortable place is our shared journey.  Our discomfort is a product of our shared journey.

    I may not like that I am in this bad place with you, but I am.   That cannot be denied.  And I have to act anyway.  Just as you do.  I just try to act thoughftully, knowledgeably, fairly.  Often I don’t even achieve that, but I try.

    And that I act does not deny that all this is bad.  It’s bad.  I act.  That is.

    And that it is bad does not change that tomorrow may not be bad.  With you or without you.  That is, too.  It just is.

    And to pretend that we don’t have agonizing choices to make denies that We are We. That is bad.  Very bad.  That is much worse than the lousy circumstances and awful decisions.  The worst thing we can do is deny that We are We.


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    In darkness and frustration, belonging matters

    I Am Much Too Alone in This World, Yet Not Alone

    I am much too alone in this world, yet not alone
    to truly consecrate the hour.

    I am much too small in this world, yet not small
    to be to you just object and thing,
    dark and smart.

    I want my free will and want it accompanying
    the path which leads to action;
    and want during times that beg questions,
    where something is up,
    to be among those in the know,
    or else be alone.

    I want to mirror your image to its fullest perfection,
    never be blind or too old
    to uphold your weighty wavering reflection.

    I want to unfold.
    Nowhere I wish to stay crooked, bent;
    for there I would be dishonest, untrue.

    I want my conscience to be
    true before you;
    want to describe myself like a picture I observed
    for a long time, one close up,
    like a new word I learned and embraced,
    like the everyday jug,
    like my mother’s face,
    like a ship that carried me along
    through the deadliest storm.

    Rainer Maria Rilke


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    An optimistic poem for a New Year

    Moving Forward

    The deep parts of my life pour onward,

    as if the river shores were opening out.

    It seems that things are more like me now,

    That I can see farther into paintings.

    I feel closer to what language can’t reach.

    With my senses, as with birds,

    I climb

    into the windy heaven, out of the oak,

    in the ponds broken off from the sky

    my falling sinks, as if standing on fishes.

    Rainer Maria Rilke

    Gratitude Diary and Appreciative Inquiry

    I’m not entirely sure what the last line of the poem means.  Other than that, this poem illustrates the process of writing a gratitude diary or being appreciative during organizational change.

    We look for those parts of the day where were feel as if we are pouring onward like a great river or soaring in the sky like a wild bird.  As we focus on those parts “things seem more like me now”.

    Happy 2010!

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    Misunderstandings are so informative!

    We are what we say and do

    When your eyes are tired, no part of the world can find you  . . .”  so says poet, David Whyte.  David Whyte doesn’t blog, but he has unwittingly captured the essence of the blogging and the inature of the internet age courtesy of Larry and Sergei at Google.

    This was a massive insight prior to the Google search engine.  In today’s world, anything & everything we do leaves a trace – a picture, a comment, a blog post.

    That worries many people. And sometimes it should. Just because Google says “first do no evil”, does not mean that there is no evil out ther.e

    But if we don’t do, if we sit at home talking to no one, then there is no one and nothing to be found.

    People looking for ideas, explanation, activity, colloboration – even things – only discover us if we have left a trace.

    The search words that bring you to my blog tell me a lot about you .  .  . and me

    The search words that bring people to our blogs bring that home.  People search for strange things.  Many people want to take a test to find out if they are good looking.  This sentence may draw them to this post.

    Simply, people don’t discover us for what we think we said.  They discover us for what they think we said. And if we didn’t say it, there is nothing to discover.  We are don’t exist. We are simply not there!

    We have two choices:

    • Be silent and be, well not ignored, but not known at all.
    • Be misunderstood and be noticed.

    Surely the latter is better.  When someone has noticed, then we can can engage in a conversation.  And they way they misunderstand us tells us heaps about them.

    Misunderstandings are so informative!

    Enjoy.  Maybe we should keep a curiosity diary.  What really surprised me today and what I should ask some more questions about?


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    Reality is broken. Games are great. What do you dislike about games?

    Game designers are better at psychology than psychologists

    Jane McGonigal, games designer extraordinaire, has long pointed out that games are better designed than most jobs.   I agree with her, but oddly I still prefer work.

    Nonetheless, agreeing that games designers make better use of work psychology than psychologists do, I’ve been deliberately playing games from beginning to end.

    Orientation that gives control back to the audience

    Getting into games, the autonomy dimension of Ryan & Deci’s ARC model is clear.  We need to be be able to see what to do at glance. We shouldn’t need elaborate instructions or encouragement.

    Something for the audience to get their teeth into

    I am stepping through the levels quite doggedly.  That should be the competence dimension of Ryan & Dec’s model.  In truth, games are quite fun while I am figuring out the rules – or when I think I can push myself to a new level.  But they also get boring quickly.  Dogged is the feeling I have!

    A way for us to play together

    I think I don’t use the social aspects of games sufficiently. Social or relationships, is the third component of Ryan & Deci’s ARC model.

    I am probably not very sociable because my motives for playing games aren’t social.  But, equally, I probably get bored quickly because I am not being sociable.

    Bringing our own rules to the game

    What has interested me more has been the way my preconceptions affect my game play

    In a game in which I played the role of explorer in Africa, it took me a long while to realize that I could deliberately kill people and even longer to do it.

    In Mafia Wars running on Facebook, I am yet to start a fight. I am yet to invest in armor.  I only do jobs against an anonymous enemy.  When someone attacks me, I just clean up and take out some more insurance.

    In Farmeville, I would like to share my tractor.

    Does social mean more than sending gifts and energy bonuses? Are our ‘identities’ and ‘values’ also important to us?

    Sometimes it is useful to have our values challenged.  Sometimes it is useful to see that we impose rules that other people don’t care about.

    Then we have a choice.  Do we want to play by those rules?  Maybe we do.

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    Active listening

    For fear of ever losing it, I must quote The Bumble Bee word-for-word here.

    “Imagine you are the leader of a new team or network.

    How can you quickly find out what each team member’s number one concern is about working in this scenario?

    Dr Lewis recommends you get each of them to repeat the following 5 words out loud without thinking about it too much:

    “We can’t do that here”

    Listen carefully to which of the five words they stress – if it’s:

    1. We – they are worried about their identity
    2. Can’t – they are worried about their beliefs and values
    3. Do – they are worried about their skills
    4. That – they are worried about their behavior
    5. Here – they are worried about the environment”

    UPDATE:  This heuristic is quite sophisticated listening, yet it is needed.  Even IT people struggle with comments like : We can’t do that here.  What exactly does someone mean when they say that.

    Can we separate out the ideas a little more?

    1  We – what will my friends and significant others think of me?

    2  Can’t – that doesn’t make sense with the other things we think and do

    3  Do – we don’t know how to do that, or manage that

    4 That – we can do it another way but not like that

    5 Here – what you suggest will harm this place

    This is highly nuanced listening which helps to find a person’s underlying objection.


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