Sunday, January 20, 2013

Drawing Adult Education Ideas from Educating Rita



This is the draft of a paper I have due for a doctoral class in Adult Education.

1983’s Educating Rita, directed by Lewis Gilbert and starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters, both chronicles one woman’s adventure through Britain’s Open University program and her progress in friendship with a jaded professor of literature, Frank Bryant.  Susan White is a hairdresser, 26, married to an electrician and living in a working class area of a British city (the movie was filmed in Dublin but the setting is probably Birmingham or Manchester).  Her husband Denny wants a baby and a satisfied wife, but Susan is not satisfied.  She senses there is more to life and decides to get an education even though her family disapproves.  The film tells the story of Susan’s journey and growth as an adult learner, from one of naiveté (she calls herself “Rita” after the popular feminist poet Rita Mae Brown, whose work she loves) and awe at the great learning of university types, to a greater understanding of herself and the role of education. 
However, the film also exemplifies many theories about adult education and learning and at the same time pictures the ongoing struggles of adult educators and learners.  Before delving into how the film relates to the typology of adult education, to Kegan’s and Mezirow’s view of adult learning, and to the current state of adult education, I would like to make a few personal comments about the film.
            Educating Rita has long been a personal favorite of mine since I first saw it in the early ‘80s.  Since I have a graduate degree in English, I can relate to Rita’s love of literature, to her struggle to learn to write about it in a scholarly manner, and to the pretentiousness that can surround the study of literature in a university.   She loves to read but prefers potboilers to E.M. Forster.  I can also relate to her fight to bridge the gaps between a working class background and a family that does not value higher education and her own desires.  Dr. Frank Bryant, several years her senior, has lived in that rarified atmosphere for too long and wishes his students would stop obsessing about a line in Blake’s poetry and just go have fun on a pretty day. 
Therefore, the film made a deep impression on me personally.  Additionally, it is a worthy movie because, although almost thirty years old and set in England, it is not at all dated and not irrelevant to American culture.  Likewise, it avoids the clichés of Hollywood.  There is no sex; Frank and Susan/Rita do not fall in love; and the characters do not live happily ever after.  Frank, because of his embarrassing alcoholism, is sent on “sabbatical” to teach in Australia for two years, and Susa/Rita passes her exams and now has more choices about what she can do with her life.  However, Susan/Rita has paid the price; her husband has divorced her and is expecting a baby with his second wife, her friend has attempted suicide, and she almost loses Frank’s friendship because he doesn’t like the person she has become. 
Also, a word about Britain’s Open University.  In the film, Rita/Susan is shown watching a television show for one of her courses  In 1983 that was the only real way to run a “massive open course,” since there was no Internet or even wide use of videotapes.  She goes to see Frank weekly because he is her tutor. This is more along the line of how British universities are run, but Open University is for working adults and the tutorial hours are held in the evening.  It waives traditional entrance requirements for adult learners.   It was started in 1969 as an effort of the Labor Party.  OU is still going strong, according to Wikipedia, with 250,000 students internationally; it is accredited in the U.S. by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.  It uses a mixture of methods today for course delivery and includes research, graduate, and undergraduate divisions.
Merriam and Brockett (2007) present a chart showing the various typologies or reasons that adults engage in formal adult education programs.  The first is named “liberal.”  This category is distinguished from vocational or career programs, self-improvement, civic engagement, and emancipator purposes.  In this case, liberal refers to liberal arts curriculum, knowledge of literature, the sciences, arts, history—what makes us human.  Why does Rita/Susan want to take courses with Open University?  It is clearly not for a better job, and she wants to study literature, not a field that will open career doors.  She is not concerned about politics, either, or emancipation and social justice.  She is unsatisfied with her life. 
In one season, depressed from feeling acutely the class divide between herself and Frank and unable to attend a party because she knows she brought the wrong kind of wine, she joins her family and husband at a pub where everyone is singing a popular song.  She turns to her mother who is starting to cry and asks her mother what’s wrong.  “There must be a better song to sing,” replies her mother.  This moment solidifies her desire to obtain whatever it is education—a liberal arts education—can provide:  a better song, a better way of thinking about oneself, a better self-concept.   This moment comes about the time that her husband is growing tired of her educational efforts and finds out that she is still taking birth control, even though she has lied about it to him.  Soon her marriage will be over because of her desires for that better song.
Although Rita/Susan’s quest for education center on the liberal typology, questions of identity and class are very important in the film and to the character’s development.  Frank does not understand how the class divide defines his student at the beginning of the film.  He finds Rita/Susan and her perspectives on literature fresh, funny, endearing, real.  She tells him he looks like a “geriatric hippie,” and writes two-sentence essays that express her ideas in bare bones.  He wants her to meet his friends, but she is reluctant.  She knows she is not one of them.  Her lack of education and access to typical university education are part of who she is, and she does not want to throw all of her past and identity away.  Her desire for education is not about a hatred of her class and background, nor about desiring to be elitist; it is simply dissatisfaction with what she knows and with her future choices.   From a dramatic standpoint this makes Rita/Susan more likeable, or course.
Many have called Educating Rita a version of Pygmalion or My Fair Lady (without the music), and in a sense it is, because that play is very much about class distinctions.  In my twenty  years of working with open access education in the South, especially teaching writing and speaking, I have experienced from students a reluctance to start talking and expressing themselves in a different way that might distance them from their families and friends.  This reluctance does not stem from a laziness to learn but from a real fear in some cases that they will not fit in with those they love, and sometimes from a suspicion that I am trying to change them to be something they are not.
Educating Rita is also an exemplification of Kegan’s ideas on adult development and Mezirow’s transformative learning theory.   At first, despite her desire for education, Rita/Susan is resistant to Frank’s criticism.  She has her perspective and it is right; she doesn’t see that getting “educated” and learning demands perspective changes.  At one point he tells her to rewrite an essay and she gives him a Nazi salute and marches away to do it.  Over time, she becomes more dependent on his view point, and he has to discourage her from listening to his ideas too much.  As she learns and others respect her opinions, she becomes too self-assured about her own opinions.  She says that one of her classmates had the nerve to say one work by D. H. Lawrence was better than another.  “I set him straight.”  She knows more, but has not fully developed in perspective taking.  By the end of the film and after some dramatic occurrences, Susan (she no longer calls herself Rita, a practice she calls “pretentious crap”) comes to realize her own autonomy and is in a stage of what Kegan calls “self-authoring.”  She appreciates what Frank has taught her but does not “need” him anymore.  He wants to need her and asks her to go to Australia, but she declines.  They are friends and equals now. 
Mezirow’s theory of transformative learning posits that adult learners begin with a disorienting dilemma.  The disorienting dilemma is not just a problem; the term means that the learner encounters a situation for which his or her current internal resources or knowledge are not “working,” are insufficient.  The external reality and the internal reality are not congruent, so the learner is now motivated forward to gain knowledge, reflect on new ideas alone and with others, and most importantly, try on or take on new perspectives.  Just as the disorienting dilemma is not simply a problem, the learning is not just the new addition of facts or skills.  Rita/Susan does not know when she starts Open University that this perspective change will happen to her, but eventually it does.  In fact, her disorienting dilemma does not come at the beginning of the film.  Whatever motivates her to want the liberal education available to her through OU, it is not because she feels that she is facing a situation where her internal resources are out of kilter.  In fact, although fearful, she thinks she can handle the courses, largely because she doesn’t know how hard higher education can be.  The disorienting dilemmas come, as they should in a work of drama, throughout the film, and it is these unforeseen obstacles that lead to her reflection and working through to a new perspective of herself, education, and others.
Finally, Educating Rita is, I believe, a fairly honest portrayal (as honest as a film can be) about adult education and adult learners.  It is far more honest than those movies where the students ends up sleeping with the professor ten minutes after meeting him or her, or those films where all obstacles fall away and the student achieves complete mastery of his life and environment.  She learns and grows and moves to a different stage of adulthood, but she is still herself, sassy and outspoken.    Her great achievement, she says, is that she has choices, that options are open to her that were not before—personal and career.  However, in this sense I think she is wrong.  She has had choices all through the film, and has taken advantage of the opportunities given her to learn and grow.  Choice is relative to the stage of life we are in; it is never absolute.   She chooses to keep going in her education, which is the most important—how many adults begin an educational program and drop out because of low self-efficacy, life circumstances, or failures to perform to their own or others’ expectations?  The film is honest about the struggles that women face, even today in the U.S. and definitely in other countries, about furthering their educations.  The film is honest about class divides, and as the statistical information in Kasworm, et al and MB indicates, the ones most likely to avoid or stopout/dropout of adult education are those of lower socio-economic classes and lower educational levels. 
Having worked with adult learners for many years, I see in Educating Rita an entertaining and truthful look at both learning theory and the lives of adult learners.  For those new to adult education, I would recommend the film as a good starting place to understand their future clients.

Psalms in the New Testament



 This post comes with some help from Michael Morales, a theology professor, at
 
Types of Psalms

Messianic Psalm 22, 2, 8, 16, 23, 24, 40, 41, 45, 68, 69, 72, 89, 96-99, 102, 110, 118, 132.
Imprecatory 35, 52, 58, 59, 69, 79, 83, 109, 137, 140
Psalms of Ascent, (chanted when walking up the steps of the temple at the three holy days) 120-134
Penitential  6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143
Praise (sung at Passover) 113-118
What Psalms are used in the gospels?  And why?  We read the Old Testament through the lens of the New; most of (I would not say everything) the Old Testament points to Christ and Messiah and Lord.
Jesus used the psalms to support His claims to being the Eternal and Powerful Son of God.  He also used Isaiah, the Law of Moses, and the prophets.
Psalm 2:8 – Matthew 28:18-20.   Psalm 110 (Matt 22:41–46; Mark 12:35–37; Luke 20:40–44)
Jesus used the psalms to support His claims of Messiahship and fulfillment of Scripture
Luke 24:44
Jesus used the psalms to comfort Himself on the cross.
“When Jesus expressed his anguish on the cross with the words of Psalm 22, he highlighted one of the precious facets of the Psalms in general, namely, that as songs they uniquely convey the inward depths of the soul, and especially of Christ’s soul” (Morales).
Psalm 31:5 — “Into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
Psalm 16:9-10 - “My flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption”
Psalm 22:24 “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.”
Jesus used the psalms to explain that the cross and suffering would be the role of the Messiah
Psalm 22; Psalm 41:9-Mark 14:20-21; Psalm 22:18-John 19:24

The apostles used the psalms to preach Christ.
Acts 1:20 – Psalm 69:25 and 109:8
Psalm 110 used in Acts 2:25-36
Psalm 110:4 – Hebrews 5:5-6, 7:1-28
Psalm 2:7-8 used in Acts 4:25-28, Acts 13:30-37
Psalm 68:18 – Ephesians 4:7-16
Romans 3:4 – Psalm 51:4
Romans 3:10ff – Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 531-3
Romans 4:6-8 – Psalm 32:1-2
Romans 8:36 – Psalm 44:22
Romans 11:9 – Psalm 69:23
Romans 11:26 - Psalm 14:7
Romans 15:3 – Psalm 69:9
Romans 15:9 – Psalms 18:49
II Corinthians 9:9 – Psalm 112:9
Hebrews 10:7 – Psalm 40:7
Psalm 95:8 – Hebrews 3:8
Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 tells us to use psalms in worship.

Satan uses the Psalm 91:11 and 12 in Matthew 4 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sex as Self Discovery

Sometimes I am exposed to messages via the radio, TV, or books that disturb me but that cause a light to go off.

Such enlightenment happened Friday when I was listening to an interview Terri Gross of Fresh Air did with Lena Dunham, she of the TV show "Girls" and the creepy, bizarre pro-Obama commercial when she implicitly compared voting for Obama the first time like the first sexual experience. 

She is the writer and star of the show, which is about four girls who have graduated from college but, like most young people today, can't find decent jobs and have to live according to their meager means.  So far, so good, but apparently instead of finding jobs these girls have a lot of sex with various and sundry men.

At one point in the interview Dunham said something about sex being a means of self-discovery for her character, and one has to imagine, for her.  This struck me first as odd, then sad, and then meaningful--in the sense that it means one of three things, or perhaps a combination.

--In the post Roe v. Wade world, in a world where the Democratic Party stands primarily for the belief that there aren't enough abortions in this country already, that her statement is a natural outcome of the "this is my body" philosophy.  If this is my body, and mine alone, then I am free to do whatever I want with it.  Abort, cut, tattoo, abuse, and have sex with it with whoever I want.  As much as and whenever I want.  And it's the government's job to allow it and also pay for it.  If Roe v. Wade is right, then this is logical, though sad.  I am not sure why cutting and self-abuse is bad if it's my body and I can do other things with it.

--Saying "sex is a means of self-discovery" is simply a rationalization for hedonism.  The girl doesn't want to sound like a slut, so she has to have a philosophical justification for what she does.

--The person saying so has incredibly and tragically low self-esteem, which I think is the case for Dunham.  She mentioned that she had ex-boyfriends who turned "gay" and laughed, but I don't think it's just a joke for her.  She is chubby and plain.  She wants to now she is desirable to men, so she does actions that would prove it.  She wants to find the real, permanent one--so she gambles by sleeping with various types.  I have seen this all my life, girls who are uncomfortable with their looks or who they are and pursue boys or men and try to manipulate relationships and so on and so forth.  Does the man like, love, or commit to her--maybe he will if she ........, and if not, well, she can say a man thought she was desirable enough to sleep with. 

What struck me the most if that 1.  in the church we have not traditionally had serious conversations about these matters.  In a sense, we should have to, but in this super-charged society we somehow wink at the fornication levels of our young people.  We do not argue with "let him who stole, steal no more" but we ignore, debate about all the verses, of which there are many, about sexual abstinence until marriage.  We know we cannot justify it Biblically, so we don't talk about it.  

 http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/01/07/the-millennial-generations-acceptable-sin/?fb_action_ids=4760467782627&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=246965925417366

The second thing that strikes me is that girls who are happy in who they are don't have to look for acceptance in men, and at least they can just admit they want sex for the pleasure of it instead of trying to say they are learning something about themselves from it.  Girls whose fathers affirmed them don't have to chase boys to feel better about themselves.  Even more, girls who have spiritual maturity know that their bodies are not their own, never were, never will be.  They do not have delusions that they have a right to unlimited pleasure or pain, that their body is a temple, not to their own goddessness but for the Holy Spirit to live in. 

In the end, Dunham is playing a role in her real life and in the TV show.  She plays an arrogant, spoiled, connected writer who got attention because of who she is as much as what she writes (although it does resonate with many young people who share her values), and she plays the quintessential Julia, the young, liberated sexually free woman who depends on the government (AKA Obama) for her meaning and future.  Her real self is a chubby girl who tattooed her arms with childhood stories and writes about her life instead of coming up with something original.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Marijuana: Does the Government Have a Reason and Right to Protect the Stupid

http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/07/opinion/frum-marijuana-risk/index.html?iref=allsearch

I like what this writer for CNN says, but it also makes me somewhat uncomfortable.  Marijuana is NOT  a good drug, people.  It's bad for you.  But what's the line on the government protecting us, and who decides who is stupid? 

Additionally, I have recently learned that people who develop schizophrenia at college age tend to be marijuana users.  HUMMMM.

Whites Writing About Blacks

http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/08/opinion/seymour-django-spike-lee/index.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fcnn_topstories+%28RSS%3A+Top+Stories%29

This debate really interests me, because my novels include African American characters and I try to write them faithfully and sensitively.  According to some, I have no right to do so.  Thankfully, James Baldwin says it's all right.  I was trained in new criticism, where only the text matters.  If the text works as literature, then the race or gender of the writer shouldn't matter.  Criticize what I write, not my skin color over which I have no control.

Violence in America

Eric Metaxas has written a wonderful BreakPoint commentary on movie violence today.  Check it out.  (Google Breakpoint)

We are a bunch of hypocrites, he basically says. Hollywood is the worst.  "Give up your guns!" they shout--and then show unrepentant violence on screen.  And we watch it.  Two people I know went to see Django Unchained.  I should have gone all prophetic on them.

I watched, by the way, the old "Oceans' Eleven" movie last night. I thought it was surprisingly good, mainly because of the Greek tragedy ending.  It used to be in Hollywood, evil and crime had to be punished.  Not any more.

In reading Genesis' account of Noah, I was surprised to see that what the people were being punished for was violence!  Same with other times of judgment.  We think we will be judged for sexual deviance--but maybe not so much.  I think America is under judgment right now anyway because of our innate violence, more than our sexual sins, although that's part of it.   We have been violent from the beginning, to slaves, Indians, children, and others.  

When will the church take violence seriously, all violence, not just that in the womb (which of course is bad enough and the reason behind our current judgment, I am convinced).  Newtown was a particularly well publicized tragedy, but these things happen constantly, with less news coverage.  Guns are not the cause of our violence, they are the symptom and tool of it.  Other countries have free guns laws and almost no violence.  

What makes us so violent as a people?  What is the core of this disease?

Some curmudgeonly comments this Wednesday

I do not give to Komen, nor will I.  Some people in the media say that its donations went down because pro-choicers were angry with its flipflopping about the Planned Parenthood funding.  No, they have that wrong.  The pro-lifers have seen the light and pulled out funding.  I am one of them.  I could go on a screed here that the whole ribbon campaign has gotten out of hand.  There is lots of documentation on that, and how corporations are using it to make money.  So be it.  They just won't get any of mine.

I am about sick (to use my husband's expression) of evangelical narcissism.  Evangelicals really think that God loves the world but He loves them most.  That God will alter the whole world order to fix their problems.  That their little problems equal world hunger.  That Jesus would have died for them if they were the only person in the world  (maybe He would have, but the issue is, we AREN'T the only person in the world.)  Perhaps this is why young people are drawn to social cause Christianity; I don't blame them, although it has its limits, too.

I, like most college faculty, think there is too much weight given to student evaluations.  It's an easy way for administrators to cull us out; what really should be done is an holistic approach, with more in-class observations, with teachers documenting and reflecting on their classroom practices, etc.  That takes too much time, I guess.  Student evaluations are easy and cheap.  I am not saying they have no value.  I believe the research says they do, if the right questions are asked and they are weighted correctly.  I have done some good things in my classes to improve my eval scores, and I also have been a nicer and more approachable person to improve them.  A teacher who gets lower than the norm scores consistently does need remediation or should think about another profession; because of my commitment to faculty development, I would like to see true remediation of classroom performance so that better learning AND better evals can happen.  But the current practices at my institution are disturbing and frustrating.

I got an email from a well known teaching and learning source (no name here) with ideas for the first day.  One of them was to get the students to talk about "the worst teacher I had" and "the best teacher I had."  I think that's counterproductive.  I get into the content the first day.  In my speech class, I get my students to reflect in groups on the value of the course for them, rather than me telling them.  In Humanities, I show them a Sister Wendy video that serves as an overview of the course.  I want my students to know I am serious and we are hitting the ground running.  I front load the class--more work early, less later, when they are stressed by other classes. 

I cringe every day with what new nonsense will come out of the White House. 



Speaking out about Kallmann's Syndrome

I occasionally go to the Facebook pages or other sites that discuss Kallmann's Syndrome, a genetic condition I have.  As a middle-aged woman who has never knowingly met anyone with Kallmann's but who has corresponded a bit with others online about this disorder, I do not consider myself an expert in KS but I am a "survivor," if you will.  I am sometimes floored by what people write about it; all I can conclude is that their journey has been much harder than mine.  Perhaps I am just too clueless to know how hard my journey has been, or I lack imagination to envision what life would have been like without KS.  Perhaps being ignorant of the wider community of KS persons was to my advantage.  The Internet makes cross-national communication on these matters so much easier, which is a good thing, but it also gives a voice to people who perhaps should think twice about what they post.  I also have to conclude that this is generally harder on men than women, but only very slightly.

Some misconceptions:

1.  The biggest one is that we are "intersex."  I have never felt like a was born in a man's body; I have all the parts, just no gasoline, so to speak.  No hormones.  Nothing to make the parts work.  And I can't smell (anosmia).  Calling a person with Kallmann's "intersex" seems just plain cruel, adding insult to injury; it is saying that you can't get the therapy to live fully as your sex or gender (I know there are differences in those terms, but I won't get into that now).    Along with not having female hormones, I have no male hormones; I have no male "body" parts, and I would assume this is is true of 99.9% of KS persons, so how can we be intersex?

2.  That the only problem we have is infertility and not being able to smell.  Ah, I wish it were that simple.  Because while we are not "intersex," we are also not like everyone else.  We can pretend to be. (heaven knows that until the last couple of years since I have "outed" myself, I never talked about my problems in terms of FSH and LH, or what it was like to not go through puberty normally).  But we just will always have this disconnect.  I have often thought I shouldn't write fiction because I didn't know what normality was like!  I have fought all my life to be like everyone else; it is only in the last few years I finally accepted that I wasn't but I was still capable, successful, and not-to-be-held back.  KS and low self-esteem are partners.

3.  That anyone who looks really young for their age has KS.  Well, we do, but it eventually catches up with you! I wish my skin didn't have crows' feet like everyone else's!

4.  That we are part of the LBGTQ (and other letters?) community.  Perhaps some are and perhaps some want to change their gender, but that is not part of the diagnosis.

5.  That doctors understand this condition.  I am waiting on that one.  The one value of being past menopause is that it doesn't really matter to me personally if doctors understand.  But I can feel for the younger persons.

6.  That it is the same as Klinefelter's.  That's just ignorant.  

I do not pretend to think my "journey" with KS is anyone else's.  Thankfully, it did not get passed down to my offspring, and I pray not to his, although from what I read it is sometimes.  I don't wish this on anybody.  But I think that today the treatments are better than in the past. 

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Inappropriate Language

We have noticed that our students say "colored people."  We are not sure if they are just dumb, are hearing that from their grandparents, or are confusing "colored people" with "people of color."  The names we give for people groups always fascinate me; usually they are incorrect or insensitive.  I have noticed how insensitive "college" and scholarly types are about disabilities.  The words "retarded," "autistic," and "Asperger's" are used as if they are adjectives rather than neurological conditions.

Classic Movie: Johnny Belinda

I got the opportunity to watch a movie I had wanted to see for a real time, Johnny Belinda.  It was so good.  It moved a little too fast, as old movies do, but it was tender and sensitive and well acted.  It's why I like old movies.  The scene where she prays and signs the Lord's Prayer was heartbreaking.

Theory U--I Actually Read It

Theory U was on our reading list for a class in Organizational Development.  I actually finished it, a monht after the semester ended.  Here's my take.

Theory U was a struggle to read, not because his language is dense, philosophical, or arcane.  Individual sections are quite lucid and he uses lots of good examples and case studies to  exemplify his ideas, of which there are many, to say the least.  Or maybe not.  The book is hard to read because it is so redundant, and you read a chapter that is 50% or more a repetition of something earlier in the book, and he keeps going back to that darn farmhouse fire!  That must have been incredibly traumatic for him as a child. 

It is also hard to fathom because his model is inelegant at the same time it is oversimplified.  Everything is in fours:  four levels of this, four levels of that, and then there are six pathologies of organizations, three kinds of openness, etc.  By the time we get to the end, the U is covered with all kinds of additions from politics, religion, psychology, business, and sociology.  It's a mess, and yet it is based on the very simple idea that if you open your mind, still the voices of fear, judgment, and cynicism, then really listen to people and shut up, you will have some kind of psychic or spiritual or "field" connection with the conscious or unconscious or subconscious minds of yourself and the others in the group.

So, it is essentially New Agey.  I don't want to dismiss it as just New Age nonsense, because it's better than that, and he does have a great deal of life and business experience to back it up.  The ideas are worth knowing, but the book could have been 100 pages rather than 500 and less formidable to the average reader who might benefit from it.

Now, of course, as a Western, Christian, more empiricist thinker, I don't glom onto New Agey ideas without a lot of resistance, so I wrote a lot of argumentative comments in the margin.  I also wrote many "good" notes or connections to my own research, which is ill-defined at this point.  I think one can benefit from the ideas without buying into the psychic and uberconsciousness ideas of it. 

I also was put out by his ecumenical overtolerant comments about religion.  No, Allah is not the same as Jesus who is not the same as the Tao who is not the same as the Holy Spirit who is not the same as Hindu gods (page 190).  I wrote a big fat Baloney there.  First, I reject this as a Christian, but I also reject it as a thinking person who has studied other religions.  To say that Islam and Christianity are essentially the same is to dismiss them both, to not take the time to understand them.  They see the world, the self (another issue with the book, but I'll get to that), the holy, the supreme being, all of these, in totally different terms.  To make them the same is to say I don't care enough to find out what really makes these religions tick and what really goes on in the minds of its adherents.  If they are the same, why are the external trappings of the cultures in which they predominate so different?

Also, as far as the self, I am not 100% sure what all this talk about the self is.  The conscious mind?  the personality?  the will?  the soul?  the spirit?  All of the above at the same time?  Does my autistic brother who cannot speak and engages in weird and even self-hurting behavior have a self?  He doesn't function in the world in any way, shape, or form that would be considered acceptable.  I think the self is a euphemism at times, a shell to be filled with whatever meaning we want to put into it at others, a fiction perhaps.

Side note:  He also uses the word autistic wrong.  "Autistic" is not a pathology to be placed on businesses, organizations to be clever.  Autism is not static-ness.  Autism is a real mental and physical and neurological condition that comes from oversensitivity to stimuli, not ignorance of stimuli.  Autistic people are not necessarily stupid.  This is no different than calling a silly person a "retard" or claiming a person with a crappy personality has "Asperger's."

He also doesn't understand fundamentalism.  Or let's say he doesn't understand Christian fundamentalism.  Trust me, I know Christian fundamentalism, which has many variations.  Islamic and Hindu fundamentalism is what he describes in the book, a fundamentalism that wants to attack and change the other who is not "right."  Here is what he says, p. 250.

"Religious fundamentalism is characterized by four beliefs:  the belief in one omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God (one language, one Truth); the belief in belong to the chosen people (one collective, one center) and as a consequence, a lack of empathy for those outside the collective (infidels); the beliefs that the sources of the divine and of evil reside outside rather than inside the human being, from which it follows that the role of the human being is to subjugate the human to the divine will by battling against the agents of evil; hence the willingness to use violence and destroy life if it serves a higher purpose."

Christian fundamentalists do believe in one Truth and one God, but seek to change others by rhetorical and referent power means (very few examples of Christian fundamentalists killing anyone, although a few exist, of course; many of those are outside the mainstream of doctrinal fundamentalism); they (and evangelicals would go along with this) that evil does come from within us, but not divinity.  Fundamentalists are also empathetic, albeit in awkward ways, to others, because we "used to be that way," as nonbelievers (not infidels, although that is a Biblical word). 

So I feel he writes about things he doesn't really know about.  It's easy to broad-brush.  He writes from a European perspective, period, and a quasi-socialist one. 

So, what did I like about the book?  It actually has some practical information in there, hidden among the over-rhetorical flourishes about the field that is supposed to exist between people when we really listen and open up.  My view on that is what happens is we become more conscious as individuals of our own unconscious or subconscious thoughts and feelings  and reach a level of empathy with others, where we really start to listen and are deeply moved within ourselves, but it is internal and psychological, not some truly existing "force field" or spirit that takes over.  It's psychological, not spiritual.  That doesn't make it any less real; I can say I have experienced it myself, and I often do individually when I write fiction.  For me, spiritual power only exists in the presence of the Holy Spirit (or demonic, perhaps), not in human terms.

He has made me re-cognize (cognize again) some key concepts.  In speaking of Hitler's secretary, he writes, "She realized that whatever she had done and participated in was ultimately her full personal responsibility--there was no hiding behind the collective fate of her generation" (p. 265).  Elsewhere, quoting a participant in one of his seminars, "We had better change ourselves and stop whining about the pathologies of our systems."  He states, "The participants began to see that they themselves enacted the features of the culture that until then they had seen as being imposed on them by "the system."  So, there is a paradox or contradiction here--we live in systems and are influenced by them greatly, but we can always choose, we can reflect and rise above, we can understand the impact of the systems on us personally and reject it or at least modify it. 

 Also, the voice of fear, cynicism, and judgment is a good breakdown--although I think VoF dominates.  Judgment can be helpful; cynicism and fear, never, really.  I like his chapter on prototyping, on getting an idea working quickly, even if in tiny form. Like Frederick Buechner, he tells us to let the world's great need and your passion intersect, something I so want to do but feel held back from by the circumstances of life and family.  We can't all be CEOs; some of us have to work on the front line. 

"Leadership's primary job, I have come to believe through my work with Schein, is to enhance the individual and systemic capacity to see, to deeply attend to the reality that people face and enact.  Thus the leader's real work is to help people discover the power of seeing and seeing together."  Now that I like. I definitely think that is the key to leadership in nonprofits and educational organizations; in profit organizations I think staying ahead of trends is really important. 

He encourages the suspension of judgment; I agree with that but for a season of time.  I think more problems come from suspension of judgment than application of judgment!  I liked his stories of CEOs (and Hitler!) who had either orchestrated organizational lackeys (through fear?) to not show them reality or who had refused to look at reality.  I like the emphasis on quietness and listening; as John Stott said, the hidden dimension of discipleship is listening.  I like his rant on page 299 on how not to educate children to tap into their unconscious or to really learn period.

There is much here to like.  What he should have done is create a condensed version--100 pages of key ideas for people who don't have the time to slog through all this.  I also wonder to what extent this is a true theory.  I think it tries to be, because he gets into historical analysis of the 19th century somewhat, but it's more a prescription than a description of cause and effect.  Maybe.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Late Have I Loved You

Wonderful quote from St. Augustine:

Late have I loved you, oh beauty so ancient and so new. You were within me while I was outside of myself, searching for you. You shone yourself upon me and drove away my blindness. You breathed your fragrance upon me...and in astonishment...I drew my first breath.

Good, Holy, Blessed Friday 2017

When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of Glory died, my riches gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride. F...