Thursday, February 21, 2013

It's Not About You

It's Not About You is the punchline in my pal Dave Newport's recent blog "The Department of Change". That phrase has been resurfacing in my consciousness several times a day since I read it. Dave is one of the early, ongoing, and vigorous leaders of the higher ed sustainability movement. Now at the University of Colorado, Dave's blog is about the necessary attitude for successful interviewing. But I'm thinking it's an attitude that could use adoption into our daily lives.

It's moving away from an 'ego' centered approach and response to every impulse, every interaction. It's an orientation towards sharing, empathy, and all the positive relationship building qualities we'll need to muster if we are to prevent more suffering, more ecological unraveling,  and build a more realistic hope for a better future. Our minds play tricks on us all the time. Oliver Sacks writes in a recent issue of the New York Review of Books about our memory's fallibility (an ego humbling reflection). Author Maria Konnikova  reveals how Sherlock Holmes way of thinking about things can teach us to optimize not only our own everyday existence, but our broader contributions to society and the lives of those around us in this brief talk

Jeremy Rifkin, who will be speaking here at MSU in a month, paints an optimistic picture in this brief RSA Animated lecture and overview of his book on the Empathetic Civilization. I think Dave Newport has caught all of this wisdom up in a singular short phrase that we could all try to apply in our daily lives. Of course, the rub is trying to  live a life that aligns our highest aspirations with our human frailties. Oh that so elusive integrity, where art thou.

This is where we might take some of the good medicine offered by Meg Wheatley, in her recent So Far From Home: Lost and Found in a Brave New World.  Or perhaps from Rebecca Solnit, whose recent piece in The Progressive, "Everyday Subversion: Quotidian acts of kindness transcend the market system" helps put the ego in its proper place, as I suspect she has done in her recent book "A Paradise Built in Hell".

Dave's call for us to recognize "It's not about you" might hopefully become a mantra that guides us through the day towards a better world. For the moment, I can't think of a better way. It reminds me of my favorite A.J. Muste quote: "There is no way to peace. Peace is the way." And that maybe is about us, at least it's in our hands.

All good things,

terry