Jan 212014
 

Last week, I talked about how good it was when individuals approached their lives proactively rather than reactively. You often can’t enter an open door of opportunity if you’re not already prepared. However, in groups, too much general proactivity can be disruptive. In stable groups, harmony and respect for traditions can be comfortable and help bind members together.

In business, an employee is often tempted (or required) to be reactive. They may be content to do what they are told – simply doing their job and then coming back tomorrow and doing the same job in the same way. That is not bad in itself. When the job doesn’t change and the rules are well-known, the same responses in the same recurring circumstances keep things going smoothly. People who like predictability, and like for things to remain as they were before, can be happy doing this kind of work, especially if they are part of a team and able to share social connections.

I’m not just talking about low-wage jobs. A professional is, by definition, expected to be a highly-trained practitioner of a narrow specialty. In fact, you can expect that the more training they get, the narrower their specialty. They go to school and learn a great deal about a field such as architecture or law. And, having mastered the accepted standards of their specialty, they apply their training over and over again to particular types of problems. Such elite professionals can be very successful, and acquire remarkable wealth in this way. A conservative worldview does not prevent them from achieving great professional and economic gains.

A business middle-manager can also be reactive and still be successful. A manager’s job is about choosing TACTICS from available options. Managers gather measurements of compliance, compare these to expectations, and then adjust policies or budgets. This continuing feedback process can bring the system under their control back into expected norms. I’m not being critical. This can be very challenging, important, and rewarding work.

However, every business, social, or political LEADER is responsible for STRATEGY. They MUST be proactive to be successful. A leader must get out ahead of things, imagine possible futures, and make decisions about issues that most other people cannot see. A good leader is a master of change, recognizing where things are not working and sometimes reforming entire systems to adapt to new situations.

A good leader understands that many people resist or actively obstruct change. A good leader works persistently when necessary or presses for rapid adjustments if urgency demands it. Sometimes incremental change is no longer good enough and the group must transition to something entirely new. In any event, a good leader is always proactive about moving us forward.

© 2012, David Satterlee

Sep 232013
 

from the book: Life Will Get You in the End: Short stories by David Satterlee

Find out more, including where to buy books and ebooks

Read or download this story as a PDF file at:https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B4eNv8KtePyKcDc5NS1HVmxGdjQ/edit?usp=sharing

The title is sung to the tune of: I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” – a 1935 popular song with music by Fred E. Ahlert and lyrics by Joe Young. It has been recorded many times, and has become a standard of the Great American Songbook. It is one of several songs from theHarlem Renaissance featured in the Broadway musical Ain’t Misbehavin’. – Wikipedia

I’m gonna sit right down and write my love a letter…

My Dearest,

I love you – Simple – Direct – Plain
It doesn’t get any clearer than that. It just is; as it was meant to be. Timeless and absolute. I own your welfare. Your happiness, peace, comfort, security, and joy are all mine. If they weaken, I am anxious to restore them; when they soar, I rejoice.

I love you – Complex – Veiled – Intricate

How unfathomable you are! Lover of sunsets – Mother of girls – Teacher of children – Maker of bread – Singer of weddings – Grower of gardens – Sorter of buttons. So much more. So much deeper. So loveable and beloved. I begrudge time for slowing my knowledge of you.

I love you – I hold you close. 
I cherish the time we share together; the mundane and the stirring. Your presence is a comfort and a light. Your touch is a thrill and a craving. I eagerly give you my being and my aspirations. I gratefully accept your gifts of life and time.

I love you – I watch you fly.
Nothing grows when held too tightly. I treasure the experience of your individuality and change. Your achievements are my triumphs. Your commitments are my gifts. Your freedom to act independently increases what we can share.

I love you – I need your attention.
I am sustained and strengthened by all that we share. Your love builds up my power while giving to you strengthens my foundation. I am an indomitable force when directed; I am a child when lost. Working, living, and loving together creates a wondrous synergy.

 I love you – I trust your absence.

I cannot be your everything and should never aspire to that. But, we are linked at the highest levels of relationship. This trust endures time and trouble; it smoothes our time together and it eases our time apart. Go; do what needs doing and return to me when you’re done.

I love you!

Jul 112012
 

Last week, I talked about how good it was when individuals approached their lives proactively rather than reactively. You often can’t enter an open door of opportunity if you’re not already prepared. However, in groups, too much general proactivity can be disruptive. In stable groups, harmony and respect for traditions can be comfortable and help bind members together.

In business, an employee is often tempted (or required) to be reactive. They may be content to do what they are told – simply doing their job and then coming back tomorrow and doing the same job in the same way. That is not bad in itself. When the job doesn’t change and the rules are well-known, the same responses in the same recurring circumstances keep things going smoothly. People who like predictability, and like for things to remain as they were before, can be happy doing this kind of work, especially if they are part of a team and able to share social connections.

I’m not just talking about low-wage jobs. A professional is, by definition, expected to be a highly-trained practitioner of a narrow specialty. In fact, you can expect that the more training they get, the narrower their specialty. They go to school and learn a great deal about a field such as architecture or law. And, having mastered the accepted standards of their specialty, they apply their training over and over again to particular types of problems. Such elite professionals can be very successful, and acquire remarkable wealth in this way. A conservative worldview does not prevent them from achieving great professional and economic gains.

A business middle-manager can also be reactive and still be successful. A manager’s job is about choosing TACTICS from available options. Managers gather measurements of compliance, compare these to expectations, and then adjust policies or budgets. This continuing feedback process can bring the system under their control back into expected norms. I’m not being critical. This can be very challenging, important, and rewarding work.

However, every business, social, or political LEADER is responsible for STRATEGY. They MUST be proactive to be successful. A leader must get out ahead of things, imagine possible futures, and make decisions about issues that most other people cannot see. A good leader is a master of change, recognizing where things are not working and sometimes reforming entire systems to adapt to new situations.

A good leader understands that many people resist or actively obstruct change. A good leader works persistently when necessary or presses for rapid adjustments if urgency demands it. Sometimes incremental change is no longer good enough and the group must transition to something entirely new. In any event, a good leader is always proactive about moving us forward.

© 2012, David Satterlee

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Jul 112012
 

Isn’t it encouraging to meet someone who takes pride in doing their job well? I’ve met several such gems recently here in town. Do you know someone like this? Tell them that you noticed. Even if it’s not the same person that I had in mind, the one you compliment will receive that positive recognition from you. You can make their day. My most recent contact made the comment that they “believe in being proactive rather than reactive.”

A person who is only reactive waits for something to happen and then responds to that event. A person who is PROactive takes initiative to make change happen, anticipates potential threats or opportunities, and takes steps ahead of time to be prepared. Things seem to go better for proactive people. The reason why is explained by the saying, “Good luck is found at the intersection of preparation and opportunity.”

As individuals, we have an advantage over lower life forms. A bacterium may simply react by moving toward food or away from an irritating chemical. In fact, when there are no opportunities or threats, there is no need for change. On the other hand, when change is at hand – when compelling change is afoot all around us – we need to respond.

Reactive change allows us to adjust with less urgency and in smaller steps. A mountain shepherd can lead his sheep to greener pastures as the season matures. However, being overly fond of old habits, characterized by reactive change, can leave us unprepared for a crisis (or even an unexpected windfall).

Proactive people are in the habit of staying so aware of their situation that they can anticipate needed changes. More than that, they are, by nature, open to examining, evaluating, and possibly embracing new ideas and opportunities. Proactive people are more likely to prosper during a time of dramatic transition.

In groups, however, there can actually be benefits to reactive behavior. You have heard the phrase that “too many cooks spoil the soup,” or “lead, follow, or get out of the way.” When change is necessary, it can do harm to the entire group if someone selfishly obstructs progress in defense of their private interests. For instance, a tribe works best with a strong, competent, visionary leader who can find solutions to difficult problems, inspire hope, and show the way forward when change is necessary. I’ll talk about this in more detail next week.

© 2012, David Satterlee

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Jul 112012
 

Today, I’m taking up the subject of permanent solutions to temporary problems.  Most of us have known someone who committed suicide.  It is a terrible thing to feel such profound despair and hopelessness, or perhaps anger and helplessness, that permanently removing yourself from this world seems to be the best option.

With very, very rare exceptions, there is always hope. It is not useful to “burn down the barn to get rid of the mice.” The one thing that never changes is that everything always changes. Great suffering now is very, very unlikely to not allow for great satisfaction later. A crying child is usually comforted. A squeaking door usually gets oiled.  Every soul has the capacity to love and the potential to be loved.

I recently developed shingles and experienced considerable temporary pain. I have an aunt who, according to those who were with her, lay for weeks with shingles and actually begged her friends to kill her. I had to cut off the beard that I had thought defined my face. My aunt simply had to suffer. She eventually recovered and lived for years as a joyful and beloved inspiration and support in many ways to family, friends, and neighbors. Things change. There is always hope. Life triumphs.

Our life, like our world, is constructed of interacting dynamic processes. Things always change. And, can’t you see a disposition in the universe toward ever-increasing complexity and organization? One might think that, because a cold beverage in a hot room will eventually reach an equilibrium temperature, that the universe is destined to eventually reach some static, uneventful state. Yet, somehow it doesn’t seem to work like that. There is some creative organizing force at work.

Some people visualize an infinitely wise and powerful divine intervention responsible for deliberate creation. Some people imagine an original force that unrolled itself into all that is, with all things continuously rolling back toward that perfect oneness. Some people simply see mathematical oddities at work that promote self-organizing systems and evolution. In any case, in the long run, you can have faith that things always tend to get better.

And, you don’t have to just wait for things to get better. Somehow, we are sentient. We are able to imagine possible futures, make plans, gather resources, and work individually and in communities toward desired change. There are very few problems that will not yield to the persistent, faithful, combined efforts of a group that wants to make a difference and is willing to compromise, cooperate, and collaborate. It is always possible to move progressively forward. You can believe in hope. You can believe in change. It is not necessary to choose permanent solutions to temporary problems.

© 2012, David Satterlee

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Jul 112012
 

For a little change of pace: With fond memories of Andrew Aitken “Andy” Rooney, who left us more thoughtful in spirit and left us in body at age 92, just this last November.

You just don’t hear the words “Presto Change-o” very much anymore. I kind of miss that. It was a great thing to say, after “one, two, three” while you were waving five fingers around with one hand and lifting the five of hearts out of your vest pocket with the other.

“Presto” is actually Italian for nimble or quick. It reminds me of how quickly five dollars can disappear at a carnival. Presto is also a pair of fives in Texas hold ‘em, but that’s another story.

The word prestidigitation is closely related. It is a noun for magic performed by hand, like when the best knife is missing after a relative’s visit.

The “digit” part is Latin for finger – and so we (most of us anyway) have five digits on each hand. Harry Houdini was good at doing magic with his fingers. You just don’t hear very much about Harry Houdini anymore either. He seems to have vanished – at least from popular culture.

A word closely related to prestidigitation is legerdemain. You just don’t hear the word “legerdemain” very much anymore either. I kind of miss that. English borrowed that one from the French for “light of hand.” It describes what you don’t say while you are lifting a fiver out of someone else’s vest pocket.

And, don’t even get me started on “Hocus Pocus” or “23 skidoo.”

© 2012, David Satterlee

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Feb 092012
 

By David Satterlee

All politicians are aware that they need to be careful of their words. Words have the power to invoke strong emotions, which can distract from rational debate. These words, repeated over and over, confer the conviction of certainty and authority, even when they lack any basis in fact.

But, Republicans seem to have made the cynical use of emotional words (instead of the discussion of ideas and consequences) a primary focus of their message for many years. Do not misunderstand me. I will say again that all politicians use influential words. However, my premise is that Republicans seem to operate on the unabashed theory that they can make anything true by saying it often enough to the uninformed. Let’s compare some early Newt Gingrich to some contemporary Frank Luntz.

In 1994, Newt Gingrich described his goal as “reshaping the entire nation through the news media.” (New York Times, 12/14/94) His aggressive negativity fits with his philosophy that, “fights make news.” (Boston Globe, 11/20/94). In a GOPAC training tape of that era, he advised creating ‘shield issues’ to deflect criticism: “You better find a good compassion issue where, you know, you show up in the local paper holding a baby in the neonatal center, and all you’re trying to do is shield yourself from the inevitable attack.”
The 1996 GOPAC memo, “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control” went further by listing words to use to accuse Democrats and defend Republicans. It’s cover letter from Newt Gingrich explained that, “The words in that paper are tested language from a recent series of focus groups where we actually tested ideas and language.” The memo said:

As you know, one of the key points in the GOPAC tapes is that “language matters.” In the video “We Are a Majority,” language is listed as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party… As the tapes have been used in training sessions across the country and mailed to candidates, we have heard a plaintive plea: “I wish I could speak like Newt.”
That takes years of practice. But we believe that you could have a significant impact on your campaign and the way you communicate if we help a little. That is why we have created this list of words and phrases.
This list is prepared so that you might have a directory of words to use in writing literature and mail, in preparing speeches, and in producing electronic media. The words and phrases are powerful. Read them. Memorize as many as possible. And remember that, like any tool, these words will not help if they are not used.
Contrasting Words
Often we search hard for words to help us define our opponents. Sometimes we are hesitant to use contrast. Remember that creating a difference helps you. These are powerful words that can create a clear and easily understood contrast. Apply these to the opponent, their record, proposals and their party.
decay… failure (fail)… collapse(ing)… deeper… crisis… urgent(cy)… destructive… destroy… sick… pathetic… lie… liberal… they/them… unionized bureaucracy… “compassion” is not enough… betray… consequences… limit(s)… shallow… traitors… sensationalists… endanger… coercion… hypocrisy… radical… threaten… devour… waste… corruption… incompetent… permissive attitudes… destructive… impose… self-serving… greed… ideological… insecure… anti-(issue): flag, family, child, jobs… pessimistic… excuses… intolerant… stagnation… welfare… corrupt… selfish… insensitive… status quo… mandate(s)… taxes… spend(ing)… shame… disgrace… punish (poor…)… bizarre… cynicism… cheat… steal… abuse of power… machine… bosses… obsolete… criminal rights… red tape… patronage
Optimistic Positive Governing Words
Use the list below to help define your campaign and your vision of public service. These words can help give extra power to your message. In addition, these words help develop the positive side of the contrast you should create with your opponent, giving your community something to vote for!
share… change… opportunity… legacy… challenge… control… truth… moral… courage… reform… prosperity… crusade… movement… children… family… debate… compete… active(ly)… we/us/our… candid(ly)… humane… pristine… provide… liberty… commitment… principle(d)… unique… duty… precious… premise… care(ing)… tough… listen… learn… help… lead… vision… success… empower(ment)… citizen… activist… mobilize… conflict… light… dream… freedom… peace… rights… pioneer… proud/pride… building… preserve… pro-(issue): flag, children, environment… reform… workfare… eliminate good-time in prison… strength… choice/choose… fair… protect… confident… incentive… hard work… initiative… common sense… passionate

Frank Luntz recently wrote, “Words matter. The most powerful words have helped launch social movements and cultural revolutions. The most effective words have instigated great change in public policy. The right words at the right time can literally change history.” (Huffington Post, 3/1/11)

In “The 11 Words for 2011” he comments:

  • “Uncompromising integrity.” Of all the truthiness words, none is as powerful as “integrity,” but in today’s cynical environment, even that’s not enough. People also need to feel that your integrity is absolute.
  • “The simple truth” comes straight from billionaire businessman Steve Wynn, and it sets the context for a straightforward discussion that might otherwise be confusing or contentious. It’s the perfect phrase to begin and end the budget-deficit-debt debate.
  • “You decide.” No, this is not paying homage to Fox News. The lesson of 2010 is that Americans want control of their lives back, and they don’t want Washington or Wall Street making their decisions for them. So add the phrase “you’re in control” and you’ve said exactly what Americans want to hear.
  • “You deserve.” This comes from DNC Chairman Tim Kaine and it was first employed by him in his highly praised 2006 SOTU response. It tells voters precisely what they should expect from their politicians and their government.

Notice that his focus is not on integrity, truth, or reason (although these words are used), but on the ability of these words to manipulate and persuade. Spend some time with this point; savor it and use it as an illumination in a dark corner. Is a product really better because a different color makes it “new and improved?” Can you really believe that the new automated customer service phone system was installed “to serve you better?” Do you really believe all the accusations that Republican candidates threw at each other (or at our President) during the 2011/2012 GOP primary debates?

Do not misunderstand me. I will say again that all politicians use influential words. My objection is to the use of falsehoods and unsubstantiated accusations wrapped in phrases designed to trigger emotional responses IN PLACE OF persuasive rhetorical reason. This is especially onerous when the audience is predisposed to respond to calls for loyalty and obedience to authority more than to understanding and reason.

What was that? Did I just say that there is something wrong with conservative audiences? Yes and no. Research into individual and cultural development shows that all individuals and social groups mature through a predictable series of worldviews. Each worldview in this progressive dynamic of maturity embraces all previous worldviews. And each new worldview transcends and supersedes previous ones as they no longer succeed in explaining, making meaning of, and guiding decisions about life circumstances.

Earlier worldviews respond predominantly to emotions, power, and authority while later worldviews respond more to evidence, empathy, and the dynamic nuances of collective benefit. This makes it easier to recruit holders of earlier worldviews using simpler assertions that appeal to their predispositions.

In brief, individuals and cultures move through a predictable path in areas such as cognition, morality, emotions, and faith. There have been many researchers in these developmental areas. Although they may assign different stage names, they all identify systems of developmental levels. Let’s take an example:

Don Beck, in his book Spiral Dynamics, based on the research of psychologist Clare Graves, identified and described:

  • SurvivalSense – Instinctive – “Express self to meet imperative physiological needs through instincts of Homo sapiens.”
  • KinSpirits – Tribal – “Sacrifice to the ways of the elders and customs as one subsumed in group.” This is the level of traditional cultures.
  • PowerGods – Preconventional/Egocentric – “Express self (impulsively) for what self desires without guilt and to avoid shame.” Expressed by the mentality of street gangs, Vikings, etc.
  • TruthForce – Pre-Modern/Traditional – “Sacrifice self for reward to come through obedience to rightful authority in purposeful Way.” Embodied by fundamentalist religions.
  • StriveDrive – Modernism – “Express self (calculatedly) to reach goals and objectives without rousing the ire of important others.” Expressed in the Scientific Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.
  • HumanBond – Postmodernism – “Sacrifice self-interest now in order to gain acceptance and group harmony.” Expressed in 1960s pluralism and systems theory.
  • FlexFlow – Integral – “Express self for what self desires, but avoid harm to others so that all life, not just own life, will benefit.”
  • GlobalView – Holistic – Sacrifice self-interest purely out of principal to achieve greater good.

Each new worldview allows individuals or communities to deal successfully with an increasingly complex world. On the other hand, each worldview is a necessary and universal, if temporary, stage in development. Each worldview serves its purpose at a particular stage, and is retained and still available to those who have acquired the ability to deal with more complex issues.

Unfortunately, people holding earlier worldviews have difficulty in understanding the reasoning and motives of those who have moved on to more-comprehensive systems of thought. Because of this, it is easy to persuasively misrepresent scientific thought to a tribal culture, or lie about the motives of someone holding a global view to someone pledging obedience to a specific leader or religion. No amount of explaining would have convinced the Victorian English colonial empire that they should “make love, not war” or organize meetings so as to be sure that everyone had a chance to express their feelings.

This same dynamic makes it easy to misrepresent liberals to conservatives. Whoops! You may be thinking that I did it again. I DID NOT SAY, “liberals good, conservatives bad.” If your worldview is working for you and you have values that move you to behave virtuously, that is a wonderful thing. In fact, you can’t become liberal without passing through a conservative phase. Been there, done that, moved on. However, there is no reason to think that this makes you better than your neighbor. Some of your neighbors are also moving on. This is all good.

At some point, some people begin to discover that their current way of thinking isn’t working for them anymore. If they struggle hard enough, it is possible to break through to a new way of thinking. When this happens, events take on new meaning, uncomfortable ideas begin to make sense, and you feel like you can see more clearly. But, you will be tempted, after several frustrating attempts to explain yourself to your old friends, to just say, “It’s complex.” They may accuse you of being a superior son-of-a-bitch and stop spending time with you. Then they will tell each other how much you hate them now. ‘sorry ‘bout that. Been there, done that, moved on.

My point is simply this: when the time comes to take a larger view…

  • Be willing to give up emotional reflexes for rational evidence.
  • Be willing to give up small-group loyalty for large-group tolerance.
  • Be willing to defer gratification now for more important gains later.
  • Be willing to give up selfishness to care about the welfare of others.
  • Be willing to balance individual liberties with the common good.
  • Be willing to come together in middle ground to work together to make life better for everyone.

And, don’t let dishonorable people lie to you and use you to achieve their own selfish advantage.

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Feb 072012
 

Source: Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy by Bill Clinton
Abstracted from pages 42-47

Whatever our shortcomings, because Democrats, whether conservative, liberal, or moderate, basically believe government has an important role to play in our lives, they want it to work well. That makes most of them less ideological and more open to policies that have both progressive and conservative elements than their anti-government adversaries.

To get America back into the future business, we’ll have to make choices and changes in both our government and our private economic practices. To create jobs and raise incomes; to create new businesses and restore our manufacturing base; to have a finance sector that both earns money for itself and promotes a strong economy; to save ourselves and our children from the ravages of climate change in a way that increases growth and broadens prosperity; to move back to a balanced budget—these tasks will require the best ideas of conservatives, liberals, and moderates, Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

But we can’t get the right answers if we begin with the wrong question. [Conservatives ask] How can we weaken our government, reduce its revenues, and restrict its reach the so we can throw off its chains? That’s the wrong question.

Here are the right questions:

  • How can we move back to a full-employment economy with good jobs and rising middle-class incomes?
  • How can we restore American leadership for peace and prosperity and leave our children and grandchildren a brighter future?
  • What do Americans need governments to do to achieve these goals?
  • How are we doing now, compared with our own history and expectations?
  • How are we doing compared with the competition from other nations?

There remains a lot of space for a real, productive debate, areas in which both Democrats and Republicans could contribute to bipartisan solutions that actually get our country back in the future business.

The only people who have taken themselves out of this needed debate are the antigovernment idealogues. They already have the answers, and the fact that the evidence doesn’t support them is irrelevant. The inevitable consequence of their policies is to push the pedal to the metal of the most destructive trends of the last thirty years, to increase inequality and instability, and to forfeit the future.

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Dec 242010
 

Stages of Consciousness and Culture

The 19th century German philosopher, Georg Hegel, noted that conflict enables transformation to higher states of organization. This idea was reinforced by research in the 20th century; particularly in Developmental Psychology. These states have developed sequentially through human history as increasingly organized world views—for both individuals and cultures.

As we develop through childhood we experience this transformation and change as our thoughts and feelings become more complex. Developmental psychology demonstrates that this kind of staged development continues through adulthood. Leading researchers have supported this concept of developmental stages: Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg, Jane Loevinger, Abraham Maslow, and Robert Kegan.

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Oct 272010
 

The Two Heroes of Thompsonville

by David Satterlee

Thompsonville was nowhere. It was a town of modest size and not completely isolated, but mostly self-sufficient with its own traditions and community standards. The railroads had passed it by during the great expansion. The express highways had passed it by as well. It was too hilly for a canal – it was too flat for a reservoir. No native son ever grew up to be a governor or general. No one ever started a museum of tiny carved furniture or old farm implements. It was just a nice out-of-the-way place to live. As a matter of fact, it was a nice place to grow old and die if you didn’t wander off in search of something-or-other first.

Labith didn’t just wander off. He hit the road with a vengeance. He had loved his childhood sweetheart, Roatrine for as long as he could remember. They had played together as babies, studied together in school and, in the course of time, come to know each other very, very well. How could Roatrine refuse to marry him now? Why would she invent such a trivial excuse to cut off their friendship? Her parents, Robance and Rosatrine, weren’t the problem; they had always liked him and had given their enthusiastic approval when Labith had asked to formally court their daughter.

Labith was inconsolable. He wandered the hills and found no comfort. He immersed himself in the labor of clearing a new field and found no distraction. Roatrine possessed his heart and haunted his mind. Her ready smile and quick wit filled his thoughts while her silken skin and flowing hair filled his dreams. His mother, Salabith, advised him to be patient and he was. His father, Robance, eventually encouraged him to renew his affections with gifts and sweet words and he did. But, nothing he could think of could change his true love’s mind. “Do you love me?” “Yes.” “Will you marry me?” “I’m sorry, No!”

Some people would have eventually given up and resigned themselves to their fate. But for Labith, there was nothing else to do but keep on seeking. He couldn’t stand the pain of always seeing his beloved around town each day. He couldn’t not always watch for her either. Who else walked with such grace and poise? Who else shared his joys and values? Only Roatrine. And so, Labith, filled with the urgency of intolerable desperation, left. He left his family and his friends and his community. He left their traditions and … well, he left the life he knew behind.

It is truly a big world and Labith, stunned to the core of his soul, traveled. He met people. He read books. He questioned authority. Labith pondered the nature of reality and law and truth. Assailed by ideas and forces that were new to him he found himself, in many ways, even more desperate and alienated than before he left. But, being a man of courage and character, he transcended his previous limits and views. His transformation brought freedom of thought and action. He now knew what he had to do.

People in Thompsonville welcomed Labith back, but watched him with unabashed curiosity. Naturally, he sought out his beloved Roatrine straight away. They walked down by the water path and sat under their favorite tree and they talked. Labith told her where he had gone and what he had learned. He told her how much he loved her and that he still wanted to raise a family with her. Labith told her that if they had a girl, it wouldn’t have to be named Latrine but that they could call her Becky or Marge or something else. “Oh!” said Roatrine, “What a good idea! This changes everything!”

I hadn’t been writing for a while following a move to our dream home in the woods. It was time to get into harness. It was exercise time. I sat down with no agenda and no plot; just the intent to write a short story. My fingers typed “Thompsonville.” Okay, that’s a start. I started describing the town. Then a character jumped in and so did his angst. In the middle of it all, I remembered recently talking to a customer service representative on the telephone. Her name was Latrina. I had pointed it out to my wife: “What parents would name their daughter “Latrina?” We were aware that it has become popular to name children using parts of their parent’s names. Now, what if it were a fixed, immutable, unchallenged tradition in this town?

You DID notice that the names were a conjugation of the first part of the father’s name and the last part of the mother’s name. Curiously, the name of the town is built using a different set of rules.

I have deliberately used pairs of thoughts and pairs of adjectives in the structure of this story. It was intended to be a reflection of how all the names were composed of two parts.

Copyright 2009, 2010 David Satterlee

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License, which essentially says that you are free to share the work under the conditions that you attribute it fully, do not use it for commercial purposes, and do not alter it.

Oct 262010
 

The Question of Human Behavior

by David Satterlee

Source: “Pursuing Human Strengths,” Martin Bolt, Introduction

“The stream of causation from past to future runs through our present choices.” —David G. Myers, 2002

Individuals and groups have shown an astonishing capacity for both great good and great evil. World War II produced unprecedented levels of national violence. Individuals who risked themselves to help others escape from certain extermination are our modern heroes. Caretakers of the gravely disabled sacrifice large parts of their own lives in service to others. We honor those able to demonstrate a common levels of virtues such as compassion, commitment, and self-control.

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Sep 202010
 

Being True to the Best of What You Are: An integral fable of personal development and transformation

A farmer was out walking with a guest, who was a hunter. A beautiful eagle soared gracefully above them, just keeping an eye on things below. Suddenly, without giving any word, the hunter raised his gun, sighted on the bird and shot it dead. It flapped to the ground and landed with a sad “whump.” The hunter walked over to the bird and nudged it with his boot. Yep, it was very dead. The farmer didn’t say anything. He didn’t approve but the hunter was his guest and killing animals is what hunters do.

Knowing that the eagle had its nest in a nearby tree, the farmer climbed up, swaying in breeze, reached into the nest and put the two small eagles in the large pockets of his baggy pants. Protecting living things and helping them to grow is what farmers do. When they got back to the house, the farmer put the eagles with his chickens. They learned to eat bugs and seeds and they grew up strutting around the yard just like their chicken brothers.

But, one of the young eagles was not happy. “I’m different,” she told her brother, “I just don’t feel like I belong on the ground walking around pecking at bugs and seeds.” Her brother was quite content, however, and said, “Don’t make trouble. The farmer is good to us chickens. He throws us enough corn that we don’t starve and we get to hang out all day with our friends.” The first eagle wasn’t convinced. She pointed out, “I like to stretch my wings and feel the breeze. I can see clearly the trees on the far hill and I wonder what is there.” Her brother said, “Your eyes are good enough to find bugs. Bugs don’t move fast and they don’t take any trouble to swallow.” His sister replied, “My claws are long and curved; I wish I could wrap them around things instead of just standing in the dirt. My beak is stronger and more curved than my chicken brothers; I think that I am better suited for other work.” Her brother said, “Just relax. Your claws and beak are fine. They scratch deeper and peck harder. Frankly, our lot in life stinks but you and I are big and strong so we can tell the other chickens what to do and push our way to the best eating spots.”

An owl had been listening to the conversation from a nearby tree. He spoke only to the eagle that was ready and said: “I can help you. You are right that you are different. You are an eagle and you are different from your chicken brothers. You are also different from your eagle brother because he is content with his situation while you want to discover the best of what you are.” The eagle replied, “That sounds interesting, but will it be frightening?” The owl laughed, hooted “Of course,” swooped down, grabbed her and soared up into the air. Higher and higher the owl carried her. “You are Eagle; your wings are for soaring; your keen eyes see the smallest movement in the distance; your sharp claws and beak are for the hunt. This is what eagles do.” And with that, the owl let go of the young eagle.

Oh yes, it was frightening. But, the young eagle caught the air with her wings and it propelled her forward; she shifted her tail and discovered control. She screamed an eagle’s scream: not in terror but with the thrill of discovery and the joy of being and doing. Below, all the field mice and rabbits and chickens and even her brother scurried for the shadows. Above, the eagle caught the rising breeze and thought about what had just happened.

Over and over, starting with the struggle to hatch out of her shell, she had had to make changes. There always came a problem that was too important to ignore. Sometimes she had to solve the problem herself and sometimes someone else, like the owl, helped her. It was frightening and frustrating and always uncertain and very hard work, but the change was worth the effort. Like hatching, each solved problem led to a new stage of life and a new understanding. She knew things now that she couldn’t have even guessed at before. She wondered about what change and growth might come next. But one thing was for certain – she was looking forward to it.

Thoughtful questions for students:

(“Before I ask some questions about the story, would you like to hear it again?”)

  • Why wasn’t the unhappy eagle just being a grumpy and complaining chicken?
  • Is being unhappy always bad?
    (If we are unhappy with our present situation, then we may decide to work to make our situation better.)
  • Who can you go to for help with a problem?
  • Why is it frightening to try something new? Is it okay to be worried?
  • Why does it take hard work to make a major change or learn something new?
  • Do you think that the eagle left behind will ever be truly happy as a chicken?
  • What changes do children make as they grow up?
  • Do you think that adults ever stop growing and changing?
    (Yes, some get stuck and stop trying, but life-long-learners have better lives.)

[A similar story is known as “Fly, Eagle, Fly” and is taught in elementary schools as an African Folk Tale. A story like this was told by Patty Grant Long on August 25, 2005 during a workshop–program on “Healing the Soul Wound” (Multi-generational Trauma). Ms. Long is a therapist (alcohol and drug abuse counselor) with Analenisgi, in Cherokee, North Carolina. It is adapted here from memory by David Satterlee.]

Copyright 2005, David Satterlee

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