A Seasoned Mind
A Seasoned Mind
Curiosity is a hard commodity to come by these days. Many of us seem to be backed into our respective corners, surrounding ourselves with like-minded people, and reinforcing our own positions on most everything. I have noticed this in myself, increasingly, as I seem to harden in my positions on most everything. Maybe this is a function of age, but maybe it is also a function of the “the age” in which we live, or some combination of the two. Having two teenagers in the house is teaching me important but irritating lessons about learning to hold my tongue and listen, even when my response just wants to burst out mid-(someone else’s) sentence.
There is value in being quiet when your inner voice is clamoring to be let out. One of the benefits is that sometimes you then get another chance to be heard later, and your reaction is more “hearable”. Reflecting on what I have heard often gives me a chance to discern more clearly what is being communicated, and adapt and connect what is being said to other ideas I may have.
This is a hard practice for me – but I have there are two places I look to for wisdom and strength in this. One is from my Quaker faith tradition. A practice often used is the ”seasoning” of ideas. If a new idea or perspective is brought before the community, the members will rarely act upon that idea with immediacy – they will instead “season” it by a number of methods – perhaps ask a group of people to look into it, perhaps reflect in silence on it, perhaps agree to read something related to it, perhaps arrange an educational session, or just simply agree to let the idea “sit” for awhile amongst us to see what happens to it. Will it grow and gain steam, or will it lose heft, as some ideas should?
A second place I can look to is the teaching tradition within the Social Role Valorization leadership practices. The are many facets to development as an educator in “SRV” which are consciously taught, role modeled and practiced repeatedly. One specific area which Dr. Wolfensberger and his colleagues have focused on in developing trainers about is how to respond to questions posed during a workshop. Many presenters, myself especially, tend to feel pressured to give a comprehensive answer right away and fully satisfy the questioner. My mentors have advised and worked with me to wait, to collect myself, to listen fully to the question, and to listen for “the question behind the question”. I love that last skill especially, and work on it consciously. Then, stop and breathe, consider what the audience has been exposed to so far, think through what they will get in the up-coming material, and respond with clarity about what points you will make. That’s a big task for me, and good for me as well.
All of this is to say that, if we want things to change for vulnerable people, we all have to see outside the boundaries of our collectivities and ideological groups, no matter how dear they are to us. In fact, if change agentry is what we are about, then we are expecting others to engage in flexible thinking that shifts and opens their minds to a larger picture. My teens will appreciate it if I can master this a bit more in 2013. Perhaps they will respond in kind.
Wishing you all a 2013 in which you prosper and thrive in all the ways that count, along with those you love and care about.