The desire to fit in is the root of almost all wrongdoing

Imagine that one morning you discover a ring that grants you magic powers. With this ring on your finger, you can seize the presidency, rob Fort Knox and instantly become the most famous person on the planet. So, would you do it?

Readers of Plato’s Republic will find this thought experiment familiar. For Plato, one of the central problems of ethics is explaining why we should prioritise moral virtue over power or money. If the price of exploiting the mythical ‘Ring of Gyges’ – acting wrongly – isn’t worth the material rewards, then morality is vindicated.

Notice that Plato assumes that we stray from the moral path through being tempted by personal gain – that’s why he tries to show that virtue is more valuable than the gold we can get through vice. He isn’t alone in making this assumption. In Leviathan (1651), Thomas Hobbes worries about justifying morality to the ‘fool’ who says that ‘there is no such thing as justice’ and breaks his word when it works to his advantage. And when thinking about our reasons to prefer virtue to vice, in his Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1751) David Hume confronts the ‘sensible knave’, a person tempted to do wrong when he imagines ‘that an act of iniquity or infidelity will make a considerable addition to his fortune’.

Some of history’s greatest philosophers, then, agree that wrongdoing tends to be motivated by self-interest. Alas, I’m not one of history’s greatest philosophers. Although most assume that an immoral person is one who’s ready to defy law and convention to get what they want, I think the inverse is often true. Immorality is frequently motivated by a readiness to conform to law and convention in opposition to our own values. In these cases, it’s not that we care too little about others; it’s that we care too much. More specifically, we care too much about how we stack up in the eyes of others.

Doing the wrong thing is, for most of us, pretty mundane. It’s not usurping political power or stealing millions of dollars. It’s nervously joining in the chorus of laughs for your co-worker’s bigoted joke or lying about your politics to appease your family at Thanksgiving dinner. We ‘go along to get along’ in defiance of what we really value or believe because we don’t want any trouble. Immanuel Kant calls this sort of excessively deferential attitude servility. Rather than downgrading the values and commitments of others, servility involves downgrading your own values and commitments relative to those of others. The servile person is thus the mirror image of the conventional, self-interested immoralist found in Plato, Hobbes and Hume. Instead of stepping on whomever is in his way to get what he wants, the servile person is, in Kant’s words, someone who ‘makes himself a worm’ and thus ‘cannot complain afterwards if people step on him’.

Kant thinks that your basic moral obligation is to not treat humanity as a mere means. When you make a lying promise that you’ll pay back a loan or threaten someone unless he hands over his wallet, you’re treating your victim as a mere means. You’re using him like a tool that exists only to serve your purposes, not respecting him as a person who has value in himself.

But Kant also says that you shouldn’t treat yourself as a mere means. This part of his categorical imperative gets less publicity than his injunction against mistreating others, but it’s no less important. Thomas Hill, a philosopher at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, notes in Autonomy and Self-Respect (1991) that servility involves a mistaken assessment of your moral status. Crucially, the servile person is guilty of the same root error as the person who deceives or threatens others – namely, denying the basic moral equality of all persons. It’s just that the person you’re degrading is you. But servile behaviour neglects the fact that you’re entitled to the same respect as anyone else.

Now, maybe you’re thinking that lying about your opinion of Donald Trump to placate your parents so you can eat your cranberry sauce in peace is no big deal. Fair enough. But servility can cause much graver moral transgressions.

Take the most famous psychological study of the 20th century: Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiments. Milgram discovered that most of his subjects would deliver excruciating – and sometimes apparently debilitating or lethal – electric shocks to innocent victims when an experimenter told them to do so. In ‘The Perils of Obedience’ (1973), Milgram explained that one reason why the typical subject goes along with malevolent authority is because he ‘fears that he will appear arrogant, untoward, and rude if he breaks off’. The subjects’ commitment to politeness overwhelmed their commitment to basic moral decency. And a lot of us are more like Milgram’s subjects than we’d care to admit: we don’t want to appear arrogant, untoward or rude at the dinner table, the classroom, the business meeting. So we swallow our objections and allow ourselves – and others – to be stepped on.

The pernicious consequences of servility aren’t confined to the lab, either. Indeed, Milgram’s experiment was motivated partly by his desire to understand how so many ordinary-seeming people could have participated in the moral horrors of the Holocaust. More recently, the military violence at Abu Ghraib has been explained in part by the soldiers’ socialisation into conformity. These examples and reflections on our own lives reveal an underappreciated moral lesson. It’s not always, or even usually, the case that we do wrong because we lack respect for others. Often it’s because we lack respect for ourselves.Aeon counter – do not remove

Christopher Freiman

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

Insignificant

In the grand scheme of things, I feel insignificant. On a planet with 7.5 billion people that has been spinning in our galaxy for 4.5 billion years amongst stars that are nearing their 14 billionth birthday, my 175.25 cm frame is a grain of sand. And yet, in my most important relationships, I mark a much larger space. I am making a dent in the lives of my clients and colleagues. I have a spot in the heart of friends, grandkids, children and my beloved. In my head, my delusions of grandeur can run wild. I can imagine that I am a giant among men.

So which image is true? Are all of them relatively real? Does it matter? In this time and place and under these conditions can I feel important and inconsequential simultaneously?

“We are more ready to try the untried when what we do is inconsequential. Hence the remarkable fact that many inventions had their birth as toys.” ~Eric Hoffer

When I learn to be quiet and comfortable in insignificance, the pressure to be a performer subsides. My mind stops swimming in rough waters and a tidal ebbs and flows set in. Floating without judgment washes away the toxicity that my ego and my competitive tendency create. Out goes the claim to fame, megalomania and space opens for gentleness and generousity. Without the desperate need to be acknowledged, I find self-awareness. As I rest, nudges towards a different shore begin like the current of a slow moving river. If, I allow myself to be carried rather than resisting because of an agenda, there is a possibility for learning. It takes determination not to rush to a conclusion. Instinct wants me to stake a claim to the island and say ” look at my great new thing”. The moment I name it, the tide ceases. I am learning to ride further and without anticipation, relish the distant shore where my self is rinsed and raised.

I return to my keyboard and peck and pound, hoping that the scratching finds and audience with a niggling realization that my very survival requires moments of delusion. Allowing the rhythm to be a natural element of my life saves me from fits of inferiority and rages of superiority.

Make Today Remarkable, by finding your insignificance,

B

Is a B+ Good Enough?

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A writer once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If this is true, which five people would you like to spend your time with? This was the WordPress writing prompt one day this week. I have been thinking about the question in the light of my Remarkable People philosophy; remarkable people use their strengths to strengthen themselves and others. Who do I spend time with? Is the 100 hours a week with my beloved a significant impact in how I think, how I feel and how I behave? No doubt that her kindness rubs off on me and her commitment to family makes me a better father, a better grandfather and maybe a better brother.
Does seeing my youngest grandson for a day a week make me appreciate small things and big things and all things like books, toys, smiles,? He helps me notice trucks and machinery and squirrels and birdhouses. I am more attentive to my surroundings after a few hours in his presence.

Am I better when I am on vacation with friends who show consideration and courtesy to everyone they encounter? Does their willingness to be of service in tragedies, be of good cheer in adversities and be generous in the face of inequities make be more willing?

What does it mean to be average? Are you smarter than 2 people but less smart than 2? Do you have less compassion than some but more than others? Money? Health? Relationships? Can the average be raised? Lowered?

If you use your strengths to strengthen others and others do the same, can the bar be raised? I believe it can. If true, then it does matter which five people you spend time with? It matters more how they share their gifts, skills and strengths with those around them. It matters how we choose to influence and be influenced. I know that when I spend time with angry, cynical people, I am insensitive and self-righteous. If I listen to rhetoric and join in vitriol, we all become intolerant and joyless.

I was reading a review of “A Paradise Built in Hell” by Rebecca Solnit that reinforced my belief that we are all remarkable when we build on the gifts we bring to the table and community. The reviewer asks “If we think about our own personal experiences, no doubt we have each gone through something “disastrous” in a communal setting. In those situations, there is always something that compels us to rise to the occasion and to do things we wouldn’t otherwise do. We begin to feel our common humanity a little bit more.” Have you risen to the occasion in 2017? Have I risen to a challenge? Will I rise tomorrow and then again and again?
Have we used our strengths to strengthen ourself and others? How have you been remarkable? Fourty-five days into this year, I realize that I haven’t been remarkable on very many of them. That is sad enough for me but if my actions, my words, and my attitudes are having a significant imapct on the folks I hang out with, then shame on me.

Miss Vivienne, an 8 year old girl is rising to the occasion in San Francisco with Making A Stand to eliminate slavery. She is selling lemonade on her street and encouraging others to join her around the world to raise awareness and resources to stomp out bondage and abuse.
Closer to home Emma is using her heart and art to strengthen homeless families in Calgary. She creates one of a kond mini masterpieces and auctions them on a Facebook page.
WestJet staff and volunteers lift the spirits of weary travelers by reducing their anxiety. THey respond with kindness to meaningful and meaningless questions and requests without missing a beat.
A friend is preparing meals and providing support to her extended family, from outside the city, as they go through medical treatments.

The possibilities to be remarkable are abundant and maybe ever present when we open our eyes and ears to the world that surrounds us.

Think about 5 people (or 10, 20, 30) that you would like to surround yourself with and rise to the occasion together by celebrating, supporting and sharing each other’s lives. Are those the folks you spend time with? Are you the kind of person that they should be investing their relationship energy to be with? Are you raising the bar this week or are you pulling the average down? We all have bad days, bad weeks, and trying times but if we know that as they fester, they infect others would we have fewer of them?

My challenge and now yours is to be someone who chooses to set the average very high and then set about to be someone who raises the curve.

B

Together

Once there was a land where the great rivers flowed from the mountains onto rolling hills and across fertile plains. Blue skies, red sunsets, amazing vistas and abundant wildlife abounded. Freedom loving, hardworking people came and for a hundred years and they worked together and built upon the land. The tilled and seeded, raised livestock and built cities and more freedom loving hardworking people came to join them. They mined, felled, drilled and dug the bountiful natural resources and built a strong caring community. A community where cowboys cared for children and city dwellers supported farmers. A community where each person accepted responsibility for themselves, their family and their neighbours grew. If a barn was razed, it was rebuilt. If a road was impassable, it was cleared. If someone was troubled, they were lifted up. If a barrier was identified, it was overcome – together.

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There was a bounty shared by all who cared to join the inhabitants of the land. The blessings of opportunity, promise and hope teemed in a measure equal to the material blessings that were created. Hope was born out of industriousness and inclusion. As hope flourished, unimagined opportunities manifested themselves and unexpected forms of providence appeared.

Neighbours didn’t always agree but they lived together with honour and respect. They debated passionately but held space for the opinions of others.

A man came into the land and saw all that was good and he was jealous. Envy and despair grew in him and he set out to undermine and destroy what the people had built.

Saying to one here “you deserve more” another there “ why work so hard” and another “ that isn’t your job” At first his prodding was ignored and the people kept living together in community but the man’s voice was joined by many others with the power of print, radio, and TV. Their message began to take root. “Why worry about your neighbour. Was he there for you?” “Leave that for the next guy to do. You have done your share already”. “Let’s hire someone to do our work and we can relax in the sun”.

After a few dozen years or so, the passion and purpose that built the land was forgotten and the language of self-reliance and responsibility was erased and replaced by delegates and servants hired to look after every need. The sky darkened and neighbours built fences of fear. Trust evaporated and was replaced by rules of entitlement. People still came seeking liberty but they didn’t find freedom and opportunity and the sweat of their brow or the power of their skills wasn’t appreciated. A community turned into a group of individuals who happened to live in the same place. The man and his ilk said ” Our economy is strong”, ” we have too many freeloaders”, ” we need to protect ourselves”, ” we can’t let more people come here”.

Soon neighbour threatened neighbour. Disagreements were handled by the court. Prisons were built and filled and more prisons were needed. Debate became vitriolic rhetoric full of untruths and logical fallacies. Distrust turned to disgust and then to hatred. Hope evaporated and opportunities disappeared. People stopped coming and started to leave. The man and his bloc were satisfied that their jelousy had poisoned the community and they packed their carpetbags and moved on to infect another place with their economic arguments, their prejudice, and their fear.

This story is written by someone who observed the shift – a child born in the midst of abundance and caring who now nearly 30 years old, sees scarcity and greed. Her great wish is for a return to ‘the good-old-days’ but realizes that fear has its foothold and is gaining strength. It would take leadership, commitment and comp[assion to restart the journey towards hope. She can’t do it alone but she can do her part with a challenge; “I leave you this story, how it continues is up to you ..”

Being Present

The greatest defense against passivity, mediocrity, and ambivalence might be presencing. The guru on being present, Peter Senge, in Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Society, and Organizations, states “Too often, we remain stuck in old patterns of seeing and acting. By encouraging deeper levels of learning, we create an awareness of the larger whole, leading to actions that can help to shape its evolution and our future.”

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But it takes muscle and determination to break our evolutionary responses of fight or flight – neither of which live, well, in the moment. As we simply react rather than rest in and reflect on the circumstances, we reinforce habitual behavior (hear certainty) that stifles or worse strangles curiosity and learning.

While most of the time we aren’t in the kind of danger that requires the amygdala response I, frankly, suck at being present. My tendency is to live through time rather than in it. I am looking towards the next moment, the next appointment, the next thing. My attention drifts because I practice distraction instead of attention. Most people I encounter, from 7-year-old grandchildren to 30 something postmoderns are seeking the next stimulus and then the next. We bypass opportunities in favor of a new fix. Technology and social media have been built to serve this pathology through a nasty co-dependent relationship. I, like so many, spend far too much time seeking the next thing; a like, a friend, a thumbs up, an emoji. According to a post on Networlding says ” We’re obsessed with our phones, a new study has found. The heaviest smartphone users click, tap or swipe on their phone 5,427 times a day, according to researcher Dscout. That’s the top 10 percent of phone users, so one would expect it to be excessive. However, the rest of us still touch the addictive things 2,617 times a day on average. No small number.”
Fight or flight becomes swipe or click with the same consequence; we are missing the moments and the world is spinning past us. Can I intentionally become be more present?
I have written before about the importance of breathing and awareness of breath as an important factor in preparing to live in the now. Recognizing that you involuntarily sustain life through the inhalation and expiration of air should be a dotted line to understanding the miracle of your life. When you ‘marine breathe’ – inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds and remain empty for four seconds, your awareness of each tick as it passes is heightened and is a primer to focus.
I use a couple of exercises to help me stay in the moment. I narrow my view. From the cacophony that is our world, I find stillness and silence. There is a place just behind our attitude, feelings, and prejudices where peace precedes the noise and business of the world. It is in your head and in your heart and regardless of your surroundings, it can be discovered. In the moments leading into a new engagement, a personal discussion, or when I am aware that I need to be prepared, I close my eyes and become aware of the sensation of my own physical presence, my body’s weight,(where am I tense in my sit muscles? am I grounded and sitting erect?). I return to my breath and feel it on the inside of my nostrils. Where does it go when I breathe in? Is there a particular part of my body that is uncomfortable or fidgety? I imagine my breath flowing out to the distractions and calming the sea. If I can envelop myself in an internal silence and stillness for as little as two minutes before a difficult meeting, I can use the energy to stay focused for almost an hour.

After a scheduled discussion or difficult coaching session, I leave a five-minute window to recuperate. I turn my intention back on me. I try to pay attention to what m mind is contemplating. Am I blathering? feeling joy? am I exhausted? I try not to get involved in creating a solution, just observe my own mind in action. If I can give myself permission to take these few minutes for my personal well-being, I am a better coach, consultant, husband, father, and grandfather. If I deny myself the break, I will present a much less interested, compassionate and attentive person because I will be in the room but living someplace else.

Make Today Remarkable, by pracicing presencing,
B

Again this is an easy to say and harder to do practice but I guarantee that if you honestly try it for a week, you will make it a constsnt habit.

Memories

Blink and it is gone. The fleeting moment of 7 seconds ago is chased by the hurtling moment 7 seconds ahead. We hold ABCDEFG at once and then A is gone to the past and H is rolling forward. The pace of time ticks on and without holding onto the now and filing some rendition of it away, we find our minutes, hours, days and years spent without value or purpose. Memories are the economy of experience without which life has no currency.

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Our memories can represent numerous meanings of the word currency.
According to Miriam Webster;
Currency
a : circulation as a medium of exchange
b : general use, acceptance, or prevalence <a story gaining currency>
c : the quality or state of being current : currentness <needed to check the accuracy and currency of the information>
d : something (as coins, treasury notes, and banknotes) that is in circulation as a medium of exchange
e : paper money in circulation
f : a common article for bartering <Furs were once used as currency.>
g : a medium of verbal or intellectual expression < … neither side possessed any currency but clichés … — Jan Struther>

My memories act as a repository and a filter for the life I have led and a shimmering lens to the highest and best tomorrow. They contain and create truth, marketing both to my ego and anyone else who will listen. They become the chapters and volumes of the Book of Bob and in modern parlance ‘they fabricate my brand’.

As the story develops and is retold, by me and those who have heard them they begin to seem plausible and possible. When I remember a meeting with a colleague and relate the experience to them on the next encounter, it infiltrates their story just as their recounting finds room in mine. We both remodel and adapt and accept the altered version as today’s truth.

The moment I recognize as now slips past so quickly that I would miss it if I didn’t shape it as part of a bigger picture. William James gave currentness years of thought as he raced ahead of his world. His brother Henry once said, after his passing; ” William is always around the next corner.” He mused ” Time itself, comes in drops”. or in fuller exposition; “All our sensible experiences, as we get them immediately, do . . . change by discrete pulses of perception, each of which keeps us saying ‘more, more, more,’ or ‘less, less, less,’ as the definite increments or diminutions make themselves felt. . . . [All our sensible experiences] come to us in drops. Time itself comes in drops. (PU 104)” His thesis seems to suggest that only the current memory can quench the thirst for understanding, but only for a discreet pulse ( a drop).

‘I don’t know if this really happened but I know it is true’ a paraphrase from Marcus Borg’s post-modern apologetics suggests that memories (stories) can be profoundly true without being factually true. It is in that ether that we construct our reality – a recipe of factual, literal, and imagined to concoct save our sanity and a delicious cake that we can offer to those who are proximate and intimate.

What we use as a token of exchange, either memories or money are merely and intrinsically a social agreement. I accept your story and assimilate it into a trust matrix that I use to decide whether to share some of my life and time with you. Or, I receive your script or a digital version as remittance for goods or services and complete the transaction because we have agreed that the $, €, £, ៛, ₽, that we trade has some value that is factual, literal and concocted. In either case, if the agreement fails, the transaction ends without satisfaction.

Sitting around a campfire, standing at a water cooler, or in a pulpit, applying for a job, courting a lover is an exercise in bidding, accepting, and rejecting. We barter for relationship, status, position, power, and love with the memories we share and the clarity we imagine and bring to our storytelling. If my memory tales align with yours, we begin a dance. You offer a version of an event and I add or adapt to it and offer some of it back. When I say ” I love you” and hear ” I love you, too”, my understanding is framed by how I have experienced love in the past and how I desire to feel it in the future. Your words are interpreted through my arbitrary moment in time position that is informed by my recall, recognition and reflection and my unspoken desire to be loved.
Back and forth the stories go and for some, an agreeable, intimate, long-lasting relationship develops.

My ego and delusions of grandeur are both a great asset and a devastating liability. I assume my memories and their articulation exist to be a medium of verbal or intellectual expression, cherished by all who hear them. I realize that the 1000ish words of this post offer my intellectual expression, somewhat convoluted by the act of writing and the fact of reading and the faculty of recalling. My fallibility can seem either charming or troublesome because your memories, your ego, and your delusions play into the understanding; factual and interpretive, of the exchange. I trust and expect that some of this will resonate and some will provocate and I am okay with both. I would be distressed if it fell flat.

Make Today Memorable,

B

You Suck, I Suck, We All Suck

I appreciate that political correctness and liberal politics continue to abhor unfair, abusive, illegal, and immoral treatment of others. When politicians and government make grand statements of attrition and reconciliation, they need to continue to have an eye to the reality of the present. In Canada, when all levels of government apologize for the treatment of first nations people for the way we treated them at first contact, it is empty words because of the abhorrent conditions we continue to press them into. When a city council changes the name of a bridge because the person the bridged honoured for 50 years was a proponent of the residential school system while urban aboriginals are dying from their poverty, it seems disingenuous.

An eye to the past is important so that we don’t repeat our mistakes and help us continue to learn from them. An eye to the past can act as a shield to taking meaningful, difficult steps to remedy a current situation. If I/we don’t know how to, don’t have the commitment to, or are afraid of the ramifications of a difficult issue, like first nation poverty in Canadian cities we take an easier path. Creating an Aboriginal Poverty Reduction Strategy that sits on a shelf without resources or teeth is self-serving and possibly mean-spirited but somehow offers satisfaction to the writers and their sponsors. It may not help those struggling with poor housing, poor nutrition, poor health, and poor self-esteem but it gets headlines in the mainstream press and impresses potential voters and supporters.

I use the tactic too and am frustrated by the obvious dodge it can become. When I don’t know how to remedy a wicked question, I often answer a different one. ” How do we eliminate child hunger in Canada?” and I responded with a school lunch program in Calgary for children identified by an authority as being food insecure. I accepted congratulations for the work (3000 kids a day got fed) and celebrated the immediate, relevant and concrete solution to a very narrow problem. But the solution of providing a nutritious lunch to some hungry kids at school, on school days doesn’t begin to answer the wicked question. I don’t recall anyone challenging what we were doing because after all we were feeding hungry kids and it feels good to be doing something. Successive parliaments and numerous legislatures have passed unanimous motions to eliminate child hunger to great applause and little impact.

All of us need to get past the rhetoric and easy actions and begin having very difficult discussions and trying unbelievably risky experiments if we hope to solve the issues that are destroying lives and killing people. If we continue to manage social issues, social issues manage to continue. Most of what we do and say feels and sounds good but without challenging what we are doing, it seems that we are perpetuating the problems with a faint hope that they will somehow disappear.

Think and Act on Solutions,
B

 

CLEAR the Way

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The past is a different beast from the future if you choose to make changes. Today, you get to imagine a preferred future. It can be something personal; a different job, better health, a stronger relationship or learning something new. Make the preferred goal as CLEAR(r) as possible. Is it Consistent with your values? Can you Learn to be proficient? Are you Eager to attempt the task? Is it Achievable in a reasonable timeframe? Are you Ready to Risk? Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those times when taking small steps will suffice. To get from a current state to your best future means CLEAR and it also means “I am all in”.

Most of our frustration with yesterday and anxiousness about today rests in the decisions we are making that either consciously or unconsciously create dissonance with stated or espoused beliefs about the world. To live in congruence, we need to intentionally reflect on our choices and where necessary act to change the chosen path.

Stagnation; the sense that our life has us trapped in a rut or worse seems utterly meaningless is a result of our curiousity dying. For goals to have any impact they can’t just be same-old-same-old. We need to be open to learning new experiences, try new approaches and meet new people.

Have you reached the bottom or are close enough to realize that it is just around the corner. Has the current state brought you to a realization that something, everything needs to change? Is now the time? If you are eager to see your life change, you can use that energy to create stretch goals.

Now that you are an avid changemaker, I need to draw you back to what is doable, for you, in a reasonable time, with the resources available. This caveat isn’t meant to restrict the very best you can be but rather should garner a response from you ” if I can get this done, I can do a lot more.”

The double R’s; Ready and Risk are where most people fail. They can either say they are ready and don’t risk anything or take on dangerous risks without being ready. When your goals are consistent, learning focused, enticing, and achievable then you are ready to get ready. My serious action bias often makes me jump without considering the outfitting it will take to survive the jump. Being ready can be as simple as creating a checklist – 5-20 items that need to be on-hand before you execute. Without over-preparing and ending up in analysis paralysis, take the minimally viable approach to planning. Now had Risk by taking one more step in the chain without the gear you might need and see where you land.

A coach can help with the in between steps and the stumbles in CLEAR9r) goal setting but don’t be surprised by what you are capable of achieving on your own.

CLEARly Make Today Remarkable for you,

B

Socrates Suggests

An unexamined conviction is not worth having. Following up on the very high bar that Socrates has set with the ‘unexamined life is not worth living.’ Why wouldn’t he just claim that an examined life is better than the not? Why the sharp rebuke? If in fact, Socrates said this it is the kind of device he would have used to challenge an audience. In a world where absolutes reign, it is easy to understand the resistance we have to examining and re-examining those deeply held convictions that we have built our value set and worldview upon. But, if we are sentient beings; fully able to feel and perceive, wouldn’t examination be a first nature response?

I have lived about 2/3 of my life convinced that I understood and believed stuff that I had never given proper consideration to fully examining. I firmly and stubbornly held a worldview that had more to do with my father and little to do with logic. I accepted a pile of rubble because I agreed with one nugget of gold that was buried in the mess. Some of my certainties were/are embedded in ancient wisdom that is only ancient now. As we examine our world, we may see that things have changed. It has only been about 200 years since we came to understand that the world was likely older than 4004 years. Almost everyone held that belief until they didn’t because their awareness and understanding changed. As humans, we are subject to bias and prejudice whether we are willing to acknowledge them.

During my childhood and teen years, I lived in Saskatchewan and the rhetoric and myths of successive governments formed a big piece of my family’s value set. During the early 1960’s, the government of the day introduced the first form of Medicare, in Canada. The principals of universality, equality, privacy and single payer were layered into the fabric of the practice and philosophy of healthcare. For decades, I held to those principles with the zealousness of an evangelist. I defended the cumbersome system with all it’s failures because I unconditionally accepted the founding principles. There wasn’t any room, intellectually, emotionally or practically to question the system because of the sacred propositions.

When I found the courage to examine these convictions, I discovered that I could support the institution of care for all who needed it without holding universality, equality, and privacy sacrosanct. Under an early examination, I concluded that universality and equality were or had been reduced to lowest common denominator thinking. If we had 10,000 patients needing hip surgery (and the system could afford the cost) and 100 surgeons able to do the surgery at a rate of 1 per day, then universality and equality stated that some would need to wait 100 days or more. The system and the principles were weighted heavily on a first come first serve mentality. But if rather than equality, we used equity as the standard, we don’t reduce the wait time for some but those in most dire need would be moved to the front of the line. As I worked through my own analysis (unscientific but with rigor) on two more occasions, a few years apart, I still concluded that equity is a more efficient and humane practice. The upshot is that I let go of equality as a criteria for policy and program creation (in healthcare, education, housing …) and embraced equity.

When I suggested this to colleagues and friends, most were offended. That isn’t a good enough reason to stop the examination or toss the conclusion. In fact, it may be further reason to look at the embedded fundamental truths, that they had learned at the feet of their own history.

I will stop here with the disclaimer that I am not trying to convince you or unconvince you of any of your convictions. I confess that I am trying to convince you to examine all your convictions on a regular basis. I still regularly revisit the philosophy and practice of equity, usually when I have become intransigent and cocksure about my position.

What fundamental conviction do you hold that hasn’t been revisited for years or never? Do you have the willingness and courage to disrupt your own cart of comfort?  Fair warning – as you examine your convictions, you open the door to your life and how you lead it. Even if there is no change in how you hold the firm declaration, just by observing it under a different light, you can help but changing the observer.

Take up a conviction challenge today,

B

Alternative Aesop’s Fable

Once upon a time, A man and his wife owned a very special goose. Every morning the goose would lay a golden egg, which helped the couple care for their five children. Throughout the day, the goose had the run of the farm and could go wherever she wanted and did whatever she would do. She ate from the garden, drank from the pond and honked at everyone within earshot. But the farmer appreciated the goose because of the golden eggs and gave her free rein.

goose

Unknown to the farmer and his wife, the goose served her own needs when no one was looking. As the family slept, the goose crept into the house and climbed on the cooling stove. She then pooped into the porridge pot, that mother had made and put on the stove waiting to feed the family in the morning. As everyone knows geese that lay golden eggs poop a vile poisonous runny stool. The farmer didn’t notice the mess because there was always a golden egg waiting by the door.

In the morning, father lit the stove and began warming the pot. As his children came to the table, he served them a big bowl. At first, no one noticed the foul taste or at least no one mentioned it. Day after day, week after week, the same ritual happened. The goose fouled the porridge and left an egg. The father warmed the porridge, and the children ate. But one day the youngest child fell ill. She complained of stomach pains and had trouble breathing. The father blamed it on the weather or other natural causes and said: ” she will be fine, just wait and see.” But she wasn’t. Within a fortnight the sweet little girl was gone, and everyone mourned her passing, but life went on.

Day after day, week after week, the same ritual happened. Soon two more children were ill, complaining of the same symptoms. Father and mother thought: “maybe it isn’t the seasons or the gods bringing this trouble on our house.” But no one suspected the goose, after all, she gave them a golden egg every morning.

Soon two more children died, and the last two were very sick. Mom and dad did everything they could. They sought out experts who told them it must be the oats, the water, the air or bad genes that were taking the family. Many ‘knew’ it was the goose but didn’t say anything because they had their own goose and couldn’t acknowledge that the generous goose was intentionally poisoning them too.

The farmer and his wife were alone. All five children had been taken. Everything that they had cared about seemed pointless. Day after day, week after week, the same ritual happened. The goose fouled the porridge and left an egg. With certain blindness, the farmer and his wife continued to eat the porridge. The eggs piled up because there were now only the two of them and the farmer’s wife became very sick. The farmer nursed her; he cared for her, he cried for her. But she too soon was gone. The farmer shouted: ” Damn you, goose, you have given me gold, just as you were taking everything that was important.”

He stopped eating the porridge and stopped gathering the eggs. Day after day, week after week, the same ritual happened. The goose fouled the porridge and left an egg. Soon the pot overflowed with poop. The air became putrid, and the gold became tarnished, and soon the farmer wasted away and was gone. And then there was just the goose, and the goose had the run of the farm and could go wherever she wanted and did whatever she would do.

With thanks and respect to Aesop’s Fables, number 87 and thanks to you for considering this alternative version.