convincement book

I have to admit to not really knowing much about the Quaker movement apart from the porridge and the numerous meeting rooms I have visited around the country.

I managed to pick up (in a charity shop in Whitby for £1) an interesting book called ‘ A great Convincement’ by Monica Ventress who chronicles the story of the Quakers in North East Yorkshire (a place I do know a lot about).

Apart from discovering that I was unknowingly an Anabaptist, I just love this description of the emergence of the Gurteen knowledge cafe (the thought that David Gurteen might be a time-lord and had gone back to the 1600s as an experiment did cross my mind):

An essential of the sectarian position was that the sermon should be followed by discussion: that worship was not a matter of passively hearing the Word preached by a learned minister, but in participation by the congregation after a gifted member had opened up a subject for discussion. As time went on the practice of interrupting the parson in his pulpit, became a common occurrence. Disrupting services had been made a secular offence by an Act of Parliament in Mary’s reign (1553-1558). The Quakers always claimed a legal right to speak after the sermon was over.

The book goes on to detail the numerous penalties and imprisonments of people who interrupted services, held or attended Quaker gatherings and is genuinely shocking that these practices were seen as so threatening at the time.

I was then reminded of a Quaker based method called the Clearness Committee’ and is described in Joanna Macy’s wonderful book “Coming back to life” which explains how to seek clarity in important decisions, especially around marriage.

After the focus person summarizes the issue, members of the committee (ideally five or six trusted individuals) assist her by asking questions rather than giving advice or problem solving. Honest, caring queries, arising out of prayerful silence, help the focus person see herself and her situation in a new light and unblock her inner wisdom and authority.

A more complete and detailed explanation of the method can be found here where they explain that:

Behind the Clearness Committee is a simple but crucial conviction: each of us has an inner teacher, a voice of truth, that offers the guidance and power we need to deal with our problems. But that inner voice is often garbled by various kinds of inward and outward interference.

I am really looking forward to giving this approach a try at my next problem solving workshop and/or community building masterclass.

Finally in looking to see what was on the internet about this method I came across this really interesting and very relevant slide pack on the use of dialogue by the Quakers on Slideshare by Thomas J Neuville in the U.S.

I am particularly interested to discover the origins of slide 12 and its relationship to cynefin and theory U.

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Horses for main courses

The Uffington Horse

The Uffington Horse

I see that the food minister says that we should not throw away horse contaminated food as there is no health issue...

By strange coincidence, yesterday, I picked up and bought this intriguing book from a Charity Shop, ‘The Pattern under the plough’ by George Ewart Evans and in it he explores why he thinks that we do not eat horse in this country:

From the early domestication of the horse, it has been suggested, there grew up so strong a link between horse and man that the horse became sacrosanct: his flesh became taboo and acquired a sacred or exalted character.

Certain animals in early times became totems … The clan developed a direct symbiotic relation with its totem and each member identified himself with it. Each clan or totem group was responsible for the fecundity and plentifulness of the animal or plant that it stood for.

As a result hobby horses appear in many countryside ceremonies and ritual dances.

The Celts, as befitted a nomadic people, prized the horse highly: theirs was essentially a horse culture.

Look also at the horse monuments carved into the chalk downs of southern England

It seems therefore that our aversion to horse may be one of the very aspects of our life that make us British, and just because it is safe to eat doesn’t make it right or we would eat cats, dogs, rats, badgers and perhaps our overweight siblings. So Owen Paterson, if the horse lasagne and burgers are safe to eat why don’t we all deliver them to Westminster and you can live on them for the next few years.

My inner bunny has short legs

There is a constant battle in my head from all this hard edged engineering, open innovation/complexity stuff and a need to draw on all the softer philosophical stories and ideas to satisfy my inner ‘fluffy bunny’.

If you are interested in only the former then skip this but for some essential bunny fodder I highly recommend a recent piece by Davd P Barash on how Buddhism and ecology both refuse to separate the human and natural worlds – and demand that we act accordingly

A few quotes taken out of context highlight why I think this adds real depth and intrigue to an ecological/ecosystem approach to knowledge and innovation.

The interconnected and interdependent nature of things is the heart of ecology

there isn’t any persistent ‘us’: just a constantly moving pattern of flow

The Buddhist suggestion that an organism’s skin does not separate it from its environment but, rather, joins the two … leads to the fundamental identity of subject and surroundings

‘A duck’s legs, though short, cannot be lengthened without dismay to the duck, and a crane’s legs, though long, cannot be shortened without misery to the crane.’

It [ecology] has been called the ‘subversive science’, since it subverts our egocentric insistence on separateness, and with it, our inclination to ride roughshod over the rest of the natural world.

Brilliant, and my inner fluffy bunny was subversive after all. Please read the original with all its wonderful illustrative stories.

Finally in trying to find the URL for this post I stumbled across this simple tale from the ARC Faiths and Ecology page:

Buddhists in Japan tell a story. The Buddha once received a donation of 500 new robes for his followers. So he considered what to do with the old ones. They would be used for bed-sheets, he decided. And the old sheets would become towels. And the old towels would be used as cleaning rags.

Now write down what you get from that story …

Ego Eco

Hat tip for this pic to my friend (and fellow tales to sustainer) Chris Holland, the didgeridoo man.  This has to be my favourite graphic of all time and encompasses everything I believe in. No needs for words, interpret it as you see fit. So much complexity. Thoughts of how the emergence of ‘ego’ created all the ‘warning stories’ of giants and monsters of the past. Smiles at comparing where the woman is positioned on the left with that on the right. Memories of the teaching stories about connecting cow and grass rather than cow and chicken. enjoy.

Who wants to live forever

There may not be a word in English for ‘Multiple belongings’ like the Welsh ‘cynefin’ but there should be.

I have just returned from the funeral of my dad and, for the first time in my life, find myself as an orphan. What I found most difficult was breaking all the connections to the past that the family had made over the years living in Roker, Sunderland. Small connections like stopping the milk, Sunderland Echo and fortnightly delivery of Ringtons Tea which had all continued without break for more than 50 years each re-enforced the finality of this event. I have drunk so much Ringtons Tea in my life that it must be detectable in my DNA.

Phoning to tell the relations gave me a stark shock that the generation that made funerals and weddings a storytelling bonanza are all but gone. My dad was the youngest and all the siblings have already departed this realm or are in care homes or house bound. The other striking realisation was that I have no close friends in the North East now yet I received 35 very much appreciated messages of sympathy on facebook showing that our new sense of belonging is very different, becoming multi-national and more virtual thanks to the Internet.

Funerals like many other businesses have taken the one-stop shopping model to an impressive but expensive state. One brief interview with the funeral director sets up all the cars, flowers, newspaper (and  internet) obituary, minister and service. The only other necessary meeting was with the local council registrar of deaths who with one click of her keyboard stopped passport, driving licence, pension, benefits, council tax, medical records and a whole lot more, which deserves to become a mobile phone app one of these days.

Meeting with the minister was a fun way to celebrate a loved one, we shared all the funny stories, many jobs and surprisingly full life that dad had had. At the service in the crematorium on Monday he then showed his ministerial experience by drawing a full and rounded picture of dad in words and stories pulling on the connections each and everyone of the congregation had with such a wonderful man.

The key story that he shared was one than my dads mother Polly (my nanna and best storyteller I have ever known) used to tell at all the funerals and weddings in the past . When Ernie was about seven he climbed onto the roof with a brick tied to a few rolled up newspapers.. The chimneys were straight in those days. White sheets were laid out in the sitting room, Ernie then dropped the brick down the chimney to clear the blockage. As he descended he was met by the next door neighbours with blackened faces. He had dropped the brick down the wrong chimney.

We entered the crematorium to a piano version of ‘Clair de Lune’ having deemed Tomita’s version, which my dad absolutely loved, a little too quirky and we left in floods of tears to the tune that was his absolute favourite from the Highlander movie, and forever a family jest that it would make a perfect exit, ‘Who wants to live forever’ by Queen.

The sandwich-making complex

Forget the house that looked like Hitler or the name of Allah appearing in a sliced tomato. At lunchtime my wife made me a simple edam sandwich today which turned into a rather complicated situation. I was taken aback at first…

Then I realised and caused chaos in the kitchen as I blurted out:

but that’s not what I ordered

and promptly un-ordered it.

If I had thought of this in time for April 1st I would have said something about adding Kraft triangles and putting it all into SandwichMaker™ with reference to making welsh rarebit but that would all be too cheesey.