We are gearing up it appears, if legislative forecasting for 2017 can be believed, for a big spend on the long-neglected infrastructure of highways and sewers and bridges. It took us decades to get to this mandate and let’s hope we intelligently add to our public assets.

Democracy itself has a less visible infrastructure, but one just as badly in need of repair. Like physical systems, we use the democratic infrastructure all the time: they are in constant use and need maintenance and metaphoric oil changes. All the courts and laws and regulations, the freedom of speech and the press, tax levies and executive orders, voting mechanisms and city council hearings, it all needs regular attention.

Occasional professional maintenance has filled highway potholes year after year, but now the big make-over is needed. So it is with democracy—as we follow the laws, vote, stay out of trouble and pay taxes we are in a pothole-filling “citizenship lite” mode of just keeping the infrastructure going. But these activities are short of the big investments that we now need to make in our democracy.

So, listen to the words of Parker Palmer as we enter the new year, words out of his book Healing the Heart of Democracy, written pre-2016 elections by a few years.

“If our democracy fails it is because we will have become so fearful of each other that we unravel the civic community upon which democracy depends, losing our power to resist all that threatens it and call it back to its higher form.”

As you set your direction for 2017, you may also want to set some citizen-level resolutions. I know I am going to. And you can start very close to home, in your own heart. Again, Palmer:

“Democracy is a non-stop experiment in the strength and weakness of our political institutions, our local communities and associations in the human heart. Its outcome can never be taken for granted…. The democratic experiment is endless. Unless we blow up the lab, and the explosives to do the job are found within us.”

And we may not blow up the lab but let it fall into disrepair through lack of maintenance, starting with our own practices of mind and heart; by isolating ourselves, not engaging those with different views, or engaging in our new favorite national past time—seeing ourselves as victims. For some, victimage description is a full-time job.

We may not need to go from “citizenship lite” levels of democracy to running for the Senate, but we all need to notch up our work as citizens. Let’s love the democracy that we have inherited. It needs our attention. Let’s refresh the experiment.


Ripen against the Grain

by evoker on October 13, 2016

in Ripening and aging well

slieve-l-6I did an un-American thing last month. I went on a 33-day trip to Wales, England and, mainly, Ireland. I walked the hills and listened to music and drifted and did nothing to add to the U.S. GDP. It was enriching. I slowed down to a crawl, and had no goals except to enjoy the current day with my wife, Patti. I saw amazing sights, like the sunset posted here, off of Slieve League, a cliffy sea coast in Donegal that yields spectacular views as the light plays over the ocean, across the clouds, and glances off the steep inclines of slanted land.

I turn 68 this month and I am ripening, a cool metaphor for aging into the later years of life. Aging is not a word preferred by many of us who are in the process of getting old, since it equates us with decline instead of vitality. Ripening sounds like a good thing—who wants to eat unripe fruit? Our fascination with youth, or looking back to our pre-50 years as our peak years, is a fascination with the still-green fruit of our lives, fruit that is forming magnificently perhaps, but not fully ripe for sure.  So these later years are the harvest years.

As I ripen I go against the grain of mid-life going-for-it, the kind of going-for-it that I used to love, and that is age-appropriate in large measure. But it also makes for lop-sided lives of unbalanced people, with lots of activity and maybe money, but not enough time and not enough meaning

In the meantime, let’s keep going against the grain. Especially let me say to the boomers, the ones who need the message like I do—don’t feel guilty about slowing down and going fallow. There is life purpose outside of production. We can admire hard work, but let’s equally admire long fruitless play. I like seeing older people busy and active in their ripening decades—many still want to work and produce, as they should. But I also like the against the grain, un-American, non GDP-adding activities of naps when you want to take them, playing with your dog, being idle and just being, maybe mindfully and maybe in a daydream.


Wisdom from a Master

July 27, 2016

Peter Block’s insights into our work and lives is so precious in this interview of a few months ago at the Hudson Institute’s annual meeting. https://hudsoninstitute.egnyte.com/dl/4eajYdLL0F?utm_source=CHIC+Newsletter+June+2016&utm_campaign=Summer+Newsletter&utm_medium=email

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Things I can do only because I am old

July 8, 2016

Ok, my most recent reading binge has been on ripening, aka maturing and aging, the 3rd 3rd of life. I am too far along for the “second half of life” term, though this has been and is still a very useful term in some contexts. All of this reading is on later-in-life psychology and even […]

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Depth Coaching: Co-Creating Action-Based Wisdom With Our Clients

February 8, 2016

Enjoy this ICF webinar I presented on February 7, 2016.   If you want to coach leaders with a sense for meaning and calling as central questions of life and work, and an appreciation for the ethical/spiritual dimensions of leadership, then you may want to check this out. Deeper Coaching, Better Outcomes The Bigger Thoughts […]

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