The Never-ending Question

Why? Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green? Why does anything exist at all? Why are you there and instead of here? Why do you think that instead of this…and it goes on and on and on.

You know that really annoying song that starts “this is the song that never ends…” – I am that song personified.

Why? Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green? Why does anything exist at all? Why are you there and instead of here? Why do you think that instead of this…and it goes on and on and on.

You know that really annoying song that starts “this is the song that never ends…” – I am that song personified.

I have always been one to ask questions. From as far back as I can remember I have been “that person”. I’m the annoying kid whose hand always shot up in class. I’m “that guy” who keeps the meeting going on forever with question after question.

It’s annoying but mostly for others. For me I just need to know why? Why make this decision? Why make it in this way? Why not make it in this way?

The antagonist. The (insert less praiseworthy word here).

It rarely wins me friends so you would think I would learn. I mean I am honestly seeking to understand things. If the question does not feel answered it gets asked louder and to more people. I have learned that questions are harder to ignore when you involve more people.

I have always believed in the mantra “Question Everything”. Perhaps that’s what drew me to journalism. Question faith, not just others’ but your own. Question life. Question politics. Question decisions of all kinds.

Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing.” Said the great Greek playwright Euripides.

Maybe Euripides understood the idea of the question better than most by pairing it with “answer nothing”. The point of the question is the question itself as the point of the trip is the journey and not the destination as some say.

The questions of course are not all outward facing, contrary to appearances. Most of my questions are inward ones. I question myself, my motives, my value etc. in the spirit of the other great quote from the Greeks inscribed at the temple of Apollo at Delphi – “know thyself”.

So far I have failed miserably here but I keep at it hoping for a breakthrough.

People do not like questions. Questions make people feel, often mistakenly, like they are being questioned or attacked. This causes them to react defensively and rather than engage the question or questioner they either hide or react. Either way the point is lost.

Of course there is something to be said for how the question is delivered.

I have been, not unfairly, accused of delivering questions like a bull in a china shop. Subtlety and deftness having been lost on me somewhere and replaced with blunt, indelicate hammers sewn onto my hands.

And so I suppose I am still seeking to perfect the art of the question and probably will be for life. Why do you read my columns? Why do you NOT read my columns? Why do you like them? Why do you hate them? To be or not to be?

If I had to guess I suspect my very last words in life will be a question.

Why do I think that? I wonder – should end this post with a question?

Rules Matter: An Ongoing Discussion on Leadership

How often have I heard leaders of all stripes complain about the rules that bind them? Executive directors, chairpersons, board members, and the list goes on, wishing that there won’t so many rules and constraints on them. I have heard them time and again dreaming about how much they could do if they were completely free to do whatever they wanted.

Here’s the thing – rules like by-laws, conflict of interest policies, laws and regulations are in place exactly to ensure that leaders and organizations can be positioned to survive and thrive.

Generations of leaders and governance geeks helped to craft everything from Roberts Rules of Order to the by-laws that govern your organization based on decades of experience. It is important to trust what is in place first before throwing it all away.

Sure, sometimes the rules are inconvenient but there are practices in place that you can follow to change those rules. A proper set of guidelines with good checks and balances to ensure that, when it makes sense, a rule/policy/by-law can change.

The rules of governance that have developed over the decades create public and private accountability. They ensure that people can trust your organization. Throw them away for the sake of ease or convenience and you risk alienating the people and organizations you need for success. You risk eroding the very trust you need to succeed.

Rules do not exist because people do not trust you or think you cannot lead or manage – they exist to ensure that you can and do.

A leader or board that disregards the rules of governance is not worthy of trust.

Faith is not an Exchange

Faith NOUN

  1. Complete trust or confidence in someone or something. ‘this restores one’s faith in politicians’

2. Strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof. ‘bereaved people who have shown supreme faith’

2.1 noun – A particular religion. ‘the Christian faith’
2.2 noun – A strongly held belief. ‘men with strong political faiths’

– Oxford Dictionary

Regardless of religion, theology, spirituality or philosophy, faith is not an exchange.

We can have faith in all kinds of things – in people, science, god(s), food, etc.

Faith, when it is compelled to reach out, is explicitly and only giving, with no expectation of receiving. Faith is not a barter system. Faith is not a trade. Regardless of what you have faith in, if you share it, you do so without resentment or any expectation of recompense.

I say this because this runs contrary to how most of us feel. If someone shares something with us we feel as though we owe them. If we share something with others we often feel as if we are owed. There is implicit expectation of an exchange – some sort of unspoken contract.

Here’s the point – if you have a faith in someone or something and this compels you to share do not expect anything in return and do not communicate an expectation. Do not expect belief in return for belief. Do not expect money in return for money.

Faith exists only to give. It gives to the individual and sometimes it attempts to reach out to others. Faith is self-sustaining…like a perpetual motion machine, once sparked it is its own energy and needs nothing to subsist.

It is when there is an expectation of return that faith begins to erode and corrode. It changes into something other than faith…it becomes transaction, a burden, creates resentment, and dies.

endless

in this endless space,
in this endless time,
in the face of the infinite
i am mathematically zero,
i do not exist;
this is not a value judgement,
merely fact.

i
am
not
here;

and yet,
as i drive,
i am bathed in gold
from our tiny sun;

and yet,
as i drive,
i ponder the odds
of being here
in this place
and am staggered
by the should nots.

if i vanish
to become less,
as though i never existed,
it will not matter
because i was.
i loved,
i felt pain,
i was joyous,
and
for a moment,
knew this place
in time and space.

this one absolute truth
remains embedded
in forever –

i am.

The Death of Nuance

It seems the idea of delicate, nuanced complexity is dead.

We are no longer watchmakers (we once were I think, from time to time and place to place), we are apprentice blacksmiths raising our inexperienced fists and wielding hammers that bash out cheap swords and shields as different sides arm for war.

Sides. There are sides now…extreme perspectives and dichotomies that crash into one-another like the endless interplay of angry waves upon a cliff face…and nothing changes. There are always sides but now the middle has been murdered due to their unwillingness to pledge allegiance. If you are not with us, you are against us.

Politics is more of a shell game than ever before as the usual suspects continue to spout the usual rhetoric and we swing between one of two or three choices so well defined that there is no room for an elected representative to voice an actual opinion or vote their conscience without repercussion from the party authority.

All the while we, the audience who are not really onlookers but willing participants urge the battle on from the sidelines and feed the fires with combustive commentary…we fall into entrenched positions that require us to hate every word from Party A and bless every other word from Party B thus showing we have lost our ability to think in favour of simple, reactive, pre-school tantrums in the realm of social media where every sarcastic, witless jibe that lands is responded to with a giggle of glee and a fool’s jig.

In such a state we are as easy to divide as a block of cheese. We are as easy to control as puppies being given their first food in the morning, drooling in thoughtless gratitude for all of the scraps that we are given.

Of course it is not all that bleak.

Each new generation has the option to rewrite things in their own image. All they have to realize is that they are not bound by the conventions and rules of the previous group. They can manifest change through the sheer force of their wills if necessary.

Here’s hoping.

words from obscurity

there are stars in the hidden distances
small, bright spinning beacons
that send blinking signs of themselves
away and away, rarely to be detected

it’s what they do
it’s what we do

spin until we might fly apart
send our words from obscurity
into the dark around us and out
evidence of white-hot purpose

it’s what we do
it’s what i do

aged

send your old men
into the midden heap
away from things of beauty
so their rheumy stares
do not infect,
so their dry hands
do not desiccate and destroy.

send your old women
to high-walled communes,
to loveless cat-filled castles
for they no longer yearn,
no dreams of flesh and kisses,
they are done with the earth
and the things in it.

send your aged away,
they sprang to life from the dust
a decrepit species unto themselves
and know not the rapture of youth;
loathe them and be thankful
you will be dew-kissed nubiles forever
far from the filth of the dying.