beloved ghost

cigarette smoke and perfume
is a secret scent memory
that brings you back to me,
a spirit that drifts on the cold,
invisible –
but I,
I can see
your arms outstretched,
arms that once embraced,
arms that once rocked
a harbour in a sheltered sea

once…
before your left for glory

Illumination

take up the bleached bones
and drape them in coloured flesh
that they may walk in the world
as a Word amongst humanity.

splash filigree gold and emerald green
between these haunted ribs
and imprison a ruby red heart
to beat beneath these bars.

crown this skull with silver halo
so that people will turn and say –

“what manner of monster is this
that went unnoticed and passed by before
as it lay dead in the weeds at our feet,
now beautiful, commands our praise?”

καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο,
καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν

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.