How often do you become aware of your body? I mean, really aware. Aware to the point that you can distinguish between your consciousness — the dynamic thinking, feeling, sensing, perceiving part of yourself — and the flesh, bones, muscles, tendons, veins, arteries, organs and more that make up your body.
A friend of mine once said to me, "You're so in your body." I didn't know how to take it — was he criticising me for being too literal or not philosophical enough? Or was he complimenting me for being down-to-earth and grounded?
We call our politicians — whether local, regional or national — leaders, but are they really?
Given they are reliant on public support and popularity to be voted in, politicians can't really show true leadership, particularly leading up to elections. They have to listen to the public and represent the majority view if they want a chance in office.
Meg, my greyhound, is sick. She's been out of sorts for about three weeks. Last Friday I took her to a vet, who diagnosed her with three rotten teeth (apparently greyhounds are renowned for having lousy teeth) and some sort of gastric issue.
The vet quoted $2000 for tests and dental work. That didn't sound right so I emailed my usual vet who does home visits. She came over last night to look at Meg and we talked about what might be going on. Meg's been struggling to lie down and stand up, so she may have arthritis. She's also drinking a lot, which could mean liver or kydney problems.
The arrest of 12 and 13 year old boys for aggravated robbery and murder respectively in West Auckland a couple of weeks ago highlights a growing malaise in society. The incident itself is a tragedy for the victim and his family, but what is alarming to me is that the two offending boys are victims too — of whatever circumstances led them to offend and now, potentially, of the justice system as well.
The bi-polarity of the justice system, which recognises only victim and offender, clearly fails children in these situations. The stories of those like twelve-year-old Bailey Kurariki (NZ 2001), James Bulger's ten-year-old killers (UK 1993) and eleven-year-old Mary Bell (UK 1968), all of whom were charged and sentenced, point toward a "punishment system" that in no way takes into consideration that these children were too young to be held solely responsible for their actions.
A system that believes kids can be guilty of violent crimes without asking, "How did they become capable of violent crimes?", is one that lacks empathy and compassion. Having empathy and compassion for the kids does not diminish feeling for the victims. It simply acknowledges the existence of complex situations that don't follow "victim/perpetrator" patterns.
If you are, you're very likely to get it wrong.
Organisations that build cultures that require people to do the right thing in regards to culture, gender, sexuality, function (disability) etc, create behaviours governed by fear. People will avoid engagement in order to stay safe, because they'll be scared of getting it wrong.
Today at brunch with a friend was the first time I've discussed last week's Connecticut school shooting. In itself I found that disconcerting – have I become so immune to US massacres that I no longer feel the need to voice my sadness and amazement?
But while I may have only just voiced them I haven't been without thoughts on the matter. Obama himself concurred that such incidents have been too many this year and the mainstream press has, in its usual clumsy way, begun to bring back into focus the gun debate.
What seems obviously different to me with this shooting is that pro-gun lobbyists, who have done so in response to previous incidents, particularly the the Colorado cinema attack, can't argue that more gun ownership would have stopped this one. To do so would be to suggest arming children for self-defence.
I cannot exactly remember when I first met Shaun, but I distinctly remember noticing his warm, soft soul. As I began to get to know this shy young man, what impressed me was his deep, compassionate nature and a smile that was a magnet to all who encountered him.
Over the years the number of people whose lives were touched by Shaun would reach hundreds. He became an alumni of the first Be. Leadership programme in 2011, a member of the Board of Rainbow Youth and a participant of Diversityworks Trust's Unique Business self-employment programme in 2012. Shaun was also a member of Diversityworks' Peer Support Network and made this digital story with us, celebrating his trip to Sydney on the AirNZ Pink Flight to attend Sydney’s Mardi Gras Parade.
"Wilbur the pig is scared of the end of the season, because he knows that come that time, he will end up on the dinner table. He hatches a plan with Charlotte, a spider that lives in his pen, to ensure that this will never happen." (IMDb)
I read Charlotte's Web when I was just a kid, but it has always stuck in my mind as a great story. Watching the 2006 version of the movie, I realised why: it's a great story of leadership.
Charlotte, the retiring spider who seeks no recognition for her part in saving Wilbur from his fate, epiomises the architypical servant leader. "This term, coined by Robert Greenleaf in the 1970s, describes a leader who is often not formally recognized as such. [She] leads simply by virtue of meeting the needs of her team..." (VectorStudy.com)
"Caring, it turns out, is a competitive advantage, and one that takes effort, not money," blogs business entrepreneur Seth Godin. "Often it's the CEO or the manager who sets a standard of caring about the details. Even better is a culture where everyone cares, and where each person reinforces that horizontally throughout the team."
Of course Godin is talking about caring in a business sense, saying that over time it will attract more customers, more business, more profit.
But what happens to caring in Government agencies, non-profits, even educational institutions, that are oversubscribed and underfunded, and therefore no incentive exists to attract new or repeat custom? Where, in fact, the opposite incentive prevails and the ideal is to decrease demand?
Most close relationships — be they parental, friendships, intimate or professional — begin with passion. We see all the good things — the cuteness, the interesting ideas, the good looks, the skills, the strengths.
As the relationship matures and develops, we need to bring in compassion. This allows us to understand and excuse the naughtiness, the lateness, the strange habits, the occasional inflexibility, the weaknesses.
Relationships based on passion and compassion are healthy, useful, balanced. We are human.