If I Were a Leader

I’ve been musing about David Suzuki’s campaign some more…. If I were leader of a major nation, I think I’d be overwhelmed by all the input from every imaginable camp, not to mention the politics of decision-making and the drift toward ‘governance by poll’. I don’t think there is a centralized institution in the world capable of taking on all the items that need to be addressed in the timeframes that

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New Series: Wisdom in Action

Wisdom doesn’t count for anything without action. For example, we all know it’s good to maintain a positive attitude about life and the future, but it doesn’t help much to know that when you have a bad attitude.

I’m going to start a new section at Serene Ambition called “Wisdom in Action”. I want to challenge everyone to share some bit of wisdom they’ve learned along the way. Submit it as a comment to this post or as a story (see the left sidebar).

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I am fed up with the media’s obsessive coverage of disasters and tragedies almost exclusively in a context of blame (and occasionally credit) for whatever it is that they are covering. We’ve been subjected to a week of ‘windbagging’ about who is responsible for the shootings at VA Tech. The killer’s justification was, “You made me do it.” He took no responsibility for his actions: he acted irresponsibly. We know the guy was nuts and, no

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Politically Correct

There is value in distinguishing ‘politically correct’ ways to speak about people who might otherwise be ignored in our collective ‘blind spot’. Such speaking can highlight inequity and discrimination and raise our awareness of those areas where our actions and our values don’t line up—where we aren’t walking our talk!

I also think there are areas where nitpicking labels can be overdone and even undermine the point that needs to be made. It’s one thing to eliminate sloppy and pejorative

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I Can’t Wait Until I’m Old Enough to…

By Don Arnoudse

daughter, Sara, is about to turn 21. Her impending birthday has
triggered my own memories of that familiar refrain of youth…”I can’t
wait until I’m old enough to….go to school, to learn to drive, to vote,
to get a credit card, to stay out past midnight, to travel on my own,
to get my first apartment, to get my first real job, to go to night
clubs and bars, and so on and so on.”

It got me to wondering.
What are the advantages of age now that I’m staring 60

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Spectator Society

Once again we’re subjected to endless all-channel coverage of events that, while notable, do not justify round-the-clock, mostly prurient commentary. The tragedy at Virginia Tech has spawned copycats at Johnson Space Center and other schools around the country. Most are simply threats, but it just takes one ‘for real’ to fuel the media frenzy.

As we know, the news channels keep a stable of ‘experts’ on hand to give their views on every imaginable subject. Retired Generals give armchair

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Silence, Discernment & the Art of Listening

By Stu Whitley

This post is the first in a thee-part series.

at a conference, recently, the dais groanedunder the ponderous weight of self-important menin bow ties and eyeglasses secured with small chainsholding forth in florid phrase and vexing verbositydemonstrating the gulf between the idea and its impartingrow on row of upturned faces, seeking wheat among the chaffsorting the useful from the meretriciouspursuing truth, or at least its cousin, knowledgebut this function depends, it seems to me, upon discernmentthe capacity to know what is essentialin any given instance or competing circumstancestheir voices fade; my mind has wandered to where you areas always, all things come back to my beloved womanand much of what engages my time, presently,groans upon the dais of my existencefor I have discerned the truth; what is importantwhich more and more seems central to my life:I am listening to the only song that mattersit is simply that, I am loving you

As any good senior bureaucrat must do these days I am required to conduct Performance Reviews and complete ‘appraisal reports’ of employees for whom I am responsible. Time and again I am reminded how important it is to listen carefully. Not only to those whose efforts we are considering over the past year (as well as those in turn whose responsibility it is to assess our work against the standards we have agreed to), but also to ourselves. It is a reciprocal, introspective process that ought to be characterized by attentiveness and absorption. Time doesn’t always permit it.

The older we get, I think, the more clearly we see how important it is to be patient in our listening.

I read something a little while ago by Jose Kusugak, President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, in Nunavut. He was writing about a childhood Inuit game called Aaqsiiq,
the ‘silence game’. What a wonderfully simple but elegant concept:

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Phone Power(less)

In the face of all the current threats to civilization and the end of life as we know it, I’m a bit reluctant to focus on my number one ‘peeve’. But I think it’s symptomatic of a deep and growing philosophical and social problem that leaves people feeling powerless. I am referring, of course, to computerized phone systems that answer incoming calls and lead you through a process, allegedly to assist you by answering your questions or finding the right human being for you to speak with.


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Growth is one of those words that we all hear as a good thing. Unless we’re talking about the growth of something we don’t want, such as hair in your nose, corns on your feet or malignant cells in your body. We also don’t want growth in crime, in violence, in substance abuse or in any other socially undesirable areas. We aren’t fond of seeing growth in inflation, pollution, teen pregnancy or vacuous television programming (ah, the contrived nature of ‘reality TV’!).  And, of course,

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Healing in Dying

By Kay Costley-White

The most joyful person I have ever met was a young man dying of AIDS. Chris’s path to serenity had been long and difficult.  In the early 1990s, his family, afraid of their community’s reaction to his gay lifestyle, rejected him. He moved from central Canada to Vancouver, developed a family of choice, and lived with a partner committed to a life-long relationship. But his partner and many of his friends died of AIDS. Then his place of employment found out the reason for his many absences for sick leave, and he was fired on the spot. Later, life-threatening infections kept him in hospital, too weak to care for himself. When I knew him, he understood that there was no hope for a cure or prolongation of his life. Medicine could do nothing beyond keeping him comfortable, and he was facing his imminent death.  But
the healing of who he was as a person—his mind, emotions and
spirit—induced people to visit his room to get a taste of his radiance.
 How could someone with such losses possibly be joyful? How had Chris got to this place of profound personal healing in the face of death? Did he have some strong religious faith to sustain him through his dark hours?  It appeared that he had opened to the anguish that can be a part of living, totally surrendered to his personal chaos, and eventually emerged beyond its confines. Witnesses to such a deep process are often left with healing of their own, a sort of ripple effect that produces a feeling of abundance in loved ones and professional caregivers alike.  You may ask, “What does this have to do with me—I’m still healthy and active?” While most people don’t aspire to the transcendence Chris demonstrated, we can all prepare ourselves to face our dying. We can explore our fear, participate in therapies to help us face the horror of final goodbyes, and find technologies to help us reach forgiveness. Employing these strategies requires courage and a certain tolerance for the unknown. But the process releases energy, and we may find that the degree of our readiness for death is directly related to the quality of our lives now. Chris showed us that opening to the full meaning of dying can enrich our experience of living. In demonstrating joy, serenity and gratitude in the face of death, he was an inspiration to the humanity in each of us, a source of hope for the growth of the human spirit. read more