My grandson Edward taught me to love the StarWars films. More specifically I became fond of the dialogues between Yoda and Luke Skywalker. For example, The Empire Strikes Back[i] contains at least a few crucial scenes.

In one scene Luke sees, during a workout, that his X-Wing is about to disappear into the bog. Then following dialogue, in which Yoda describes Creative Interchange (‘ the Force ‘), unfolds.

The dialogue start at follows:

Luke: Oh, no! We’ll never get it out now!

Yoda: So certain, are you? Always with you, what cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?

Luke: Master, moving stones around is one thing, but this is… totally different!

Yoda: No! No different! Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.

This is one of Yoda’s instructions to Luke: One has to unlearn what one has learned. We have indeed to unlearn things that do not matter any mor. We have to change the parts of  our behavior, which are not helping. Changing one’s behavior means changing one’s mindset, which corresponds with ‘unlearning what one has learned’.

The dialogue continues:

Luke: All right, I’ll give it a try.

Yoda: No! Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.

Within the scene this is a great nugget of undeniable wisdom that teaches Luke to have a more serious mind. Yoda had consistently tried to teach Luke to focus on the present, and essentially, to grow up. In this moment, with these words, he makes it clear. The first time I heard this line of Yoda (it must have been in the early eighties) I exclaimed:  This is my father’s Richard’s line. Although my father is seldom quoted for this line he uttered in to me in the following dialogue from around Easter 1965:

Johan: Father, can you sponsor me for my studies at the University of Ghent

Richard: What kind of studies do you want to follow there?

Johan: I would like to become a civil engineer, father.

Richard: Your choice is not a bad one. Indeed, one doesn’t have to be handy to become a civil engineer. But can you tell me, will you succeed in those difficult studies? In other words: “Will your endeavor be successful?”

Johan: I’ll try, father.

Richard: No! Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.

So father Richard made it crystal clear to me: I had to focus on the present while growing up! So we made a contract. Father would sponsor me and would continue to do so, if I passed the yearly exams. If not, I had to stop studying and start working for him. He was head of a team who sold insurances on behalf of a renowned Dutch company. He could fix me in his team at any time. This foresight (having a career selling insurances) was one the elements of my motivation to focus on the present and to grow up. After five year I was a Civil engineer …

Then, Luke tries to use the Force to levitate his X-Wing out of the bog, but fails in his attempt.

Luke: I can’t. It’s too big.

Yoda: Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us.

So when Luke fails in his taks of  raising his X-wing from the swamp, he complains that it’s too big, which frustrates Yoda — size matters not when it comes to the Force and to life. What’s amazing about this quote is that when Yoda says it, it’s not funny. It rings true, you believe him, and you see that he makes no excuses for himself — and does not want to hear any from his students.

And Yoda continues:

Yoda: Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship

Luke: You want the impossible.

The Star Wars saga is about the battle between the  Sith and the Jedi.  The Sith have a big fear of death because they try to hold onto life. I think that’s why they’re willing to basically mutilate themselves and live these cybernetic half-human lives. Yoda’s lesson with this quote reflects the exact opposite of this mentality, and it’s essential to the saga. It speaks to the underlying difference between Jedi and Sith: being completely selfless, and recognizing that the Force binds all life and creation together. That’s the base of my bold claim that The Force is in fact The Creative Interchange Process.

The story continues and Luke sees that Yoda uses the Force to levitate the X-Wing out of the bog and gets flustered when he succeeds.

Luke: I don’t… I don’t believe it!

Yoda: That is why you fail.

This is Yoda being brutally honest with Luke, who breathlessly says, “I don’t believe it,” after his Master raises an X-wing from the Dagobah swamp. It’s a definitive statement that comes from Yoda’s years and years of experience as a Jedi and a teacher, and it cuts through both to Luke and to us, the audience. In fact Yoda uses here The Force, since Authentic Interaction in one of the four characteristics of Creative Interchange.

 

The reason I wrote this ‘intermezzo’? Well, at the end of last month I saw an episode of the Flemisch television serie ‘Winteruur’ (Winterhour’). This is a late night serie with short episodes wherein so-called Well-known Flemish people present a favorite text of them. This time Wim Helsen – a briljant stand-up comedian amongst other things – guest was Sven De Ridder – a do-it-all and driving force behind the Real Antwerp Theatre (Echt Antwaarps Teater). Sven piece of text was the dialogue between Luke Skywalker and Yoda of that particular film. Unfortunately Sven’s presentation of that particular dialogue stopped in the middle of Yoda’s comment to  Luke’s lament “I can’t. It’s too big”. Dutch speaking people can whatch this particular Winteruur episode here: https://www.vrt.be/vrtnu/a-z/winteruur/3/winteruur-s3a50/

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[i] Lucas, G., Brackett, L. En Kasdan, L., Star Wars Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, directed by Irvin Keshner, Lucasfilm, Ltd./20th Century Fox Home Entertainment 1980.

 

 

 

Henry Nelson Wieman suggests in his book Man’s Ultimate Commitment that we have a natural need to achieve in our lives the infinite potentialities present in us at birth. He goes on stressing the importance of our commitment to a life-long process that enables us to live our lives to the fullest. In order to have the Greatest Human Good he argues one has to commit to live Creative Interchange from within.

This special human interchange that Henry Nelson Wieman coined Creative Interchange is our ability to learn what others have learned, to appreciate what others appreciate, to feel what others feel, imagine what others imagine and to creatively integrate all this with what we have already acquired and form this way our true individuality. This Creative Interchange uniquely distinguishes the human mind from everything else.

The choice to commit oneself to live Creative Interchange from within is in fact a big decision that involves a choice to have experiences that teach us things we cannot know about from any other source but the experience itself. Someone who has never been fully aware of being in genuine Creative Interchange with another person can only know what contemporary science can tell him or her about the experience of Creative Interchange and/or what friends can describe to him or her, as best they can, what it is like to engage in Creative Interchange. Before engaging in Creative Interchange one might imagine undergoing some sort of experience that is surprising and intense and emotional. As it turns out, many of life’s big decisions involve choices to have experiences that teach things that we cannot really know from any other source but the experience itself.

When we face the choice whether or not to commit oneself to Creative Interchange, we can’t know what our lives will be unlike we’ve undergone the new experience, and if we don’t undergo the experience, we won’t know what we are missing. I know from experience that committing oneself to Creative Interchange is life changing, thus personally transformative. In the case of commitment to Creative Interchange you make the choice without knowing what it will be like if you choose to have that new experience, but the choice is big, and you know it is big. You know that undergoing the experience will change what it is like for you to live your live, and even change what it is to be you, deeply and fundamentally.

What makes it even more fundamental, that it is not just a one-time choice committing oneself to live Creative Interchange from within and not just a commitment to one person, like a marriage; it is a life-time commitment to every person you’ll meet from the moment you commit yourself to live Creative Interchange from within. And the outcome of this commitment is far from sure. While committing to live CI from within is a personal life-changing decision – for after all, your decision concerns mainly your personal future – we find ourselves confronted with the brutal fact about how little we can know about our futures, just when it is most important to us – speaking rationally – that we do know. The choice for Creative Interchange is no different as for many other big life choices, where we only learn what we need to know after we’ve done it, and we change ourselves in the process of doing it. To me, in the end, the best response to this situation is to choose based on whether we want to discover who we’ll become, what our beyond the actual, created self will be.

When a person has a new and different experience that teaches her something she could not have learned without having that kind of experience, she has an epistemic transformation. Her subjective point of view, her knowledge of what something is like, changes. With this new experience, she gains new abilities to cognitively understand certain contents, she learns to understand things in a new way, and she may even identify new information.

I had such an experience in 1977 during the start up of a Sulfuric Acid Plant in Visag (India). I was the start up engineer and thus overall responsible for the success of the start up of the new facility. During that start up an Indian engineer was heavenly burnt having been splashed with hot sulfuric acid when the valve he was opening on the sulfuric acid circuit suddenly burst open, while his body was just protected by a cotton work overall. This experience changed completely my mindset regarding safety, which ultimately changed completely my professional life. It was indeed the starting point of what I called later my second professional life. Safety became in one split second one of my values, a subjective personal value grounded by what it is like to have lived that particular experience.

The sorts of experiences that can change who you are, in the sense of radically changing your point of view, are experiences that are personally transformative. In my life those experiences included: experiencing a traumatic accident (as described above), having a daughter (Daphne 1972), experiencing the death of a parent (father Richard 1982 and mother Donatine 1987), fundamentally changing my career path (1988 and 1995), having a career setback (losing the ISRS rights in 1992), becoming grand father (Eloïse 2002, Edward 2004 and Elvire 2008), living through a deep depression (2008 – 2010), undergoing radiation and chemical therapy and a major surgery (colon cancer 2013), to name the most important ones. Those experiences were life changing in that they changed what it is like for me to be me. In other words, those experiences can change your mindset, and by extension, your personal preferences, and perhaps even your values and thus even change the kind of person that you are, or at least take yourself to be. In my case each of those experiences turned out to be a personally transformative experience.

So, such experiences are very important from a personal perspective, for transformative experiences can play a significant role in one’s life, involving options, that, metaphorically speaking, function as crossroads in one’s path towards self-realization. The path you choose determines where you take your life, what you will become, and thus by extension, your subjective future. While some of those experiences happen to you without you having chosen them, I learned through the years than you can have your own choices involving transformative experiences. Those transformative choices allow you to causally form what it will be like to be you in your future. In this sense you own your future (Peter Senge would say, you create your future), because it is you who made the choice to bring this future – your very own future self – into being.

The problem is that when you face a transformative choice, that is, a choice of whether to undergo an epistemically and personally transformative experience, you cannot rationally make this choice based on what you think the transformative experience will be like. Consider, for instance, the transformative choice of marrying ‘The One’. When you decide to marry someone, you are not deciding to be married at that time or for just a couple of weeks. It is not as deciding where you will spend your holidays: at the coast side or in the mountains. In fact you are deciding whether you want to commit yourself to an extended life event. This extended life event is in fact a continuous relationship between your future self and the future self of another person. You’re about to marry someone not just for the here and now, you are marrying this person for a long term. You are marrying to be part of each other’s life as you grow and transform, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”

Is the decision regarding getting married rational? In my personal case I dare to doubt this. We both made our decision by attempting to project forward our subjective future, to see what it would be for us to make a life with each other. Since we were the last of the Mohican’s (a metaphor I often use since we were both virgins when we got married) and thus did not live with each other for many years, like young people do nowadays, we did not know what being married really meant, let alone having an extended marriage. So we did not marry based on knowing what our future life would be like; we married based on a commitment to discover our future life together. This meant that we took on commitments that involved providing mutual support even though we knew that unexpected events and other kinds of events that life brings – for instance having a child – would happen. We committed ourselves that we would face these new experiences as one unit, a couple, not as a single person. While we knew some things before we got married, such as our current dispositions and inclinations, we could not know what it would be like to have the marriage that we would actually have. The only thing we knew was that our marriage would be an extended transformative experience.

Milan Kundera described beautifully what such a transformative experience is in his bestseller ‘The unbearable lightness of being’ in which he quotes Friedrich Nietzsche and uses the German proverb: “Einmal ist keinmal’. Gallimard first published this book, although originally written in Czech two years before, in French: ‘L’insoutenable légèreté de l’être’ in 1984. I bought this French edition in Paris in the fall of that same year and I enjoyed it so much that I read it all in one sitting.

The phrase “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” is Kundera’s own, but to understand it we actually have to start with Friedrich Nietzsche and the idea of eternal return. Eternal return is the idea that our universe and our existence has occurred an infinite number of times in the past, and will continue to occur ad infinitum. In this theory, time is cyclical rather than linear. The idea of eternal return is an ancient one, but Nietzsche, a 19th century German philosopher, popularized it for modern times. That’s why the narrator of Unbearable Lightness refers to it as Nietzsche’s concept. Nietzsche explored what the consequences of such eternal return would be. In his eyes, eternal return was das schwerste Gewicht, or “the heaviest weight.” It was a petrifying concept to imagine that our lives have been and will continue to be repeated endlessly. But one could learn, through philosophy, to love the idea. The proper mind can embrace this weight, rather than be terrified by it. Nietzsche seems to conclude in Thus Spoke Zarathustra that we must live and act as though our lives functioned in eternal return, suggesting that we give our own lives meaning and weight by behaving this way.

Kundera argues that Nietzche was wrong and states: “Human time does not turn in a circle,” he argues; “it runs ahead in a straight line”. Nietzsche said that eternal return gives our lives the heaviest weight. So if our lives only occur once, it must mean – according to Kundera – that they are filled with lightness. This is where Kundera’s phrase einmal ist keinmal comes into the picture. And Tomas, one of the main characters of the book, translates this for us: “What happens but once, might as well not have happened at all. If we have only one life to live, we might as well not have lived at all”

The point which is interesting in our context is that if we live only once, then we can never compare the decisions we make to any alternatives. And if we can never compare different outcomes, we can never know if the decisions we made are correct or not, which means – according to Kundera – we can never judge them properly or take responsibility for them. Hence, Kundera suggests that to live only once is to live with lightness.

The question then becomes: “Do we want lightness, or do we want weight?” Which do we choose? Kundera takes a look at Parmenides, a Greek philosopher in the 5th century B.C. who considered the same question. Parmenides argued that lightness was positive and to be desired, while weight was negative. The narrator of The Unbearable Lightness of Being isn’t so sure about this. “The heaviest of burdens is […] simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfillment,” he says. “The heavier the burden, […] the more real and truthful [our lives] become”.

During the course of the novel, the narrator refers to the lightness of being in two different ways: the sweet lightness of being, and the unbearable lightness of being. Kundera argues that lightness is unbearable, but it is up to us as readers to understand the reasons behind his argument. The lightness may seem at first to be a sweet deal – no responsibility, no judgment, no meaning. Sounds like fun – at first. But eventually, as I’ve argued in my previous column[ii], we desperately would like for our lives to mean something. We want them to have weight and significance, because we want them to matter. The problem is then, still according to Kundera, try as we might to give our lives weight…we cannot. Our lives are fundamentally light precisely because they occur only once. So Kundera’s argument is two-fold:

  1. Nietzsche was wrong; there is no eternal return; our lives occur only once, and that makes them light.
  2. Parmenides was wrong; such lightness is not sweet, it is unbearable.

Notice that both these arguments are established right in the title of the novel and it takes (Kundera) the entire novel for the argument behind these ideas to unfold. By the way, as I’ve argued in my last book ‘Cruciale dialogen’, the title is a metaphor.

For what it’s worth, let me express my view on Kundera’s argument. I agree: ‘Einmal ist Keinmal’; you simply cannot live two lives in parallel. I cannot, at the same time, be married to Rita and be single. The consequence of that is that I cannot compare those two ‘lives’ the moment of the decision and throughout my whole married life, neither can Rita. Regarding Kundera’s question: “Is ‘being’ light or unbearable?” the only right answer is, as I learned from my mentor Charlie Palmgren, since the question is a ‘or’ question: YES![iii] Finally I really can’t say Amen to Kundera’s statement that because we cannot judge we are not responsible for the consequences of our decisions. To me we definitely are responsible for those consequences and what’s more they become bearable if we live Creative Interchange from within. In other words we should stay aware of the unfolding of our lives and take the right measures and decisions when needed. We are responsible for our actions, period.

Personally, I adhere to Wieman’s two-fold commitment, which keeps the “old” from obstructing the emergence of the “new” and keeps the “new” from abandoning and discarding the value of the “old.” Wieman’s said this requires following two-fold commitment: “A commitment to act on the current best we know and a commitment to remain open to what in truth can transform our current best to what is better.” Through living this two-fold commitment from within we will continually transform our mind as it cannot transform itself. The language surrounding the death of the old self and the creation of a new self takes on a new kind of significance. For Wieman, such a person is able to have the old self transformed in a way that takes on a wider world, a wider range of concerns, experiences, and valuations. For him, the greatest barrier to emergence of the new is the convulsive clinging to present beliefs, values, and habits giving them the loyalty and commitment that should be given to the Creative Good (i.e. Creative Interchange). Wieman’s central theme is self-commitment to growth and transformation through Creative Interchange; in other words, a self-commitment to the Creative Interchange process that transforms human life toward the Greatest Human Good.[iv]

So, Creative Interchange changes the mind in ways that the mind cannot do this by itself. The challenge of life is not to realize goods that we can now imagine but to undergo a change in consciousness in which there will arise possibilities of value that we cannot imagine on basis of our present awareness. This transformation of the mindset cannot be imagined before it arises and therefor cannot be planned or controlled, neither from the outside nor from the inside. One must cultivate a willingness to set aside present held values and open oneself to a creativity that leads the mind toward a wider awareness and a new consciousness. The human task is not to contrive a better form of living based on present understanding but rather to set the conditions under which creative interchange may operate to expand our awareness. The good of human life increases, as the mind becomes a more richly interconnected network of meanings.

Charlie Palmgren took the challenge of continuing the search for the conditions necessary for Creative Interchange to thrive. One of his first contributions was to make the barriers within ourselves to Creative Interchange visible by discovering the counter productive process: the Vicious Circle, his articulation of Wieman’s greatest barrier to the emergence of the new. The Vicious Circle is Palmgren’s view of how humans become disconnected from their innate Worth. He believes that human worth is the capacity to participate in transforming creativity. Worth is innate, in other words Worth is the innate need for creative transformation. He drives home his point clearly: “Our need for creative transformaton is to our psychological and spiritual survival what oxygen, water, food, exercise, and sleep is to physical well-being.”[v]

Concluding note: Man’s Ultimate Commitment – i.e. providing for the conditions for and living Creative Interchange from within in an awareness way – leads to a continuous transformative experience.

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[i] This column is based on three books:

  1. H.N. Wieman. Man’s Ultimate Commitment. University Press of America®, Inc., Lanham, Maryland, 1991
  2. L.A. Paul. Transformative Experience. Oxford University Press. Oxford UK – New York NY, 2014
  3. M. Kundera. The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. New York NY, 1984.

[ii] http://www.creativeinterchange.be/?p=811

[iii] http://www.creativeinterchange.org/?author=2

[iv] https://www.slideshare.net/johanroels33/essay-creative-interchange-and-the-greatest-human-good

[v] Stacie Hagan and Charlie Palmgren, The Chicken Conspiracy: Breaking The Cycle of Personal Stress and Organizational Mediocrity. Baltimore, MA: Recovery Communications, Inc. 1998. p. 21.

 

 

 

One of my daughter’s Christmas presents was a book which original version was published the year I was born (which happened today exactly 72 years ago). I don’t think she new that when she bought it, neither was she aware of the fact that during decades I have promised myself to read it. Since more than five years I had even a pdf version of this book on my laptop; as well as, since a couple of years, an audiobook version on my iTunes app. I never created time to read it, until now.

Man’s Search for Meaning is a 1946 book by Viktor E. Frankl chronicling his experiences as an Auschwitz concentration camp inmate during World War II, and describing his psychotherapeutic method, which involved identifying a purpose in life to feel positively about. According to Frankl, the way a prisoner imagined the future affected his longevity.

The edition of Man’s Search for Meaning Daphne gave me is a Rider one (2011) based on the 1992 edition[i]. Part One constitutes Frankl’s analysis of his experiences in the concentration camps, while Part Two introduces his ideas of meaning and his theory called Logotherapy. Part Three is a postscript of 1984 and presents a case for Tragic Optimism.

In the preface to the 1992 Edition, Viktor Frankl admonishes the reader:

“Don’t aim at success –

the more you aim at it and make it a target,

the more you are going to miss it.

For success like happiness, cannot be pursued,

it must ensue and

it only does so as the unintended side effect of

one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product

of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.

Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success:

you have to let it happen by not caring about it.

I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do

and to carry it out to the best of your knowledge.

Then you will live to see that in the long run

– in the long run, I say – success will follow you

precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.”

Reading this passage I thought of two of my spiritual fathers: Charlie Palmgren and Paul de Sauvigny the Blot SJ. The latter survived, as Viktor Frankl did, a concentration camp. Indeed dr. Paul de Sauvigny the Blot SJ (in short Paul de Blot) was a prisoner of war in a Japanese concentration camp during WWII and this for almost five years. After the war he became Jesuit and studied in Indonesia and Europe and worked in Lebanon, Israel, Indonesia, came to Europe; started a career at the Nyenrode Business University in the Netherlands where he studied, got his PhD in 2004 (at the age of 80!) and became professor there in Business Spirituality. His Business Spirituality is based on DOING (Business) and BEING (Spirituality) and on the INTERACTION (Creative Interchange) between the two.

Paul states: “The success I had in my life was primarily due to the fact that it simply happened to me, not as a winning lottery ticket, but by a conjunction of circumstances and relationships. I was not looking for success, success came my way, and I recognized it, picked it up and made use of it.” So Paul and Viktor are thinking along the same lines regarding success.

The story Paul often tells regarding his surviving the Japanese concentration camp (he lived more than a year in an isolation cell where he could not see any light, so after a while he didn’t know if it was day or night) is fundamentally about relationship. He testifies that not the strongest men survived, it where those men who were in interchange with others.

Among the tribes of northern Natal in South Africa, the most common greeting, equivalent to hello in English, is the expression sawobona. It literally means, “I see you”. This I see you is not so much about effectively seeing the other, it means – as the perhaps more known expression namaste – “The God in me sees the God” or “I see myself through your eyes” or “I come to live through you.” According to Peter de Jager[ii] this Zulu greeting is mostly answered with ngikhona, which means, “I am here.” The order of the exchange is important: until you see me, I do not exist. It’s as if, when you see me, you bring me into existence. This meaning, implicit in the language, is part of the spirit of Ubuntu, a frame of mind prevalent among native people in southern Africa. The concept Ubuntu stems from the folk saying umunto ngumuntu nagabuntu, which from Zulu translates, as “A person is a person because of other people.”[iii] The dyad sawubona and ngikhona form a dialogue; sawubona is an invitation to participate in each other’s life, ngikhona is the positive answer to that invitation. Although Paul de Blot in his isolation prison cell could not literarily see his comrades, having dialogues through thick prison walls they came to and stayed in live.

Let me quote David Ducheyne[iv]: “Psychology has discovered that your mental development is triggered by interaction with others. You cannot healthily exist without the other. You define yourself, based on the interactions with the other.” One of the philosophers who discovered this is the American Religious philosopher Henry Nelson Wieman. He writes extensively about “that creative good which transforms us in ways in which we cannot transform ourselves.” For Wieman our supreme devotion must be to the creative good not to the created relative goods [created by the creative good], this was an ultimate commitment to what in his later years he increasingly came to label creative interchange.[v] In 1966, Wieman met and formed a working relationship with Dr. Erle Fitz, a practicing psychiatrist, and Dr. Charles Leroy (‘Charlie’) Palmgren, my third father. Wieman, Fitz and Palmgren met regularly in Wieman’s home (Grinell, IA) until Wieman’s death in 1975 to focus on how creative interchange could be the basis for psychotherapy, applied behavioral sciences, and organizational development. After Wieman’s death, Palmgren continued to nurture the creative interchange philosophy, identifying the conditions necessary for the Creative Interchange process to occur, and developing tools to help people remove the barriers to those conditions while identifying the counter unproductive process, which he labeled The Vicious Circle.

Some quotes from part I “Experiences in a concentration camp” that I find interesting:

  • We who have come back, by the aid of many lucky chances or miracles – whatever one may choose to call them – we know: the best of us did not return.
  • Apart from a strange kind of humor, another sensation seized us: curiosity. Cold curiosity predominated even in Auschwitz, somehow detaching the mind from its surroundings, which came to be regarded as a kind of objectivity. At that time one cultivated this state of mind as a means of protection. We were anxious to know what would happen next.
  • An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.
  • Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human 
poetry and human thought and believe have to impart: The 
salvation of man is through love and in love.
  • Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It find its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive, ceases somehow to be of importance.
  • Set me like a seal upon thy heart, love is as strong as death.
  • The consciousness of one’s inner value is anchored in higher, 
more spiritual things, and cannot be shaken by camp life. But how 
many free men, let alone prisoners, possess it?
  • It is this spiritual freedom – which cannot be taken away – that 
makes life meaningful and purposeful.
  • If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.
  • In robbing the present of its reality there lay a certain danger.
  • It is a peculiarity of man that he can only live by looking in the 
future – sub specie aeternitatis. And this is his salvation in the most difficult moments of his existence, although he sometimes has to force his mind to the task.
  • Quoting Spinoza: “Emotion, which suffering is, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.

On page 61 Viktor Frankl presents a fundamental change that was even paraphrased years later by the late president John Fitzgerald Kennedy during his inaugural speech of January 20th, 1960:


“What was really needed was a fundamental change

in our attitude towards life.

We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.

We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life,

and instead to think of ourselves being questioned by life

– daily and hourly.

Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation,

but in right action and in right conduct.

Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find

the right answer to its problems and

to fulfill the tasks which it constantly set for each individual.”

More than once in my life I’ve needed such a fundamental change in my attitude. For instance in 2008 – during my darkest period until now in the midst of a deep depression – when black thoughts of committing suicide haunted regularly in my mind. I needed to force myself to realize that life was perhaps still expecting something from me; I needed to realize that something in the future was expected from Johan Roels.

And Viktor Frankl continues:

“This uniqueness and singleness which

distinguishes each individual and gives meaning to his existence

has a bearing on creative work as much as on human love.

When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized,

it allows the responsibility, which a man has for his existence

and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude.

A man becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears towards

a human being who affectionately waits for him,

or to unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life.

He knows 
the ‘why’ for his existence,

and will be able to bear almost any ‘how’. (Page 64)

Here Viktor Frankl is paraphrasing one of his favorite quote’s of Frederich Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for, can bear almost any how.” In my particular case it was both: my love towards my wife, daughter and three grandchildren and a book I had to finish: “Cruciale dialogen” (Crucial Dialogues).

Viktor Frankl loves to quote Frederich Nietzsche to help his comrades: “Was mich nicht umbrengt, macht mich starker.” (That, which does not kill me, makes me stronger). This phrase really resonates with me.

Part II of Man’s search for Meaning describes Logotherapy in a nutshell. Viktor Frankl explains why he has employed the term Logotherapy as the name of his theory; logos being a Greek word denoting meaning, Logotherapy focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as on man’s search for such a meaning. To Viktor Frankl:

“Man’s Search for Meaning is

the primary motivation in his life

and not a secondary rationalization of instinctual drives.

This meaning is unique and specific

in that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone;

only then does it achieve a significance

which will satisfy his own will to meaning.” (Page 80)

He continues:

“Man’s will to meaning can also be frustrated,

in which case Logotherapy speaks of existential frustration.

The term existential may be used in three ways: to refer to

(1) existence itself, i.e., the specifically human mode of being;

(2) the meaning of existence; and

(3) the striving to find a concrete meaning in personal existence,

that is to say; the will to meaning.” (Pages 81-82)

His ideas regarding the connection between mental health and tension are, to me, very interesting:

“It can be seen that mental health is based on a certain degree of tension,

the tension between what one has already achieved and

what one still ought to accomplish,

or the gap between what one is and what one should become.

Such a tension is inherent in the human being and

therefore is indispensable to mental well-being.

We should not, then, be hesitant about challenging man with

a potential meaning for him to fulfill.

It’s only thus that we evoke his will to meaning from its state of latency.

I consider it a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene

to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium or,

as it is called in biology, homeostatis, i.e., a tensionless state.

What man needs is not a tensionless state but rather

the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.

What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost

but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.

What man needs is not homeostatis but what I call noö-dynamics,

i.e., the existential polar field of tension

where one pole is represented by the meaning that is to be fulfilled

and the other pole by the man who has to fulfill it.” (Page 85)

Frankl’s view on the connection between mental health and tension makes me think of two things: (1) Peter Senge writing in his bestseller ‘The Fifth Discipline’: “The gap between a vision and current reality is a source of energy. If there were no gap, there would be no need for any action to move toward the vision. Indeed, the gap is the source of creative energy. We call this creative tension;”[vi] and (2) the state of tension I’m continually in the noö-dynamics between my actual created self and my will to meaning to (re-) become the Original or Creative Self I was born.

And Viktor Frankl continues:

“Having shown the beneficial impact of meaning orientation,

I turn to the detrimental influence of that feeling

of which so many patients complain today, namely,

the feeling of total and ultimate meaninglessness of their lives.

They lack the awareness of a meaning worth living for.

They are haunted by the experience of their inner emptiness,

a void within themselves; they are caught in that situation

which I have called existential vacuum.” (page 85)

And this is more and more the case. The staggering raising number of people wrestling these days with bore-out, burn-out and even depression proves that a Search for Meaning is more than needed.

Regarding that existential vacuum, Viktor Frankl writes:

“The existential vacuum manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom.

Now we can understand Schopenhauer

when he said that mankind was apparently doomed

to vacillate eternally between the two extremes of distress and boredom. In actual fact, boredom is now causing, and certainly bringing to psychiatrists, more problems to solve than distress.

And these problems are growing increasingly crucial,

for progressive animation will probably lead to an enormous increase in the leisure hours availably to the average worker.

The pity of it is that many of these will not know what to do

with all their newly acquired free time.” (Page 86)

Following the AI and Workforce conference of MIT (Nov 1-2, 2017)[vii] I learned that in Frankl’s statement, quoted above, the word probably might be erased.

According to Viktor Frankl Logotherapy sees in responsibleness the very essence of human existence. This emphasis on responsibleness is reflected in the categorical imperative of Logotherapy:

“Live as if you were living already for the second time

and as if you had acted the first time


as wrongly as you are about to act now!” (Page 88)

 Regarding the meaning of suffering, Viktor Frankl writes:

“When we are no longer able to change a situation


– just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer –

we are challenged to change ourselves.” (Page 89)

When in the fall of 2013 a colon cancer was finally identified, I had to undergo chemo and radiation therapy before the cancer could be removed through surgery. While the cancer was still operable, the odds were high that if it would turn out that the complete medical protocol were to be successful … this would be ‘just in time.’ During those months I had enough time to transform myself by asking and responding one single question: “How want you, Johan, be remembered by your three grandchildren, Eloïse, Edward and Elvire?” So, my answer was to transform myself starting Living in the Now.[viii]

Viktor Frankl regarding the erroneous and dangerous assumption, which he calls pan-determinism (and I being prisoner of the Vicious Circle):

“The view of man which disregards his capacity

to take stand towards any conditions whatsoever.

Man is not fully conditioned and determined but rather

determines himself whether he givens in to conditions

Or stand op to them.

In other words, man is ultimately self-determining.

Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be,

What he will become in the next moment.” (Page 105)

Charlie Palmgren thought me that man is indeed self-determining and can always choose to stay his actual created self or evolve this created self towards his Creative Self.

Part III of my copy of Man’s Search for Meaning is a Postscript 1984: The case for a tragic optimism[ix]. A tragic optimism is to be understood as follows:

“In brief it means that one is, and remains,

optimistic in spite of the tragic triad, as it is called in Logotherapy,

a triad, which consists of those aspects of human existence

which may be circumscribed by: (1) pain; (2) guilt; and (3) death.

This chapter, in fact, raises the question:

“How is it possible to say yes to life in spite of all that?”

or posed differently:

“How can life retain its potential meaning in spite of its tragic aspects?” (Page 111)

He continues:

“A human being is not one is pursuit of happiness

but rather in search of a reason to become happy,

last but not least, through actualizing the potential meaning

inherent and dormant in given situation” (Page 112)

Regarding the perception of meaning, Viktor Frankl writes:

“The perception of meaning

differs from the classical concept of Gestalt perception insofar as the latter implies a sudden awareness of a ‘figure’ on a ‘ground’,

whereas the perception of meaning, as I see it,

more specifically boils down to becoming aware of a possibility

against the background of reality or, to express it in plain words,

to becoming aware of what can be done about a given situation.”

(Page 116)

Viktor Frankl is crystal clear about the difference between what Charlie Palmgren’s calls our (intrinsic) Worth and an (extrinsic) value:

“In view of the possibility of finding meaning in suffering,

life’s meaning is an unconditional one, at least potentially.

That unconditional meaning, however, is paralleled by

the unconditional value of each person.

[labeled as Worth by Charlie Palmgren[x]]

It is that which warrants the indelible quality of the dignity of man.

Just as life remains potentially meaningful under any conditions,

even those that are most miserable,

so does the value of each and every person stay with him or her.

Today’s society blurs the decisive difference between

being valuable in the sense of dignity [Worth] and

being valuable in the sense of usefulness [Value].” (Page 122)

Charlie defines worth as the capacity to engage in transforming creativity. And to him, as to Viktor Frankl, Worth is inherent in every human being.

Viktor Frankl exactly describes my final life’s meaning as follows:

“My interest does not lie in raising parrots

that just rehash ‘their master’s voice’,

but rather in passing the torch to


’independent and innovative and creative spirits’. (Page 123)

I lived that meaning not only when I stopped in October 2016 my latest series of workshops, the famous gatherings of the Crucial Dialogue Society but more importantly in writing my thinking down and publishing those in columns (from today on solely on my website www.creativeinterchange.be) for the sake of my three grandchildren, AKA the three E’s: Eloïse, Edward and Elvire. Leaving it up to them to decide what they’ll do with those thoughts. I will certainly not push them since ‘grass doesn’t grow faster by pulling at it’.

I’ll simply continue to do what I do, since it is my ultimate meaning in life! And at the same time this is an ultimate two-fold commitment (cf. Man’s ultimate Commitment[xi]): Creative Interchange; in other words, a commitment to Continuous Improvement through living Creative Interchange from within thus evolving my created self towards my Creative Self. I know I’ll never reach that final destination and will continue to enjoy the voyage, as long as it lasts. All this while staying aware of one of my favorite quotes:

“The act of discovery

consists not in finding new lands,

but in seeing with new eyes.”

– Marcel Proust

____________________________________________________________

[i] Frankl, Viktor E. Man’s Search for Meaning. The Classic Tribute to Hope from the Holocaust. London, Rider, an imprint of Ebury Publishing, a Random House Group company, 2011

[ii] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/parsing-personal-privacy-puzzle-peter-de- jager/

[iii] Senge, Peter M. [et al.] The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, strategies and tools for building a learning organization.Doubleday, New York, 1994.

[iv] http://www.hrchitects.net/purpose-lies-outside/

[v] Wieman, Henry Nelson. Man’s Ultimate Commitment. University Press of America®, Inc., Lanham, Maryland 1991.

[vi] Senge, Peter M. The Fifth Discipline. The Art and Practice of The Learning Organization. Doubleday, New York, 1990. Page 150.

[vii] http://futureofwork.mit.edu

[viii] http://www.creativeinterchange.be/?p=800

[ix] This chapter is based on a lecture Viktor E. Frankl presented at the Third World Congress of Logotherapy, Regensburg University, West Germany, June 1983.

[x] Hagan, Stacie and Palmgren, Charlie. The Chicken Conspiracy. Breaking the Cycle of Personal Stress and Organizational Mediocrity. Baltimore. MA: Recovery Communications, Inc. 1998. P. 25.

[xi] Wieman, Henry Nelson. Man’s Ultimate Commitment. op. cit.

 

Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment. — Eckhart Tolle[i]

Of all the things I have learned over the years, I can think of nothing that could be of more help to anyone than living in the now. It is truly time-tested wisdom. To live in the present is what we mean by presence itself!

Creative Interchange makes us know that we can fully trust the “now” since a) we’re born with that fundamental learning and transformation process that resides within us and b) living Creative Interchange from within in the “now” is how we’ve transformed ourselves from baby to infant, to toddler until we were ready for the Kindergarten and beyond. Living Creative Interchange from within and in the now is like making love. We can’t be fully intimate with someone who is physically absent or through vague, amorphous energy; we need close, concrete, particular connections in the “now”. That’s how our human brains were and are wired. Not surprisingly, Creative Interchange is what changes the human mind since it cannot change itself.

Yet, as practitioners of meditation have discovered, the mind mostly does two things: replay the past and plan or worry about the future. The mind has been thought to be bored in the present. So it must be re-trained to stop running backward and forward and to be fully ‘present in the present’. This is being fully aware; awareness being the condition underlying the CI characteristic Authentic Interaction. Indeed, awareness makes the interacting authentic.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
 Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.
 — Rumi[ii]

Non-dual awareness opens our hearts, minds, and will to actually experience Creative Interchange in the now. Ultimate Reality cannot be seen with the dualistic consciousness of the mind, where we divide the field of the moment and eliminate anything ambiguous, confusing, unfamiliar, or outside our comfort zone. Dualistic thinking is highly controlled and permits only limited seeing. It protects the status quo and allows the ego to feel like it’s in control. This way of filtering reality is the opposite of pure presence.

We learn the dualistic pattern of thinking at an early age, and it helps us survive and succeed in practical ways. But it can get us only so far. Becoming self-conscious at the expense of being self-aware undermines our capacity to be authentic and compromises the quality of our interacting using the Creative Interchange Process. Not surprisingly all religions at the more mature levels have discovered another “software” for processing the really big questions like death, love, infinity, suffering, the mysterious nature of sexuality, and whoever God, the Divine or the Force is. Some people call this access contemplation, some meditation and others mindfulness. It is a non- dualistic way of living in the moment. Don’t interpret, just observe (contemplata).

Non-dual knowing is learning how to live satisfied in the naked now, “the sacrament of the present moment” as Jean Pierre de Caussade called it[iii]. This awareness will teach us how to actually experience our experiences, whether good, bad, or ugly, and how to let them transform us. Words by themselves divide and judge the moment; pure presence lets it be what it is, as it is. Words and thoughts are invariably dualistic; pure experience is always non-dualistic.

As long as you can deal with life as a set of universal abstractions, you can pretend that the binary system is true. But once you deal with concrete reality – with yourself, with someone you love, with actual facts – you find that reality is a mixture of good and bad, dark and light, life and death. Reality requires more a ‘both/and & different from’ approach than ‘either/or’ differentiation. The non-dual mind is open to everything. It is capable of listening to the other, to the body, to the heart, to the mind and to the will with all the senses. It begins with a radical yes to each moment.

When you can be present in this way, you will know the ‘factual reality’. Of course, you will still need and use your dualistic mind, your consciousness, but now it is in service to the greater whole (i.e. the ‘Creative Self’) rather than just the small ego (i.e. the ‘created self’). The Original or Creative Self is aware and conscious, the created self is mostly only conscious.

There is, in the context of living in the now, an additional distinction to be made between intention and attention. The core of human freedom is choosing (intention) and determining where one’s attention is (will be) focused. Most daily routines involve our attention being on ‘auto-pilot’. Autopilot is our unconscious daily habits, rituals and routines. Self-consciousness has been developed at the expense of self-awareness. Living in the now is living mindful. Mindfulness is sometimes characterized as “open or receptive attention to and awareness of ongoing events and experiences” [iv] with attention understood as “a process that continually pulls ‘figures’ out of the ‘ground’ of awareness”[v] an being mindful meaning “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”[vi]

Organizational Management of Change involves teaching people this and that, an accumulation of facts and imperatives that is somehow supposed to add up to transformation. The great wisdom teachers know that one major change is needed: how we do the moment. Then all the this-and-that’s will fall into line. And how we do the moment is, to me, continuous living Creative Interchange from within.

Wisdom is not the gathering of more facts and information, as if that would eventually coalesce into truth. Wisdom is a way of seeing and knowing the same old ten thousand things but in a new way. I suggest that wise people are those who are free to be truly present to what is right in front of them. It has little to do with formal education. In fact little children, who have not encountered formal education yet, are always wise!

Presence is the one thing necessary to attain wisdom, and in many ways, it is the hardest thing of all. Just (try to) keep your mind receptive without division or resistance, your heart open and soft and your will aware of where it is at its deepest level of feeling. Presence is when all three centers are awake and open at the same time!

Most organizations decided it was easier to use doctrines – and obey laws created by management guru’s – than undertake the truly converting work of being present. Otto C. Scharmer identifies in his book Theory U three levels of deeper awareness and the related dynamics of change. “Seeing our Seeing requires the intelligences of the open mind, the open heart and open will.”[vii] Paraphrased in Creative Interchange language: ‘Seeing our seeing’, which I call Process Awareness, requires the intelligences of the Open Mind (Left hand side of ‘our’ Butterfly), Open Heart (body of ‘our’ Butterfly) and Open Will (Right hand side of ‘our’ Butterfly):

 

 

  1. Seeing with an open mind is ‘Awareness’ (i.e. non-colored or naked consciousness) that is able to change our Mindsets, (i.e. colored consciousness);
  2. Seeing with an open heart is seeing beyond the mind (feeling – butterfly body): this is also seeing one’s own part in maintaining the old and in denying the new;
  3. Seeing with an open will unlocks our deeper levels of commitment to which we ‘surrender’ in order to imagine what is needed, although the ‘what’ may be far from clear – Otto C. Scharmer calls this presencing;
  4. The ‘how’ of the transformation is effectively doing what we’ve just imagined through presencing; transforming means living Creative Interchange fully from within. Creative Interchange being the Meta process of all transformation and learning we’re all born with.

Mindfulness is about how to be present to the moment. When you’re present, you will experience the Presence. But the problem is, we’re almost always somewhere else: reliving the past or worrying about the future.

Living daily Creative Interchange is crucial in helping us live in the now. It takes constant intention and attentive practice to remain open, receptive, and awake to the moment. Intention has been defined as “a process that (a) carries motivational impetus, (b) specifies a future goal and (c) increases the likelihood of subsequent information processing that serves that goal.”[viii]

We live in a time with more easily available obstacles to presence than any other period in history. We carry some of our obstacles in our pockets now notifying us about everything and nothing, often guided by algorithms we don’t understand and that are far from being transparent. And let’s be honest: most of our digital and even personal conversation is about nothing. Indeed about nothing that matters, nothing that lasts, nothing that’s real. We think and talk about the same things again and again, like a broken record. Pretty soon we realize we’ve frittered away years of our life, and it is the only life we have.

We have to find a way to more deeply experience our experiences. Otherwise we’re just on cruise control, and we go through our whole life not knowing what’s happening. Whether we realize it or not, the energy of Creative Interchange (Yoda calls it The Force) is flowing through each one of us. When we draw upon this Source consciously, our life starts filling with what some call coincidences or synchronicities, which we can never explain. This has nothing to do with being perfect, highly moral, or formally religious. It has everything to do with living mindfully in the now.

I wish someone had told me all when I was young[ix]. I would still have been transforming my mindset, but this time in a whole different way – and what’s more all the time; in other words, a Continuous Improvement of my mindset through Creative Interchange (which I sometimes label CI2).

Life is what happens to you, while you are busy making other plans.            

John Lennon

There’s no way for the mind to control living in the now trough living Creative Interchange from within. Indeed, the Creative Interchange Process cannot be controlled and happens when the required conditions are met:

“Creative Interchange creates appreciative understanding of the diverse perspectives of individuals and peoples. It also integrates these perspectives in each individual participant. Thus commitment to Creative Interchange is not commitment to any given system of values. It is commitment to what creates deeper insight into values that motivate human lives. It creates an even more comprehensive integration of these values so far as this is possible by transforming them is such a way that the can be mutually enhancing instead of mutually impoverishing and obstructive.”[x]

According to Wieman, Creative Interchange should not be sought directly. When it occurs, it will always be somehow spontaneous. Commitment to Creative Interchange means that one will always seek to provide those conditions that are most favorable for this kind of interchange. So living Creative Interchange from within boils down to providing the conditions so that Creative Interchange can thrive. My mentor, Charlie Palmgren undertook in the period 1966-1972 the task of discovering what some of these conditions might be. He has found four mental conditions that facilitate and enhance each of the four Creative Interchange characteristics. Those conditions make the interacting authentic, the understanding appreciative, the integrating creative and the transforming continual. These conditions are, awareness (mindfulness and trust), appreciation (heartfulness and curiosity), creativity (playfulness and connectivity) and commitment (steadfastness and tenacity).

As we’ve seen in part I, most of the time the mind can only do two things: replay the past and plan or worry about the future. I’m not arguing that those two things are per se bad; I do argue that those two are mostly obstructions to living in the now.

Replay the past often leads to shame or guilt; those are two major forms of negative reaction to one’s self. Shame is the feeling that “I am not OK”, guilt is the feeling of having done something bad. Shame and Guilt are two elements of the Vicious Circle[xi], which ultimately leads to hiding in one’s mental model; one’s mindset is blocked and becomes what the Buddhists call the “monkey mind”.

Mental models are the images, assumptions and stories we carry in our minds of us, other people, organizations, institutions and every aspect of the world. They are the colored spectacles through which we see the world. Mental models determine what we see because they immediately interpret the reality we see and present that interpretation as reality. Mental models are ‘mental maps’ and all these mental maps are, by definition, flawed in some way. Differences between mental models explain why two people can observe the same event and describe it differently. Mental models (part of the left side of the ‘Butterfly’ model) ultimately shape how we act (the right side of the ‘Butterfly’ model) and thus the outcome.

The concept of Mental Model has many synonyms like Frame of Reference and Paradigm to name two of them. I prefere to use the synonym Mindset. Because mental models are part of our consciousness, our Mindset – below the level of awareness – they are often untested and unexamined.

One of the core tasks in Living in the Now is bringing mental models to the surface, to explore and to talk about them with minimal defensiveness – this helps to see the qualities of our ‘colored spectacles’, appreciatively understand their impact on our lives and find a way to re-form the glass by creating new mental models that serve us better in the world.

Two types of skills are central to this endeavor: they are reflection (slowing down our thinking processes to become more aware of how we use and form our mental models) and inquiry (holding conversations where we openly share views and develop knowledge about each other’s assumptions).

Anthony de Mello SJ urged us to ‘wake up!’[xii] Living Creative Interchange from within gradually transforms our minds so that we can live in the naked now, the sacrament of the present moment. Without some form of reflection, we read life through a preferred and habitual style of attention. Unless we come to recognize the lens through which we filter all of our experiences, we will not see things as they are but as we are.

Zen Buddhist masters tell us we need to “wipe the mirror” of our minds and hearts in order to see what’s there without distortions or even explanations – not what we’re afraid of is there, nor what we wish is there, but what is actually there. Creative Interchange’s Process Awareness is a lifelong task of mirror wiping. “I” am always my first problem, and if I deal with “me,” then I can deal with other problems much more effectively. I have to stop my ‘monkey mind’.

“Our monkey mind (an ancient Buddhist term) naturally prefers to scatter our attention hither and yon, but the whole purpose of Buddhist practice is to tame the mind, to calm the monkey in our head, and to be fully present to what we are doing in each and every moment.”[xiii]

Process awareness is the inner discipline of calmly observing our own patterns—what we see and what we don’t—in order to get our demanding and over-defended egos away from the full control they always want. It requires us to stand at a distance from ourselves and listen and look with calm, nonjudgmental objectivity, in other words: being fully aware and waken up! Otherwise, we do not have thoughts and feelings: they have us! A clear mirror allows us to simply see the reality of what is.

The real gift is to be happy and content, even when we are doing simple tasks. When we can see and accept that every single act of creation is just this and thus allow it to work its wonder on us, we have found true freedom and peace.

Plan about the future often leads to either knee-jerk reaction (or jump to conclusion-action) or worrying about the future. One should plan about the future while living in the now, making sure that what we see is what there is and not what our mindset tells us what there is. In this phase we have to – like toddlers – embrace ambiguity and stay long enough in testing our consciousness through awareness, until we have appreciatively understood reality. Appreciative Understanding being the second characteristic of Creative Interchange. Living in the now is appreciating the choice to interrupt one’s unconscious “autopilot’ thinking, saying and doing.

Once we have appreciatively understood reality we can start to open our heart in order to really feel it and to ponder if we want to transform that reality, if undesired, in a new, more desired one. If this is the case we’ll use Creative Integrating – the third characteristic of Creative Interchange – to imagine and create a plan in order to realize this desired reality in the near future. All ideas that pop up have to be reason- tested using skills to break down polarized thinking and other barriers to creativity. Through greater spontaneity (nobody’s idea is shot down) and connectivity (we connect and built on each others ideas) we enjoy greater freedom to integrate what we creatively experience through our relationships into our expanding individuality – to constantly evolve into the infinite potentiality of our being. This progressive, creative integration works at the individual level as well as the relationships level, constantly changing our individual and collective mindsets for our marriages, our work teams, our organizations, our communities and our societies. Once our plan is ready we reason-test the plan itself to make sure that we have the resources and approach to execute it and, finally, we have tot decide to go ahead.

During the transformation of our reality we have to live in the now permanently. We have to be aware of the process of transformation, which is the fourth characteristic: Continual Transformation. During this phase our commitment supports tenacity of intention to and attention on the repetitions required for neuro-networking the brain in order to establish new habits and ultimately a new mindset. Process awareness ensures that one is not only aware of what one is doing, but also how one does this. In addition it makes sure that one is aware of the extent to which, what and how one does, is congruent with the terms of the Creative Interchange process. In its simplest form Process Awareness is a dual awareness. A portion of the awareness focuses on the task (what is done) and the other part focuses on the process itself (how it is done). In our mind this process is Creative Interchange. So the Process Awareness skill can monitor what you say and do, identify and evaluate what others say and do, monitor how the team members are living the Creative Interchange process and most of all identify if you yourself live or hinder that living Process. The latter means too that through Process Awareness you are aware of the functioning of your personal Vicious Circle and is often called self-awareness, beautifully painted by Albert Einstein’s quote:

“The superiority of man lies not in his ability to perceive,

but in his ability to perceive that he perceives,

and to transfer his perception to others through words.”

Process Awareness is also linked to the concept transcendence. You certainly have heard once following expression: “Being in the world and not of the world.” In this context, being in the world means that you identify yourself with your thoughts, feelings and behaviors and being of the world suggests that you are nothing more than a conglomerate of your experiences and actions in this world, in other words nothing more than your created self. Being of the world means that we conform to that world. Being in the world urges us to go beyond conformity to transformation, in other words to transform ourselves towards our Creative Self. Being in the world means that we choose for transformation of the mind, in other words that we choose for Creative Interchange. Something that is transformed is something that is changed. The prefix ‘trans’ means “above and beyond”. We are to become above and beyond the standards of this world, not in the sense that we elevate ourselves in lofty status above everybody else, but that we are called to a more excellent way of life. In other words, we are to transform towards our Original or Creative Self. Not being of the world means that you can observe the world from a distance. One is, so to speak, above the world and can therefor observe the world without being effectively concerned. Being capable of both is an ideal I’m striving for.

This way, the created or adaptive self – a by-product of the Vicious Circle – is of this world. This self is a unity created from the mix of experiences, perceptions, roles, images, games, demands and expectations and so on. The Original Self is not of the world. The Original Self is beyond the world being with both feet in the world.

Process Awareness has to do with being receptive to information associated with the task or activity being performed, and to information connected with the Creative Interchange Process while being at work with others (i.e. being in the world) AND at the same time being open to analyze oneself, the internal data that are generated by those actions, without being prisoner of these data (i.e. not being of the world).

If we have successfully transformed ourselves through the transforming power of Creative Interchange (remember Yoda’s Force!), we will have begun to experience (1) an interchange which has as its core authentic understanding and appreciation of the uniqueness of ourselves and others, and (2) how this transforming power enables us to continually re-create ourselves by integrating what we experience from others. Through an ultimate commitment to Creative Interchange we start to transform ourselves and invite others to do so, in the direction of ‘The Greatest Human Good’.[xiv]

As the life of awareness settles on your darkness, whatever is evil will disappear and whatever is good will be fostered. But this calls for a disciplined mind. [However] When there’s something within you that moves in the right direction, it creates its’ own discipline. The moment you get bitten by the bug of awareness… it’s the most delightful thing of the world. There’s nothing so important as awakening. — Anthony de Mello S.J. [xv]

To me awakening is living Creative Interchange from within. I once called Creative Interchange the Sixth Discipline desperately needed by Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline in order to thrive. [xvi] Making Living in the Now through Living Creative Interchange from Within a discipline and thus a habit is to me – believe me, I know firsthand – hard work needing commitment, tenacity and process awareness.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

[i] Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (Penguin Books: 2005, 2016), 41.

[ii] The Essential Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks (HarperOne: 2004), 36.

[iii] Jean Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence, trans. John Beevers (Image Books: 1975), 36.

[iv] Kirk, Warren Brown and Richard M. Ryan. Perils and promise in defining and measuring mindfulness; observations from experience. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11 (3), 242-248, https://doi.org/10.1093/clipsy.bhp078 , 2004. 245.

[v] Kirk, Warren Brown and Richard M. Ryan. The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84 (4), 822-848, https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.84.4.822 , 2003. 822.

[vi] Jon Kabat-Zinn. Wherever you go, there you are: mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York NY, Hyperion. 1994

[vii] Otto C. Scharmer. Theory U Leading From the Future as it Emerges The Social Technology of Presencing. San Francisco, Ca: Berret-Koehler Publishers, Inc. 2009, xiv

[viii] Peter G. Grossenbacher and Jordan T. Quaglia. Contemplative Cognition: A more Integrative Framework for Advancing Mindfulness and Meditation Research. J.T. Mindfulness 8: 1580 https://dio.org/10.1007.S12617-017-730-1 . 2007, 1580-1593.

[ix] I’m publishing this column on my website www.creativeinterchange.be for the sake of my grandchildren, the three E’s: Eloïse, Edward and Elvire, without really knowing what they will do with it. Not pushing them, since ‘grass doesn’t grow faster by pulling at it”. I simply find it my duty to do it, period.

[x] Henry Nelson Wieman, Commitment for Theological Inquiry, Journal of Religion, Volume XLII (July, 1962) N° 3, pp. 171-184, 176.

[xi] Stacie Hagan and Charlie Palmgren The Chicken Conspiracy Breaking the Cycle of Personal Stress and Organizational Mediocrity. Baltimore: Recovery Communications, Inc., 1998

[xii] Anthony de Mello S.J. Awareness, The Perils and Opportunities of Reality, a de Mello spiritual conference in his own words (edited by J. Francis Strout), New York: Image book published by Doubleday, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. 1992

[xiii] Frantz Metcalf and BJ Gallagher. Being Buddha at Work. 108 Ancient Truths on Change, Stress Money and Success. San Francisco, CA. Berret-Koehler Publishers, Inc. 2012. 37.

[xiv] Johan Roels. Creative Interchange and the Greatest Human Good. https://www.slideshare.net/johanroels33/essay-creative-interchange-and-the-greatest-human-good

[xv] Anthony de Mello S.J. Awareness, The Perils and Opportunities of Reality.op.cit. 20

[xvi] Johan Roels. Creatieve wisselwerking. Nieuw business paradigma als hoeksteen van veiligheidszorg en de lerende organisatie. Leuven-Apeldoorn, Garant. 2001. 234.

 

The barriers to Creative Interchange

One breakdown has been discussed: the failure to integrate meanings from one another. Given the explosion of information and tools for communication, such a thing might strike one as ironic. Wieman would undoubtedly have been excited by the rise of such technologies from cell phones to the internet. But the rise of technologies cannot guarantee communication. It is just as easy to fail to communicate now as prior to such an age, if not easier.

For one thing, we may be suffering from information overload, where information simply passes over us with little or no effect. Therefore, the central issue is not simply the amount of information one receives but whether one has been in a position to let the process of integration do its work in a way that changes the person for the better. If there is a lack of meaning and context associated with this information, then all that has occurred is the transaction of a barrage of disconnected bits of information. Flashes of information disconnected cannot bring greater meaning or value. Coherence and connection of what is received and integration of this with a self is central for creativity to work in our lives because this is the basis by which a self can be a self, a requirement to being engaged with others.

Worship provides a context by which people can seek to undergo the process of integration and can come to recognize the connection of events and their meaning to our lives. This may be done with sermons, rituals and the like, establishing a link between the world of today’s experiences and a rich past. They can direct our full bodily self to openness towards creativity. But there is another form of worship, which is best done alone, in a reflective mode. Leaving the clamor of life to reflect provides a needed basis to integrate previous interactions. Jesus in the wilderness, in solitude, was able to take his experiences to forge a new life purpose, which infused his life with meaning and direction.

Another feature of integration is that a sense of self is required, with which these new experiences, meanings, and values are integrated. One mistake some religious liberals make is to believe that openness to others requires a shedding of those distinctive features of our own selfhood, especially as it relates to the religious tradition that inform us. But the sort of creative interactions that expand both sides require each to bring selfhood and tradition to the table. Eliminating that which is distinctive about us so as to get along may produce a getting along but it does so at the cost of the expansion of both worlds.

The second important feature which allows for creative interaction to do its work is a particular openness to the other. So we must become open to the “modification of our minds, our sensitivities, and our judgments” through our interactions with others.[ii] That is, we come to recognize that our beliefs, as good as they are, cannot account for the whole of life and need to be expanded, refined through the interaction with others, so that we gain new experiences, new ways of seeing the world, and thus provide the basis for a wider world. A wider world with more material to draw from creates some basis for better determining what the good is in a given situation. When we isolate our interactions apart from such a world, what may seem like a good in a particular context can provide the basis of greater evils for those outside our sphere of sympathy.

For this reason, the goal is always to increase the range and quality of interactions and relations that one engages in. There is always a wider world than the current range of interactions and experiences, informing us. The task is to expand this to take account of a greater and wider world. Through this expansion the likelihood that a local good could be serving a greater evil lessens.

Therefore we need to direct our attention to possible values, experiences, which are not in our realm of our appreciation yet. We need to “open avenues of communication between one’s self and other individuals, other cultures, other races, and other

classes.” That is, differences must be sought out and included in how we engage the world. Someone is invariably not at the table and some perspective or experience of the world is not included in the discussion and therefore some element, which could rectify our understanding of a situation, is not present. They may be voices we do not appreciate or ones that seem to go against much of what we believe, but they have a range of experiences and valuings which we have not engaged and which could provide the basis for expanding our sense of a world.

What are the barriers to engaging the other in a way which could transform and widen our world? It could be a particular self-image that one seeks to protect, an image which could be torn down if evaluated within some forms of interaction wherein who we are and what we value could be called into account. If one were a racist, the sort of possible interactions with someone of another race could be so unsettling to one’s self-image that such interactions are avoided at all costs.

If one’s identity is determined by our current sense of self, the desire to have that challenged is greatly lessened. That is, the sense of our own identity has some of the greatest and dearest meaning to us. It is what makes life coherent, something required for human life and conduct. But if our interactions with others call this into question, then we may fear our own sense of self could be dissolved. Understandably this is a situation that most humans seek to avoid. And there is a good reason for this. Selfhood is a precarious achievement.

Wieman is not calling us to be dissolved but transformed and the line between one and the other is not always clearly apparent, especially for someone who is examining this prospect prior to transformation. Sometimes the refusal to undergo such a transformation is rooted in the quality of the good itself which we seek to protect, including our own sense of self. Goods can have a precarious existence and only through hard work and dedication can they be brought about. It is natural that if such goods become endangered, that our reaction is to seek to protect them. But it is ironically through this very protection that we can transform such a good, as a sense of self, into an evil. This can occur when the dedication to the existent good blocks any attempts to recognize or nurture other possible goods, goods which we may not yet recognize or appreciate. Our actions, without reference to a wider world, a wider set of experiences can do great harm without any awareness of this result.

For even well-meaning people operating out of the best sense of their world, their experiences can inflict great evils because their world, their sense of the best, is too provincial, too limited, and does not include enough people, enough experiences, and enough factors. And they resist any correction because what they now think is good might be endangered and how they now see themselves in relation to this good could fall apart. Many foreign policy failures are the result of such a process.

This is why Wieman stresses the need to give oneself up for a radical commitment to this creative process which can expand our world, expand our range of appreciation and sympathy. It means putting trust in a process that can create more than we can currently imagine, appreciate, or value. That is, radical commitment calls us to place priority with the possible over what is actual, the creator over the created, a wider world over the world we currently inhabit and are comfortable in. That is, the insight of monotheism needs to take hold of our lives.

Conflict means differences and this becomes central in Wieman’s account because without such differences clashing with one another there would be no basis for expanding our world or even having it challenged. A complacent herd mentality where our beliefs and prejudices are re-enforced would grow. This could produce an “absence of conflict” but this is not peace. The peace of God is what happens when the conflicts are transformed in a form of creative interaction where our valuations and our sense of our world have now been expanded to take account of our encounter with the other.

To the degree that such an encounter has taken place so that new values are created which are inclusive of the whole community there one finds a deepened sense of community. But such a process could never have happened if conflict was avoided at all costs. The two proposals before the mainline, agreeing to mutual isolation from one another in the form of local option or separation, minimizes conflict through minimizing interactions with the other. In this proposal, addressing conflict means engagement with the other in a manner that allows for mutual influence so as to create values inclusive of the conflicting parties.

The more common route is to avoid conflict or to minimize the influence of the other who is conflict with us. Wieman calls this process supra human but this is not to suggest that humans do not participate in the process of creative interchange. Rather it means that human actions alone are not sufficient. This is because what we imagine as the highest good for ourselves and our communities are subject to the range of experiences and events that have marked our life. So our imaginings must be changed and expanded through the incorporation of a wider world. This occurs when we are able to integrate experiences we’ve never had, events that have not marked our life but now do shape it as a result of receiving them from the other and incorporating them into ourselves. A wider sense of the world which takes account of factors, events, relations we had not considered prior to the interaction.

When these experiences and values from the other are incorporated into our previous experiences a sort of reorganization of self transpires which takes account of the previous interaction and our previous sense of self. Imagination cannot effect such as change because as Wieman writes “profound insights emerge by way of reorganization of the personality of such sort that the individual, prior to this reorganization is unable to accept, appreciate, understand or receive in any way the insight which finally comes”.

Recognizing that it is not us but this creative process which can create the good adequate for a common life together means that we have to look beyond ourselves and our best sense of things to something that can transform our vision The creator/creature distinction which was raised in the second chapter becomes central to the outlook informing Wieman and the project of the thesis. Trust in ourselves and failure to recognize that which is beyond us means placing trust in our present sense of the good and this leads to the intractable conflicts facing the church and our world.

The language surrounding the death of the old self and the creation of a new self takes on a new kind of significance. For Wieman, such a person is able to have the old self transformed in a way which takes on a wider world, a wider range of concerns, experiences, and valuations.

Wieman warns that “creativity is not omnipotent. It often fails against the inertia in man himself, in social institutions and in subhuman conditions.” That is, if we will not engage others, the possible goods which can result become limited if not stymied. Nothing makes a wider cooperative fellowship fully engaged and appreciative of the other necessary or even a likely event.

There are also barriers to communication and openness to the other which need to be searched out and removed to allow for more possibilities of creative interaction taking hold. Some of these were discussed in the second chapter, but simply being aware of the problem is not enough. The barriers are more deep seated than that which can simply be changed by resolve As Wieman notes, “they are in part psychological, internal to the individual himself.” These conditions were focused on in the second chapter. “They are in part biological, requiring development of the sensitivities and other capacities of the biological organism of man.” Wieman recognizes the sort of limitations our own physicality can place in creatively being engaged with another. It may be that we are not biologically equipped to have the required sensitivity for humans to live together creatively. Are there ways in which this can be modified? It shouldn’t be outside of the purview of those interested in removing barriers to creative interaction.

Some of the barriers are physical, “requiring continuous reconstruction of the physical environment so that men can live together with sensitivity and appreciative understanding of one another.” The sense of neighborhood where people interact versus the suburbs where privacy is upheld are two different environments which lead to greater or lesser creative intercommunication. Greater levels of interaction may require the construction of more public spaces from city parks to library cafes.

But there is another kind of public space that is needed. A space where people get to exercise for themselves and others a good which is recognized by all involved. That is, there is the need for the creation of genuine communities. An example could be as simple as a low income organization working together to get a stop sign up. All of a sudden unknown neighbors are working together and become friends and allies even as they have a whole range of differences in regards to race, gender, and religion. They relate to each other to accomplish a common end.

Wieman’s vision of the church as well as other communities could play a similar role in our national life so that a great diversity of people from a range of backgrounds, classes, and races can come together because it is in that context that possibilities can open to allow for mutual learning and therefore creative interactions. Such communities could act to be the bearer of the good news of God’s saving work which the participants can experience and be thus transformed.

 

Barriers to Creatie Interchange in major ‘institutions’

Other barriers for Wieman are “institutional, requiring continuous modification of the social order.” Whether it is our educational system or the way our economy is organized or the structures of the church, a number of features of such institutions impede giving ourselves to the creative process in a spirit of openness and trust. Usually they center on preservation and continuance of the institution at the expense of the required openness to change and transformation which could make unstable the status quo.

One example in government might be as simple as the current U.S embargo of Cuba which prevents a number of possible creative interactions. It may be the obedience to a political party or to those who hold office that prevents diverse responses to the situations governments are called to deal with. In this loyalty is placed in the state and those in authority and dissent can be seen as an attack instead of a possible place of transformation to a more inclusive vision of ourselves and the world.

Another barrier to creative interaction can be found in education with the growth of religious and politically defined schools where parents are able to send their children so as to not have them confronted with ideas that are not their own, with differences that may challenge them. The internet can also act as a barrier to creative interaction to the degree that it allows people to self segregate. This can be done reading only those news sites and discussion groups which buttress their own beliefs and valuations instead of challenging and expanding them. There are other kinds of media from television to print which must pander to both advertisers and to a public which wants to have its sense of the world reflected back to itself through the media instead of being challenged and questioned.

Another barrier can be found in [organizations] where policies can be used to prevent workers from fraternizing with each other in and out of the workplace. When there is a lack of accountability in companies and the workplace this re-enforces the idea that these are not participatory institutions which require discussion, dialogue and debate. Obedience not creative interaction becomes the prime value at work.

The church is one of the few institutions that is in a position to work through all the levels that either open us up or block us from being engaged with the other. That is the biological, physical, institutional, and personal features of our life can be affected depending on how the church is organized and conceives of its mission. One example of how all levels could be affected is through the use of ritual, such as prayer, which can organize “habits, impulses, sensitivities, forces of attention, and all the resources of personality” in a way which is directed to creative interaction with the other.

Rituals, like any form of practice, habituate their ends within us physically, emotionally, and cognitively. Like football practice they act not as much to perform the act called for but rather to ready us for when such an act is required. That is, rituals develop in us the sort of habits of response to the world that can prepare us to meet the world with the kind of openness required in forms of creative interactions Rituals, when done poorly, point to themselves for the sake of themselves or the institution which gave them birth. Rituals need to direct our whole selves, including our feelings, habits, even bodily reactions to God or otherwise they are misplaced.

Self reflection can be directed to the sort of world we live in, in what ways can it be organized to move to this vision of increasing mutual appreciation and learning and in what ways has it failed in this regard. But with the church’s language of sin and repentance it is also able to call us to reflect on the way that we as individuals block the possibilities of creativity in our life with others. Such a self reflective mode is required if we to remove such barriers.

But such reflection requires the building of a community of people who are dedicated to such a task. That is a group of people who can mutually criticize, build up, support in this task of both societal and individual reflection. Both the individual reflection and the communal response to this become central in such an account. The building of public spaces raised earlier can happen in the church, which is one of the few institutions in this country where these questions and this sort of interrelating is possible.

A church which is able to direct us to this creative process must be open to learning from any and all disciplines and communities, including that of other religions and other religious perspectives. There is a recognition of our limited understanding of where and what is God doing in the lives of others, which needs to influence our sense of God and the world. There is also a recognition that other disciplines can engage in areas of specialization, such as the sciences, that cannot be done by the church even as it affects the work of the church.

While the church recognizes the finitude of its own understanding, it strives to surrender its life to this creative process in all things. The whole church becomes united for a common end, something the mainline is missing. Wieman writes “the weakness of liberal religion is due to the inability of liberals to agree on what is supremely important and the consequent inability to unite in a common commitment.”

Does this suggest the sort of unanimity that some evangelicals have called for in the mainline church? Yes and no. There is unanimity in being open and engaged in creative interaction with others, both living and dead, in books and in varying diverse communities. But the results do not suggest that what flows from such engagement will be a singular result. It certainly cannot mean resting in whatever result follows from such an engagement.

Wieman seems to have given us a means by which mainline can unite around a common end, a common God, even while the diversities in the church would remain, even add to this quest. Wieman’s project is a holding together a common end, a common future, a common goal by which diverse communities can mutually appreciate, support, and find meaning in without thinking that a unified belief on the other questions which bedevil the church will produce the same result.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

[i] Based on:

  • Henry Nelson Wieman, The Wrestle of Religion with Truth, (New York, NY: The MacMillan Company, 1927).
  • Henry Nelson Wieman, The Source of Human Good, (Carbondale, IL: SIU Press, 1946).
  • Henry Nelson Wieman, Man’s Ultimate Commitment, (Carbondale IL: SIU Press, 1958).
  • Henry Nelson Wieman, Intellectual Foundations of Faith, (NY: Philosophic Library, 1961).
  • Henry Nelson Wieman, Religious Inquiry, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1968).
  • Henry Nelson Wieman, ed. and intro. Cedric L. Hepler, Seeking A Faith for a New Age: Essays on the Interdependence of Religion, Science and Philosophy, (Metuchen, NJ: The ScareCrow Press, Inc, 1975).
  • Henry Nelson Wieman, Creative Freedom, (New York, NY: Pilgrim Press, 1982).
  • John Cobb, Can Christ Become Good News Again, (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 1991).

 

 

Creative Interchange and conflict

Henry Nelson Wieman’s work in philosophy focused on the question of conflict and how conflicts might be negotiated in a manner that could be transformative for those involved. Such a proposal needs to allow for differences to have play within communities because it is engagement with the other and his/her experiences which can challenge and expand our sense of the world in a way that encompasses a wider set of experiences. [i] And yet such differences should not simply remain as differences, but need to engage each other in a manner which allows for some mutual affecting of one another so that the basis of commonality that holds communities together is able to endure.

Democracy must…rest primarily upon the mutual interpretation of conflicting interests to one another”- H.N. Wieman [ii]

But Wieman has certain suppositions, which need to be granted if his proposals are to have some standing. He believed that nothing could wholly protect the human mind from error. Rather, a key feature of human existence is our finitude, our limitedness. Therefore nothing coming from the minds of humans could be understood as infallible and beyond revision.

The created good is finite, has value only in relation to a set situation and can be subject to revision and even dismissal as the situation changes. The intractability of human conflict many times is found in the failure to accept the created basis of any human idea, institution, and belief. If beliefs can be made absolute and impossible to modify in any manner, then there is little basis to engage those who disagree with whatever is in question. [iii]

Failure to recognize the finite basis of our beliefs, practices, and institutions, produces the result of treating them as if they were divine and therefore immune, to some degree, from criticism and modifications. Such a move misdirects our energies and loyalties to what merely is, or what is within the realm of our present appreciation, instead of towards what could be. That is, if there is some belief in a [creative good] who remains active in the creation of the new, we should focus on what is directs our attention away from [that creative good], and away from the source of new possibilities outside of our range of appreciation. [iv]

What is the range of our appreciation? For Wieman, this could be understood, in some sense, to be our world. A world is constructed out of the range of experiences, interactions, events, and meanings, which constitute our life. Recognizing the finitude of the human condition, we can recognize that our world has limits. The limits are imposed by the range of experiences and interactions we have engaged in. In this sense a world is not fixed but ever changing, even growing, as more aspects of life, of experience, gained from interactions with others, can be incorporated into a coherent whole within a person. [v]

Given that our worlds are as varied as the range of interactions and experiences constituting the life of humans and given that we regularly fail to estimate properly our valuings, beliefs, and what we hold dear but instead imagine that they have somehow escaped the limits and finitude of the human condition, the basis of intractable conflicts becomes clearer. We come to interact with others, with what we consider to be the best good for the situation, but the range of our appreciation is what produces this vision of the good.

The problem is that other people with a different range of experiences, events, and relations have constructed a different vision of the good and so there is a clash. If ultimacy is given to the good we hold there can only be two responses. One could seek through battle to defeat the competing vision. Or one could organize life in such a manner that the competing vision is ignored. [vi]

During a conflict both positions are ill equipped to ascertain goods, experiences, and values from the other and therefore are unable to modify their positions in light of missing interactions. Such interactions when they do occur Wieman calls creative interchange. In his work Religious Inquiry, Wieman breaks down creativity into four phases. First there is an awareness of a value, which is is transmitted to the other through communication and is to be found by the other. Secondly, this value and then is integrated into one’s previously held values. Third is the resultant expansion in the individual or group of what is to be valued. This occurs because the integration of the values of the other has now modified my own valuing in such a manner as to take into account the newer values. Fourth, such transformed valuing leads to a widening community whereby our values no longer clash but can support and mutually enhance one another since they are now sensitive to the experiences and values of the other. [vii]

This is the basic four-fold structure that Wieman developed in the 1930s and which would come to serve as the basis for his work on the question of value, the resolution of conflict, and of theism. In The Source of Human Good, Wieman works out how meaning can be understood given this structure. First there is an emerging awareness of meaning to be derived from the other. Second there is integration of old meanings with the new. Third there is an enlargement of the world one experiences because of the new meanings which now form it. Fourth, there is a widening of community because there are now common meanings to be had and shared. [viii]

What is key, regardless of what is evaluated within this structure, is the way that the interaction of the other and the receiving of experience, meaning, knowledge, and value from the other is appreciatively understood and creatively integrated into one’s self in a way that transforms my previous appreciable world. The role of integration is central to the transformative power of creativity. Our success or failure at the process of such integration determines whether the interaction in question can be said to have been marked by creativity.

Integration happens when one’s values, in interaction with other people’s values, are so modified that they are able to sustain and enhance the values of both the self and the other. A value for Wieman could be a liking or interest or goal seeking activity.

“If I can come to recognize as worthy particular values through conversation with those in opposition, then I can open myself up to having my values modified through the conversation. My modified values now seek to take into account the other person’s values in my assessment. And the other’s valuations are likewise modified in relation to the reception of my values. It is in that context that our activities may be in a position to enhance each other’s values and perhaps provide a basis for working ourselves through the conflict in a manner which does not do violence against certain values.” [ix]

What is important is that this growth should not be understood as simply a compromise, meeting each other half way. The result may look like this, but what needs to transpire, which is not always the case with compromise, is a genuine valuing of what the other values, seeing the world through the eyes of the other in a way that transforms my own way of seeing the world. The goal is to integrate with one’s previously held values ways of seeing the world, such that both sides can come up with a solution inclusive of both values which are felt to be such by both parties. [x]

Of course it is not always the case that every interaction can be marked by [Creative Interchange]. Some ingredients need to come into play, in the interaction of two people or two groups if the interaction can be marked by [Creative Interchange].. Both sides must be committed to having their own valuations transformed in the interaction. If one is committed to retaining one’s own views without modification and one holds firm to such a goal, then no transformation can take place. If one side is transformed and the other is not, the ability for both to relate to each other in a constructive way breaks down. There is no deepening of community, the fourth element in a creative interaction. [xi]
Another limitation is due to the kind of values that are in conflict. One might have the value of racial purity. Such a value, because of its very make up precludes it from linking up with other values across a broad range of different peoples in a way that mutually enhances others and their values. In such a situation, the best way that the activities of people can be constructive is when such a value is no longer under consideration.

There are certain values which cannot connect up with and support other values. But one should not seek ignorance of the values found in such groups. One should seek to understand, even if it is to reject, such values in the ongoing activities one engages in. To take note of a value, even negatively, is to have widened one’s appreciable world because the world has to includes the recognition of the existence and impact of such a value. [xii]

In this understanding, the values of one group could link up with another group but they may not be inclusive enough to link up with the wider world. Too much of the world, too many events, experiences, factors, are not being included which would allow these values to connect with a wider set of values. The question is whether groups that have marked differences can be included, that is, can our valuings include a much wider range of differences?

The goal, for Wieman, is the widest number of values and goods being held together in such a fashion as to mutually enhance and sustain one another. As he writes “Human existence is better to the degree that all goal-seeking activities are brought into relations of mutual support across the widest ranges of diversity to form an expanding system of activities when this system is so symbolized so that the individual participant can be conscious of the values of it.” [xiii]

When creativity dominates such interactions with the other, there ideally should be an expansion of what is known, what can be controlled, a greater ability to distinguish good and evil in a situation, and a larger awareness of one’s self and others. These four elements working together provide the basis for living together but if some of the elements are not there, then havoc can be the result. [xiv]

But this becomes a source of tension within Wieman’s vision. There need to be differences sufficient to challenge our valuings, beliefs, experiences, so that we are moved to modify them in our interactions with others. Thus our world can be enlarged. But the changes required need to be in a position to be integrated with our previous experiences, taking account of our past such that the sense of self does not dissolve but is enlarged. It calls for openness to difference and a commitment to integrate this into a self, which can be held together meaningfully.

If the differences are not sufficient, we find our beliefs and ways of experiencing the world alwas re-enforced, a sort of herd mentality can grow even if there is interaction with other groups, as long as these groups re-enforce our sense of the world instead of challenge it. But if the differences are so stark that they cannot be integrated with our previous self, they fail in influencing, challenging, or expanding us. The goal is to have as much diversity as possible in a way which can be connected with, and integrated with others in a given community.

This becomes the basis for the critique of both the local option and forced singular positions, in that one allows for differences to develop in a manner which does not affect or expand the other while the second option seeks to squash differences all together.

_______________________________________________________________________

[i] Henry Nelson Wieman, Religious Inquiry, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1968), 23.

[ii] Henry Nelson Wieman, Now We Must Choose, (New York: Macmillan Press, 1941), 63.

[iii] Henry Nelson Wieman, The Source of Human Good, (Carbondale, IL: SIU Press, 1946), 24.

[iv] Henry Nelson Wieman, The Source of Human Good, op. cit. 27.

[v] Henry Nelson Wieman, Religious Inquiry, op. cit. 17.

[vi] Henry Nelson Wieman, Now We Must Choose, op. cit. 40.

[vii] Henry Nelson Wieman, Religious Inquiry, op. cit. 22.

[viii] Henry Nelson Wieman, The Source of Human Good, 58.

[ix] Henry Nelson Wieman, Religious Inquiry, 15.

[x] Henry Nelson Wieman, Now We Must Choose, 38.

[xi] Henry Nelson Wieman, Religious Inquiry, 15.

[xii] Henry Nelson Wieman, Ibid, 15.

[xiii] Henry Nelson Wieman, Ibid, 15.

[xiv] Henry Nelson Wieman, Intellectual Foundations of Faith, (NY: Philosophic Library, 1961), 7.

 

Creative Interchange as Paradigm

 An important element in Wieman’s view on Creative Interchange is the distinction between “created good” and “Creative Good.” Created good is all that is the result of past operation of Creative Good (i.e. Creative Interchange): objects, ideas, actions and alike. Creative Good or Creative Interchange is that process by which we move beyond currently existing created goods toward a deeper insight and moral commitment. I have edited the following for gender neutral language, of which I am sure Wieman would approve.

“All the indications of maturity sum up to the first of them:  Putting one’s selfand all that one can command under the supreme control of what generates allvalue and not under the supreme control of any good that has, to date, beencreated in existence or envisioned in the mind.  Mature people find their ultimatesecurity and stability not in any created good and not in any vision of ideal possibilities but solely in that creativity which transforms the mind of the individual, the world relative to their mind, and all their community with other people…Thus, to reject every basis for ultimate security and stability other than the creative process itself is to meet the final test of maturity.”[i]

Thus Wieman called for – half a century ago (!) – leaving the old Command & Control paradigm, with its illusions ‘security’ and ‘stability’, and to choose for the new Creative Interchange paradigm. Creative Interchange – that can be lived from within but not controlled – is the creative process that will lead to a new Mindset, where embracing ambiguity and trusting the process are the new security and stability.

For Wieman Creative Interchange encourages people to sacrifice existing created good for the sake of newly emerging good. The Creative Interchange beliefs and practices encourage openness to and trust in transformation and the letting go of the present order of the self and society. In other words, people who live Creative Interchange from within are open to being changed by a power greater than themselves; a power that transforms human life in ways that could not be planned or controlled. Creative Interchange may lessen the hold of fear and desire, diminish the tendency to cling to the present beliefs, suppositions and mental model and inculcate trust in the process of growth and transformation. Creative Interchange is the answer to W. Edwards Deming ‘s command: Drive Out Fear (point #8 of Deming’s Way ‘Out of the Crisis’)[ii].

For Wieman, the greatest barrier to emergence of the new is the convulsive clinging to present beliefs, values, and habits giving them the loyalty and commitment that should be given to the Creative Good. Wieman’s central theme is self-commitment to growth and transformation through Creative Interchange. The Creative Interchange process transforms human life toward the Greatest Human Good.[iii]

Creative Interchange changes the mind in ways that the mind cannot do this by itself. The challenge of life is not to realize goods that we can now imagine but to undergo a change in consciousness in which there will arise possibilities of value that we cannot imagine on basis of our present awareness. This transformation of the mindset cannot be imagined before it arises and therefor cannot be planned or controlled, neither from the outside nor from the inside. One must cultivate a willingness to set aside present held values and open oneself to a creativity that leads the mind toward a wider awareness and a new consciousness. The human task is not to contrive a better form of living based on present understanding but rather to set the conditions under which creative interchange may operate to expand our awareness. The good of human life increases, as the mind becomes a more richly interconnected network of meanings.

Creative Interchange is a Paradigm since it needs a ‘Shift of Mind’ in order to see ‘the world anew’. The essence of the discipline Creative Interchange lies in a mind shift:

  • Embracing interdependence rather than dependence or independence;
  • Living the process of transformation rather than the process that leads to personal stress and organizational mediocrity.

 

The conditions for Creative Interchange to thrive

The concept of creative interchange makes it possible to study the conditions necessary for the occurrence of creative transformation toward greater good. Wieman started this study and found that the conditions for creative communication, the first characteristic of Creative Interchange, include honesty and authenticity in expressing our particular way of seeing reality. He also found that those involved in Creative Interchange must not cling to or insist upon the keeping of their present patterns of interpretation. In other words, they must not cling to their ‘truth’. Not only one must be open to express ‘his truth’, one must be open this ‘truth’ being changed by new insights. Not only one has to trust the other involved in Creative Interchange, one has the have trust in the process of creative transformation.

Charlie Palmgren took the challenge of continuing the search for the conditions necessary for Creative Interchange to thrive. His first contribution was to make the barriers within ourselves to Creative Interchange visible by discovering the counter productive process: the Vicious Circle. The Vicious Circle is Palmgren’s view of how humans become disconnected from their innate Worth. He believes that human worth is the capacity to participate in transforming creativity. Worth is innate! Worth is the innate need for creative transformation. He drives home his point clearly:

“Our need for creative transformation is to our psychological and spiritual survival what oxygen, water, food, exercise, and sleep are to physical well-being.”[iv]

Charlie helped me to understand that Creative Interchange (CI) is innate and the Vicious Circle (VC) is induced by conditioning, parenting and education. Both are processes that are more or less a reality in every one’s life. If the one is operating at full speed the other is slowed down. Thanks to my daughter, Daphne, I use following ‘gear’ metaphor:

If more energy is given to Creative Interchange the (right) CI gear drives the (left) VC gear anti-clockwise till one is re-connected with his Worth and thus with his capacity to participate in transforming creativity. The more you live Creative Interchange from within, the more you recognize your Worth and the more you are able to live Creative Interchange from within. This is a reinforcing process towards the Greatest Good.

If more energy is given to the Vicious Circle the VC gear drives the CI gear anti-clockwise till one is not expressing himself authentically any more and loses his capacity to participate in transforming creativity. This is in fact (another) reinforcing process that Peter Senge in his bestseller ‘The Fifth Discipline’ not surprisingly calls the ‘Vicious Cycle’ [v] towards the defending of the actual created good and thus resistance to transforming creativity or Creative Good.

 

Creative Interchange is a kind of dialogue

This dialogue begins with the candid expression (communication) by the ‘sender’ of one’s unique, personal perspective, which goes beyond the superficiality of much conversation. This perspective needs to be expressed without the desire to impress or to manipulate the other. Since those elicit a defensive or rejecting response.

The ‘receiver’ of the message must be free of self-preoccupation and not project interpretations or feelings onto what is said. In addition, the receiver does not cling to the present state of self (the ‘created self’) and is open to change, to transformation. He understands the message appreciatively (appreciation). The Authentic Interaction and Appreciative Understanding characteristics of the Creative Interchange process create in this dialogue a new insight and a new common meaning.

This new meaning or insight is then integrated into the mind, and this addition of a new perspective or pattern of interpretation leads to a novel mind (imagination) and if sustained through action (transformation) the process creates a new enlarged mindset which increases what the sender and receiver can know, feel, imagine and control.

In his poem ‘Revelation’[vi] Robert Frost talks about people that don’t live Creative Interchange being stuck in their Vicious Circle:

We make ourselves a place apart
Behind light words that tease and flout,
But oh, the agitated heart
Till someone find us really out.

‘Tis pity if the case require
(Or so we say) that in the end
We speak the literal to inspire
The understanding of a friend.

But so with all, from babes that play
At hide-and-seek to God afar,
So all who hide too well away
Must speak and tell us where they are.

Let’s analyze this poem:

Frost paints the picture that people who don’t interact authentically who they really are disguise their true image with lies or “light words that tease”. This far from authentic interaction (communication) tend to decieve, or tease. He goes on to say that “But, oh, the agitated hear, till someone really finds us out.” In this phrase he is basically saying, people tend to believe your story, they appreciatively understand (appreciation) it, … until they find out otherwise through other facts. If that’s the case, the liar mostly loses alot of respect.

In the second stanza, Frost also says, “We speak the literal to inspire, the understanding of a friend.” This further defines Frost’s point of lying to make some one think that you are something you are not.

But after all of the deception and lying, in the end of the poem, Frost wants to the reader to “see the light”. He says, “So all who hide to well away, must speak and tell us where they are.”

Frost’s message is, don’t make it seem like you are something you’re not. Just be you. The real you, the Original Self or Creative Self (the one who “hides too well away”) must come out in Authentic Interaction. The created self must stop lying, and speak form the Original or creative self. In Frost’s words: the “inner you” must speak and tell us where he or she is.

So genuine dialogue the Creative Interchange way starts with Authentic Interaction, which I’ve called in my book ‘Cruciale dialogen’[vii] Communication. The second phase is Appreciation of what’s being said. In dialogue we form a ‘common meaning’ about the question, the topic at hand. And from this place the right part of the model leads to action: Imagination, choice and Transformation.


______________________________________________________

[i] Henry Nelson Wieman, The Source of Human Good, Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1964 (2nd printing 1967), p. 101.

[ii] W. Edwards Deming, Out of the Crisis, Cambridge, Mass. MIT, Center of Advanced Engineering Study, 1983.

[iii] Johan Roels, Creative Interchange and the Greatest Human Good, https://www.slideshare.net/johanroels33/essay-creative-interchange-and-the-greatest-human-good

[iv] Stacie Hagan and Charlie Palmgren, The Chicken Conspiracy: Breaking The Cycle of Personal Stress and Organizational Mediocrity. Baltimore, MA: Recovery Communications, Inc. 1998. p. 21.

[v] Peter M. Senge, The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization. New York NY: A Currency Book, Doubleday, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. 1990. p. 81.

[vi] Robert Frost, A boy’s will. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1915. Poem #21.

[vii] Roels Johan, Cruciale dialogen. Het dagelijks beleven van ‘creatieve wisselwerking’. Antwerpen-Apeldoorn: Garant, 2012.

 

Introduction

 The first time I heard about the living process I was born with was mid October 1992 in Atlanta (US). Not that it is of any direct importance, it happened during the week of the first baseball World Series in which games were played outside the United States. It pitted the American League (AL) champion, Toronto Blue Jays, against the National League (NL), champion Atlanta Braves. During that exceptional week I learned more about the Creative Interchange process than about the baseball game and I still remember those experiences as if they happened yesterday: both were great fun and a proof the Creative Interchange is a living process!

I happened to be in Atlanta for an ODR’s certification MOC® course level II. ODR’s CEO Daryl Conner, what I’d expected, did not run this course. Sharp on time another fellow stumbled into the Olton room of Atlanta’s Swissotel: he presented, and at the same time excused himself for, his bruised appearance (he fell the day before while running down his favorite hill ‘Stone Mountain’). I’ll never forget his opening phrase: “Our learning systems focus on what we got wrong, better approach is to look what was done right and to build on it the next day.” Officially it was a three day MOC® course. In what Charlie Palmgren taught us was extremely more deepness than what I’ve experienced during the three day Level III course run by Daryl Conner earlier that year. It took me some time to appreciatively understand that Charlie smuggled into the ODR course a basic introduction of Creative Interchange. And there was more, during the presentation of the ODR part around FOR (Frame of Reference) Charlie presented his own Vicious Circle, the process that hinders Creative Interchange.

At that course there were five participants: two ODR junior consultants and three ‘foreigners’. Those three stuck together for evening meals, to talk about what we’ve learned (for instance regarding Charlie’s one liners as “Culture teach us hypocrisy”) and to watch in the restaurant baseball games of the Atlanta Braves vs Toronto Blue Jays. One our company of three was a Canadian lady from Toronto and the other two European gents (A Dutch KPMG fellow and myself). Needless to say that we acted during those evenings as Blue Jay fans in the hometown of the Braves. Although I learned a lot during that unforgettable week about Baseball game rules, it was Creative Interchange that impressed me most.

A year later I found out that Charlie had been the ghostwriter of a chapter of Daryl Conner’s bestseller ‘Managing at the speed of Change’[i]: Chapter 12: The Synergistic Process. ICharlie called the Creative Interchange process in those years the Synergistic Process, although, off the record, as in the course in Swisotell, he called it by its genuine name: Creative Interchange.

I became a follower of Charlie Palmgren in 1994 and learned more about Creative Interchange and slowly started to live it. 

 

Creative Interchange

For Henry Nelson Wieman (Charlie’s Palmgren’s mentor), creative interchange is an experience, the kind of experience that transforms us in ways in which we cannot transform ourselves. According to him, creative interchange is the experience of spontaneous human-heartedness and human-thoughtfulness that opens us to an increasingly widened and deepened appreciation and understanding of ourselves as individual persons and of all other persons we encounter.

Ordinarily, the experience of most of us is dominated by the concerns of survival and security. This survival-security orientation easily minimizes creative Interchange between people since it is an orientation fed by the Vicious Circle[ii]. In fact, the harder we try to live within our Vicious Circle, the more intolerable life becomes. Charlie Palmgren has described the obstacles to Creative Interchange brilliantly in ‘The Chicken Conspiracy’. His mentor, Henry Nelson Wieman emphasizes, in his book, Man’s Ultimate Commitment, the obstacles as:

“These barriers to creative interchange are not only internal to the individual. They are also social. Barriers are built into all our social institutions.”[iii]

The reality is that the experience of creative interchange is a somehow difficult to attain experience of individuals and societies. Wieman is calling for the experience of creative interchange as something more than an occasional interlude in our lives; he is calling for the experience of creative interchange as the nurturing matrix out of which we continuously build, correct, and rebuild our individual lives, our societies, and the one world to which we are inescapably connected:

“Creative Interchange is that kind of interchange which creates in those who engage in it an appreciative understanding of the original experience of one another. … Creative interchange has two aspects, which are two sides of the same thing. One aspect is the understanding in some measure of the original experience of the other person. The other aspect is the integration of what one gets form others in such a way as to create progressively the original experience, which is oneself.”[iv]

 

The Nurturing Matrix of Creative Interchange

Creative interchange is that kind of experience that confirms and assures us of our sense of individuality, both apart from and in connections with other human beings. Human nature needs more than anything else if it is to be satisfied in the deepest and most far reaching ways.

Creative Interchange is not limited to the acquisition of information alone. “Creative communication in its most complete form can be described thus:

You express your whole sefl and your entire mind freely and fully and deeply an truly to the other persons who understand you most completely and appreciatively with joy in what you are as so expressed, and you yourself respond to others who express themselves freely and fully and deeply and truly while you understand them most completely and appreciatively with joy in the spirits they are.”[v]

This way, Creative communication encompasses two of the characteristics of Creative Interchange: Authentic Interacting and Appreciative Understanding. For Wieman this kind of free, full, deep and true expression between two persons is always experienced in the form of events. For him the fundamental experience of creative interchange, which is the most precious good in our lives, is rooted in events. Event, in his understanding, means passage, disclosure and growth. The Original Self emerges in a series of events, free and full of dynamic possibilities for insight, joy and constructive action. I envision this emerging as follows:

 

Creative interchange then is an ongoing series of events in the lives of people, transforming them in the direction of the greater good, as they cannot transform themselves. To Wieman “Transformation can occur only in the form of events.”[vi] Perhaps his most famous description of those events in connection with Creative Interchange is in chapter 3 “Creative Good” of ‘The Source of Human Good’. In that chapter he analyzes Creative Interchange into four subevents of emerging awareness, integrating meanings, expanding richness of quality in the appreciable world, and deepening community. His summary statement on these subevents is:

“The four subevents are: emerging awareness of qualitative meaning derived from other persons through communication [Authentic Interaction]; integrating these new meanings with others previously acquired [Appreciative Understanding]; expanding the richness of quality in the appreciable world by enlarging its meaning [Creative Integrating]; deepening the community among those who participate in this total creative event [Creative Interchange] of intercommunication [Crucial Dialogue].”[vii]

It has be underlined that those four subevents, or characteristics as Charlie Palmgren calls them, or phases as I has called them in ‘Crucial dialogues’ (one of the applications of Creative interchange), are working together and not any one of them working apart from the others constitute Creative interchange. Each may occur without the others, and often does and that’s ok. In that case though it is not creative interchange. The four can be distinguished and together they constitute creative interchange.

I described those subevents one by one in my books – ‘Creatieve wisselwerking’ as characteristics & ‘Cruciale dialogen’ as phases- and many articles. Mostly even as a ‘logic chain of events’. I made nevertheless clear that distinctions made for the purpose of analysis and understanding should not obscure the unitary and complexity of the four-fold combination necessary to Creative Interchange.

The experience of creative interchange is in itself an event with different dimensions. At its best it is the always moving, free, unplanned emerging, understanding, feeling, integrating, expanding and deepening qualities in our lives. It is our way of being in the world (and not of the world) with openness to new insights, new experiences and trusting new relationships. Through this living creative interchange from within we are able to think, feel, and act based on our core values and core qualities; we are willing and eager to be corrected, transformed and enriched by the novel possibilities inherent in shared experience.

Through Creative Interchange we have relational power. By this I mean the ability to affect others and to be affected by them. Relational power is opposed of unilateral power as Creative Interchange is opposed to the Vicious Circle. Unilateral power grows out of the dominant desire for survival, security and domination towards others and is the fruit of the Vicious Circle. Relational power nurtures a particular kind of human development and, if at work in Organizations, a particular kind of Organizational development. The secret of relational power lies in its capacity to enable people to meet one another with a basic openness of heart, mind and will, thereby rendering the progressively yielding, whenever appropriate, their most treasured and cherished beliefs and even values. Creative Interchange is the expression of relational power and, as such, is the experience of self-correction. From the perspective of Creative Interchange as relational power, we are open and expect to be transformed in the direction of the greatest good, i.e. our Original Self, as we meet others in moments of genuine dialogue. From Wieman’s point of view, any amount of knowledge, beliefs and values is fallible, and the insistence upon them as absolutely true and final is a direct blockage of the exercise of relational power, and thereby weakens the possibilities of Creative Interchange.

Creative Interchange is a self-corrective experience, and as such it is the unending experience of emerging, understanding, feeling, integrating/expanding and deepening. Therefor I use as ‘image’ of Creative Interchange the Lemniscate, which is the infinite symbol. In Wieman’s words:

“Every value pursued in modern life can become demonic – beauty, truth, morality alike – if and when it excludes the demands of creative good in the name of the false finality of what has been created.”[viii]

Charles Palmgren calls this the false finality of the created self. From Wieman and Palmgren’s frame of reference, any and every finality is false, and it is finality in its many forms that blocks and sometimes kills altogether this life enhancing self-corrective experience of Creative Interchange. Wieman makes this point extremely clear when he emphasizes that:

“At the ultimate level of commitment one commits [oneself] to the actuality, holding [one’s] beliefs about it subject to correction because [one] knows that [one’s] knowledge false short of omniscience.”[ix]

Palmgren makes his observations most forcibly when he points out that:

“Most people are just scared to death to ask them [the crucial questions regarding their created self]. For if we ask them, we may discover that we were wrong. Being wrong means being inadequate, and being inadequate means putting our worth on the line. The vicious circle plays itself out so strongly in the lives of many people that they won’t even let themselves think about ideas, ask questions, or expose topics that are beyond their current demands and expectations [i.e. their current mindset].”[x]

Those two quotes emphasize the duality between creative interchange and the vicious circle.

Our primary commitment must be to Creative Interchange, for Creative Interchange and Creative Interchange alone can transform us in ways we cannot transform ourselves. We must seek to imbed Creative Interchange into the center of all of our experiences, as the guiding principle for all that we think, express, understand, feel, imagine, decide and do in our lives. In order to do this we must abandon many of our habits, fruits of our personal Vicious Circle, thus much of our mindsets. This seems and is a very simple proposition, but like other simple propositions, we – curiously enough – have the greatest difficulty to successfully adopt it.

 

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

[i] Daryl R. Conner, Managing at the speed of Change. How resilient Managers Succed and Prosper Where Others Fail. New York: Villard Books, 1993, pp. 200-215.

[ii] Stacie Hagan and Charlie Palmgren, The Chicken Conspiracy, Breaking The Cycle of Personal Stress and Organizational Mediocrity. Baltimore, MA: Recovery Communications, Inc. 1998.

[iii] Henry Nelson Wieman, Man’s Ultimate Commitment, Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America ®, Inc. Reprint, Originally published: Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, , 1958, p. 53.

[iv] Ibid. p. 22.

[v] Ibid. p. 23.

[vi] Henry Nelson Wieman, “Intelectual Autobiography,” in The Emperical Theology of Henry Nelson Wieamn, edited by Robert W. Bretall, The Library of Living Theology, New York: Macmillan, 1963, p. 3 & http://urantiabook.org/sources/wieman_autobiography.htm

[vii] Henry Nelson Wieman, The Source of Human Good, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1946, p. 58.

[viii] Ibid. p. 25.

[ix] Henry Nelson Wieman, “Commitment for Theological Inquiry,” in Seeking a Faith for a New Age, edited and introduced by Cedric L. Hepler. New Jersey: The Scarcrow Press, 1975. p. 145.

[x] Stacie Hagan and Charlie Palmgren, The Chicken Conspiracy, Breaking The Cycle of Personal Stress and Organizational Mediocrity. Baltimore, MA: Recovery Communications, Inc. 1998. pp. 105-106.

 

In his book Man’s Ultimate Commitment Henry Nelson Wieman suggests that we have a need in our lives to achieve the infinite potentialities present in us at birth. In fact he stresses the importance of our commitment to a life-long process that enables us to live our lives to the fullest. In order to have the Greatest Human Good one has to commit to live Creative Interchange from within.

This special human interchange that Henry Nelson Wieman coined Creative Interchange is our ability to learn what others have learned, to appreciate what others appreciate, to feel what others feel, imagine what others imagine and to creatively integrate all this with what we have already acquired and form this way our true individuality. This creative interchange uniquely distinguishes the human mind from everything else.

You can see this beautiful process in action by watching the inquisitive behavior of any healthy young child (before the counter process, which Charlie Palmgren coined the Vicious Circle, sets in). We are all born with this ability (Creative Interchange); sadly we have lost so much (due to the Vicious Circle).

The Greatest Human Good is, according to Henry Nelson Wieman, not any state of existence or any realm beyond this world, it is the most complete transformation of the individual toward the qualities that life can yield and the fullest development of her/his humanity.

Because the Greatest Human Good must come from within ourselves and how we relate to each other we are pilgrims to the continuous improvement of this world. The Greatest Human Good is to undergo this creative transformation that enables us to appreciate most profoundly everything appreciable.

At the heart of this creative human interchange is the free mutual authentic expression of self, one to the other, while understanding and appreciating each other. So, the individual’s capacity for appreciative understanding is integral to this process.

Ironically human interchange is necessary to develop this capacity and the relationships we develop with other people are always imperfect to some degree. From infancy on we observe a decline in honest and integer interaction. At the same time we observe a rise in human interchanges that are deceptive, manipulative, … thus far from being honest and integer. Henry Nelson Wieman called this forms of interchange ‘evasive’ ones and those deaden our abilities to represent ourselves authentically and appreciatively understand the other. Charles Leroy Palmgren, who’s mentor was Henry Nelson, pointed rightly out that this evasiveness is a spin-off of a counter productive process he coined as the Vicious Circle. In fact, even our social institutions and our economical organizations are undermining our ability to creatively interchange with each other, since the Vicious Circle is omnipresent in these communities.

In these series, based on Man’s Ultimate Commitment[i], The Chicken Conspiracy[ii], Creatieve Wisselwerking[iii], The Greatest Good[iv], Ascent of the Eagle[v] and Cruciale dialogen[vi] we will discuss how creative interchange is a personal commitment; a commitment to direction rather than drift; a commitment to openness and to agility rather than closeness and rigidity; a commitment to a more comprehensive purpose, to a more inclusive understanding; a commitment to an abundance of creativity and more control from the inside-out (rather than from the outside-in) over the conditions of our existence.

By Creative Interchange Henry Nelson Wieman meant two things: (1) an authentic human dialogue that creates appreciative understanding of our unique individualities, and (2) the progressive integration within each of us what we discover from each other in this way.[vii]

Henry Nelson Wieman described Creative Interchange sometimes as having those two features and at other times as a four-fold process. Actually both are true. Each Feature has two aspects. Authentic Interacting leads to Appreciative Understanding, since the interaction involves both: sharing and appreciative understanding. Progressive integration involves both: creative integrating of what was appreciatively understood and transformation of the interacting parties. Creative interchange can be viewed as following four-fold process: Authentic Interacting, Appreciative Understanding, Creative Integrating and Continual Transformation. I’m always using the Lemniscate of Bernoulli tot picture the Creative Interchange process (and its application ‘Crucial dialogues), since the Lemniscate is the sign of infinity.

 

 

Authentic Interacting means sharing with integrity the best one knows and listening with humility to learn the best others know. Appreciative understanding is more than simply understanding ideas, facts and viewpoints of others (which is done during the interaction). Central to the concept of Appreciative Understanding is appreciation of the meaning those ideas have for the person sharing them. The meaning of ideas and facts depend very much on the mental model (mindset, frame of reference) from which they are viewed. Appreciative understanding respects the viewpoint of others. It assumes there is more than one way to look at reality and that each perspective provides some originality to see the ‘truth’. In dialogue, appreciatively understanding of each other’s views can lead to a common meaning, a common way to see the ‘truth’. The Creative Integrating aspect of the creative interchange process means that the interacting parties are changed in ways that strengthens who they were meant to be as individuals. The Continual Transformation aspect of Creative Interchange is continual transforming of oneself through the learning process Creative Interchange. For Henry Nelson Wieman this meant that we could learn form one another’s successes as well as each other’s failures. Both forms of learning have a continual transforming impact on us.

The following parts of this series discuss sources of obstruction of Creative Interchange (Part 2); the role of trust, reason, curiosity, imagination and freedom in our relationships (Part 3); the required conditions that enable the Creative Interchange process to flourish (Part 4); and our journey of transformation and commitment living Creative Interchange from within (Part 5).

______________________________________________________________________

[i] Wieman, Henry Nelson. Man’s Ultimate Commitment. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1991.

[ii] Hagan, Stacie and Palmgren Charlie. The Chicken Conspiracy. Breaking the Cycle of Personal Stress and Organizational Mediocrity. Baltimore MD: Recovery Communications, Inc., 1999

[iii] Roels, Johan. Creatieve wisselwerking. Nieuw business paradigma als hoeksteen van veiligheidszorg en de lerende organisatie. Leuven-Apeldoorn: Garant, 2001

[iv] Palmgren, Charlie and Petrarca, William. The Greatest Good. Rethinking the role of relationships in the moral fiber of our companies and our communities. Victoria, Canada. Trafford Publishing, 2002.

[v] Palmgren, Charlie. Ascent of the Eagle. Being and Becoming your Best. Dayton, OH: Innovative InterChange Press, 2008

[vi] Roels, Johan. Cruciale dialogen. Het dagelijks beleven van creatieve wisselwerking. Antwerpen-Apeldoorn: Garant 2012.

[vii] Wieman, Henry Nelson, op cit. p. 305

 

 Het laatste deel van deze serie is uiteraard gewijd aan het sterk weer doorgaan. We zijn opgestaan en hebben verschillende opties voor het doorgaan gecreëerd en overwogen. Die verschillende opties kunnen gezien worden als besluiten. Besluiten betekent niet hetzelfde als beslissen, hoewel de twee begrippen soms (verkeerdelijk) als synoniemen door elkaar gebruikt worden. Besluiten is afwegingen maken, grondig over alternatieven nadenken en tot besluit een keuze maken. Beslissen legt de nadruk op het vastleggen van een afspraak, een antwoord gevend op de vragen serie betreffende het gekozen besluit: “Wie, doet wat, waar en wanneer?”

Het onderscheid tussen besluiten en beslissen zie je aan de gemoedsgesteldheid van diegenen die het ‘passieve’ gedeelte van de cruciale dialoog afronden. Na een besluit is er geen creatiespanning. Er werd namelijk niet beslist iets daadwerkelijk te doen. Je kunt nu eenmaal niet aangesproken worden op wat er besloten is. Gezien er niets beslist is, heeft niemand zich tot iets verbonden. Wanneer er een beslissing wordt genomen en deze bovendien wordt vastgelegd dan is er verantwoordelijkheid genomen. Er zal dus iets dienen te gebeuren, waardoor de creatiespanning wel aanwezig is. Indien ik in het kader van het ‘sterk-weer-doorgaan’ proces bovendien anderen van m’n beslissing op de hoogte breng, weet ik bovendien dat ik op mijn verantwoordelijkheid om mijn beloftes waar te maken, kan aangesproken worden. Dit is ook de raad die ik meegeef. Zorg, tijdens jouw persoonlijk ‘sterk-weer-doorgaan’ proces, ervoor dat mensen om je heen, die je dierbaar zijn, op de hoogte zijn van je beslissing opdat ze jou door eerlijke feedback zouden kunnen coachen.

Dit deel gaat over doorgaan door het effectief nakomen van de beloftes die je aan jezelf hebt gemaakt. Ik noem het ook transformatie omdat gedurende die fase ik mezelf transformeer. Ik groei naar een nieuwe ‘gecreëerde zelf’ met een nieuwe mindset. De oude mindset wordt losgelaten, indien we niet terug afglijden in oud stereotype gedrag. Deze transformatiefase vergt ook de meeste energie.

Men hoort tegenwoordig vaak dat de toekomst aan diegenen zijn die ‘wendbaar’ en ‘weerbaar’ zijn. Daarbij wordt het begrip wendbaar nogal eens ingewisseld voor het synoniem ‘Agile’. Agile is voor mij dan weer een synoniem voor Creatieve wisselwerking en iemand die het Creatief wisselwerkingsproces van binnen uit beleeft, is per definitie ook ‘resilient’ (weerbaar). Een wendbare persoon heeft geen ‘updates’ nodig want hij verbetert continu. Vandaar een van mijn favoriete slagzinnen: (CI)²= Continuous Improvement through Creative Interchange!

De transformatie is op de keper beschouwd een transformatie van de mindset.

Zien met nieuwe ogen is zien van uit een nieuw denkkader, van uit een nieuwe ‘mindset’ zou m’n derde vader Charlie Palmgren stellen. Diens mentor, Henry Nelson Wieman, zei ooit: “Creative Interchange is the process that changes the mind, since the mind cannot change itself.”

Beslissen betreft het omslagpunt tussen het opstaan en het doorgaan. Beslissen heeft te maken met kiezen van oplossingen uit de set die tijdens het vorige deel werd gecreëerd. Die zullen in de laatste fase ‘Transformatie’ effectief worden uitgevoerd.

Het omslagpunt kan gevisualiseerd worden met m’n Cruciale Dialoogmodel. Er bevindt zich als het ware een ‘staande’ lemniscaat in de ‘grote’ lemniscaat, die ik, in navolging van Lex Bos[i], gekozen heb als basisvorm voor het Cruciale Dialoogmodel. Het gaat als het ware om een dialoog rond de hamvraag “Welke van de mogelijke oplossingen kiezen we om daadwerkelijk uit te voeren?”. Deze ‘dialoog in de dialoog’, waarbij ook de voor de acties nodige middelen worden afgetoetst, dient de beslissing vooraf te gaan.

 

Stephen Covey schreef al meer dan twintig jaar geleden in zijn nog steeds actueel boek: ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’: “Begin met het einde voor ogen!”[ii] Die opdracht leidt naar de gegenereerde oplossingen, oplossingen die, met inzet van de daartoe nodige middelen, het gewenste doel, de gewenste toekomst creëren.

Ook schuilt er waarheid in mijn parafrase van de befaamde Edison quote: “Transformatie is voor 1% inspiratie en voor 99% transpiratie”. De originele quote heeft het over genialiteit. Je moet inderdaad geniaal zijn om een transformatie ‘within time and whitin budget’ tot een goed einde te brengen,.

Een ander belangrijk element ligt besloten in de paradox van Henry Nelson Wiemans’ ‘two fold commitment’. Enerzijds dient men ten volle voor de beslissing te gaan, met gedrevenheid en hardnekkigheid, dus niet versagen is de boodschap. Anderzijds dient met voortdurend open te staan om te leren wat de veranderlijke werkelijkheid te bieden heeft en dus durven te wijzigen (indien die werkelijkheid daar om vraagt).

Commitment en Intrinsieke Motivatie het gouden duo.

Inzet (commitment) is de bereidheid om alles te doen wat nodig is om de acties die je gekozen en beloofd hebt uit te voeren, ook daadwerkelijk te verwezenlijken. Het gaat om de bereidheid buiten je ‘comfortzone’ te gaan. Onvoorwaardelijke inzet dus.

Intrinsieke motivatie is de prikkel om te doen wat je beloofd hebt te doen. Het is de reden waarom je elke dag weer je bed uit komt en weer de handen aan de ploeg slaat.

Als je wel gemotiveerd bent, maar je hebt onvoldoende commitment, dan zal de transformatie niet succesvol zijn. Dan ben je iemand die wel de correcte droom heeft maar denkt dat het vanzelf komt of niet bereid is zich maximaal in te zetten. Hierdoor zal je vlug ontmoedigd worden en uiteindelijk niet succesvol zijn.

Als je wel de bereidheid heeft je maximaal in te zetten, maar heeft daar geen duidelijke reden toe (motivatie) dan zal je uiteindelijk ook niet effectief zijn. Beide, naast de passie voor het leven, zijn dus essentieel voor succesvolle transformatie.

Tenaciteit

Intrinsieke Motivatie en Commitment zijn de ingrediënten voor de basisconditie Tenaciteit. Tenaciteit betekent “het vasthoudend nastreven van wat wordt gewenst” en heeft als synoniemen vasthoudendheid, volharding en doorzettingsvermogen. Het is het volhoudend uitvoeren van het actieplan teneinde het gewenste te realiseren. Tenaciteit omvat ook het actieplan blijvend volgen totdat het beoogde doel bereikt is of ophoudt redelijkerwijze bereikbaar te zijn. Anders gesteld: het vasthouden aan een gekozen aanpak totdat het beoogde doel bereikt is en niet versagen op momenten van twijfel en ontgoocheling eigen aan verandering.

Belangrijk is ook dat het vasthoudend gedrag niet krampachtig en gesloten wordt, maar toegankelijk blijft voor verstandelijke beredenering en bovendien berust op een goed aanvoelen van de realiteit.

Endurance is patience concentrated.

Thomas Carlyle

Volharding is geconcentreerd geduld. Inderdaad, de kernkwaliteit ‘geduld’ is een noodzaak om te volharden in het verder bewandelen van de ingeslagen weg, totdat de realisatie van het beoogde een feit is. Ook mag niet uit het oog verloren worden dat elk veranderingsproces tijd vergt.

Geduldig uitvouwen van wat besloten werd, is de boodschap.

Understand that your success in life won’t be determined just by what’s given to you, or what happens to you, but by what you do with all that’s given to you; what you do with all that happens to you; how hard you try; how far you push yourself; how high you’re willing to reach. True excellence only comes to perseverance.

President Barack Obama (Remarks by the President at Kalamazoo Central High School Commencement, June 2010)

Vasthoudendheid mag echter geen koppigheid worden. Vasthoudendheid helt over naar koppigheid wanneer doorgezet wordt zonder dat men met de realiteit rekening houdt. Dan is men ook niet deskundig. Ook dat is tenaciteit: het blijven observeren van de veranderende werkelijkheid. Wanneer door het blijvend observeren van de werkelijkheid duidelijk wordt dat de gewenste realiteit op die manier onbereikbaar is of wanneer door nieuwe gegevens duidelijk wordt dat er betere oplossingen zijn, dient de aanpak grondig in vraag te worden gesteld.

Koppig volharden, wordt bijna altijd volharden in koppigheid.

Jean de Boisson (Pseudoniem van Cees Buddingh)

Interafhankelijkheid

De andere basisconditie van dit onderdeel in het ‘sterk-weer-opstaan’ proces is interafhankelijkheid. Voor de werkelijke uitvoering van onze beloftes om door te gaan zijn we afhankelijk van anderen. Er is sprake van een wederzijdse afhankelijkheid.

Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being.

Mahatma Gandhi

In Stephen Covey’s reeds geciteerde boek ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ wordt gesteld: Our objective is to move progressively on a maturity continuum from dependence to independence to interdependence. Although independence is the current paradigm of our society, we can accomplish much more by cooperation and specialization. However, we must achieve independence before we can choose interdependence.”

Stephen Covey geeft daarbij de volgende betekenissen:

  • Afhankelijkheid: Jij moet voor mij zorgen;
  • Onafhankelijkheid; Ik zorg (eerst) voor mezelf;
  • Interafhankelijkheid: Wij leren van elkaar en kunnen samen 
grootse dingen bereiken door synergetische samenwerking.

Na de beslissing start dus een ‘lange tocht’ die meestal niet vrijblijvend is. “When the Rubber meets the Road’ is een typisch Amerikaanse uitdrukking, die ik van Charlie Palmgren leerde. Zolang het besluit in de lucht hangt, ondervindt het relatief weinig hinder, uiteraard in de veronderstelling dat het niet uit de lucht wordt gescho- ten (cf. de afknalzinnen). Op het moment dat het ‘landt’ en dus een beslissing wordt, ontstaat een enorme wrijving, vergelijkbaar met de wrijving die de wielen van het landingsgestel ondervinden wanneer een vliegtuig na een vlucht opnieuw het tarmac raakt. Het moment dat men overgaat tot actie ondervindt de belofte plots grote hinder in zoverre dat veel beloftes uiteindelijk niet volledig gerealiseerd worden.

Vaardigheden

Om die beloftes tijdens deze ruwe tocht te beschermen, omvat deze fase naast de reeds vermelde basiscondities Tenaciteit of Vasthoudendheid en Interafhankelijkheid (i.e. van elkaar wederzijds afhankelijk zijn) en volgende vaardigheden:

  • Het blijvend Herhalen en Evalueren van de uitvoering van de beloofde activiteiten;
  • Vragen om Feedback (Positive Reinforcement en Corrigeren);
  • Durven Wijzigen (indien nodig);
  • Aandachtig beleven van het proces; het zó belangrijke 
Procesbewustzijn.

Door het effectief ‘doorgaan’ verandert – terwijl de wereld buiten ons niet ophoudt te veranderen – ook en vooral de wereld binnen ons. Dit is ook nodig volgens W. Edwards Deming. Deze kwaliteitsgoeroe verwoordde het zo: “Nothing changes without personal transformation”.

Personal transformation can and does have global effects.

As we go, so goes the world, for the world is us.

The revolution that will save the world is ultimately a personal one.

Marianne Williamson

Voor verdere beschrijving van de vaardigheden verwijs ik graag naar m’n boek ‘Cruciale dialogen’[iii]. Vooral het blijvend bewustzijn van het creatief wisselwerkingsproces tijdens de realisatie van de beloofde acties is van groot belang. We zijn ons binnen het procesbewustzijn er ook van bewust of wat we aan het doen zijn, gedaan wordt met de intentie en de gedragsvaardigheden van Creatieve Wisselwerking of dat we eerder handelen vanuit onze Vicieuze Cirkel. Blijvend verbonden zijn met het Creatief wisselwerkingsproces staat garant voor het uiteindelijk blijven doorgaan!

 

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[i] Bos, Alexander H. Oordeelsvorming in Groepen. Proefschrift Landbouwhogeschool Wageningen, H. Veenman & Zonen: Wageningen, 1974.

[ii] Covey, Stephen R. The seven habits of highly effective people, Fireside: New York, 1990. Habit 2, pp 95-144.

[iii] Roels, J., Cruciale dialogen. De dagelijkse beleving van het ‘Creatieve wisselwerking. Antwerpen – Apeldoorn: Garant, 2012.