presence and being


Church went well yesterday despite the slightly elevated anxiety levels in leaders and people. Anxiety always seems to go up in churches I work at during the high holy days. This presents a challenge for leaders to stay as non-anxious as they can. I felt like I did a pretty good job at this, but of course I’m not a primary leader just one who is working with music people… which can be a lot like herding cats.

Anyway, I felt pretty good about how I handled myself. In system thinking one can sort of see one’s life as intersecting circles: work, church, nuclear family, family of origin just to name a few. I was differentiated pretty well in my church/work circle yesterday. Eileen and I seemed to be doing pretty well as a couple. I shouldn’t have been surprised then when my Mom suddenly refused to go to her doctor’s appointment today.

But I was. I’m not proud to say that I reacted to her in an angry way. She seemed  to silently acquiesce in the face of my asking her what in the world she meant by this. I’m expecting her to be ready to go this afternoon when Eileen and I stop by to pick her up.

Nevertheless this felt like a “fail” for me.

It reminded me that of Friedman’s maxim about systems: “When things are going well, watch out.” I wish that I had been able to maintain the calm I managed all morning during the Palm Sunday service.

The morning at church went so well that I mentioned to Eileen that I had recently read the quote from the movie, “Little Big Man,” “Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn’t” or something like that. I said that the “magic” had worked that morning. Despite some interesting difficulties I managed to help the choir sound good on the anthem.

However, in the afternoon in my Mom’s apartment at the nursing home, the “magic” didn’t work. Dang.

I reread this in Friedman this morning and take it to heart.

The way out [of emotional and conceptual ruts] requires shifting our orientation to the way we think about relationships from one that focuses on techniques that motivate others to one that focuses on [our own] presence and being.

Why Reconstruction Matters –

Interesting use of history to understand the present. I always like that stuff!

John Renbourn, 70, Eclectic Guitarist Who Founded the Pentangle, Dies – NYTime

“Another man done gone.”

societal regression? food for thought



I have been thinking a lot about the ideas of Ed Friedman lately.

I purchased his last incomplete book in its 1999 “edited manuscript” version  published a few years after his death. Then, a later version came out in 2007. Here is a pic of my two copies of this book, both of which I have read and studied.


Yesterday I was wondering what he would make of the hyper anxiety and stuckness of our society almost twenty years after his death. Also I think I am watching the emotional system at my job unravel a bit.

In his theory, Friedman defines emotions not as feelings but as the basic instinctual responses built into the lizard part of our brains. He loves to pull his metaphors or wisdom from natural science. He compares the persistence of multi-generational emotional patterns to the way trees regenerate year after year.

“Persistence of form” or “power of the past” are two names Friedman uses for this phenomenon. “Trees teach us … the the connection between generations of living things is more like an infinitely-long collapsing telescope in which each generation to some extent overlaps the next, thereby contributing in a significant way to its form and shape. This understanding of the connection between generations in this way can be very useful for leaders.”

It’s important to understand that unlike most self-help books, Friedman is defining leadership much broader than business or politics to include parents, teachers, spouses, and almost any human as they live their lives seeking integrity.

When we try to fix problems in our situation, we often resort to changes that can be described as technical, administrative, or managerial, Friedman says. He points out that these activities are most of what “advice” consists of…. Rogerian listening says that when we advise others we are often blocking them from their own insights.

“Unless structural changes are accompanied by changes in an institution’s multigenerational emotional processes, they will almost always regress.”

This quote from Friedman seems to me to apply to my church’s situation as well as the society at large. We are in full scale regression and we constantly “adapt to our most immature members” in Friedman’s language.

This adaptation looks like this: “the widespread triumph of data over maturity, technique over stamina, and empathy over personal responsibility.“ 

Instead family system thinking emphasizes strength, not pathology, challenge not comfort, self-differentiation not herding for togetherness.

[All the ideas and quotes come from Friedman, I have added the emphasis]

China’s Fear of Women With Pamphlets – NYT

Speaking of stuckness.

Tomas Transtromer, Nobel-Winning Poet, Dies at 83 –

Transtromer seems to have been an important Swedish poet and leader. I’ve never heard of him, but will definitely look up some of his work.

Which Companies Are Buying the Election? –

Our government continues to keep secret its funding from the public. Sick stuff.


It was with relief that I found this online yesterday. I still maintain that this kind of focus is not healthy for our society. Not sure exactly how it should be done but judging from the hysterical comments I read on Facebooger, we are a mess.

Mother-Daughter Duo’s Photo Project Features 5-Year-Old as Iconic Black Women

Speaking of child focus, I’m ambivalent about this project. I love the idea that the child is dressing up as historical figures. But I wonder about the stage parent disease aspect of the deal.