Saturday, December 18, 2010

Love and the Law - Celebrating Mothers!

As we near the holidays, wish each other well, think a little more about giving and sacrifice, and the passage that the new year will bring, it seems appropriate to think back to when and where it all began - our mothers. We were all formed in the womb of her care (along the spectrum that that special care can connote for each of us, of course). The significance of those nine months and the birthing process is immeasurable; the later bonds created and dependence established - unfathomably formative of all other relationships; the further un/reliability exponentially impressed into personality, into the sense of in/security each of us projects and lives and experiences in life, work, and play. Mothers then, at least in part, create for us a system of familiarity, care, love, bonding and relating, if not so much more. Systems by definition are premised on a set of rules and so mothering is our first brush with the law. If we are lucky, these laws of our origin are the laws of love and compassion and not hate.

I have been blessed with understanding the law of mothering to include inner fortitude, complete sacrifice, equality, acceptance, such compassion for the other as to accept brutal punishment, incisive brilliance of the kind that beckons the stars to appear all along the profound and strategic cut created by her thought, love and unquestioned devotion, and finally the innumerable mistakes she has made so I could not forget the humanity of which the rest was born. In my turn I have tried to correct some of those mistakes, making others as a consequence. Letting her push me to be no less than my brothers and accept nothing I could not give in return; to think more of the possibilities born of my own imagination and the love fed me than the limited reality born of possibilities created by those who went before me. And with each passing year, to know that I will speak to her almost every day (or not if we do not get along), the ability to yell and scream at each other and to love each other in a glance, to cook with each other, to speak about anything and everything that concerns the world, the men in our worlds, our children - what has changed and what remains the same, to learn still from her how to run my business(es) for she has always harbored the entrepreneurial spirit without the opportunity to express it, except through me. And her earnest and forceful righteousness and sense of fairness; or inherent compassion and pragmatism at which I still marvel for I have seen it in few other people, except maybe my daughter, who so takes after her grandmother.

I have had blessings bestowed on me in the past couple of weeks of being close to the birth of a baby girl of a close friend perilously and prematurely born this week, and simultaneously hearing of the reappearance of a brain tumor in my own mother. You can understand as a writer I have no choice but to write this out. Somehow this young and old life are related through me and I can sense that each has an incredibly strong spirit - old and courageous. Regardless of age, these lives must be strong in the face of life’s physical limitations, and overcome the challenge their bodies present, the imperfect understanding of medical technology, relying on more than just science, but in addition on the energy of care and love their doctors, friends and family provide and focus upon them.

I think too about the fragility with which love comes and goes…the care, the patience, impotence and courage it demands of us in all moments but especially in moments of need, in moments of fear, in moments that most test our equilibrium…and it makes me question its rules. How can so much be expected of us? How can such complexity be formed in one breath taken in and expelled? What is a feeling when it is weak and then when it is strong? Can it be called by the same name? Is language the limitation, or the intellect’s ability to fathom emotion? Is there a rule to capture and govern that feeling to do our bidding so the complex rush is more palatable? Where will the caregiving courage come from to overcome this emotional challenge bred by the interdependence characterized by the closest and strongest bonds of mother and child? We are of course calling up our earliest and most primal self-sacrificial impulses, learned from none other than our mothers.

And whereas we take good care of babies, newborns even premature ones, bestowing on them the law of maternal sacrifice (whether it comes from Mom, Dad, or Doctor), how do we rate on this law of reciprocal sacrifice for our mothers? When it comes to pregnant women, we allegedly fare poorly in the U.S. behind countries like Serbia and Kuwait, for instance. “Marsden Wagner, former director of Women's and Children's Health at the WHO, writes in his 2006 book Born in the U.S.A. that "in the United States, at least half of maternal deaths are not reported anywhere ... and that with adequate medical attention, close to half of these women need not have died." (from the article “No Country for Mothers”; As for tumors and cancers, brain tumors are the tenth most common cause of cancer death in women in U.S.( That being said…statistics do not relate the exceptional character and spirit that forges forth from a deep survival instinct of which we may be intimately aware in our own families, in our mothers and daughters, nor do they express the spirit of our own loving energy to care and support recovery in those who require our sacrifice.

As we close this year then, perhaps we can all evolve in ourselves a deeper resolve to be governed by the law of sacrifice we have learned from that primal bond so we may celebrate and support all the mothers in our lives!

Monday, December 6, 2010

From abuse... toward a law of compassion

Throughout his and herstory,in disparate ways we have witnessed through others and our own souls the abuse of power, a cycle perpetrated by those who govern, and sometimes simply by those who hold something over someone else - physical prowess, economic force, anger, innocence lost. That simple act of sadism (of which each of us is capable even as tears fall and there is recognition of the act exercised) in which one human being makes the decision, however conscious or unconscious, that it is appropriate to hurt someone else by misappropriating or injuring their wealth/property, their livelihood, their body, their emotions/heart or their mind requires in the perpetrator and victim, a multitude of formative actions and reactions. In cases of abuse of power by factions of a community against another, or even by entire communities against other communities, the multiplicity of such formation, requiring the sadistic leadership to prime and handle the conformist ripple to affect a community of aggression as we have seen in numerous genocides, slaughters, wars and conquests of varying types, is staggering.

All the more when these formative actions and reactions cause systemic ripples within our everyday institutions, sometimes institutions in which we seek most to place our trust, like police forces turned corrupt, or regulatory watchdogs like the SEC watching porn instead of acting in accordance with their mandate, or the media/press publicizing only opinions they support instead of required news unbiased and non-political. But where does all this start? How do we become part of some large conformist wave of abuse? What of our own agency in this? How many of us look around and really see what is going on and if it has gone awry? How many of us think before we act when we know we are acting not out of love, or business, or occupational mandates, but out of anger,or out of a sense of leverage over others out of some economic, occupational, regulatory, or other advantage.

The expressions of such abuse of power- the jailing of innocents/innocence, the ignorance of evil, the lack of accountability of governing institutions to their charges, corporate expansion that engenders illegal conduct victimizing the public at large including the government(s) chosen to represent it - speak volumes to the resonance of micro action at macro levels. There are examples at different locations on this spectrum between micro and macro...Only today I heard from a 70 year old taken for a good portion of her life savings by a financial advisor, who not only swindled her, but made her out to be the perpetrator so that she is in a battle with a large financial institution he told her he represented, and that institution has now bankrupted her... despite the knowledge the illegality was committed by the intermediary while the legal system inured to such tragedy processes what appears to be criminal behaviour. Another person related to me that a fund he knows is providing evidence in the investigation of yet another financial institution, and yet the media leak of this evidentiary cooperation has led it to lose customers who are confused about their lawful participation in catching culprits. We have all watched Madoff, Stanford and others commit their unfathomable frauds on the public. We have watched banks on which we relied shrivel up and die only to be picked up by others for nothing while the public continues to be serviced in the style to which it has become accustomed...and tidal waves of debt wash out the financial underpinnings of entire nations on the other side of the pond.

We also have been shaken not so long ago under the attack from above on the World Trade Center, running in the streets toward Times Square on that fateful day, not so unlike the uproar raised by another war in 1965...retreating into the bunker in the backyard...the bunkers transformed into ominously targeted skyscrapers in Times Square. The primitive anger, strategic economic upheaval, communal uprising, border crossings, human traffic/king, migrations, both organic and designed...the aesthetics of control, neat and efficient. Lest I forget corporate, personal, and national transgressions upon the only home we have, this earth. Where does it all take us? To a sadistic impulse driven by all that is taken from us; or towards the expansive impulse to reform, process, reflect, integrate, and move toward compassion not out of a political or punitive command, but from some place of foresight and reckoning? Do we seek instead to take care of ourselves, and others, perhaps? We judge ourselves after all when we judge another. What do we learn? What is the best law of compassion, perhaps compassionate accountability we can put in place to govern ourselves and our children?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Whistling while you work and getting paid for it!

After a summer hiatus on my writing, I am itching to get back to the keyboard and blow! And just in time too... as you may have gathered from our KLS website, reform abounds. And the potential for successful communication of the messages rung at the bell of governmental ineptitude and incompetence, perhaps even distraction hangs in the air with the passing of the financial reform act. Chief among the sections of interest is one on Whistleblowers. Not only are rewards that will finally be paid underscored (so little has been previously paid out), for those assisting the SEC with its job in impugning those violations that lead to actions against their perpetrating institutions and individuals, the slate is drawn up with some of the process necessary to a successful resolution of such investigations in the interest of state and whistleblower alike. The rest is still to come in the form of rules to be drafted by the SEC. Whistleblowers whose assistance leads to an action against offenders stand to not only be respected and not ignored, but to gain 10-30% of the penalty meted as a reward. What is more, they are to gain special protections where they may experience retaliation if they are insiders within the offending institution.

What does this mean? The message has been transmitted that whistleblower tips and complaints are an efficient mechanism to trigger governmental action. Whistleblowers are deserving of special protections because they are inherently at risk from their employers and others for the courageous actions they shoulder in order to affect changes in individual and systemic offensive and illegal behavior. And it means much more than that too. Two parties that started out on opposite sides have been enmeshed in a dance that is finally provided the music to choreograph change that is real and tangible. Out of a cacaphonous display of disparagement and anger, and earnest structured critique from private and public quarters, now at least on paper, a possibility for transformation has emerged.

This movement toward joining what you cannot beat is the kind of awakening (modest for now until we see it in action and the reality sinks in) we push protagonists into experiencing if we are novelists - even more so when confronted by systematic public milestones of the lessons learned smacking us in both congressional reviews of the IG's reports, and in actions taken, however suspicious against larger institutions. The display is convincing indeed, but do we believe? Has the faith been restored? Only time will tell.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

The polluting spill... tapping into the unnatural and its financial consequences

Just in case we were not fully steeped in the mire of human catastrophe with the undoing of our financial fictions, an oil company taps wrecklessly into a substrate that has been brewing a concoction burned to create heat, run our vehicles, factories etc and literally blows its top. In the process, the oil company may also have blown itself financially. It is small wonder that an exercise as unnatural, 'artificial', human-made as drilling thousands of feet to reach the muck that is also known as "black gold" causes the very human-made reactive phenomenon of lawsuits to arise. I am speaking of the BP oil spill, and referring now to the lawsuit filed by the New York Pension fund against BP for investment losses.(1.)
Tragedy is not profitable for almost anyone (I'm excluding those sent in to clean up), and a fiasco like this one is bound to rack up damages not only in favor of investors sustaining them, but nature, tourists, fisherfolk, millions of ordinary people who flock to the beauty of the Carribbean throughout the year. All of these are also investors, perhaps the more innocent ones since they did not necessarily seek to make money from the extraction that went awry.

Our planet has evolved over 4.6 billion years (according to various radiometric dating techniques) and its layers of evolution hold great mysteries stored like a library of information about what came before us and how it was assimilated into the mother from which it sprang. The BP oil spill is an interesting interchange of law and science/nature (not trying to conflate science with nature here, just suggesting that our study of nature these days veers to the scientific). On the scientific side, BP like other oil companies has been enabled by technology, also developed through scientific study, to extract part of the evolutionary core of our planet, part of the common patrimony of all humanity, I believe, for its own gain.

What is oil?

"In the leading theory, dead organic material accumulates on the bottom of oceans, riverbeds or swamps, mixing with mud and sand. Over time, more sediment piles on top and the resulting heat and pressure transforms the organic layer into a dark and waxy substance known as kerogen. Left alone, the kerogen molecules eventually crack, breaking up into shorter and lighter molecules composed almost solely of carbon and hydrogen atoms. Depending on how liquid or gaseous this mixture is, it will turn into either petroleum or natural gas. So how long does this process take? Scientists aren't really sure, but they figure it's probably on the order of hundreds of thousands." (

Much of what this earth has made, it has the power to unmake even while exploiting us as its instrument. Certainly, this substance and the layers that sit beneath us all, belong to all of us and have done so for thousands of years as the substance was percolating into its current state. What is more, the extraction subtracts a layer from under all of us. And when one of us messes up, it hurts all of us. It is for this reason, this universal impact caused by the reckless use of technology for financial profits that do their own kind of damage, such tragedy must exact steep financial and other penalties. Complete sanitation of the area impacted, specific performance restoring this area and space into its original magnificence, the people whose day to day lives and livelihoods are debilitated also made whole, perhaps even the fish and ocean life can be replanted to replace what has been lost.

For those of us not yet convinced that polar caps are melting and the need for green solutions to our burgeoning energy needs is urgent, we have found another reason to embark upon clean solutions. There is nothing like a dirty oil spill to help us understand that clean renewable resources like the wind and sun (even if initially expensive) are far more cost-effective in the long run. They ensure at least some possibility that our grand children will see an earth remotely resembling the one we have enjoyed. Cleaning up is necessary not only in the financial realm where a new ethic of clean hands must be regulated and sought, a clean earth fueled by clean energy must source our light!


Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Nature vs. Nurture of Economic Reform

Left to its own devices,the economy like any other projection of human survival is based on the laws of nature (perhaps the jungle), but when reviewed and tempered with thought, reason, and the needs of humanity at large, we begin to nurture an integrated vision of what is required to control those natural instincts or impulses. I have watched with some curiosity and pride the recent hearings before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. Elsewhere I have written and spoken of the cycles of economic exchange between laissez-faire and integration, and I see yet another great example of this integrative process through the adoption by the Obama and other administrations today, of taskforces and commissions created to study the various issues that underlie both the causes of the financial crisis and possible solutions to it.

In fact, there is little doubt in my mind that this an 'electrifying time' (as my mentor Martha Minow, Dean HLS, puts it) of nurturing oversight and involvement of certain democratic ideals. Where Obama insists on certain policies, he is checked left and right (the allusion is to political parties and to the randomness of critique as well). Note the ordeal overcome with regard to health care. Yet on healthcare, we did not see a wholesale passing of one vision, as some of us would have cared to see, but a hodgepodge created out of the democratic ideal, so that what was finally passed was created out of a cultivation of representative policy. I am still and will always be shocked by the outspoken natures, voices, wallets of America. But there is no denying the power that underlies the many faces of this democracy.

On the economy, we see some great minds and spirits take up their positions on this new Inquiry commission (not McCarthyist in the least) that earnestly asks to understand what went wrong and why; where the blame lies not to castigate and crucify but to figure out and build what is necessary, with a view to strengthen the system. There is an admission that we did not know what we were doing or getting into, and those who perhaps were in a position to predict, need to be restrained from crossing the lines of conflicting interest that may arise. In this, I remark upon that little piece of news that certain Republicans have called for an investigation of the timing of the SEC/government's investigation into Goldman Sachs' various conflicts and the large rewards emanating from one of their conflicting bets. This bipartisan effort insists we note that there are watchdogs of watchdogs of the watchdogs. In order to build confidence in a new regime, we must recognize that there is little chance now that we will not get it right.

In a study of the 'shadow banking system' former CEO's Cayne and Schwartz explain that there was no reason for Bear Stearns to go under when looking at their books so some elements in the market (possibly bigger fish than them) must have thrown them under the bus first (ate them up?) in a large shorting scheme. If you watched the testimony, did you not raise an eye and question it? What were the rules? Did Cayne and Schwartz not live by the same rules? Had they not shorted other smaller fish previously? And even when they were fighting for survival, did they not do others in? I am thinking about the investors, the small retail, consumer, investors... without whom no fish can gain any weight in this largest of American ponds. If anyone needs help and protection, it is these folks who are not in the same game as the sharks, barracudas, rays etc. I am speaking of guppies here! The ones who get swallowed whole but who sustain the system with their volume.

I am reminded of the sharks council in Finding Nemo: the sharks who attempt to curb their deeply imbedded natures by not eating the little fish, but lose all control at the first sniff of blood. Is it possible to control these large fish, and the instincts and nature upon which they have been built simply by erecting a new set of rules and regulations? Perhaps a short circuiting of the nature itself is in order? But then do we not want the natural instincts to continue their 'progression' and 'development' of the system and money-making? Do we want to simply curb some of the appetite or provide for a certain largesse given the larger humanity becoming involved in the system? Where multi-nationals are involved, employees and assets supported and sustaining the corporate body world-wide, what transnational reforms will refine and repair the engine to act and perform according to a value system that is both highly efficient, and at the same time, ethically responsible to all its constituencies.

Nature turns out to be mostly selfish in the interest of survival. It is nurture that incorporates the discipline of magnanimous humanity. You may not really learn about sharing until you get to kindergarten, even though you may have brothers and sisters at home. The fact is a family comprised of brothers and sisters can still live according to the laws of the jungle so as to not blunt the instruments of survival lest one or many of them do(es) not make it. The family in that regard is an incubator for honing our natures as we prepare for the outside world. Yet, togetherness bred within family (also the seed for community) comes out of a different impulse for survival, for example where group labor is necessary for common survival, and one that beckons feelings of gratitude, bonding, and love. In our communities through tools like schooling, these feelings are expanded to respect for others, service for the larger good, fairness, and justice, so that sharing of wealth and resources can take place. This ensures that some do not survive while others are left to die. Why? Because when that meteor hits your town, city or country, only your 'new found' brother or sister on the other side of the earth may be left to tell your story, by then - our story, to those who come after us! What story would you like them to tell?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The EU Currency Crisis - Uniting or Dividing?

I use to love that song, "united we stand, divided we fall." I don't know if you remember it. The chorus continues 'and if we ever find our backs against the wall... we'll be together." Well it comes to mind now as I think about the Euro, that economic glue that is supposed to bind together tribes, more recently nation-states,that have traditionally been at war with each other through so much of history. When the economic crisis hit the world, my brother (the financial prophet whose counsel I take very seriously on such matters) indicated, if I didn't hear him wrong, that the Euro would be okay for a little while but pretty soon, the European Union (EU) nations would start bickering. Various countries within the EU would fare poorly and the rest of the countries would no longer want to carry them. In the EU's case, if that is what happens, a united Europe would fall back on the nation-state tradition to rescue it and go back to life as usual. Instead of 'falling' it would probably stand divided.

The EU has been an interesting and advanced experiment in learning what it means to live, relate, and try to grow together in close quarters as countries, cultures, languages collide but decide to provide the room required by respect for sovereign peoples. The Euro, the economic language crafted to facilitate exchange erasing borders between these countries, was a kind of half-way point between erecting a structure that envisaged one nation-state with multiple new municipalities (each previously a nation-state of its own) and the formal bi-lateral trade agreements that have been springing up in the last few decades around the world.

There is no question the EU form is cutting edge politico-international restructuring. And we are all still waiting with baited breath to see if this can work because we know that technology is pushing us closer together and we need to develop forms of co-existence that enable us to recognize our increasing interdependence, co-dependence, and dependence on each other. This much is true, even if we do not fall when divided, it is increasingly difficult for us to stand alone. Yet it would be paradoxical if the Euro, the very symbol of the glue binding these EU countries together in a new form of international unity caused the splitting up of its various constituent parts.

When we decided as a world to create and favor economic fictions that facilitate merchant trade over the barter system, or even over the idea that we would in fact eat what we killed, or farmed (cultivated), we were also thinking about getting closer to the many people we could not see with our own eyes as human populations grew and we invented new ways or found our long lost brothers and sisters in distant lands who introduced us to new ways of making and then earning our daily bread, rice, noodles etc. We also found the people who represented the products that others may have created but did not travel the oceans to sell -- brokers, merchants, traders, intermediaries... the beginning of white collar business. Into all of this, the idea of one form of value to ascribe to all products and goods exchanged could not be avoided and 'gold' was the easiest, most common and highest form of currency for such exchange. Since then the American dollar has been accepted as such common currency, the standard bearing value that every national currency compares itself to.

With the unification of the European nation-states and the development of a common EU currency, some of us have been allowed to dream a little of that time when the world will join in one economic effort, albeit loose-knit, joined by that certain economic thread that allows individuals to encounter each other in a world marketplace as fluid as an internet chatroom or a skype line. What is interesting is that communication technology is a more literal form of getting together. When I talk to my clients over skype from their offices or homes thousands of miles away, either we have a good connection and we are able to communicate, or we cannot and then we try again as long as we both have the intention to do so. Not so for an economic currency, another tool to engage in exchange. The Euro is not just a symbol of the European Union, it is a common form of valuing the various economies of the EU. As such, it can be the tool that divides; that makes some people, even entire nations, feel they have less than their EU neighbors and for those neighbors to feel they are better, greater, and to see clearly that they have more. You don't have to be an EU nation to go through that experience. Our economic fictions have facilitated our exploitation of our distant brothers and sisters for our own gain, and then to use that gain to belittle, exoticize, and 'colonize' those others. It is just a little less palatable to treat our neighbors that way when we have come to adopt them into our own tribe... hence, creating an expectation that we intend to take care of them when the going gets rough.

It is a test of the underlying connection, symbolized by the Euro, as to whether in this time of need for countries like Greece, Italy, and Spain, the EU finds itself as one or many. Perhaps the EU can retain its unity without the common currency ... certainly the U.K. has fared no better; even with its separate pound, it has a lot in common with its poorer EU cousins these days!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Management, Supervision, and Representation

There is a definite link between management, supervision, and representation, in a variety of settings. Recently, I have adopted a number of new roles, and in doing so adapted my prior learning to current surroundings. I notice in having done so, I now maintain and manage a business, supervise other attorneys, staff and their work even as I engage in many other tasks myself including client engagement, discussions, and input. In some ways these roles require the same skill sets, in others, completely different. But there is a link between them and it is important to define this link even as I come to better understand each of my new roles.

Reflecting upon these roles could significantly help me become more efficient, feel better or worse about the job I am doing, and bring to light the actual contribution I am making to those I supervise, and represent, and in turn, their contribution to my practice, business, and my own learning. I am certainly not alone in this position. Most corporate, legal, financial, and other managers are similarly placed. But this kind of self-review is more difficult when you are creating a new system from the ground up, and aside from colleagues in other firms or consultants or family and friends or client feedback, you are alone.

The trick to good supervision and management, I think, is to feel less alone. Listen well. Hear both compliments and criticisms from others for what they are. Keep your eyes and ears on the ground and keep your focus; and correct, correct, correct constantly. Correct yourself, correct your attorneys and staff and supercede if and when you have to, liberally. In the end, you have to trust your instincts to guide you in everything even those matters that may be new to you, because it is you who is ultimately responsible for your files, your clients, yours and your firm's reputation. You are more apt to make the correct tactical decisions (with the right team behind you) because you are taking the risks, big and small, everyday; no one else. A couple of instances in my litigation cases have already taught me that.

Obviously it is important to treat your attorneys and staff well. You rely on them and they need to know that you do so in order to rise to the level of responsibility you expect of them. Trusting them to do their job, will instill in them greater scrutiny of their own work, and greater respect for your critiques, comments, and suggestions. As with my children, a mutual respect and love enters the picture because of the kind of intimacy a small firm creates. I tend to applaud good and great work, and depending on the personality of my attorneys and staff, criticize openly or tacitly so they recognize the kind of expectations raised by the situation. A glass half-full person, I am more apt to see myself as blessed at the end of the day, no matter what a particular moment may have brought on during the day. And my attorneys and staff are reminded of this. Although they are counted on to do their jobs in a formidable manner, an error will not end anyone's life. We are on the path to learning and growing everyday. None of us is perfect; of that they will remind me as will others. However, because of such expectations I am apt to recruit only the very best and the brightest.

As for representation of clients, it is not dissimilar in nature to the above. There are elements of supervisory control that are required but also, a depth or intimacy without which you cannot gain client trust, to know the story as necessary to optimally represent that client. I have previously intimated that my goal with clients is growth -- theirs and mine. We teach each other to align to the quest and to provide the other with the tools necessary to reach our common destination. Clients can also vary. Some want more control over the process of representation, and a good deal of contact, and some less. This variation is often based on personality, but sometimes also on the specific needs of the situation. Litigation clients can, for instance, be very perturbed by the circumstances giving rise to the litigation and call for a good deal of closeness so that I can understand the story and situation quickly. Corporate clients sometimes have a transaction that needs to be completed yesterday in which case, learning the clients objectives is key but a good amount of independence may be required to complete documentation. Others are looking for long-term growth through relationship development and partnership.

Management of the business on the other hand, is more objective and independent of the interpersonal. Unlike supervision and representation, the feedback is clearer. Tracking informational, financial, and marketing data, is detail oriented administrative work. However, common elements surface -- the ability to delegate, supervise, keep focus akin to a supervisory mandate and the element of intimacy that comes from looking at details repeatedly, to see if there is improvement in the way attention is paid to them.

If this blogpost appears dry, it's because it is. There are so many aspects to practicing law and starting a new law firm and they are not all exciting in the way we tend to think of headline cases. Creating a sustainable law practice is a commitment day in day out and requires the kind of passion necessary to attend to the details of management, supervision, and representation. This is only possible with constant focus, the creation of trust and intimacy, and a commitment to learning with eyes wide open.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Real Value of Olympic Gold Medals

Bilodeau won Olympic Gold and I am celebrating! He is the first Canadian olympic gold winner to do so in Canada... I cannot imagine how he feels but I know that I am there with him both in pride and in joy for his accomplishment. There are two main feelings this elicits for me: 1. national pride and what I suspect is the ultimate in belongingness that he must be feeling accomplishing this feat on home ground; and 2. joy at the groundedness with which he humbly accepts his accomplishment -- attributing his success to his teammates and to his brother who suffers from cerebral palsy and who will never have the opportunity to strive physically for the kinds of challenges Alexandre can.

On the first, national pride: this is a strange one to explain for someone who considers herself fairly international. I have previously spoken of the globalization of our myriad communities into a planetary amalgam and I sense its impact on my very international identity. Yet, there is no denying the welling up of emotion at the utter triumph of any individual working their 'b...' off and getting that which is so fitting and deserved on the one hand, nor the over the top joy that he is a fellow national. Canada does feel like a tribe that has adopted me and one can feel a true debt to countries that decide to accept one after birth in a different country because they do have the choice of rejecting you when you apply for citizenship. But it is not just that. Canadians don't gloat... they don't shout their accomplishments from the rooftops because of some aspect of their cultivated nature (it appears to be a bit more ingrained that culture). Canadians tend to accept accomplishment and triumph in an understated way and let others rejoice with them without making them jealous. They are simply sophisticated and classy in that sense, for which they are of course, loved, globally. There is no country on earth that will not accept and adopt Canadians as their own because of this quality... unless of course the people are completely crazy. In fact Americans even adopt Canada and Canadians, by extending their mantle to that country everyday.

Second, perhaps even more poignant is Alexandre Bilodeau's balanced view of his accomplishment in light of a different perspective. His brother, who suffers from cerebral palsy is not necessarily less fortunate than he, but he will certainly not have the opportunity to ski and feel what his brother feels when he is out there on skis. This is not to say that he cannot feel the focus of working hard or 'zoning'. But there is so much that his brother gains today in addition to his personal feelings performing his sport. He gains the recognition of his peers, the admiration of his country and its citizens along with those of the world. Alexandre is on the top of the world in his sport and right now all eyes are upon him.

However, even as his triumph is buoyed by the energy of the world's focus upon him, he is able to remain balanced by the support provided to him by his brother, who he rightly wants to bring on this journey of triumph with him. Family is after all the other level of belonging and support without which our success would be greatly challenged. Family starts it all and sometimes specific family members -- often siblings, spouses, and certainly supportive parents can make a world of difference between success and failure in our ventures, projects, and goals, as much as we may claim to rely entirely on ourselves.

What this gold medal represents is the gamut of emotion each of us engages in our quest for something good and fantastic to our imaginations but still allowed into our dreamworlds. That treasure chest on the pirate ship, paradise island, the perfect house or car, but even more accurate, writing the perfect story, painting the vision imprinted on the heart, meeting the one meant for you alone and keeping him/her, making that elusive but magnificently huge deal, landing that big case and 'winning it', or for you sports buffs, the perfectly hit 9 or 18 holes in the perfect or 'good enough' circumstances to be perfect, never mind the perfect tennis game or set, just the perfect few ground strokes (boy, I set that bar low!)...etc. We know that each and any of these objects or goals is not attainable without a great deal of struggle, years of hard work and preparation to get there and having a chance at shooting for that dream come true. Each one of us has wanted it at one time or another. Some of us have given up along the way. Some of us have sacrificed too much to get there and realized they shot for the wrong dream. Some of us still keep trying and will never surrender.

If there is anything the Olympics and the yearning they engender for those gold medal moments stand for, it is the hope that each of us can fulfill our own spirit; that each of us can shoot for that quest for all that is good in us and triumph just as it has in Alexandre Bilodeau attaining with it that sense of family, national, and global belonging, acceptance, and recognition! Even when not all of it can be perfect, the Olympics can reassure each of us that we deserve to complete the true potential of our essence and fulfill our dreams!

-- GDK

Monday, January 18, 2010

A day to make strides - January 18

Today we celebrate the confluence of spiritual and legal rhetoric in the service of human rights. Martin Luther King Jr. (picking up where Mohandas Gandhi left off) is honored for striding for one's beliefs -- using passive resistance not taking up arms against our enemies and oppressors. Mandela too deployed this powerful tool in the service of his people against the South African government. Understanding the underbelly of humanity, they lead the way against colonial and racial oppression by their example of non-violence.

As great orators and politicians in their own right, these leaders mobilized large groups of people at a time when twitter, facebook, email, blackberry and smart phones did not exist. Pioneers of the grass roots movements, they had to convince through cogency, urgency, and the sustenance of defeat that they would not surrender. Initially only those closest to them would hear them out, and then slowly others began to realize the powerful meaning behind their actions of resistance. It was this example not of glorious battle and purple hearts, but their adherence to the principles cradling humanity in compassion, equality of opportunity and consideration, that they were worth following. Much like 'cool hand Luke' they took one punch after another, till they earned their stripes and the respect of the people they sought to lead, almost inadvertantly realizing the stature being bestowed upon them.

It is interesting too to understand that our current forte in marketing to the masses misses that grass roots appeal that can only come from doing not saying. What was this doing they did? These leaders realized that they had to take the punches and make themselves vulnerable in a way that frightened the people they sought to free from bondage. People could actually look at these leaders as the experimental but lived fantasy of a life first resisting the idea of oppression and then living a life free of it. Not unlike the experimental fantasy of flying finally lived by the Wright brothers, success involved a lot of hard knocks, literally. For as they lead others, they encountered the hand and club of the oppressor. Many of their followers died in that march for freedom, whether it was against the oppression of foreign colonization, or of racial segregation. Mandela actually fought both at the same time in its most ingrained form -- apartheid, and gave up twenty-five years of his life to imprisonment at the hands of his oppressors.

Where law and politics meet humanity, we must leave the classroom. We can bring the books with us to guide us, but we must count on our hearts to tell us the truth. It is a dark road through the brush that no one has dared to hack. To make way for a different consideration of the situation and to bring people along, the fight must be real and it must affect many. There are real fights in this world. There are situations that are being taken as normal but they are not normal. There are situations that many people know are not right, but because they provide comfort to some people with power, influence and money, others will not speak. Today these struggles are being taken up in many fora - personally in the home, politically in various agendas for change and reform, and legally as some of us fight for truth and justice. Today is a day to celebrate all such struggle and to support it if you have a chance!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Google gets it right today - Happy New Year! Dream A little.

It is another January 4th, a day to celebrate the birth of Sir Isaac Newton, and to dream as we begin another year. Typically we are also back to work after the celebrations. As you Google, an apple falls down to remind you where you are -- on this earth where gravity can be perceived. You are not on the moon or the outer heavens, where your dreams may reside, but here among the trees, mountains, lakes, and cities of this planet. Newton brings you back down to earth just as that apple served the same purpose for him as he was dreaming away under an apple tree. More of us more often should find ourselves under a tree (maybe not a coconut tree), we are liable to hit upon a good idea.

As we embark on a new year, we can take note of the fact that we must both dream and keep our feet on the ground in order to correctly implement the ideas we originate. Dreaming is important because it connects us to our hearts. Unless our hearts have been terminally or fatally wounded, we can connect with ourselves deeply and create both the food and the thought that can light at least a generation to do good and serve humanity. But this is not enough, we must also locate ourselves on the ground and find ways to implement our ideas. There is no better way to put our ideas into practice than to practice them ourselves if at all we can. There is also little getting away from the fact that we will each of us make mistakes in doing so. But with some diligence and time, we will be able to break new ground with each new year as it renews our hope in life's changes and in our capacity for growth.

Just as an apple, fruit of a tree nourished by the love of the earth, and the dreams of the sun and clouds poured upon it, falls from the branches to be enjoyed by others below, our ideas can be enjoyed only when they have a practical use and nourish or serve others or the earth itself, now that this planet appears to need our help. This metaphor can ripple on infinitely of course, for we too are both like the apple -- as our ideas are made real through application, and its seeds bearing trees of their own -- sometimes sprouting an entire industry with one idea.

Shiny red and juicy, we ourselves are bound up with all the possibilities of a gift wrapped tight and surrounded by a hundred bows and ribbons beckoning each other's anticipation at what lies beneath. But consider for a moment that each of us is a very special package that itself changes depending on how it is touched, considered, taken in, respected, abused, maligned, or depended upon, relied upon and simply, made to feel. This brings in a highly important aspect of our ability to do anything, to dream, to create, to perform, to be good to one another, to be responsible etc. As much as we would love to take for granted that we could create apples like the apple tree, we are forced to deal with human dynamics and acknowledge we do not live in social vacuums of our own making.

This great complex of human relationships can exact a heavy toll on the creative possibility of each of us. How shiny is our package after all, how vulnerable is it to the acid rain others may pour on us? How much respect do we each and all of us need to be our best selves? There are about seven billion of us on this planet; every genius who has ever existed in human history is on the planet now, my older brother tells me. We know this because the total number of earth's human inhabitants totals as many humans as have lived throughout human history. How do we allow the genius in each of us to shine through? Without hurting other geniuses? Yes we have rules, regulations, and legal systems to protect and enable. But at the basic level, we must count on each other. So much happens in the private realm that is not regulated and cannot be regulated and requires each of us to grow and mature so that we can "see" each other a la 'Avatar' (yes I saw it over the holidays).

With this new year, as each of us tries to do our best to dream and fashion the change we want to develop in our lives, perhaps we need to be mindful of the change we can enable in those of others. Perhaps our dreams are not diminished as others are allowed to explore and implement theirs.