“Survival” is a primal word. It means to LIVE, the alternative being extinction. Survival is the bottom line. In a life or death situation, the natural instinct is to survive at the cost of everything else. The basics must be secured first. If you’re dead, thriving isn’t an option.
However, as the title suggests, the focus of Rethinking Survival isn’t on “how to” survive. Here, survival implies that there’s more than martial arts skills, back woods know-how and environmental smarts to staying alive. It requires self-knowledge and a connection to one’s deepest roots of origin, as well as a powerful, clearly defined and positive purpose for living. It also requires an educated sense of timing: an acute awareness of alternating cycles — natural pendulum swings between extremes of expansion and contraction — along with the will and patience to ride them out.
This view of survival is the end result of many rethinkings. When answers at home weren’t enough, I searched abroad. Europe. India. Much had to be unlearned as better information replaced cultural conditioning and the -ism filters that distort common sense experience.
Over my lifetime, in the host of different situations described here, I’ve seen the same, increasingly familiar dynamics play out, predictably, comically, were it not for the tragic consequences for individual lives, businesses and even nations.
I’ve come to recognize that it’s ideas — usually unconsciously held in the form of automatic-pilot, programmed assumptions — which drive decisions, actions and ultimately, survival options. Even with the best of intentions, people who operate on incomplete, inaccurate and conflicting beliefs undo themselves and harm others.
Logically, if corrupted ideas are the root of the problem, then restoring a complete and accurate, consciously-held knowledge base is the necessary starting-point of positive change. Our tragedy is that we continue to look for solutions in the wrong places. We depend on experts who, themselves products of a skewed educational system, are not only unable to help. They’re actually part of the problem. Like passengers on the ship Titanic, we’re approaching ever closer to disaster, not recognizing that we’re steering in a collision course towards extinction.
Rethinking concludes that the way out of this terminal confusion begins with shifting to a complete and correct worldview. We need to start over with fresh deck. All the cards have to be there, and none of them marked.
Answers I found in my personal quest reside in the simple eternal truths which people everywhere share in common. Return to these too often forgotten basics heals confusion and paralysis. They’re the foundation of the Positive Paradigm of Change described in Part Two.
I tell my story with the understanding that all of us face the same basic survival questions. They’re common to all humanity, however different the settings and challenges (opportunities) that drive them home. I was raised with America’s myths and got stuck in their misconceptions. I’ve labored to get free of them. It’s my hope that my story will stimulate others to rethink their options as well. I tell about my journey to make other people’s lives easier. Ultimately, it’s done to tip the scales in favor of human survival.
I’ve had the leisure of a lifetime to arrive at the understandings shared here. Now, time is far too short to reinvent the wheel over again from scratch. The Positive Paradigm of Change — the end result of my search — will save others time and grief. It will give them a head start in a positive direction.
Rethinking Survival is a hybrid. It’s part memoir. But far deeper, it’s the stuff of a paradigm shift. It voices the aspirations which everyone share in common. But it also fingers the false assumptions that too often tie us in paralyzing knots. It shows how one person cut through them to restore the hope of positive change.
But there’s more. A hidden hand has guided and protected me in seemingly magical ways on the adventure-filled, danger-fraught road I’ve traveled. Without this help, I wouldn’t have survived.
An old friend with a knack for understatement once gave me a word for miracles. Taking his hint not to take myself too seriously, I simply call them “neatsies.”
At critical intersections, these neatsies have been catalysts of unforeseeable change. Whenever it was time for the kaleidoscope to turn, pointing my life in yet another new direction, these instruments of the hidden hand closed the door of a finished chapter with absolute finality, while opening windows of opportunity which led to the next.
For example, as a young woman traveling alone, I moved safely from Madison, Wisconsin to New York City. From there I went by plane, train and taxi to the castle where I lived in Priverno, Italy. After that I traveled to Vienna, Austria, where I lived alone in a rustic home deep in the Vienna Woods. Then on to Düsseldorf, Germany, where the roof over my place was still in disrepair from World War II. Then, full circuit, back to Madison. All with little planning and less money, but a lot of “luck.”
My UW-Madison Masters Degree in English, which included a foreign language requirement, turned out to be a life-saver. In Düsseldorf, thanks to the degree, I spoke enough German to get along. And a technical college course catalog left behind in an otherwise bare apartment led to a job. On a hunch, using contact information from the catalog, I took the streetcar that went past my place on Lindemann Strasse out to the Volkshochschule on the Rhine River. As chance would have it, an instructor of English-as-a-Foreign-Language had just quit, leaving an opening that had to be filled immediately. Thanks to the M.A., I qualified and handily had a way to pay the rent.
Here’s another set of neatsies on the themes “You never know,” and “One thing leads to another.” Alberto Lysy, conductor of the Brazilian chamber music ensemble which I joined for its European tour, was a student of violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Thanks to my violinist Aunt Esther, who years earlier had insisted that I read his autobiography, I knew Menuhin’s story. During adolescence, this child prodigy with the gift of God lost his gift. It then became his quest to find out what he’d had and how to get it back.
Menuhin’s search led to yoga, and second-hand, to my introduction as well. That led, on my return to Madison, to taking a yoga class where one day the teacher intoned,“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” The very next evening, as I was hitchhiking to a downtown performance, violin in hand, a Minneapolis couple in a black VW bug picked me up. They were in town for a yoga retreat. Would I like to go with them? Sure. That led to meeting the Swami, which in time led to India, where he was hosted students at his Rishikesh ashram on the bank of the sacred river Ganges.
Yoga retreats at the Hilltop Center in the Spring Green blessed me with the hospitality of hosts and friends from that area. They were wonderful survivor teachers. They introduced this city girl to the challenges of country living. (The drama that surrounds Frank Lloyd Wright and the apprentices of the Taliesin Fellowship is detailed in the Yoga Years section.)
More neatsies surround my small version of the I Ching, the Chinese Book of Change. I wrote it in 1975 during the window of time after I moved back from Spring Green to Madison, but before I had a job. As a leap of faith, I concentrated on the writing, putting off a job search until the book was done. This was a bit scary. Money was going to run out very soon.
I sat cross-legged on the bare wood floor of a living room furnished with cardboard boxes. I spread every version I owned in a half-circle around me. They included the Wilhelm/Baynes translation brought back from Germany, of course. There was a battered second-hand paperback by Joseph Murphy, a research fellow in Andrha, India, as I recall, who quoted the Old Testament in the judgments. Others included the spiral-bound Workbook by R. L. Wing, a hardbound version which presented the I Ching as a form of astrology and a hippie-like paperback.
I trusted that the Platonic-like ideas of the I Ching are timeless, the common heritage of all humanity. They’re not the exclusive property of a particular culture or class. Each of these authors was drawing on the same source for inspiration, expressing universal experience from different viewpoints. So I opened my mind, asking for the deeper meaning these versions shared in common.
I was certain that the most powerful ideas are the most simple. They deserve to be expressed in the clearest language with fewest words possible, free of flowery poetry, scholarly hocus pocus, sexist assumptions (the so-called “superior man”) or other distortions. I intended to make my version easy to read – accessible to anyone with basic reading skills and an open heart.
The format just “came” to me. It worked fine. Fifty words, no more or less, for each hexagram. Ten words, no more, no less for each changing line. The images came easily. I worked systematically from start to finish, no looking back. With the exception of “Sacrifice,” which I revisited fifteen years later, I’ve made no revisions.
Eventually, I called this version The Common Sense Book of Change. I like the word “common.” To me, it doesn’t signify “ordinary” or even “vulgar,” as some use the term, but rather “universal.” “Common” is the root of both “communication” and “community.” And the allusion to Tom Paine’s Common Sense isn’t accidental.
Upon its completion, the kaleidoscope turned instantly. Results of the civil service test for Typist III positions came in the mail, along with a list of job openings. I had to put my little book on the back shelf for the time being. But the reward for this leap of faith was immediate. I took it as confirmation from the powers that be that I’d made the right choice to put the book first.
My first interview was at the UW-Madison Department of French and Italian. The Chairman not only gave me the job. He decided from my resume that I had administrative potential and made me an offer. The Department’s Administrative Secretary III had given notice. She was moving out of town soon. There was no replacement. If I was willing to do her job for Typist III pay, and if I took the pending Ad Sec civil service exam, and if I got one of the five highest scores to qualify for an interview, I could have the job.
He wanted me to decide on the spot. The deadline for signing up to take the exam was the next morning. I asked for two hours to think about it. I used the time to drop in on a good friend from an earlier LTE job at the near-by School of Nursing to ask her opinion. She was flabbergasted. “Go for it!”
So I agreed, did administrative work for typist pay, took the exam, qualified for an interview, and within a few months took a leap up the career ladder that secretaries usually took years to accomplish. I was suddenly earning more than ever before.
And so on. Other adventures. More neatsies.
But there’s yet another part to my story. Of all the books I outlined, most never got off the drawing board. The short list includes The Body as Instrument: How to Tune It;, It’s Okay to Dream? Depends What You Mean!; Saving Face; The 30/70 Principle: Thou Shalt Not Adulterate; Affirmative Action Failed: Why and What To Do About It NOW; and most recently, Surviving Titanic Times: Build Lifeboats NOW!
Looking back, I wasn’t ready. In balance, along with the up-side neatsies, there was less fun but important homework to do. There were self-defeating fears to face and paralyzing knots to unravel.
Each opportunity that presented itself contained within it an opposite and equal challenge to divest myself of limiting myths and misconceptions. Yogis compare the process to peeling away the layers of an onion. The Taoist I Ching scholar translated by Thomas Cleary described it as stripping away artificial veneers of cultural conditioning to restore the original True Self. Another source likens the process to the Herculean task of cleaning out the Aegean horse stables.
The same friend who told me about neatsies also reminded me about R.D. Laing’s Knots.2 Undetected assumptions wrapped in twisted logic can tie people in knots. They act like a life-draining cancer. False beliefs can drive people crazy, even to acts of criminal violence. We agreed about the dangers of living a lie, as if there were no options. This is how individuals (then dysfunctional families and nations) self-destruct.
I took it as his hint that it’s my job to identify and get the knots out of my own thinking first. Only then, perhaps, I might be qualified to publish the warnings I wrote about in Surviving Titanic Times.
That’s why it’s not enough for me to write a stand-alone book on just the Positive Paradigm. To the extent that we continue to operate on false assumptions that tie us in emotional knots, unknowingly undermining our best intentions, it wouldn’t do much good. The counter-productive pull in the opposite direction is too strong. Many political leaders are already talking about positive change, to no avail. They’re torn between two masters, between the paradigms of Good and false-assumption-driven Evil that are illustrated in Part Two.
Most may not even be aware that they have the option (and responsibility!) to choose. But this choice must be made before a viable, solid structure can be built on the foundation the Positive Paradigm. So the necessity of making this all-important decision is an inseparable part of my story, the process of getting to the Positive Paradigm of Change.
Caveats. I’ve been obliged to work through the stereotypes society imposes on women. It hasn’t been fun or easy. But this isn’t primarily a book about women’s issues.
In graduate school I got stuck (for financial reasons) wearing an obligatory feminist hat, playing the role of an Affirmative Action advocate. But I’ve always felt more discriminated against as a thinker than as a woman. My focus here is on untying life-strangling knots by exposing and getting rid of underlying false assumptions, the better to rebuild on the Positive Paradigm of Change.
However, the focus on ideas and logic shouldn’t lead to the false impression that, like Dr. Spock, I’m an emotionally-inhibited Vulcan. True, I’m a very private person. But I’ve cried my share of tears, maybe more. I’ve agonized over coming-of-age transitions, been rejected and grieved, found love and rejoiced — as women of very generation do. However, that simply isn’t my subject. Rethinking is about the highest, universal part in each us, even if dormant and neglected. It’s about a search for answers that transcend gender and time. I’ve never had children, knowing from an early age that my maternal instinct would best be expressed by serving the multitude of suffering souls already on the planet.
Am I knot-free, that I’m now worthy to publish? Not exactly. But better than before. The suicide-impelling mixed messages have been sorted out and put to rest. I’m not going to kill myself as my physician father did before me, probably even more entrapped as a male in untenable Catch 22 stereotypes than I initially was as a female. However, as I continue to take more in, there will always be more to digest. The process of mental metabolism never ends.
But there comes a point where one must do one’s best with what’s available. Here I’m reminded of the woodpecker fable. It is told that an old woman living in a wooded forest hut was baking a pie. A starving beggar wandered by. He pleaded with her to give him a piece. But she denied him. She took the scraps from the crust to make a smaller pie, but magically it grew into a pie larger than the first. But still she refused to share.
Over and over, smaller scraps turned into ever bigger pies, but she continued to turn him away. Finally, in disgust, the beggar (who happened to be a magician) changed her into a woodpecker. Her black skirt, white apron and red kerchief became its markings. I don’t want to suffer her fate by being stingy, refusing to share in the blessings I’ve received.
Last caveat: In applying the Positive Paradigm Wheel to specific situations and organizations, I’ve limited myself to a few outstanding examples. However, the model invites seemingly endless applications. They’re limited only by the reader’s imagination, diligence and (yes) courage.
To repeat, Rethinking Survival is a hybrid book. But there’s still more. Because it’s not just any book. Who, in the face of formidable dangers which seem to be closing in from all sides, would dare to hope that mere words can make a difference? But, as discussed in Part Two, ideas have changed the course of history. The power isn’t just in the words alone.
There’s a mighty, irresistible zeitgeist abroad stirring the air. The United States is at a tipping point. Planet Earth is at critical mass.
Just as many writers have each written their unique expression of the timeless ideas embodied in the Book of Change, so many leading thinkers today are chipping away at the false assumptions which are undoing us, individually and collectively. They’re laboring to unleash the tidal wave force of the emerging zeitgeist. Mere words take on tremendous power because they’re riding on the crest of that wave. Rethinking Survival is a book for the eleventh hour, surfing on the oceanic energy of a zeitgeist whose time has come.
My Ph.D. dissertation described the selection process from the employer’s point of view. From a larger perspective, self-selected survivors will be those who avail themselves of the unifying methods built into the Book of Change and the next generation Positive Paradigm of Change. They will have not only a cultivated ability to harmonize the functions of the right and left hemispheres of the brain. They’ll also have traveled the inward path of the Positive Paradigm Wheel, changing themselves from the inside out. They’ll be ambidextrous, so to speak: able to coordinate the abilities to Listen and Act, to Hear and Do.
Like modern-day Noahs, they’ll “know” when and how to build lifeboats. They’ll be the ones best qualified to lead in efforts to ride out the cascading flood of Titanic dangers which loom ahead, threatening to engulf the planet.
Put another way: It’s time to heed the boundary-spanners I’ve described below. They know how link people and organizations in common cause. They owe their versatile genius to the yogic ability to join the innermost center with the middle and surface levels of the Positive Paradigm.
In holistic health terms, body, mind and spirit are unified. This heightens the ability to see old problems with fresh eyes. Establishment insiders too often get stuck on the outside surface of the Wheel’s rim. It remains for true boundary-spanners to recognize how and why systems are breaking down. More importantly, they’re the ones best qualified to help us rethink our survival options NOW.
BEGINNINGS: The Best of Many Worlds
In the family we learn love, patience, respect, nurturing, affirmation, and health. The family also teaches us about competition, domination, selfishness, and deceit. The family is thus a relatively efficient learning system for the development of mind, spirit, and body. It involves the whole self. — Tom Chappell, The Soul of a Business
The silver lining to being uprooted early and often is that assumptions others take for granted weren’t deeply ingrained. I was raised by adults from different religions who held conflicting political beliefs. Not all of them could be right. It was my responsibility to sort things out, make sense out confusion and choose for myself. “Take the best and leave the rest.” To the extent I sometimes took on the filters of my immediate setting in order to fit in and survive, it was later my job to get clear of them, to see clearly, think straight, and live true to what I know.
My hybrid stock may explain my attraction to multi-cultural studies. My biological heritage blends Scottish royalty and Viennese Talmudic scholars. My Native American blood comes from my paternal grandfather, Hubble West. “Hubba Hubba” was a small-town asbestos mill foreman who hated his job with a passion.
My father, William Kirby West, was named after William Kirby Brewster, one of the original settlers who came over from England on the Mayflower. Kirby got through Syracuse Medical School with financial help from Mom’s parents. Later, on the GI Bill, he graduated from Harvard Medical School as a cardiologist. He played the flute.
I’m grateful that from the beginning, my parents were diligent in educating me with the best they had available. I joke that I graduated from Harvard early – when I was only four-years old. Harvard Nursery School, that is. The proof was a photo taken of me wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the Harvard logo. As memory serves me, though the photo is black and white, the T-shirt’s color was crimson. I was already reading by then.
In Tuscon, Arizona, I attended Boots and Saddles Kindergarten. The story told from this time was about my bringing home bad table manners. Mom checked with school staff to ask where I’d learn to say, “Lord, this food!” I’d abbreviated the prayer said over lunch, “Lord, we thank thee for this food.”
We went to Sunday school at the Unitarian Church. I remember bigger kids being blind-folded, turned in circles, and given a long, flat stick to whack at a Christmas pinyata. Littler kids were the lucky ones to move in first on the candy that poured out.
The story I like best from church was about my brother, David. He paid good attention when the teacher showed his Sunday school class a mural depicting the cycle of life. It starts with clouds raining down on the earth. Storms fill gullies. Stream flow into rivers. Rivers empty into oceans which evaporate back up into the sky as water. Finally, water changes into clouds to begin the cycle once again. She told the children, “Nothing is ever lost.” David raised his hand, eager to know. “I can’t find my toy gun. Where did it go?”
As most parents do, mine affirmed in me what they valued in themselves. Sitting on my father’s lap, I played with his painted ceramic model of the physical heart. He showed me how the different chambers fit together. Kirby (as we were taught to call him) took me to the hospital where he went rounds and introduced me to his white-coated colleagues. At home, he read incessantly, often lying flat on the living room sofa, first on his stomach, then on his back, snacking on popcorn he’d sometimes share.
Mom played piano. She encouraged my interest in music. She wasn’t keen on housekeeping. History and politics were more to her liking. She took me along to meetings of the League of Women Voters. She encouraged me to learn feminine wiles: how to catch the right husband.
But my looks are nothing to brag about. My sister, three years younger, was usually mistaken as the older daughter. In teen years, it was hard to take. Later, when folks told me I looked just like her, I was flattered. From a pudgy kid, she’d grown into a head-turner. Both of us had the same dark hair, eyes and Native American cheekbones. But she was taller. I was just a miniature version.
From the beginning, I had long-range plans. When Mom taunted me for being a “wall-flower,” it didn’t phase me in the slightest. I was, I confidently informed her, a “late bloomer.” When she assumed I’d get married and have kids as she had, I kept my peace. But I knew better. There were places to go and other things to do. Besides, why put more people on the planet, when there are already so many in need, whom I could help?
In adolescent years, my devout Aunt Esther took me aside to console my awkward in-between state. “Don’t worry,” she assured me. “Every year, things get better.”
Trusting soul that I was, I took her words at face value. “Wow,” I thought. “If every year gets better, I can hardly wait to see how terrific I’ll be by age seventy.” I ardently looked forward to being the person I was sure to become.
The first major reversal (I’ve come to call them kaleidescope turns) came with Kirby’s sudden death on February 12, 1952. It was two days before Valentine’s day. I was six, my brother David five and sister Annie three years-old.
Mom never got over the shock. For all practical purposes, I lost both parents at once. The red lipsticked, high-heeled stranger who came through my grandparent’s front door in Buffalo, New York after a month-long absence was “not my mother.”
Bravely, she kept up a cheerful front, doing the best she knew how. But behind that front, for over fifty years, she grieved continuously, living in the twilight-zone of dark secrets kept hidden even from herself. She brought them to light again only at the end of her life.
Music sustained me through high school years in Kenmore, New York. One in a graduating class of about 1,000 students, I bided my time, waiting to move on. Albert Einstein was “my man.” He was a violinist. I was certain his insights reflected the experience of deep immersion in string music. I suspected that Shakespeare, who wrote with a musician’s ear, was also a string player.
I would dearly have loved singing lessons, but was denied because I was too small. I was told that my body isn’t built to project sound in a concert hall. In elementary school, when I auditioned for chorus, I sang up to high C and was promptly assigned to the soprano section. If she’d continued, the music director would have found that I could easily have continued up to the F above high C. I could just as comfortably reach the G below middle C. Strange, the regrets one holds looking back. For lack of use, this three octave range has been lost. Oh well. Not meant to be, I suppose.
Other than orchestra, the one light in high school was Virginia Elson, my senior year English teacher. This elderly, thin, kind-eyed spinster lady drilled students to recognize the different parts of speech. She taught us how to diagram sentences, putting each word in the correct place. She was giving us the basic tools we needed to think LOGICALLY.
Miss Elson assigned essay topics for us to write on: thought-provoking, life and death questions. Once she took me aside to tell me I had the writer’s gift. I doubted it. “A way with words isn’t enough,” I told her. “I don’t have anything to say . . . yet.”
Looking back, her interest in me stemmed from the time results of the mandatory IQ test came in. “We have, though I’m not allowed to give names” she announced, “a genius in the senior class.” While classmates was looked around, pointing to friends as likely candidates, she sent me her subtle smile and nodded.
By logical deduction, I knew who it was. She’d given a hint in the form of a riddle. I honestly don’t remember the details. At the time, it didn’t seem important. But by process of elimination, it had to be me. No other mention of IQ test results was ever made to me or, to the best of my knowledge, my parents.
Later, Miss Elson let me read a batch of classmates’ papers to demonstrate the mindlessness she labored to shake up. “What is life?” she had asked. Like wind-up toys, most regurgitated definitions memorized in biology class. Catholics added their church credo to the mix. Mine, she said, was the only essay turned in that had an original thought.
From her I learned that there’s more to being human than the ability parrot others’ words. It includes the capacity to reason and articulate clearly. When I took the English M.A., my aspiration was to be like Miss Elson. Without the tools of language and logic to analyze experience and express one’s concerns, how could people name, much less solve their problems? At the time, the highest calling I could imagine was to teach students how to think — really think — for themselves.
MUSIC IS THE INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE: Listen!
The art of music has been especially considered divine, because it is the exact miniature of the law working through the whole universe. If we study ourselves we find that the beats of the pulse and the heart, the inhaling and exhaling of the breath, are all the work of rhythm. Life depends upon the rhythmic working of the whole mechanism of the body. Breath manifests as voice, as word, as sound; and the sound is continually audible, the sound without and the sound within ourselves. — Sufi Inayat Khan. Music
Music was keystone of my formative years. The National Music Camp at Interlochen, Michigan was a wooded, lakeside retreat. There, I played violin in orchestras and sang in Festival Choir two marvelous summers in a row. The large-lettered banner spread across the top of the outdoor performance shell spelled out the founder’s belief, experienced later in Europe and India. MUSIC IS THE INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE.
An orchestra, where each player in every section joins together under one conductor’s direction to recreate a composer’s inner vision, was my community of choice. In choir, outdoor rehearsals blended music with the sounds of wind in the trees. Birds sang along from their tree branches. The voices of kids and adults, amateurs and professional musicians, were a wonderful mix. Nature and music wove a fabric of indelible memories.
Unfortunately, society’s conflict values cast a shadow even over the joy of music. Young musicians were pitted against each other in competition for first chair positions and solo parts. Unbearable pressure to please parents’ demands led some to despair, even breakdowns.
For better or worse, however, my own family had no expectations of success. They indulged my burning desire for knowledge, adventure and travel only as a chance to catch a rich husband. After all, I was just a girl, destined to marry, reproduce, and at best, be a decorative asset.
I was sure there was much more, and went in search of it. American violin teachers trained from the wrist down. In Germany, I learned from a gifted kinesiology teacher at the Schuman Konservatorium how posture and movement were integral to reproducing the elusive sound I heard in my inner ear. Menuhin students introduced me to yoga, the influence of breathing and importance of focused mind control.
Along the way, I committed to acquiring an in-depth knowledge of history, psychology, the mechanics of violin-making and the physics of sound as well as of world scriptures — the inspirational well-spring of song. I had to absorb every and any discipline that contributed to becoming the ultimate musician I must be. My ideal: the Biblical King David, who not only sang, played the lyre and wrote the psalms. He was healer, warrior and ruler in one.
Much later I would give up the violin, cold turkey. I sold the 200 year-old Viennese Mathias Thir passed on to me by my teacher, Rivka Mandelkern, bought for her as a child prodigy by her teacher, Fritz Kritzler. It had taken me back full circle to the city of its making.
Music taught me invaluable lessons. It taught me to LISTEN. It taught me patience, discipline, practice and the joy of participating within a larger whole. But I had to apply these lessons in the “real world.” I’d become addicted. I had to let go. Like the Sufi Inayat Khan, who gave up that which he loved most — his music — to serve humanity, I chose to tune myself as an instrument of life’s music.
Over the years, music had grown from a childish pleasure to a strict disciplinarian and inspiration. As experience matured my relationship to music, I found that its structure magically mirrors the mathematical laws of nature. It heals the soul and soothes animal emotions. It promotes harmonious relationships. In its purest form, as Einstein, my hero, certainly knew first-hand, music opens and attunes the listening mind to the highest octaves of human potentials. For those who listen deeply, music truly is the international language of our common humanity.
TO BE OR NOT TO BE: Beliefs and Information Make the Difference
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?
The specter of suicidal thoughts haunted my up-bringing. It’s taken me over fifty years to track this demon to its lair and tame it. In retrospect, in simplest terms, I was raised in a family, reinforced by a culture, which disconfirmed my very existence. A girl who in no way matched demeaning stereotypes — who had no desire to either cynically exploit or fearfully cave into them — was simply a non-being. She could not and should not exist. The tacit message: “Make yourself gone.”
At first I coped with less catastrophic compliance — denial. I reasoned, “Women are stupid, fickle and helpless. If I’m not stupid, fickle and helpless, then I’m not a woman.” I disowned the labels associated with gender and escaped into music and books. Only later, a yogic energy understanding of the difference between feminine essence and cultural molds allowed me to rescue the baby from the bath water, reestablish an identity in harmony with the facts.
Shakespeare studies as well as reading and re-reading Faulkner’s masterpiece, The Sound and the Fury, helped clarify my dilemma. So did Ph.D. dissertation research that explained the scarcity of women in school administration. It brought to my awareness the programmed stereotypes, antithetical to competent behavior, that I had to root out of my unconscious mind.
In Europe, I clicked with an “A-ha!” moment when a boyfriend put me down with the cliché, “Es gibt nicht so was,” which translates roughly as, “You’re impossible.” Literally, the words mean, “There is no such thing,” or “You don’t exist.” My angry answer was immediate. “Hier bin ich!” I pointed to myself with the literal retort, “Here I am!”
Surely no one intended by such mindless language to harm me, or Marilyn Marraffie either. Yet she is still dead and the lives of those affected by her suicide were changed forever. This gifted young cellist, pushed to the sidelines by condescending males who knew not what they did, dropped out of Oberlin’s Music Conservatory. She fell into depression, closed herself in the garage and turned on the ignition of her black VW Bug. She left a copy of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet on the seat beside her, opened to the death scene.
She didn’t intend to die. It was cry to her boyfriend for help. But crying wolf can backfire.
By an unfortunate quirk of fate, the neighbor who arrived home from work punctually at the same time every night, who should have opened garage doors in time to rescue her, had an errand to run that night. He didn’t find her in time.
Intuitively I felt that Marilyn’s fate spoke to mine. I spent long hours reading Jung’s Alchemical Studies and soul searching to articulate why she left, what this had to do with me, and what to do to prevent further tragedies. It probably saved my life. Certainly it prepared me to survive another shock. For it’s not only women who suffer from despair caused by social demands in conflict with their inner knowing and deepest aspirations.
In 2002, fifty years after his death, Mom “remembered” that my cardiologist father, whom I’d believed all those years had died of a sudden heart attack, had in fact blown his brains out. In medical terms, he died of a self-indicted gunshot wound to the back of the head.
He didn’t want to work any more in a medical profession he found brutal and primitive, but family strongly resisted his desires. Certainly there’s more to it, but on the surface it would seem as if, in an impulsive moment, he chose death as the only way out of an apparently impossible trap.
This late rewriting of personal history was jolt. It put me in awe of the power of beliefs. I’d acted my entire adult life on information that, it turns out, was false. Believing it had made it so for me. Now that my familiar beliefs were destroyed, I faced a choice. Would I identify with the self-destructive choices of a suicidal father? Or would I persist in identifying with origins deeper than biological family as the ground rock of my life.
Though relatives feared the worse, Kirby’s choice hasn’t determined my fate. By the exercise of free will, through years of better choices, I’ve charted a different course.
Proof that I had the option to choose my beliefs gives me hope that others can too. With new information that challenges dysfunctional beliefs, even adults ingrained in a lifetime of false assumptions can CHOOSE to adjust — go deeper, improving their lives for the better. Self-determination is the ultimate freedom: the gift of FREE WILL.
So I have hope for people who’ve been misled into believing that they have no options, that suicide is their inescapable fate, the only release from human suffering. They do have options. My brother’s high school riddle captures the dilemma: “How many legs does a donkey have if you call its tail a leg?” The answer: “Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”
Even so, those who’ve been conned by social pressures (including the urgings of political-religious leaders) DO have positive alternatives to self-destructive choices, whether they end in dramatic, violent death or slow, uneventful deterioration.
In an inhospitable world that continues to disconfirm my true identity, pushes to wipe me off the map, cram me into the narrow molds of other peoples’ convenience, I practice the positive phoenix response that’s open to everyone, everywhere. When outrageous misfortune impels to suicide, I die to the old, but only to continuously recreate myself new and better. “Hier bin ich!” I am here still yet!
I’ve survived because I know better than to be intimidated by the powerful weapon of Other People’s Opinions. Instead, I LISTEN and trust the inner music of conscience. In the end, mixed messages haven’t paralyzed me because I don’t allow them to confuse me. Using the gifts of language and logic, I continuously scan for false information and delete it out of my mental computer. Even in the face of apparently impossible odds, intuition aided by reason anticipates dangers and finds the way over, around and through apparent traps to survive.
Discovering the Missing Link
If you love your children, tell them how the world works. — Dr. Phil
. . . nothing can truly be said to happen by chance, which is just a word we invented to explain the troublesome boundary between order and chaos. Fate, then, turns out to be the struggle, the tension, between natural law that dictates that everything should proceed toward disorder (entropy) and the natural law that dictates that everything should be self-organizing (complexity theory). If those are, indeed, the two overarching natural laws, then everything becomes clear and we go forward into the past to find the Chinese concept of yin and yang. —Laurence Gonzales. Deep Survival: Who Lives,Who Dies, and Why.
According to the people who raised me, the way the world worked was this. If you “pleased” them, then they would take care of you: feed you, house you, pay the bills for your clothes . . . let you live. If you didn’t, they’d disown you, cut you off, write you out of their will. The end. Survival depended exclusively on being very good at pleasing those who controlled the money and the material resources which come from it.
In my case, this was a problem. What pleased one adult didn’t please the next. And what pleased me didn’t necessarily please any of them. It was, at best, a con. Bottom line: I had no idea of how the world really works, only that mine at the time didn’t work for me. When conflicting survival demands came to a head, I had to split. “Get out of town, Tonto. Pronto.”
The year Nixon was elected president, a poster hanging in my dorm hallway said it all. It showed him wearing Uncle Sam’s pin-stripe suit and top hat, finger pointing to recruit. The question posed, “Would you buy a used car from this man?” My answer was, “No way!” I wasn’t in a position to change the country, so I changed my location. At the invitation to join up with a touring Brazilian chamber orchestra, I left for foreign lands.
Living abroad began the process of divesting the cultural conditioning I’d taken for granted. Being the only English speaker in the group made me rethink communication, getting down to the basics. When it took an effort to find the words, it was amazing how little really needed to be said. Accompanied with suggestive body language and facial expressions. a few words went a long way.
However, I found that change of scene, of language and cultural settings, changed nothing of substance. “Wherever you go, there you are.” In Sandor Vegh’s violin master class, students from around the world agonized over the same dilemmas I thought I’d left behind. They too thought they could escape problems just by walking away – but nothing’s so easy.
Nao, a darkly mournful Japanese violist, described the shock of discovering her older brother’s dead body hanging limp in his clothes closet. Chiao, a bright shining extrovert, grieved over love lost. When she beat him to take first place in a violin competition, Alberto chose a less threatening lover as his companion.
My German hosts, who’d survived WWII, however, had much to teach. They didn’t take survival, as I had up to that point, for granted. A cellist friend with whom I stayed in St. Georgen, located in the Black Forest of South Germany, told me her mother’s story. To save her starving children’s lives during the Russian occupation of Berlin after the war, Frau Hass changed from oppressed housewife to heroic protector. In contrast, Herr Petersen, a 75-year-old portrait painter – my Düsseldorf landlord – recalled war time as “the best years.” It was only then– albeit of extreme necessity– that formal, inhibited Germans came out of their shells and actually talked with one another.
For me, the highlight of studies at the Robert Schumann Konservatorium wasn’t the music teachers, but a modest, insightful kinesiology instructor. Frau Lehru wasn’t a musician herself. But vocal and instrumental teachers alike sent students beyond their help to her.
The pianist whose lessons were scheduled the hour before mine told me her story. Herr Dreschel had given up on her as either lazy or untalented. But Frau Lehru diagnosed the real problem — pinched spinal nerves. Recommended visits to a chiropractor worked “miracles.” Elated, she was a “new person.”
I went to her studio and asked Frau Lehru to coach me. Her lessons were wonderful. She saw timidity in my posture and tension in the way I held my violin. She gave me exercises to correct not only my posture, but the underlying attitudes which bent me out of shape.
“Platz machen,” she encouraged me. “Make room! Don’t crowd me!” And, “Auf wiederstand waschen.” Figuratively, Grow upwards. Stand tall under the pressure of resistance and adversity.
In retrospect, it was as if she’d reinvented the yogic disciplines which sitar and tabla students are taught in India, where music technique is balanced with breathing and physical exercises. Her gift inspired a change in my career goals. Rather than teach technique, I could help many more musicians by becoming an exercise-and-therapy coach in one, like her. She was much too busy to consider writing about her methods and results. I would do this for her with a book called The Body as Instrument: How to Tune It. (Still later, ratcheting up another notch, I aspired to build schools to facilitate a whole generation of coaches like Frau Lehru.)
Even more influential than people, however, were two books I discovered in Düsseldorf’s International Book Market on Königs Allee. In combination, they substantially broadened my life’s horizons. One was the Wilhelm/Baynes English translation of the Chinese I Ching, the Book of Change. The other was Carl Jung’s autobiography, Memories, Dreams and Reflections. This Swiss analyst also wrote the introduction to the Wilhelm/Baynes translation.
I’m now aware of much that’s been written about Jung’s darker side. But in 1970, I resonated with his descriptions of self-discovery. In particular, I related to the story about his quickest cure. A young woman, the daughter of wealthy, stylishly atheistic parents was instantly healed of her neurosis upon learning of her heritage. Her grandfather had been a Talmudic scholar. Though an embarrassment to her parents, he was regarded by peers as a saint. This knowledge gave her permission to know what she “knew,” and released her psychological suffering instantly.
As it happened, I’d just been contacting my grandparents, asking them to write me about their history. I did so because Herr Oswald Peterson, my portrait painter landlord, insisted I was not American. “Who are you?” he wanted to know.
I’d already known that in her youth, my father’s mother, Grandma Ellie West, had a gorgeous soprano voice. What I learned from her letters was that she’d auditioned for John Philip Sousa’s world tour and was invited to join his band as a soloist. But she decided to stay home instead to marry my grandfather, Hub. She heartily approved of my European music jaunt. “Good for you!”
I was fascinated to learn from Grandpa Dave, my mother’s father, that his father came from Russia. He was a “very good” tailor by profession and a Talmudic scholar as well. A-ha. Who would have guessed? It opened a door of new possibilities in my mind.
I didn’t have Grandma Lil’s address to contact her. She was ten years divorced from Grandpa Dave, and living somewhere in Florida. But I already knew that her extended family came from Vienna, Austria. None survived the Nazi holocaust.
So I cringed inwardly at the anti-American slurs that slipped out of Herr Peterson’s mouth when he was mildly intoxicated on his hoarded Rhine white wine. At another time, would he have turned me over to the Gestapo had he known I was Jewish on my mother’s side of the family? He seemed to assume I couldn’t understand vulgarities spoken in dialect. As a good guest, with no better options, I chose to overlook his remarks.
Of course, I shared nothing of what I learned from my grandparents. It wasn’t any of his business. He was merely curious, solely preoccupied with his own concerns. Couldn’t have cared less about me. To keep him at safe distance, I spoke using the formal form of the address.
Because Jung experienced dreams as the winged messengers of key insights, I began paying attention to mine. The dream I remember best was of climbing the third-story stairs of Herr Peterson’s building. He’d never repaired the roof after the WWII, so the top flight led to rubble and open air.
In my dream, however, I discovered a new floor that hadn’t been there before. It was dimly lit and full of draped furniture, covered with cobwebs. As I brushed away the dust, details of this new room began to emerge. It was as if I were entering in to a new level of personal awareness.
In another memorable dream, I spoke with my father’s father, Hubble West — the one his grandkids nicknamed “Hubba Hubba,” from whom I inherited my Native American looks. Gravely, he warned that I was trapped in a high-rise tower. I was dead and didn’t know it.
I took this troubling message as a warning that important parts of me were atrophied. I was stuck in my head, neglecting my body and failing to listen to my heart. As a result, I was in mortal danger. Later I learned that at the time of the dream, Hub had just passed. This was his parting benediction.
As to the I Ching, I’d had a hunch about it for a very long time. Dr. Ellsworth Carlson, who lived in Shansi, China during WWII, was an Oberlin College classmate of my parents. When I was nursery school age, he’d bounced me on his knees at Harvard. As Freshman student, I took his course in Asian History at Oberlin. What stuck with me how vast an influence the I Ching had on Chinese thinking for 8,000 years and counting.
In fact, when I left for Europe, I carried only my violin and one small suitcase. Of that, half was filled with clothes and personal items. The other half contained sheet music and one small book: the Legge translation of the I Ching. It made no sense to me. I could barely get through a page or two before giving up. But I kept coming back to it. There was something important there that I had to know more about.
Finally, with the Wilhelm/Baynes edition, I had a version I could relate to. It literally became my teacher. It gave me a whole new concept of how the world really works. Not just this family or that institution or the other county. Not arbitrary and capricious, fluctuating fashions, but the constant anchor over time. From it, I could deduce the fundamental energy dynamics of action and reaction which drive relationships, internally at a psychological level, and externally in terms of practical, day-to-day events and their long-term consequences.
It was an extension of the logic my English teacher Miss Elson impressed on my high school brain. But more. It gave me a map of logical consequences, as inevitable as computer language. “If this, then that.”
For example, If you kick people, they kick back (if they can) or otherwise resist. If you are kind, you inspire love and trust in others. If you violate natural law, nature bites back (your mental health suffers; relationships deteriorate; your behavior becomes erratic and social/physical survival is imperiled). Asian cultures call this “the law of karma.” Its operation is also described in biblical terms: “As ye reap, so shall ye sow,” and “to everything there is a season.”
In sum, its 64 permutations map a progression of the AC-DC energy changes which constitute the natural law of repetitive, cyclical change. From my point of view, this ancient, timeless science fills a critical blind-spot in Western thinking, lacking which, all efforts are partial and incomplete. Put another way, the glaring absence of this information explains why so much goes so wrong, despite even the best of intentions on the part of politicians, priests, coaches and leaders of every ilk.
The Book of Change combines the best of many worlds. On the one hand, it’s pure logic and math. Its binary-digital code long predates both Leibniz’s calculus and computer science. On the other hand, it leads inwards, serving to link the material world of physical experience (empirical science) with its ultimate source (the realm of con-science).
Working with it, one starts with immediate, practical experience, with the option to travel with it to the opposite end of the reality scale that merges into the apparently mystical. This interactive book, regarded by some as magical, depends on the phenomena of synchronicity to link person, time and events in the decision-making process.
The longevity of ancient Chinese dynasties is attributed to sages who advised their emperors on ways to balance and thus survive historical yin-yang cycles of decay and regeneration. By working in harmony with the laws of nature, rulers succeeded in maintaining social and political stability, riding out the predictable, alternating pendulum swings between extremes.
Even the Communist Chairman Mao, an avowed atheist, owed his success to the I Ching. Its influence permeated both his moving poetry and highly successful, if unorthodox, military strategies.
When I described the many benefits of working with The Book of Change to a business consultant, she summed it up for me. “It sounds to me like the ultimate personal survival guide.” She was exactly right. So I used her description as the title of a book describing its many virtues (as well as answering the unfortunate prejudices/assumptions which have kept the book too much in the shadows). For short, I called it The UPSG.
The I Ching‘s value, I’ve finally come to understand, is measured by the quality of focused attention, self-honesty and positive intention with which it’s used. Those who dismiss it, who “believe” it is superstitious nonsense, fulfill their expectations. In a way, the book has its own fail safes. Those who approach it with arrogance or evil motives get nothing from it.
But for me, its wisdom has provided ongoing, life-confirming support, most especially when humans failed me totally. Perhaps any wisdom book read with an open heart and concentrated attention similarly opens the personal mind to the guidance of the Universal Mind. This, for me, happens to be an especially useful method of introspection.
I admit that, as with any good friend, it took a while to break the ice and get to know it. For example, once, when I was relatively new to the book, on an early winter morning in Spring Green, I woke up with a bad feeling and consulted the I Ching for feedback. Its advice, in essence: “Don’t move. Don’t go anywhere. Anything you do now will go wrong.”
My friends debunked it. I was scheduled for a job interview that couldn’t be missed. When the bald tires on my vintage Buick skidded on the ice, spinning me into a snow bank along Willow Gold Farm’s long driveway, they refused to give in. They drove up a tractor and jammed a curved metal hook under the front fender to pull it out. This punctured the radiator, which emptied its yellow-green fluid onto the crystal white snow. I wasn’t going anywhere that day. Or, after their “help,” even the next.
This was definitely a book to be taken seriously!
There was, as in all things, a downside to the Wilhelm/Baynes version. It was unnecessarily difficult, sexist and elitist. A confusing overlay of cultural baggage obscured its meaning. After working for ten years with every version I could find, I wrote an easy-to-use version called The Common Sense Book of Change, intending to make this treasure available to anyone with basic reading skills.
I fantasized on the possibility of teasing the Chinese into reclaiming their heritage, self-publishing it as small yellow book (the traditional Chinese color of wisdom) in a pocket sized form to replace Mao’s little blood-red book. No matter how many new versions have come out since then, it still works for me.
Unfortunately, the cultural resistance to the Book of Change I’ve encountered is founded on deep misunderstandings. I’ve worked hard to define and then answer them. For example, Christians assume there’s an either/or choice between the Bible and the I Ching. They reject The Book of Change as if “pagan” and therefore incompatible with belief in God.
My short answer is, No. It’s a different but compatible and critically important subject. It fills in an information gap. It’s the missing link in our knowledge banks. In a complete worldview, the dynamic law of change occupies the middle level. It links the outer material surface with the innermost center. You “can’t get from here to there” except through that middle layer. (See Figure II.2.)
This explains why many leaders, even with the best of intentions, go terribly wrong. When authorities operate from an incomplete paradigm, they’re blind-sided. Lacking what has been mainstreamed as “emotional intelligence,” they can’t identify the place where things are messed up. When they take a left-hand turn, they don’t understand why. Worse, they don’t know how to return to the positive path.
Here’s the context: Laws of nature emanate from the Divine. It’s a mistake to romanticize (or demonize) nature. It’s a worse mistake to worship nature in place of the Creator. But being competent at the practical, middle (energy) level of three-part experience is essential to the whole. Again, it’s a sorely missed link in our functional knowledge base.
Without wisdom and skill at this middle level of experience, spiritual aspirations cannot be realized nor can political policies be effectively implemented. Ongoing sex scandals which plague high-level politicians and Christian clergy give a hint of what’s missing from their training, causing them to fail miserably at great expense to those they should be serving.
Using a well-familiar example from American history, here’s how I expressed the place of natural law in the Introduction to The Common Sense Book of Change:
THREE LEVELS OF LAW. The American Declaration of Independence names three kinds of law: the laws of man, of nature and nature’s God. The Book of Change is based on the laws of natural change. They emanate from and depend on divine law and serve as the rightful foundation of civil law. . . . In Common Sense, Thomas Paine wrote about the relationship of divine, natural and human law in a way that inspired readers at the time of the American Revolution to fight for freedom from tyranny.
Approaching natural law from the deeper understanding of the ancients could inspire a reinvention of democracy now. Sages say that freedom from tyranny begins with dispelling ignorance and overcoming negative emotions. True freedom starts with the self-awareness and self-mastery which can be gained by diligent use of the I Ching.
I had this in mind when critiquing Affirmative Action, and in formulating Positive Action alternatives to achieve the valid goals of the misguided legislation.
Another approach I took to mainstreaming the I Ching was to create my own version of Lao Tze’s world-loved Tao Te Ching, called Two Sides of a Coin: Lao Tze’s Common Sense Way of Change. The Tao Te Ching is a poetic embodiment of I Ching concepts, saturated with its wisdom. The relationship between them serves to link a revered, widely-accepted text with its less familiar, more venerable great-grandfather.
Interestingly, in writing an extensive introduction, it struck me that the virtues which Lao Tze lauds are same building blocks prescribed in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and in the Old Testament’s Ten Commandments. Small world. Same truth. Many forms.
Sometimes I think this work was primarily for my own benefit. I did it to better to understand the teachings. I distilled them. I compared them. I worked to articulate the essence they all have in common. Throughout, my motto has been “Keep it simple.” The Positive Paradigm of Change is the end result.
YOGA YEARS: What Has a Front Has a Back
A human being is part of the whole called by us ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest . . . This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive. – Albert Einstein
In retrospect, what is called the “Yoga Years” here actually encompasses three-chapters-in-one. Each is a commentary on the delusions which Einstein described as the experience of separateness. Each is associated with a high energy teacher who – though functionally disconnected from conscience – dazzled colleagues and students with his personal charisma. Each man (to his own undoing) romanticized nature as the feminine principle, deified it, and inverted it. Each abused genius as if it gave him license to “play God.” Each suffered the consequences, for no individual can long sustain the delusion of being above the law.
As for the Buddha-like compassion (en-compass) which Einstein called for — the widening of the circle and rethinking survival– he was so very close! See Part Two, where the three variables of his formula are placed in the concentric circles of Positive Paradigm Wheel to yield the Unified Theory. He intuited that it must exist, but lacked the model as context within which to use the formula.
The yoga years began one Friday evening in late November of 1973. I was hitchhiking down Gorham Street, dressed in my black, floor-length orchestra gown, worn canvas-covered violin case crooked in my left arm. I thumbed with my right to catch a ride to the downtown concert hall.
A Minneapolis couple in a black VW bug pulled over to pick me up. They’d driven to Madison for an all-day yoga seminar being held at a rural church on the outskirts of town the next day. Would I like them to go with them? Sure. So began another adventure.
Despite the cultural overlay, yogic teachings of India offer specific ways to implement energy science. They are a practical compliment to the I Ching, and are compatible with Chinese forms of yoga. The fundamental ten commitments of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are very similar to the Old Testament ten commandments. But where Western scriptures admonish seekers to be virtuous, Asian science gives practical methods for achieving self-perfection, specific ways to implement good intentions to change for the better.
The scriptures were inspiring. Swami Rama cynically perverted them. Dr. Arya, a pundit disciple based in Minneapolis, initiated gullible students in the rituals of guru worship. This aristocratic charmer held Western seekers in contempt and dummed the teachings down.
The powers of this smooth, flamboyant “holy man” were foreign to Western sensibilities. He flaunted a repertoire of magic tricks. He could change blood flow in his feet. He read minds and hypnotized students. He reportedly bilked American students out of thousands of dollars for nonexistent hospitals in India. By his own admission, disciples in India would have burned his ashram to the ground had they known he was habitually performing sexual tantra (rape) on unsuspecting American women.
In the larger scheme of things, he was small fry. But we were easy prey to someone who knew how to manipulate energy. This middle level the Positive Paradigm (detailed in Part Two) was outside anything we’d learned about in school. So we didn’t know where his powers came from or how to protect ourselves.
At his ashram in Rishikesh, India, three of the women he’d seduced got together and traded information. We realized none of us was a “special exception” to his vow of celibacy.
When we blew the whistle, he flipped out. Tantric teachings, he raged, were sacred teachings. Exposing them would damn us forever. We were terrified and backed down. To the detriment of other relationships, I obeyed his command, “Keep still!!”
Covering his backside, the swami told his psychologist henchmen that I was “mentally disturbed.” Protecting vested interests in their careers, they treated me as if I were crazy. It took years to get over the pain, anger and confusion caused by this betrayal.
But I healed. I used yogic introspection to get over it mentally. To repair emotional damage, I turned to Traditional Chinese Medicine. For solace and hope, I looked to the New Testament. But my best friend and advisor throughout was The Book of Change. I didn’t dare talk with people who knew the swami. They would have turned against me, not helped. The swami’s powers were outside the experience of university-trained therapists. There were no qualified professionals to turn to. Confiding in family was out of the question. If I went to them with one problem, I’d end up with two.
But with the I Ching, I could be completely honest. It has no agendas. Opening my heart to ask my questions was like talking with my True Self. Its answers rang true. Instead of tearing myself apart by warring against abuse of power, I used it to turn inward to the higher authority I could trust: my own conscience.
My decision: “Keep the best. Leave the rest. Cleave to true teachings. Forgive false teachers.” There’s much wisdom in the biblical advice, “Whatever is good, worthy and noble, think on that.” The most important lesson learned from yoga years has become my personal mantra. “Resist not evil. Persist in the good.”
Because dwelling on the sins of the dark side is risky. Meditating on evil magnifies it. You run the risk of becoming what you hate. I took the lesson of Star Wars to heart. No one can afford to be turned to the dark side of the force by anger. Holding on to it hardens the heart on all levels — body, mind and spirit.
The swami’s habitual “spiritual incest” is documented by Tony Schwartz in What Really Matters: Searching for Meaning in America.3 By the laws of nature, even after his passing, the consequences of his actions will continue to return on those who were party to his crimes.
His example is proof of the maxim, “What has a front has a back. The larger the front, the larger the back.” What he showed to the world, his front, was a selfless, celibate renunciate. He claimed to have been the equivalent of a pope in India. He renounced that post to bring the benefits of yoga to the West.
He hid his dark side from the world. Only his victims saw him as an ambitious, greedy predator. Seduced by power, he’d taken a left-hand turn to the dark side of magic. (See Figures II.3 and II.8. Also see the USPG Essay 37 on Magic.)
When I read about sex scandals in the news now, I understand that university-trained leaders are at a loss. They know not what they do. They’re tragically uneducated regarding the energy level of the Positive Paradigm. They’re ignorant of the powers that drive them. The same cannot be said of the swami.
During the yoga years, from the early 1970s to early 1980s, I spent personal time with an extended family of Frank Lloyd Wright students in Spring Green. I met Herbert Fritz, a former apprentice, at a yoga retreat held at his Hilltop home in Spring Green.
He picked up on the quality of my wonderfully resonant 200-year-old Thier violin during a music session. As low-key as Wright was flamboyant, Herb ambled over while I was putting my violin away in its case. The first thing I noticed was his flowing mane of white hair. His manner was dignified but somehow humble. Wistfully he inquired, Would I like to join him and his sister Frances Caraway later to make music? It was an instant connect.
Private concerts at Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthdays performed near the stone hearth of the Hilltop living room – Herb playing cello and Frances at the Steinway grand – were occasions for getting to know their families and close friends.
From Herb’s niece, Caren Caraway, I learned that much earlier, they’d performed the same Hayden string trios with Wright’s step-daughter Svetlana playing violin. So the music held sentimental, nostalgic value for Herb. He was reputedly in love with her, though she married another apprentice, Wesley Peters, instead. In another of tragedies that plagued Wright, she was killed when her car crashed into a bridge over the Wisconsin River and plunged down to the water below.
Herb was far too reserved to talk much about himself. It was family who told me about the Taliesin murders that left seven dead and the main buildings burnt to the ground. Herb was one of the few survivors.
A co-called madman with a hatchet blocked apprentices inside their work room and then torched the place. To avoid being burned alive, they had to exit through the only door. The hatchet-man was waiting on the other side to cut them down.
Herb was the first apprentice to notice something was terribly wrong. Though not a nature worshiper like his mentor, he trusted his instincts, and acted on them swift and surely. Fire made him crave water. Thinking how to get to the river outside, he “knew” there was another way out.
He threw himself against a near-by window, shattered the glass and flung himself out. The impetus sent him rolling half-way down the rocky hill outside. He was badly burnt. An arm was broken. But he survived to identify the killer, talk to reporters and give testimony at the trial which followed.
Herb and his brother-in-law, Cary Caraway, were survivor role models in many ways. Along with family and friends, they initiated me as a city girl into the practical ways of country living. But, unlike Wright, they were balanced and upright in their relationships. They honored the genius of Wright’s architectural influence: the “front.” But they didn’t fall into the trap of Wright’s mistaken (and tragic) assumption that he was “above the law,” as if genius excuses erratic personal behavior: “the back.”
Neither had any use for the third Mrs. Wright’s aristocratic pretensions, or for the guru-like domination the couple inflicted on impressionable members of the Taliesin fellowship. Both were intrigued by Swami Rama, but weren’t seduced. They held their ground when pressured to give his Institute the use of their land.
Caren confided her certainty that Spring Green is one of the major meridian points on the planet, not unlike Stonehenge in England or the Mayan Temple at Chichen Itza in Central America. The palpable energy of the land magnifies both the genius and the tragic flaws of those who live in the area. Frustrated, she often wondered out loud why repeated attempts to build a major center continued to fail.
I know from published literature that the Dali Lama regards the Spring Green area as the location of the mythical Shangri-la. His followers also pushed to purchase land there, but locals vehemently opposed them.
At a Buddhist ceremony I felt compelled to attend in the early 1980s, I witnessed as another element, wind, came powerfully to life, mysteriously swirling up out of nowhere. It rushed through the main tent just in time to interrupt an initiation in progress, preventing it from coming to completion. It would seem that there’s a protective spirit hovering over the land. The locals are quite probably correct. When the time is right, there’s more history waiting to be written here: a positive counterbalance to earlier tragedies.
Astrology – A Side-Bar
Spring Green friends introduced me to astrology and tarot cards. I found I had quite a knack for them. They came naturally and easily, as if I’d brought this ability with me from an earlier time or place. I didn’t have to work at it. And, in my relative youth, astrology seemed quite logical and reasonable. Einstein was keen to explore the mysteries of the Universe. This seemed like an appropriate tool to that end, an instrument sages of every culture have consistently applied to better understand themselves and their place in Creation.
I was fascinated that Hippocrates, the Greek father of Western medicine — whose oath of ethics physicians are required to uphold — was an accomplished astrologer. (How quickly we “forget” the inconvenient parts of our history.) According to him, anyone unfamiliar with astrology is unqualified to practice medicine. I concurred. Using the patient’s chart as a diagnostic tool gives insights radiology exams cannot. For example, what are the origins of the disease? Is it inherent or transitory? Will it pass of its own accord, and if so, in what time frame? Or does it require intervention. If so, of what sort?
Upon further investigation, I found that there are many branches of astrology, each suited to the time and culture of its origins. Western astrology depends on the zodiac inherited from the ancient Greeks. It’s sun oriented. Hindu and Hebrew astrologies, however, are lunar-based. Arabians had a highly sophisticated form of astrology based on mathematical formulas that calculate the interactions of ascendant, sun, moon and various planetary positions. The Chinese also had their version of relating, not exclusively to the sun, moon and planets of this particular solar system, but literally to the stars.
Each discipline is a valid piece of the larger puzzle. I put them together in one Energy Synthesis Chart and got amazingly informative results. I wrote a Handbook for Therapists which introduced this method as a diagnostic tool to aid them in their practices. Using chart information, a therapist could see straight to the heart of the client’s issues, eliminating years of beating around the bush and following evasive false leads. To demonstrate how to work with the chart, I chose examples that would be immediately recognizable: two well-known but very different therapists, Freud and Jung.
Included in this Handbook was a simplified version of the Sabian Symbols,4 which assign a specific reading to each of the zodiac’s 360 degrees. In Egyptian mythology, each degree of the zodiac is believed to radiate outwards into the universe, contacting stars which influence our lives from millions of miles outside our universe. Each of the 360 zodiac degrees connect with these far distant influences.
I plugged the Sabian symbols into the Energy Structure Chart. This format seemed ideally suited to computer applications. The result would have given the therapist (or self-healer) a useful diagnostic tool in plain English, not just a set of arcane astrological symbols which only “experts,” after long years of study, become qualified to interpret.
In 1982, I self-published the Handbook. A feature article written for Madison’s Capital Times by Gary Peterson was published on January 13, 1983. He actually read my work before the interview, asked insightful questions, and quoted me accurately. The article described me as “a Modern Mystic.” (See Figure I.1.)
“She thinks in circles, holistically if you will,” he wrote. “There are no square corners in the universe.” He included the Handbook‘s centerpiece, a holistic model called the Synthesis Wheel.
This precursor continued to evolve into what is now the Positive Paradigm Wheel.
The kaleidescope, however, took another turn. Among other things, my attempt to earn a living as an astrologer backfired. A small ad in the classifieds section of The Isthmus, a local Madison paper, drew all the local astrologers out of the woodwork. The people who came knocking on my door were primarily sniffing out the competition, the better to protect their turf. No friends in this crowd.
Looking back, I’ve wondered why I was given this information. It led nowhere professionally. But it was useful to me personally. I used it like a life clock. It told me the time. Now and then, I still use it like a weather report that tells me when to expect trouble. It warns me when to hunker down and keep a low profile.
For example, in graduate school in the late 1970s, I felt compelled to create notebooks of personal transits through the first part of the next century. They showed no prospect of early success. I was forewarned not to expect too much, too soon. Later, in the late 1990s, I hit an especially long dry spell. No matter what I did, nothing came of it.
I specifically chose to work at the UW Hospital. It seemed like a “safe place” to hang out during a time fraught with danger. But there was no place to hide. As described below, the hospital proved to be a very dangerous place indeed. In trying to avoid trouble, I’d actually walked right into the center of it. The dangerous potentials of the time had to be endured and outlived.
But my personal Energy Structure Chart transformed an unremarkable zodiac chart into a consistent pattern filled with promise. I recognized myself in it. During hard times, it sustained my certainty of purpose, fueling a powerful determination to stay the course. (See a hint of the original in Figure I.2.)
From time to time, I’ve entertained myself by constructing Energy Structure Charts for prominent public figures. They confirmed what I’d already suspected, but helped articulate my hunches. For example, at the time of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, I did charts for both Bill and Hillary Clinton. I concluded that while self-righteous religionists debunk astrology, bad guys have no such compunctions. They use deeply private information freely available about political leaders to their own ends.
Bill’s chart had all the markings of combined charm and weakness that brought him into crisis. It seemed likely that a nefarious puppet master, aided by an unscrupulous astrologer, selected and promoted Bill Clinton to public office simply to shoot him down, along with the positive hopes he represented. Hillary’s chart showed a person endowed with extraordinary strength and tenacity, positioned for political power.
I was galvanized into action. I sent a personal letter of support to Hillary, then faxed copies of an open letter to members of both houses of Congress. It cautioned that, like Bill, they all had secrets to hide. Anyone who dared point a finger would regret it. “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” I also urged them to defend Bill’s causes. These shouldn’t be allowed to go down the drain, victims of micro-managed misfortune.
Whether Hillary ever saw my letter, I don’t know. I received a courteous thank you note with her signature, but it could have been fielded by staff. Certainly several self-righteous attackers (Newt Gingrich being only one) came to grief as their hypocrisies caught up with them. If my efforts helped, I have no way of knowing. But the Clintons did manage to survive politically.
Astrology is another example of the rule, “Whatever has a front has a back.” In the right hands, it’s an indispensable diagnostic tool. But this depends on approaching it with a full-spectrum intelligence, one that engages all levels of the Positive Paradigm described in Part Two. It requires a healthy balance between intuition and disciplined reason. When astrology is approached from an exclusively materialistic viewpoint, there’s little benefit. So it’s often ridiculed and dismissed as unscientific.
Worse, astrology is sometimes used as a weapon in the arsenal of power pursuit. In the hands of highly evolved individuals with destructive motives, its information puts their enemies at a hidden disadvantage. It’s ironic that the same people who abuse astrology cloak their involvement and discredit it. Since knowledge is power, they hoarded it. Thus the general public is prevented from accessing the same benefits.
But here is my assurance that I was right to walk away. It’s verified in the Old Testament Book of Daniel:
1.17. As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
His gifts far surpassed what mere astrology can offer. Of the four children of Judah. . . no others in Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom could compare:
1.20. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm. [emphasis added.]
Bottom line: applied with good will and wisdom, astrology is a remarkable discipline. But not many users meet this standard. In Positive Paradigm context, astral energies belong to the middle level of the Wheel. It has its place, but only that. Astrology in itself is not, as some hold, a divine science.
When integrated into full-spectrum awareness, it can be used to higher ends with material benefit. Taken out of context, it leads to delusions or worse. So, when in doubt, leave it alone. Insights gleaned from astrology are usually better gained through other means. For me, being cut off from pursuing this career path was a blessing. It was a temptation and distraction that would have led nowhere good.
For about a year, I worked as a legal secretary in the Richland Center District Attorney’s office. Then the kaleidescope turned once again, taking me back to Madison.
Long story short (see the Introduction), I quite miraculously found myself working as the Confidential Administrative Secretary III at the UW-Madison Department of French and Italian. Whether the extraordinary promotion was an opportunity or a trap (perhaps both) remains to be seen.
This third corner of the Yoga Years triangle, like the other two, had its up and down sides, its front and its opposite and equal back. Somewhat like Wright, who walked away from a wife and six children to live with a married, liberated feminist, the Department Chairman had recently left a wife and two very angry teen-age sons behind to marry a notoriously radical professor in the Women’s Studies Department.
He made vociferous claims of being a feminist, but courtesy and respect for secretarial staff who were beneath his intellectual radar screen was utterly lacking. Not unlike the swami with his ironclad secrecy rule, he threatened that, as a condition of keeping my job, his repeated abuse of University resources must be kept “confidential.”
Initially, their self-righteous double-talk tied me in knots. It took distance and careful thought to recognize what “confidential” actually means as well as what it doesn’t, and what my boundaries are. I had to define valid responsibilities to employers and teachers, in balance with those to their employees and students . . . and ultimately to myself.
All three corners of the triangle encompassing the Yoga Years focused from different angles on the same central subject. The tantric yoga (Shakti worship) which the swami covertly practiced, Wright’s romanticized worship of nature (“Taliesin” is the name of a pagan Celtic god), and at the University, politicized feminism, are all distorted elevations of what, in the context of the Positive Paradigm Wheel, is the middle “energy” level: the realm of nature whose laws are codified in the I Ching.
Other distortions of the interconnected tri-part levels of law would continue to present themselves in other forms to be re-viewed and re-thought. In healthcare and other corporate environments, for example, the surface level of the wheel is isolated out of context. Physical sciences — also inappropriately deified and separated from the whole — similarly led to delusions with survival implications. All this is finally resolved only upon coming to a positive resolution in Part Two.
ORIGIN AND FUTURE OF UNIVERSITIES: Schools Enforce Limitations
Unless it is relevant and accurate, knowledge can be the sinking ship the fool insists is seaworthy, because knowledge often masquerades as wisdom.” — Gavin De Becker, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence
In 1975, I enrolled in the UW-Madison Department of Educational Administration as the logical result of working as the Confidential Administrative Secretary in the Department of French and Italian. The immaturity and fiscal irresponsibility of professors there was appalling. So I entered graduate school with no illusions — only a definite purpose: to earn the credential to build an alternative school.
Because I found that public schools don’t meet students’ most basic human needs, I was intrigued to find out that current universities are inversions of the originals. The teacher-student relationship has been turned upside-down.
In medieval times, students chose and evaluated teachers. Those whose information was deemed relevant and useful were rewarded. Others were dismissed. Original universities were a far cry from schools that enforce a regimented, required curriculum and that pass or fail students on self-serving professors’ whims.
My plan was to build a “School Without Walls” as the wave of the future. It was to provide mentors, structure and internship access to a broad range of schools as well as government, corporate and non-profit organizations for coordinated, on-the-job training.
It was to facilitate for others the process I’d initiated for my own learning when schools failed me. Just as I’d cobbled together a curriculum drawing from many fields of learning and experience, I intended to enable self-responsible students to design a course of learning specifically relevant to their personal needs and professional goals.
I’d seen interdisciplinary programs, but none that actually spanned across boundaries to the extent I envisioned. At the National Music Camp in Interlochen, for example, a musician who played both oboe and English horn was regarded as versatile. At the UW, an interdisciplinary studies department linked hard sciences – oceanography, climatology, geology — to study the effects of climate change. But these were all sciences. Social/political impacts and ethical challenges of this change were outside the boundaries of investigation.
Sadly, my proposed dissertation on the origin and future of universities was aborted by narrow-minded Ed Admin professors who were prime examples of the dilemma I sought to address. Because it was offered by the Ed Policy Department, they voted to deny credit for a course on the Future of Universities. They rerouted me to a (cynically sexist) dissertation on women in school administration, obliging me to take K-12 courses irrelevant to my interest in universities, but relevant to their vested interest in bolstering departmental enrollment numbers.
My musical, womanly, I Ching approach to education was incomprehensible and unacceptable to male professors. They were World War II vets who applied their military assumptions to education. When I asked my thesis advisor, Howard Wakefield, about the appropriateness of a war model for educating youth, he explained the difference between him and his colleagues. They fought as marines and army officers. He, however, was in the Air Force. He had fond memories of flying with buddies where everyone on the plane served a function critically necessary to their collective survival. “Yes,” I responded gently. “But your mission was still to kill enemies.” Us and them. For this he had no answer.
The true basics are conspicuously missing from establishment schools. Is there method in this madness?! My decision: it’s my personal responsibility to fill in the gaps as best I can. By-pass self-serving gate-keepers who resist change. Find alternative, positive ways to inform myself and achieve the worthy goals of my calling.
THE SELECTION PROCESS: Democracy is a Myth
We cannot stop the seasons of history, but we can prepare for them. Right now, in 1997, we have eight, ten, perhaps a dozen more years to get ready. Then events will begin to take choices out of our hands. Yes, winter is coming, but our path through the winter is up to us. . . History’s howling storms can bring out the worst and best in a society. — Strauss & Howe, The Fourth Turning
Graduate school years were another mixed blessing. While earning a Ph.D. in Educational Administration didn’t lead to career advancement, it was highly therapeutic: another opportunity to divest myself of unconsciously held programming.
One day I would read in the research literature about the mistakes women new to administration make, being unable to read the hidden cues of old boys’ club colleagues. The next day, I would fall kerplunk, right into the same traps. Ouch! I would read about female stereotypes, and almost immediately find myself playing them out. Aha!
Another upside was the presence of exactly the right people in the right places to tell me what I needed to know to survive. I owe Rexine Langen, a mentor and good friend from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), many thanks. She was a devoted Christian Scientist; she called me “highly evolved.” She had grave doubts about my applying to Ed Admin. She described her experience of earning a Ph.D. in the Department as “rape.” But, commending my courage, she supported my decision. Her recommendation got me in.
Hillel Raskus, my insider student informant, wise and savvy, taught me how to swim in the shark infested waters of Ed Admin politics. A devout Jew, son of an influential Rabbi, Hillel prolonged his time in Madison make sure I survived the thesis defense. He believed me to be a Tzadick, one of the chosen whose hidden presence quietly sustains the whole world.
Howard Wakefield, the Department Chairman, took on the role of thesis advisor. His sense of humor and down-to-earth attitude saw me safely through the Ph.D. credentialing process. We spent long hours talking philosophy. Howard was a practicing Christian. He gave me a pocket Bible from the stash kept in his center desk drawer. I treasured this gift.
The dissertation topic was as challenging for him as for me. Stereotype issues literally hit home. He began to see relationships with his wife and teenage daughter in a new light. But, he told me, it worked both ways. The job of his dreams had been to be a school district administrator. But he was a short and small-boned. With thick glasses, he didn’t exactly project an athletic image. Muscular football coaches capable of nailing unruly teenage boys to the gym wall were the candidates of choice. He became a professor because, like it or not, that was stereotype he matched.
Howard held no illusions about the value of the degree. One early morning I dropped by to ask for feedback on “piddly” administrative stuff. Inviting me into his office, he closed the door and leaned back in his swivel chair. Propping his feet up on the desk, he winked and said, “Piddle away.”
The business at hand was quickly disposed of. He spent the rest of the hour entertaining me with anecdotes about flying small aircraft — his favorite hobby. Adamant that accurate weather forecasting is a matter of survival, he told me about a former air force buddy, turned school administrator before retiring, who lived in Texas. Once, before anyone else did, he knew a tornado was headed straight towards a local elementary school. He called with a warning. The children were evacuated in time to save lives.
But he wasn’t a politician; Howard had no network of friends he could influence to get me a job. He was certain I’d have no problems; it wasn’t a big deal. I told him that based on what I knew of the times, it would be at least twenty years before I’d see any success. He was incredulous. Why it would take so long, and how I could be so patient?
Ethnology research, my scientific method of choice, was a useful tool applied later in many job settings. Simply put, the researcher goes into the “field” and gets to know the people. Either formally or informally, she gathers information about the system from different insiders’ points of view and puts it together to form an overview. From this, the researcher can draw conclusions and, when appropriate, make recommendations regarding change options.
Ethnology research seminars gave me the opportunity to interview UW regents and system administrators as well as departmental chairmen. The Chairman of the Philosophy Department remembered me from an earlier time when we both sat in the second violin section of the Madison Civic Orchestra. At a critical moment, I’d made a gutsy exit. He said, looking back, he should have walked out too. Confidentially, he described how the selection process of department chairmen worked. The weakest are set up as puppets by contentious colleagues.
Dean Bowles, one of the ethnology profs was also Mayor of Monona, a Madison suburb. He was grooming Bert Grover, a disgraced former state senator, now an Ed Admin student and political ally, to run for election as State Superintendent of the DPI. Dean sent his grad students out to interview legislators, charging them with the mission to draw a forgone conclusion: state lobbying laws inhibit effective representation of educational interests.
His goal: justify a push to change lobbying laws, giving greater power to the Superintendent. (In the course of time, Bert was elected State Superintendent. Dean was appointed as his Deputy. The state’s lobbying laws were changed.)
Yet when I interviewed Don Percy, acting President of the UW System, he said he had no problem lobbying the legislature. There were always powerful alums he could count on to represent University interests on the hill. The politico prof expressed his displeasure for my reporting this unwelcome news by giving me a “C” for the course.
It wasn’t the last punitive grade I’d receive for doing my best, telling it like it is. Technically, the blemish of even one C on my record, a failing grade by graduate school standards, would have prevented me from graduating. But I managed. In a quid pro quo, my advisor reluctantly overlooked punitive grades in return for my promise to keep still about the scandals behind them which, made known, would have seriously disgraced the Department.
Ethnology was ruled out for thesis projects. I was required to use statistical methods in my Ph.D. dissertation, “Women Principals in Wisconsin Elementary Schools: A Support-Success Theory.” With 99 percent statistically significant results, this study proved that public schools in Wisconsin are an inbred, insider’s closed shop. No one enters the selection process who hasn’t first been identified and groomed by current school administrators. No one enters grad school to earn a school administrator degree or applies to the DPI for credentials who hasn’t already been promised a job. The unwritten, informal rules of the pre-selection process: mirror the values, beliefs and interests of current power-holders.
Dissertation research surveyed four distinct groups with the same set of questions. Each population had radically different perceptions of the same selection process. Men principals, those who benefit most from the process, responded with a remarkable 98 percent return rate, insisting the process is fair and unbiased. Men teachers, however, those whose expectations and ambitions had been thwarted, were angry and cynical, certain that the process is stacked and unfair. In one respondent’s words, the chief qualification is “a willingness to screw teachers.”
Women teachers were oblivious to the existence of a selection process. Their mantra was, “I am not aware . . .” Only women principles were ambivalent. As boundary spanners, they had succeeded in being selected, but still recognized bias and injustice in the selection process.
What separated principals from teachers, regardless of gender, was the combined support received in their personal and professional lives. Those who got the most support succeeded accordingly. Those who received little support were least likely to succeed.
Ironically, before I began the study, Professor Joe Kauffman, a former Dean of Students at the UW-Madison, asked me why there were so few women in school administration. Off the cuff, I quickly came up with the answer which research later verified. Easy. Women don’t get support. If they did, they’d succeed.
Interestingly, my research of the literature found that convenient myths are easily forgotten when they suddenly become inconvenient. A paradigm shift occurs, for example, during war time. When the men are away and there’s work to be done, then women are suddenly seen as perfectly fit to function as factory workers or school principals.
By extension, it’s only when the times make skewed rules of the knowledge and power-distribution game sufficiently inconvenient that the public will become receptive to the Positive Paradigm of Change and Positive Action ways to identify and support a more effective kind of leadership.
Applications: The I Ching view recognizes that patterned events repeat smallest to largest. Thus my research findings can be applied to the selection of government officials at every level. It applies to the selection of the CEOs in leadership positions within businesses and corporations. It also applies to political leadership, even on an international scale.
Conclusion: The American dream of a democratic, meaningful choice of leadership is but an illusion. In an informal process that proceeds the formal one, candidates are pre-selected and effectively owned by insiders. The sorry absence of innovative leadership is explained by the documented filtering process which for the most part excludes creative, natural leaders.
Further, the politically motivated agendas of my (punitive) research professors made me quite skeptical of the experts who opine on current events in the news.
What are the long-term survival consequences? To our detriment, the Western linear progressive theory of history puts in-bred leaders operating on dysfunctional paradigms at a loss to foresee cyclical down-turns in order to prepare for them in time.
Egypt’s pharaoh had his Joseph to interpret warning dreams and oversee the timely storage of grain during seasons of plenty to off-set famine during seasons of drought. Who prepares or listens to such boundary-spanning advisors now?
THREE LEVELS OF LAW ARE OUT OF SYNCH:
Affirmative Action Was Doomed from the Start. Why it Matters Now
The American Declaration of Independence names three kinds of law: the laws of man, of nature and nature’s God. The Book of Change is based on the laws of natural change. They emanate from and depend on divine law and serve as the rightful foundation of civil law. Clearly, human laws legislated in ignorance of or in opposition to natural and divine law are not likely to work out well. Policy makers at all levels would do well to give this point careful thought. – P.E. West. The Common Sense Book of Change
In 1976, I participated in an educational law seminar, “How to Enforce Affirmative Action Legislation in Higher Education.” This assumption-driven premise (en-force) was backwards from the start. I applied the I Ching standard of natural law to social dynamics, backed it up with Jungian psychology, and arrived at the conclusion that the legislation was not only unenforceable. It would trigger backlash. Though hardly a popular viewpoint then, with twenty years time, my analysis proved correct.
I wrote that we must first correct critical mistakes in our thinking which prevent both naming the problems we face and solving them. Experts mistakenly dismiss everything that’s not exclusively “rational” as “irrational.” The super-rational, highest octave (intuition, conscience, and divine guidance) and the sub-rational, lower octave (emotions and animal instincts) are lumped together as the “unconscious.” Poetic, biblical language is taken literally. Light and dark, male and female are mistakenly equated with physical bodies and skin types rather than dualistic pairs of cosmic energetic compliments which operate within each of us.
Based on this analysis, I made recommendations for what I called a Positive Action alternative for achieving valid Affirmative Action goals. In the field of education, for example, I recommended coordinating three governing entities which operate out of synch, each undermining the others for political reasons, rather than cooperating in a common goal: educating well-balanced youth.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction represents the policy and sanctioning leg of the tripod, with its power to credential teachers, principals and district administrators. The UW School of Education is the theory base of the tripod. It frames not only methods and psychology of education, but also approaches to policy and administration. The final leg consists of the associations representing those who work actively in the field — school board members and district administrators, as well as high school and elementary principals.
Affirmative Action legislation was but one example, generalizable by I Ching extension, of the disconnect between policy and practice which results when levels of law are out of synch. So long as rules of the knowledge game (epistemology — who has permission to know what, and in what ways) continue to close people off from the richness of their inner lives, negative discrimination (projection and scapegoating) will also continue.
The founding fathers’ three levels of law correspond with the three variables of Einstein’s formula, e = mc2. In turn, Einstein’s intuitive grasp of the cyclical creative relationship was long-preceded by Lao Tze in aphorisms 14, 16 and 21. From Two Sides of a Coin: Lao Tze’s Common Sense Way of Change:
Prophetically, Einstein noted “The splitting of the atom has changed everything, save how we think. Thus,” he observed, “we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” Omitting divine law (not religion) from the three-part equation is the critical mistake in the way most university-trained experts think. Einstein, a physicist referred to it as “the fateful fear of metaphysics.” Carl Jung, a contemporary of Einstein, put it this way:2
Our time has committed a fatal error; we believe we can criticize the facts of religion intellectually. . . The gods have become diseases; Zeus no longer rules Olympus but rather the solar plexus, and produces curious specimens for the doctor’s consulting room, or disorders the brains of politicians and journalists who unwittingly let loose psychic epidemics on the world.
Positive change that would salvage valid goals from flawed legislation requires a foundation of expanded awareness which harmonizes and integrates the complete continuum of law. A start in this direction would be to work with the manual used for thousands of years to train China’s leaders in every field of endeavor — its rulers, military officers, bureaucrats, businessmen and sages alike.
I’ve found that the I Ching instills respect for the practical basis of ethical, equitable behavior, i.e. the law of karma. Every unethical act returns in kind, as do wise and just ones. From this viewpoint, ethical behavior is necessary and prudent — a matter of short-term as well as ultimate survival.
A keystone of this philosophy is the virtue of moderation. It acts as a fulcrum, balancing the alternating, see-saw ups and downs between opposite extremes. An example related to Affirmative Action legislation was the upsurge in the 1960s and 70s of radical feminism and angry black power in reaction to dominant oppression by white males. They are two extremes, opposite and equal mistakes. However, two wrongs don’t make a right. The second compounds the first, making a bad situation even worse. Solutions rest elsewhere. An easier way to approach the same understanding now would be to work with the derivative Positive Paradigm Wheel described in Part Two.
SHOOT THE BOUNDARY-SPANNER: The Method in the Madness
The crux of leadership development that works is self-directed learning: intentionally developing or strengthening an aspect of who you are or who you want to be, or both. . . Such self-directed learning is most effective and sustainable when you understand the process of change — and the steps to achieve it — as you go through it. — Daniel Goleman. Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence
One goal of my envisioned School Without Walls was to train boundary-spanners and facilitate their movement — both laterally within organizations and then between institutions. Wearing different occupational hats is both mind-expanding and eye-opening. Internally, remembering who you really are, the True Self who is the same regardless of your current status, is stabilizing — not to mention humbling. Externally, appreciating how the same world looks from many viewpoints — in practice, not just theory – builds more effective and humane leaders.
I liked to explain the importance of the boundary-spanner function with a riddle. “How does an elephant play bridge?” The answer: “By placing two feet on one side of the river and two feet on the other.”
Seriously, though, the world is becoming increasingly fragmented. People carve out a niche and focus on one small audience, ignoring the rest. The times urgently call for an opposite and equally unifying influence. There’s a need for people who speak to the heart we share in common. We need the capacity to see beneath the surface of apparent differences to recognize the underlying keys to survival.
Another of my primary purposes for earning a Ph.D. supported by a statistical study was to bridge the gap between academia and the musician, mystical, yogic side of my training. Left-brain dominant intellectuals dismiss their right-brained colleagues as “soft.” The logic is that right-brainers have no choice, being unable to cut it in the “hard” sciences. I thought if I demonstrated my competence in the left-brain mode, it would give the other side of my work more credibility. It was a choice, not the cop out of a second-class citizen. If a survivor of the Ph.D. process still respected alternative wisdom sources, maybe it would tempt cynics to cross the bridge over unfamiliar waters.
In accepting an internship in 1976 at the Wisconsin Association of School Boards as their Affirmative Action Advisor, I was intentionally seeking to broaden my horizons in what Goleman would describe as “self-directed learning.” I was taking on an unfamiliar role within what, for me, was a whole new world. I was a relatively young, inexperienced woman being initiated into an old boys’ club. I was a university grad student mentoring with street-smart lobbyists who despised pointy-headed intellectuals. And the approach to “change” I brought to both the UW and to WASB — The Book of Change (the boundary-spanner’s handbook) — was continents and centuries apart from their ideas about change.
WASB’s Director, George Tipler, hated Affirmative Action legislation with a passion. As his staff secretly confirmed, the only reason I’d been brought on board was to get federal monies. The Association had been awarded a grant to train school board members on the school administrator hiring process, but only on the condition that an Affirmative Action component was included.
Nevertheless, when I pushed his buttons (as he said,“Put up or shut up”), George gave me his grudging respect. Nevertheless, when I pushed his buttons (as he said,“Put up or shut up”), George gave me his grudging respect. He introduced me to his lobbyist world, taking me to the Wisconsin State Capitol. He included me in lunch meetings with legislators, where he elaborated emphatically on his opinions.
But he also distanced himself, signaling to his constituents that it was okay to ignore my work. I organized a mandated state-wide seminar on Affirmative Action for school board members and district administrators. He set its date as the first day of deer hunting season. Morbid symbolism aside, no self-respecting rural school board member could be expected to attend.
To satisfy mandated requirements, I collected an anthology of papers written by seminar presenters. He had each article printed on different, pastel-colored paper. His staff snickered, “the fruit salad” manual.
However, there was some fun along the way as I managed to score enough “points” to keep the leader board even. My favorite example was the state-wide seminar on “How to Select Your School District Superintendent.”
For the sake of a five-minute presentation, I had to sit all day up front on the panel podium. Wearing my navy polyester pants suit, power red-white-and-blue neck scarf, and navy pumps, I was posed like politically correct window-dressing, while Lyle Bruss, the main presenter from Green Bay, droned on about selecting and interviewing candidates. His assumption: all were males.
Every time Lyle used the “he” word, I (quite inadvertently) winced. “Yeuch.” An audience member picked up on this, winked at me and elbowed his neighbor.
Pretty soon, every time Lyle used the “he” word, the whole audience was going “Yeuch” back at him, chortling. It took Lyle several minutes to catch on. When he finally did, he turned beet red and made a flustered remark about having four daughters, all of whom were referred to as “he.” Point made, without my having to say a word.
George’s second-in-command was more sympathetic. Senn Brown was taller, thinner and more laid-back than his stocky, fiery-tempered boss. George guzzled black coffee. He said going without it made him nervous. Senn never drank coffee on the job, or anything else, for that matter.
I told Senn the only opportunity women grad students in Ed Admin were being given was to prove they could be meaner than the men. I felt more discriminated against as a thinker than as a woman. He understood. Choosing his words carefully, he put it like this. “You are,” he said, “ahead of your times.”
Senn described the mutual antipathy between the Ed Admin professors and WASB members. Political lobbyists viewed intellectuals with contempt. They were out of touch with the practical realities of funding education. It took laboring “in the trenches” of state politics to initiate and pass legislation, not to mention traveling to participate in labor union and school board meetings across the state.
He had a valid point. I needed practical experience to balance book learning. As chance would have it, circumstances altered to give me lots of it as the kaleidoscope turned yet again, pointing me in unexpected directions.
Up until the time of my thesis defense in September of 1978, I was confident that a job after graduation was in place. Bill Davis, the statistical research professor who sat of my dissertation committee, was well-connected. He knew me and my work and gladly went to bat for me. Thanks to his efforts, I was offered a job with the National Association of Departments of School Administration.
But immediately after the defense, everything fell apart. First, federal funding for the job I’d been promised fell through. The position disappeared. Then, shortly afterwards, the one person with clout whom I could depend on for recommendations also disappeared.
Bill Davis — to the shock and grief of all who knew and loved him dearly — died unexpectedly overnight. He was attending an out- of-town week-end conference. His hotel roommate found him cold and unresponsive the morning after late-night partying. Apparently he’d aspirated vomit, asphyxiated in his sleep and passed without suffering.
So after graduating, making due with the best left available, I used temporary job agency placements to access to a host of job settings — inside banks, utilities, law firms, government agencies, hospitals and corporations — to round out my resume with practical experience.
In each, I silently observed through my ethnology eyes how systems consistently break down for lack of I Ching wisdom. Had I wanted to write a book like Barbara Ehrenbach’s Nickel and Dimed, it would have been quite the exposé. But it wasn’t my purpose to embarrass anyone. I honored the researcher’s responsibility to respect confidentiality.
But, as Senn said, I was “ahead of my time.” Instead of being rewarded for boundary-spanner skills, I increasingly became a misfit who belonged nowhere. In the labor force, I was regarded with suspicion as “over-qualified.” Supervisors, not to mention co-workers, had stereotypes. They assumed, perhaps jealously, that anyone with a college education was an arrogant, incompetent air-head. Management, on the other hand, looked down on clerical staff and were deaf to the value of my ethnology observations.
Much can be said about the consequences on many levels of failing to honor the boundary- spanner function. Systems tend to filter out the elephants who actively qualify themselves to span both sides of the river, the better to create the harmony and balance of equitable solutions. Where is the method in this madness? Who stands to benefit? Who stands to lose?
LEADERSHIP – The World’s Greatest Deficit
Humans are the only species on earth that will follow a totally unbalanced, unstable leader.. . . Without being in touch with our instinctual side, we are dangerously unbalanced. Most of us probably aren’t aware of it. But believe me, our dogs know it; we absolutely cannot fool them.. . . Balance comes from having all four parts of ourselves — intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and instinctual — in alignment. It is only through balance that we can become fully realized creatures of Mother Nature. — Cesar Millan, Be the Pack Leader
My dissertation proved why I would never get (or want) a job in public school education. Attempts to organize an umbrella school for local holistic educators proved that their representatives were as competitive and myopic as mainstream leaders.
Moving on, I landed, by chance, through a temporary job agency, a typist assignment inside of Ross Perot’s E.D.S. Federal. Descriptive data from every department was being collected to assemble an RFP, a proposal competing to reacquire the state contract to process Medicare paper work.
As I typed faster than a speeding bullet, the business practices and political strategies of the entire organization passed through my fingers. In the administrative office, I watched the interactions, practices and policy disconnects of the players with ethology eyes.
Administrators Paul Sims and Bill Campbell were impressed by the quality of the document I produced in record time and intrigued by my educational background. Long-story short, Paul created a permanent job for me in the Customer Service Department as newsletter coordinator and back-up field rep.
His goal was to use me to interface with the Department of Health and Social Services. Don Percy, its head, an old friend I’d interviewed when he was acting President of the UW System, hated Paul’s guts. Wouldn’t speak to him. Paul planned to use me as a go-between to get through a door closed to him.
In combination, Paul and Bill were a perfect yin-yang pair. It seemed like a stroke of genius to team them together. They made an organizational whole.
Paul was the wheeler-dealer interface with the outside world — a politico. Perot selected this former union organizer to prevent unionization. While computers were a mystery to Paul, Bill was the nuts and bolts technical expert. He oversaw day-to-day in-house operations with military efficiency. Together, they would have been unbeatable.
However, the system broke down. Perot was fascinated by Clavell’s novel, Shogun. It was required reading for all E.D.S. administrators. In a bazaar parody of Asian philosophy, Paul turned E.D.S. Madison upside-down.
I watched in silent amazement as Paul misapplied the principles of change, wreaking havoc with people’s careers. Perhaps out of jealousy, Paul drove the greatly respected Bill out. He then proceeded to systematically pluck all the managers out of their departments and transplant them into positions in which they had no interest or experience.
The theory was that this arbitrary change would force-bloom a renaissance of redoubled effort and creative productivity. What he missed was the I Ching understanding that change is natural and organic. It balances all the components of a situation in an intricately woven whole. Without a deeply honed sense of connection to that whole, human intellect cannot fathom the depth of natural processes.
As Lao Tze repeatedly points out, meddling just messes things up. It backfires on meddlers who can’t possibly anticipate the full consequences of their actions.
Here, the result of inept meddling was that one top administrator simply abandoned ship and joined Blue Cross. Another was fired after it came to light that he was taking out his frustrations by ripping the company off.
The new Customer Service Manager, my immediate boss, was a Viet Nam war vet who suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome. He panicked at the prospect of having to evaluate angry subordinates he didn’t even know. They were long over-due for raise reviews. I created a self-eval instrument for him that saved his neck.
Robert Jauch, a flamboyant field representative based out of northern Wisconsin, was brought in-house to manage reps. A soloist, he had no temperament for management and failed miserably. Before he left, I encouraged him to go into politics. He did, and for many years was highly successful as a state representative of his northern district.
In all this, Perot was a distant, ignorant overlord. Policies posted in HR persuaded uninitiated new-comers that they’d arrived in corporate heaven. But corporate policies didn’t matter to local management. They did as they pleased. Clean cut image? Paul flaunted his beard. Straight-arrow fidelity? Seductions and marital infidelity amongst management and employees abounded. Perot’s eagle motto was a joke and wink behind closed doors.
In his later bid for the presidency, Perot focused on the national deficit. He overlooked the greatest one of all: the leadership deficit. He propounded laudable policies, but was unable to enforce them, even within his own organization.
Just as policy was not enough to make Affirmative Action goals a reality, so policies out of synch with natural law fail miserably in corporations as well. The deficit which begins with limiting, skewed education incapacitates management. This reflects in government and world economies alike — a disaster of Titanic proportions.
The knowledge deficit — the change science sadly lacking in leadership training — cripples us. Politicians continue to talk about the urgent need for change. But they know not whereof they speak, any more than did the pseudo-Shogun honchos at E.D.S. Federal.
TQM and HEALTH UN-CARE: Patch Adams Has It Right
Health care in the United States is sick and in danger of dying . . . What is needed is a drastic rethinking of the problem. . . We must in a mutual, multi-disciplinary effort take medicine out of the business sector and recognize that greed and selfishness have placed society — and its health care system — in great peril. — Patch Adams. Gesundheit [emphasis added]
Tidbits gleaned about my long-departed cardiologist father, William Kirby West, left me with regrets for his unfinished business. I know he told Mom that ninety-five percent of the heart disease he saw in his practice was psychosomatic in origin. No wonder I was attracted by Asian mind-body approaches to self-healing. Was it his legacy that I pick up where he’d left off?
I know that when an accreditation team rated the Medical School in Tuscon where he taught as an instructor, Kirby was singled out as a rising star and major asset. But I was also aware that his colleagues distanced themselves, dismissing his views as “ahead of his times.” (Where have I heard that before?)
Kirby had butted heads with representatives of the American Medical Association. He held the AMA in very low esteem. There was little future for him inside the ranks of the medical establishment. Little wonder I identify with Patch Adams and his Gesundheit Institute. I only wish Kirby had lived to see it. I’m sure he would have loved Patch and congratulated him heartily.
I came to the UW Hospital and Medical School with a yoga background, having been trained along with the physicians and psychologists who pioneered the holistic health movement. Though things seem to be improving, at that time their idea of preventive medicine was promoting expensive diagnostic tests to detect disease.
Over ten years, from about 1990 – 2000, I got the know the UW Medical School and Clinics from many angles. The broad spectrum of specialties I visited ranged from the Eating Disorders Clinic to the Center for Health Policy and Program Evaluation (CHPPE); from Pediatric Oncology to Hospital call centers; from Kinesiology and Sleep Apnea Research to their related professional journal publications, from Cardiothoracic Surgery to the Department of Pastoral Care and Volunteer Services.
In sum, I gathered quite a collection of interesting stories to tell.
During the course of these Limited Term Employment (LTE) assignments, I observed as another change-based concept, Total Quality Management, was grievously misconstrued by managers operating on a Western concept of teams.
Westerner Bening’s vision of harmonious, cooperative teams was first appreciated by the Japanese. Western corporations borrowed TQM back after seeing its success abroad. But they applied a radially different mind-set and therefore got radically different results, never recognizing the disconnect.
Like the Ed Admin World War II veterans, hospital administrators based their implementation of TQM teams on competitive, combative sports and military models — as irrelevant to health and healing as they are to education.
Because so much disease was concentrated in one building, it was the most toxic place I’ve ever worked. Internal dynamics were every bit as contentious as a law firm. Hospital organization was like an octopus with its many tentacles tied in knots, each opposing and undoing the other.
No boundary-spanners. No healers. No coordinating vision. It had assumed legal “authority” status after separating from the University and took advantage of its hybrid status to operate either as a non-profit or a profit-making entity, depending on where advantage lay.
Managers were in adversarial relationship to their staff. Doctors looked down on nurses, techs and secretarial staff as second-class peons. Administrators treated doctors like hired help. They made major decisions with no regard to the impact on those affected. For example, in the Radiology Department, new software was installed overnight in the ER without first consulting techs. It might have saved some money, but . . it printed the wrong names and medical record numbers on X-rays!
In the Eating Disorders Clinics (later renamed Healthy Lifestyles), little value was placed on young women patients in terrible conflict and distress. Shortly afterwards, that service was discontinued as unprofitable, while the neighboring department, Sports Medicine, got the big bucks for a new building and lots of fancy equipment to repair income-generating athletes.
What’s wrong with this picture?
In the Department of Pastoral Care and Volunteer Service, I saw surface PR use of pastors, for whom scientist medical staff had little regard. Volunteers were free labor and again, good PR. The “Friends of the Hospital” used also for fund-raising purposes. Patch’s diagnosis proven. Selfishness and greed. Everywhere.
Dr. Mentzer, Chair of the Cardiothoracic Surgery Department, had a droll sense of humor. He had an exotic potted plant donated by a grateful patient sitting in his inner office. When I pointed out that its leaves were rotting, he whipped out his expensive desk scissors. Grinning impishly, in deliberate self-parody, he snipped off the offending leaves. Don’t heal the tree. Just remove evidence of disease.
Work as a ghost writer for the Medical School’s Department of Prevention wasn’t so funny. The Center for Health Policy and Program Evaluation (CHPPE) introduced me to violence suffered by inner city, at-risk youth. State-wide issues included teen abuse of drugs, alcohol addiction on reservations and the rise of “babies having babies.” It was gut-wrenching. The programs seemed uselessness. The futile waste of tax-dollar money being thrown at them indiscriminately was beyond scandalous.
During down time at CHPPE (there was a lot of it), I read Anthony Robbins’ galvanizing Awaken the Giant Within. The result: the +A Positive Action Press. I intended to publish the missing basics not taught in schools which would make all the difference. My books would put boundary-spanner insights before the public. They would advocate alternative, genuinely effective Positive Action Community projects.
In the end, as described later, I accepted a permanent full-time position as a second-shift, front-desk receptionist in the Radiology Department. It led to the next turn of the kaleidoscope, starting with an X-ray tech who terrorized coworkers. At the very time of the Columbine slaughter, his threats were identical. For liability reasons, managers turned a deaf ear to numerous complaints. They put legal concerns above employee safety. After I was reprimanded for my inconvenient feedback, I quietly shared martial arts videos with techs. Since Administration wouldn’t protect employees, it was left up to us to protect ourselves.
When a new CEO was selected, I was thrilled at the prospect of being able to present her with my ten years of ethnology observations. But it was not to be. I should have known. The selection process imported someone even worse then the former CEO who’d brought the hospital to the brink of financial ruin. Though a woman, for all practical purposes, she was still an “old boy.”
The Radiology Department hired a new manager to oversee secretarial staff. She was given free rein to surgically alter the Department prior to the new CEO’s arrival. No evidence of abuses should reach the top. My head was on the chopping block.
To protect my job, I contacted the Human Resources Department for intervention. They just referred me to the union as the employee representative. This was the equivalent of putting me on the fast track to termination as a trouble maker.
The union, in turn, was in disarray. Workers were demoralized. Union top brass had been co-opted by and was in collusion with hospital administration. The HR person, a former air force officer, told me true. “Stay out of trouble. The worm that sticks its head out of its hole gets stepped on.”
The list of patient un-care, unnecessary suffering, and medical abuses observed is too long and painful to record. A New Yorker cartoon found in an attorney’s waiting room said it all. Two mobsters seated in an Italian restaurant are discussing business. The caption reads, “I’m into HMOs now.”
Here’s a riddle: What’s the difference between orchestras, TQM teams, football squads and military search and destroy units? Answer: If you don’t know, figure it out. Quickly. In the mean time, remain healthy of our own accord and stay out of harms way.
SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST: The Wait Was Worth It
Initial experiences with the Jewish religion weren’t fortunate. My first taste was going to Temple Beth El in Buffalo, New York. The enormous building, its domed ceiling and chiseled wood choir loft were literally awesome to a seven-year-old girl who’d seen nothing like it before.
The occasion was the one-year anniversary of my father’s death. (Never mind that Kirby wasn’t Jewish, or, as I found out fifty years later, he’d committed suicide.)
I clearly recall the Rabbi intoning, “Will mourners please rise.” Still holding my hand, Mom stood, tears running down her face. I can still hear the cantor’s wonderfully resonant voice filling the space as he chanted the prayer for the dead. The Kaddish begins:
Yis’ga’dal v’yis’kadash sh’may ra’bbo, b’olomo dee’vro chir’usay.
(May the great name of God be exalted and sanctified throughout the world, which He has created according to His will.)
Oseh shalom bimromov, hu ya’aseh sholom olaynu, v’al kol yisroel; vimru Omein.
(He who makes peace in His high holy places, may He bring peace upon us, and upon all Israel. And say, Amen.)
My next encounter with the religion was at Mom’s second wedding. It was held in my Grandpa Dave’s house, which compared to the homes I’d lived in, seemed like a mansion. The ceremony took place in the gray-carpeted living room in front of a pseudo-fireplace mantle. She wore a beaded, V-neck, full-skirted, ankle-length satin dress. It was gray, not white. She went through the motions like a blank-faced robot.
When the Rabbi began to chant in Hebrew, my younger brother burst out laughing, pointing in glee. “Monkey talk,” he giggled.
Furious, my grandmother grabbed him by the collar and whisked him out of the room. That’s about all I remember of that day. Later, he was unapologetic, holding fast to his view. David, an atheist-in-the-making, still found the sound of Hebrew hilarious.
Things got worse from there. We came to the religion too late to buy into the cultural aspect. In high school, I was alienated by the assumption that we had to choose friends inside the faith. Sororities were religion-based. The only option for Jewish teens was to join a Jewish sorority. According to anxious parents, this was imperative because their children had to marry inside the religion. Outsiders were called “gentiles,” a word spoken with aversion.
I would have none of it. I refused to let anyone limit my choice of friends, much less whom I loved. I never pledged for a sorority. My friends were made primarily through orchestra, where we bonded by making music together. There were enough independent-minded kids around that I didn’t particularly feel the loss. At their mothers’ insistence, the best friends made at Jewish day-camp during grade school years later shunned me. That was sad. But not earth-shaking.
The strongest memory that stands out was my younger sister coming to me in tears of outrage. She was a middle schooler at the time. She’d overheard our Grandma Lil gossiping with friends about us, unaware that Annie could hear them. “Their father was a gentile,” she said. “But he died, thank God, and they’re back in the religion now.” What?! I’d rather have my father alive, thank you anyway. What kind of God was she thanking? Seeing my sister so upset didn’t endear me to my callous grandmother or her religion.
A sociology course I took during my Sophomore year at Oberlin College distanced me still further from the cultural aspect. Trying to please my parents, I researched Jewish communities in 19th century Europe for my term paper.
Come to find out, they were the ones who built the ghettos which later became prisons. On the premise that the “chosen” should isolate themselves from social contamination, they set dynamics in motion that ended in tragedy. Somehow, there had to be a better way.
My serious introduction to the Old Testament itself (not just sanitized Sunday school stories) came much later. I found that part of the tradition fascinating. It began with reading The Bible Code.5 I was intrigued to learn that, like the I Ching, which is embedded with the math of the DNA code, the first five books of The Old Testament are similarly encoded. In particular, Genesis contains hidden messages intended for future generations.
I took out library books and proceeded to relearn the Hebrew alphabet, the better to investigate the codes first-hand. It brought back distant memories of taking Hebrew classes as a teen. The language came easily to me, even then.
In fact, I caught the teacher, Mr. Chalmers, making mistakes in class and — quite innocently — questioned him. Long-story short, he became interested in me to the point of contacting my parents. This led to our families becoming life-long friends. We had dinner with Jerry, his wife and two daughters from time-to-time, and maintained contact through the years.
Upon revisiting the language, I learned that in kabbalah, metaphysical meanings are associated with each letter. The configurations themselves are said to have been received from God. They have the power to lead those who meditate upon them to higher levels of consciousness.
The immediate purpose for relearning the Hebrew alphabet was to better understand verses from Exodus. Talmudic scholars found that three verses comprised of 72 letters each could be combined to create three-letter codes called “The 72 Names of God.” Each of these 72 names is associated with a particular spiritual quality. This coded message answered a question I’d had for a long time about the I Ching.
Namely, the 64 Platonic-like ideas in The Book of Change refer exclusively to natural dynamics and human interactions: change, gain, loss, adversity, prosperity, etc. Where were the biblical concepts: mercy, hope, faith and charity? The 72 Names fill that gap. They focus on Divine Law which resides at the center of the Positive Paradigm model. In contrast, The Book of Change focuses on the middle level of the Wheel, the realm of Natural Law. They’re two different subjects, related but also distinct.
I spent two quiet years working the overnight shift at the Wisconsin Relay Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing handwriting, rewriting and illustrating my personal version of the 72 Names. Perhaps some day there will be time to put them together in publishable form.
In contrast, I came to the New Testament relatively late in life. This was fortunate in many ways. Whenever I had the opportunity to learn about Jesus, my inner radar said, “No. Wait. Not yet.” This was something very special, something that had to be done at the right time, in the right way.
I did everything else first, as if building a foundation upon which to build. I did my music years, my yoga years and university years. In each time frame, I closed out everything else to focus entirely on the discipline at hand.
So when it finally came time to focus on The New Testament, I was ready and well prepared to appreciate it. It hadn’t been spoiled by being introduced too early, before I was mature enough to relate to the teachings as an adult. No one had spoiled the teachings for me with prejudiced opinions or by bad example. There was no social or authoritative pressure put upon me to either believe or not believe. It was my choice.
I came to the teachings, especially St. Matthew, with an open mind and uncluttered brain. I Ching and yogic backgrounds put the life and times of Jesus in perspective. Many of his teachings and so-called miracles were built on tacit understandings generally accepted at a time when people lived far closer to nature than most of us city-folk do today. This bedrock of common understanding has since, for the most part, been lost or forgotten.
His story didn’t seem like hocus pocus to me, as intellectuals often assume. In the context of Chinese sages and Hindu yogis, it was plausible and wonderful.
Here was an extraordinarily great master who choose to arrive on Planet Earth at a tipping point in history. Civilization had reached critical mass. This rare, great being had the compassion and power to influence the fate (survival versus extinction) of the human race. His demonstrated love, courage and personal sacrifice changed the course of history.
Not coincidentally, it seemed that at the time I was making friends with St. Matthew (the early 1980s), humanity was slowly approaching another tipping point, another time when, again, human survival cannot be taken for granted. There was a message here for those with “ears to hear.”
It later influenced me to write Rethinking Survival for the purpose of giving people worldwide the means to see Christ’s power and purpose with fresh eyes. The Positive Paradigm of Change offers a context within which his life, death and transfiguration are understandable. (See Figure II.18.)
It gives us an opportunity to rethink the example of his life, teachings and sacrifice. It’s a means to save the hope of the Christ child from the bathwater of false distortions. It offers a way out of narrow-minded strife in political and religious arenas alike.
Bottom line: I found that the heart of the Old Testament and the New Testament which completes it both work for me.
The Life Wheel illumines the deeper meaning of the Shema, the call to the faithful repeated in morning and evening prayers. This repetition reinforces the primary calling to Unity: a loving integration of heart, soul and body: “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
The Life Wheel reinforces the eternal continuity of Timeless Truth. As Taoists honor the Way, so Christ’s presence (“I am the Way”) before, during and after the existence of Planet Earth, infuses truth teachings throughout human history.
What goes on at the surface, cultural level of institutional religions is a different matter. Sadly, too often, it’s apples and oranges. Disconnected universes.
So it bears repeating: distortions at the ephemeral surface cannot negate the inherent power and eternal validity of scriptures.
Accordingly, whatever unfortunate baggage and associations have accrued to the teachings, release them. However jaded you’ve become, get over it. However tragic the past, forgive it. Go back and rethink the teachings. See them like a genius, through fresh eyes, as if for the first time, new again. It’s worth it.
The Importance of Keeping Still
Curiosity, awareness, attention — those are the tools we need if we hope to avoid our worst mistakes — and indeed if our children are to have a future on this planet. We have come to a pass in our evolution where we all must, to one degree or another, be scientists at heart or be victims of forces we don’t understand. I am certainly concerned about our survival as individuals. But I am also concerned that if we don’t know the rules of our world — both the human and physical rules — we will be in danger collectively as well. — Laurence Gonzales. Everyday Survival: Why Smart People Do Stupid Things
The one permanent position I accepted at the UW-Hospital was as a second-shift receptionist in the Department of Radiology. Working hours straddled day time activities, primarily clinic appointments, and after hours ones when hospitalized patients were brought down from the wards for their X-rays, CT scans and MRIs.
From the front desk, I could watch Med-Flight helicopters take off and land. When accident victims came in, medical teams rushed to the copter to load gurneys, which were rolled straight to Radiology for diagnostic tests.
Staff was intense, dedicated and heroic. For me, this was Western medicine at its best.
I took the job in Radiology to fulfill a long-held dream. I was extremely near-sighted and dearly wanted to fix my eyes. During a flight to England, a contact lens had popped out and disappeared. I had no back up. It was months before I was scheduled to return to the States. After an agonizing ten minutes that seemed to last hours, a stewardess searching in the dark with a pencil-thin flashlight found the missing lens. It was lodged in the rough fabric of the floor rug. Ever since, I’d dreaded the possibility of what could happen without correction in a life-threatening emergency. I’d have been virtually useless.
I accepted a permanent job so I could pay for expensive Lasix surgery and enroll in a flex-plan for income tax relief. Long story short, this led to a heart-breaking shaggy-dog story of health-uncare at its worst. It consumed the better part of a year to play out. It involved not only two inexcusably botched surgeries, multiple self-serving eye specialists at war with each other, and gutless lawyers, but a malpractice insurance agent whom attorneys feared. He boldly lied in the face of all the facts – and got away with it.
However, there was an upside. I learned two important lessons. First, “Be very careful what you wish for.” All I asked for was to see well enough to function without correction in a survival situation. And that is exactly what I got. No more, no less. By guess, by golly, my eyes have adjusted. Despite astigmatisms that weren’t there before, and needing different pairs of glasses for different situations, in an crisis situation I would be able to manage without correction now.
The second lesson came from reading scriptures. It lent a deeper perspective on the first lesson, “Be careful what you wish for.” In tears, after the first botched surgery, I asked, “Why did this happen?” The answer came from opening my well-worn Bible at random to Ephesians I:17-18:
[I pray that] . . . . the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of his calling . . . [emphasis added.]
“A-ha!” My mistake. I’d been thinking about survival in exclusively physical terms. This devastating disappointment served to redirect my thinking inwards. Surviving in an emergency situation doesn’t depend on seeing with physical eyes alone. It’s more than curiosity, awareness and attention to things in the world. Most importantly, it depends on the ability to see with the inner eye of understanding.
Ultimately, who survives and who doesn’t rests with the powers that be. And to large extent, that in turn is based on what Chinese sages called te — “knowing” to be in the right place, at the right time, and in the right frame of mind. It’s the common sense — intuition, if you will — which Gonzales calls “knowing the rules of our world.” These rules include legal and social ones, as well as the fundamental laws of nature and nature’s God.
The surgery experience led to a fascination with the subject of survival. I absorbed as much as possible from the onslaught of available sources – books, TV shows, internet websites. There are countless perspectives on surviving. Putting the different angles together was useful for me. So I drafted another book.
I queried a few agents about Surviving Titanic Times: Build Life Boats NOW! A few found the proposal worthwhile. But no takers. That didn’t, however, prevent my ideas from being “borrowed.” I later heard the concept used on the news, though not as I’d intended.
I outlined Surviving Titanic Times during third-shift hours working as a Communications Assistant at the Wisconsin Relay Center. Here’s an excerpt from the proposal that explains why I chose the title:
We currently live in what, for three distinct reasons, I call Titanic Times. First, the title brings to mind the fate of the ship Titanic. It sank on April 14, 1912, in direct contradiction to the experts’ assurance that it was unsinkable. It drives home my point that, as a planet, we’re ignorantly headed towards disaster in large part due to to experts’ misinformation.
Second, the title calls to memory a prophetic movie that moved the world. Titanic is a story of stewardship and heroism as well as greed. Above all, it dramatizes a rescue from suicidal despair, personal sacrifice and the triumph of love over time — the ultimate survival. Tellingly, the experts got that one wrong too. They were deaf to the deep sense of foreboding the movie stirred as well as its commercial value. Critics said it would flop. In fact, Titanic won eleven Academy Awards and grossed over $1 billion in 1998, making it the most successful movie of all times to that date.
The third implication of the Titanic title is the most important. The name “Titanic” refers to the Titans, Greek gods sired by Kronos (Father Time). Fearfully jealous, Kronos stole the male infants from Gia (Mother Earth) as each was born, swallowing his sons whole. This myth is a metaphor for the law of karma. Our deeds may seem to be swallowed up by time, but in fact they never die.
In the cyclical course of natural events, they come back, just as the Titans did, returning to conquer and replace the old gods. Titanic Times is intended to suggest that we’ve arrived at a time when past crimes again nature are inevitably returning to take their toll. It also implies that we may be entering a time when hidden giants equal to the dangers of the times will emerge to restore order and initiate the next cycle of history. Tony Robbins’ call to Awaken the Giant Within may well turn out to be prophetic.
It seemed ironic that the general public in some ways is as of hard of hearing as the deaf community. What, I wondered, will it take for the “conveniently” hard of hearing to open their ears, hear warnings of threats to their survival and build lifeboats in time?
I decided that before readiness is there, it’s smartest to keep a low profile. When immediate danger is actually on the front doorstep, it will finally become convenient for people to rethink their assumptions. Only then will the general public have an vested interest in heeding the warnings of boundary-spanners, making it safe for “non-traditional” thinkers to come forward.
This is the upside of dark times. Extreme danger is a 2’x4′ sufficient to get people’s attention, wake them up to their true greatness — “the giant within.” During WW II, Frau Haas demonstrated extraordinary new-found strength when her children’s survival was threatened. Herr Peterson treasured the rare comradeship of wartime friends. They taught me that danger can bring out the best in those determined to survive.
For now, I quietly watch what passes for the news. Often it’s just thinly disguised infomercials. I shake my head at cynical politicians who spin the facts, as if we were fatally stupid. Like the naive girl seduced by the grandiose gesturing of a swami too holy to be true, voters seem to swallow boldfaced lies whole. If they’re told with a straight face and repeated often enough, they pass for truth. Anyone who reacts with gut feelings is easy prey for these emotion mongers.
Analysts repeatedly refer to the American dream. But we seem to have forgotten what that was. Wasn’t the American revolution about freedom, particularly freedom from merciless, exorbitant taxation without representation? It wasn’t about owning a home or going to a university that promises career advance, even at the expense of squeezing students’ minds to fit into narrow corporate molds.
Most news reporters, along with the politicians and experts they interview, are products of the skewed educational system that has brought us to the brink. However, according to the maxim, “The larger the front, the larger the back,” times of gravest danger are when greatest opportunities for change arise.
Heroes emerge when the time calls. A new readiness to see what before was invisible can open new avenues of Positive Action. As Gonzales details, survivors remember their best qualities and have eye-opening epiphanies.
Quite possibly there’s a whole generation of true leaders, ruined professionally to shut them up, patiently biding their time. They’re hidden in society’s woodwork, waiting quietly with the patience of Chinese sages for the right time and opportunity to come forward, to tell their stories. They’ll educate those with an ear to hear about the fundamental rules of our world, as Gonzales calls them — not just social standards, but more fundamentally, the laws of nature — and help us find the way out of self-destructive madness.
I’ve taken the experience of journalist Dorothy Thompson, “the American Cassandra,” to heart. Reporting from Germany in the 1930’s, she found no one in the U.S. wanted to hear about Hitler’s menace . . . until Americans were galvanized into entering WWII. Then it became convenient to listen to her. She became greatly influential.
After the war however, she reported about Russians retaliating against Germany, slaughtering innocent civilians. No one wanted to “hear” it. She lost her short-lived popularity when her message was no longer convenient.
With I Ching forbearance, I refer to the wisdom of Stillness:
52. When immediate answers to important questions cannot be found, sometimes keeping still is the best way out. Burning desires produce chaotic thinking. This only clouds the issue and makes life painful. Meditation is a valuable method for finding stillness.
But quietness has its opposite side. Stillness is fecund. It bears within it the latent seeds of future action. So it’s important to know when to be quiet. Listen to inner guidance that warns against danger. When the time is ready, you’ll know to be the right place and when to take action.
To the point, I find Stephen King’s The Stand prophetic. Two sides are broadcasting from the middle level of the wheel. Randall Flag, an apostate from hell, is dream-drawing victims to Reno, Nevada. Mother Abigail strums on her guitar singing “What a friend we have in Jesus.” She’s dream-calling those tuned to her station to Denver, Colorado.
Those who hear nothing are killed off by a super-flu. At the hand of God, the ones who choose wrongly are incinerated in a nuclear explosion. Those who choose rightly survive to begin civilization anew.
During the quiet times, survivors are listening and preparing for the inevitable pendulum swing of history. They’re making ready for the next turn of humanity’s kaleidoscope.
The time is coming soon when the public will be ready to hear and willing to take action.
Then, one voice can make a difference.