An acquaintance named Greta exemplifies came to the United States from Ireland with only a limited grade-school education and no skills and thus sought work as a maid. She found a job as an upstairs maid on the large estate of a very wealthy and socially prominent family. Her cheerful willingness and dedication to the family’s welfare resulted in her progressive promotion to housekeeper. She tended to all the needs of the family, traveling around the world with them in luxurious style. Continue reading
Magnanimity is not a common term. Many people do not recognize it when they hear it. But they know it immediately when it is explained, and most know it as one of the areas they can personally improve upon. For too many of us are quick to seek revenge, swift to criticize, fast to find fault, and speedy to get even. Yes, too many of us are slow to hold our tongues, slow to forgive, and even slower to forget. One of the leading reasons for a lack of magnanimity is what I call a scarcity mentality. Continue reading
The key to painless growth is humility, which amounts to merely dropping pridefulness and pretense and accepting fallibility as a normal human characteristic of self and others. Continue reading
I feel it is very important to ask fundamental questions and to keep on asking them without trying to find an answer, because the more you persist in asking fundamental questions, demanding, inquiring, the sharper and more aware the mind becomes. Continue reading
Born on the northeast coast of England, of Viking and Welsh ancestry, I grew up as a granddaughter of the Empire and daughter of the Commonwealth. As a young girl in the years following the First World War, I puzzled and then grieved that the men came back so hurt—legs lost, difficulty breathing––and so many dead. How could we have done this? I wondered. Why couldn’t we have talked it through? This was a question that really mattered to me.
Later, studying the armistice conditions ending the war, it became very clear that the lack of ongoing and authentic dialogue among nations created conditions for future conflict. I determined that, when I grew up, I would study ways in which these mistakes would not be repeated.
But then, instead of peace, World War II came, and I spent almost five years in the Royal Air Force. The overarching mission was simple: survive, defeat Nazism, end holocausts, and make the world safe for democracy. In the course of wartime, I lost friends, comrades, and home. One searing experience in Europe, in which I encountered ambulatory Jews being brought out of the camps, caused me to ask my commanding officer: Sir, how could we have done this? He snapped that of course, we had not done this, they had. Yet I knew that, somehow, our human community as a whole had failed in the face of these atrocities.
In my contemplation and study of these questions, it became clear to me that every societal change process I knew of started with an informal conversation in which men and women—young or old—were witnessed and “heard into speech,” sharing their dreams and hopes for making a difference around something they cared about. In being truly seen and heard, people discovered their mutual commitment to act and were transformed.
A king went to a Zen master to learn gardening. The master taught him for three years, and the king had a beautiful, big garden – thousands of gardeners were employed there – and whatsoever the master would say, the king would go and experiment in his garden. After three years the garden was absolutely ready, and the king invited the master to come and see the garden. The king was very nervous because the master was strict: “Will he appreciate?” This was going to be a kind of examination: “Will he say, ‘Yes, you have understood me’?” Every care was taken. The garden was so beautifully complete; nothing was missing. Only then did the king bring the master to see it. Continue reading