Tag Archives: wisdom

Are you tuning into Nature’s music? (part 1 of 2)

It seems that no matter what platform you go for information, you are likely to see tracks or courses offered to both general audiences and professionals on “trauma.” Once associated  with extreme cases such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, that affected veterans of war going back as far as Viet Nam war in the sixties, we know better today that it is even more common  given the stresses of ordinary daily life: our jobs, relationships, life and current events and the way trauma is held in the body and continues to evoke similar responses even long past the original event (1).

Where does Mother Earth turn with the stresses and trauma inflicted by human beings over the past decades? This is usually the place we shut down because it is too overwhelming even in the face of climate change events—fires, floods, melting glaciers. Environmentalist Paul Hawken (2021) offers hope in his book Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation, a self-regenerative system as a leadership model that would not only reverse the climate crisis in the most compelling, prosperous, and inclusive way but also would result in the regeneration of life in all its manifestations, human and biological (2).

Bessel van der Kolk. What is Trauma? youtube.

Hawken, P. Regeneration: Ending the climate crisis in one generation. (NY, NY: Penguin,2021), p. 9.


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Howard C. Nusbaum on the Science of Wisdom: Practical Benefits for Students

In a recent interview, University of Chicago Professor of Psychology, Howard C. C. Nusbaum talked about his early research particularly related to the ways in which experience changes us and how these experiences change us. As an artist art-historian my ears are naturally attuned to topics around perception, attention, and learning and the like that Nusbaum said engaged him as well. For the past 25 years, my community college students’ essays about looking at art objects in a museum became the basis of my research on their thinking processes about their museum experiences—not just what they knew about another culture but more how they came to know. Nusbaum’s current research interests have expanded to include wisdom along with a new course, Understanding Wisdom. For Nusbaum, being wise is not being all-knowing, but rather being in possession of epistemic humility: one who is knowledgeable in his or her field but also cognizant that it is only one piece, not the entire puzzle. Such a person is open to new and expanded knowledge rather than closed off to others thinking they know all that there is to know. Professor Nusbaum also sees value relativism as an offshoot of epistemic humility; i.e. the ability to appreciate “different people’s values as having importance in their lives and importance for their decisions and processing of information.” In my research, I have identified a similar quality in the students through the jing “reverence” they bring to the museum art objects and recording their careful and reflective thinking revealing a process of evaluative judgments.

On his recent trip to China, Nusbaum meeting with middle school educators was reminded of Philosopher of Education John Dewey’s sojourn in China (1919-21) and the emphasis Dewey placed on learning skills and knowledge in an applied setting. The “second Confucius”—as the Chinese referred to Dewey—was a proponent of “hands on” or experiential learning and saw democracy intertwined with the one ultimate ethical ideal of humanity, the latter being the foundational Confucian concept of altruistic moral conduct.

From my own reading, Dewey deeply admired traditional Chinese culture and the way in which the Dao, or The Way, was the standard of perfection for the individual to emulate and cultivate as modeled by the Sage Kings of antiquity. For the Chinese, intelligence alone was not enough for a successful career at court for great emphasis was placed on learning and the arts as the path to both authority and wisdom. From my background as Chinese art historian, the role of the arts played in this process was key for the ritualizing practice of the Three Perfections—calligraphy, poetry, painting— over one’s lifetime was as essential to a scholar- bureaucrat’s portfolio of excellence as was passing the civil examinations. Composing a poem or putting brush to paper by a person of the Dao gave coherent form to patterns unseen before so that they could be shared with as well as appreciated by one’s peers which underscored the communal as well as innovative aspects of practical wisdom. “The success of the Chinese literati tradition of politicized self-cultivation—that of becoming an “inner sage, outer king,” paid off: the scholar-bureaucrats were successful in administering the world’s largest economy and sustaining it over two millennia (private conversation Henry Rosemont, Jr.).”

Link here to the Jean Matelski-Boulware’s interview with Howard C. Nusbaum, an excerpt from the documentary film The Science of Wisdom: http://wisdomresearch.org/forums/t/1531.aspx#

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Appreciative Inquiry in Asia: a review

Seldom is a journal issue’s topic as timely as that of the August issue of AI Practitioner, with its key theme of Asian philosophies and values. Reading and reflecting on the essays took me back to a conversation a decade or so ago, when I asked David Cooperrider his thoughts on the future of organizational development (OD).

Candidly, he replied that he saw the future as an enormous opportunity to expand on OD, particularly applying Appreciative Inquiry (AI), with its strengths-based framework. In many ways, he went on to explain, we are being asked to create a new and ever-dynamic learning capacity on the planet—which he likened to a global brain. It would seem then that this very issue of the journal provides the impetus for advancing Cooperrider’s provocative proposition. The compilation of AI practices, models, and case studies brought together by editors Noel E. K. Tan and Fiona O’Shaughnessy not only contributes to our understand¬ing of ancient wisdom traditions of Asia, but also demonstrates the way in which AI dovetails nicely with Eastern culture by expanding our learning capacity in the way Cooperrider envisioned many years ago.

The essays are timely also in that they address a theme that emerged after the 2008 global financial meltdown. It was then that business schools began to take a hard look at their curricula in order to better prepare future MBA candidates to contribute to a more sustainable and equitable world. Out of this soul-searching came several international conferences with calls for papers on ancient wisdom traditions, from both the West and the East.

Approaches to change, East and West
Wendy Tan and Paul Wang make a particularly salient point when they propose the Chinese Yin-Yang as an appropriate philosophical underpinning for AI practice. They explain that in Yin-Yang theory opposites are viewed as continuously dynamic and complementary entities, and therefore black and white do not need to be seen as polar opposites. It is this dynamic quality that underlies the various approaches to strategy applied by the contributors to this issue. An important caveat for the reader is that there are two very different approaches to change: here in the West, change is viewed almost as an anomaly that threatens “order” and is always met with apprehension and fear, giving rise to a determination to harness or “manage” it. Not so in the East, for change there is seen as the “Way of the Tao”, in that it is an affirmation of chaos rather than its negation. Seen through this particular lens, change is a constant, organic phenomenon that settles not on a single-ordered cosmos, but the sum of the wholes of all cosmological orders, a view held by both Taoism and Confucianism (Hall, 1991, p. 61).

Operationalizing human wisdom
Confucianism has provided the basis of both institutional and cultural practices that hold true to the present day, not just for China, but also for Japan, along with Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong. That is, that individuals fulfill their participatory obligations not only through acquiring knowledge, but also by going beyond factual knowledge to wisdom. This pursuit of wisdom requires self-cultivation of the individual’s nature-endowed good qualities of benevolence and goodness, which become the markers of establishing and deepening right relationships in the home, the community, the world at large, and, ultimately, the cosmos. According to philosopher and China scholar Henry Rosemont, in its more philosophically and spiritually important occurrences,知 (zhi: “knowing, wisdom”) is perhaps best defined as “a sense of what it is most fitting to do in our interac¬tions with our fellow human beings, understanding why, performing those actions, and achieving a sense of well-being from so doing” (Rosemont, 2013, p. 32, italics in original). As he recently reminded me, the eventful world of the Chinese makes the idea of any “factual knowledge” suspect; there seems to be little concern for the that of things, but the relations between event-changing particulars – THAT IS from whence wisdom must come.1

An example of the discernment of wisdom in action is that modeled by the Master himself recounted in the Analects. When a disciple asks Confucius why he gives dif¬fering answers to two individuals for a similar situation, Confucius replies that his judgment was based on these distinguishing factors: first, to the individual whose personality was inclined to rash action, the Master advised a prudent restraint; for the second individual, to offset his natural reticent response, he instead encour¬aged him to take immediate action (Rosemont, 2013).

Zhi and AI
How then does zhi manifest in the Appreciative Inquiry process? One possible example is given by Laura Hsu in her case study of the merger of a Taiwanese com¬pany with a US company. Hsu observed that, after an AI intervention, the company that perceived change as “self-generated” was better positioned to move toward a positive future, whereas the other company required additional facilitation to guide its employees to reframe a mutually positive future.

Confucius placed a great emphasis on the importance of rites and rituals, and Neena Verma’s “7i Generative Mandala” although based on Hindu rituals, beautifully illustrates how the Sacred can penetrate into the Profane even at the corporate level.

The stories reflect the theme of ‘heart/mind” – from Vincent Hsu and Leo Mao’s work with the medical rescue first responders at the earthquake in western China, to Patricia Nunis’ work with women’s groups – each resonate with what Gallagher (1998, p. 139) refers to as “the ‘capacities of the heart’ in its strivings for wonder, searching, listening and receptivity”.

There are rewards to be had by not just reading once but rereading the articles again and again, for each time you do, more gems will be uncovered and revealed that is also in keeping with Eastern traditions. Indeed, in this, AI may be the ideal meeting point of East and West – after all, AI practitioners in the West find the selfsame rewards each time they “open” the eyes of their clients to see beyond the world of objective reality toward the rich possibilities that lie waiting to be discovered just this side of phenomenal existence.

1 Rosemont references Nathan Sivin, who has made detailed studies of Chinese, medical, astronomical, alchemical, mathematical and other sciences, to illustrate that it is the aesthetic, ethical and religious dimensions of our lives that make our lives truly human (See Rosemont’s Reader’s Companion, p. 34).

Ames, R. and Rosemont, H., trans. (1999) The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation (Classics of Ancient China). New York: Random House Publishing.
Gallagher, M. (1998) Clashing Symbols: An Introduction to Faith & Culture. New York and Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Hall, D. L. (1991) “Modern China, Post-Modern West,” Culture and Modernity: East-West Philosophic Perspectives. In Deutsch, Eliot (Eds). Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
Rosemont, H. (2013) A Reader’s Companion to the Confucian Analects. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Access the full issue: http://www.aipractitioner. com/appreciative-inquiry-practitioner-august-2013

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