Gary GruberLearning for LeadersTWO ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS
July 8 , 2013 /


Margaret Wheatley has published an excerpt from her new book, So Far From Home: Lost and Found in Our Brave New World, published by Berrett Koehler.  I haven’t read the book but I read the excerpt called “8 Fearless Questions.” You can read it here for yourself here and see what you think :

What follows is what it spawned in my early morning thoughts on this day.  I picked up two questions that I wanted to address briefly and they are these: What do you call yourself and what is the relationship between hope and fear?  These can be two essential, defining questions and your answers may reveal a lot about who you are and what you are about.
Each of us has a name by which we have become known, a name given to us by our parents, a name sometimes chosen at random, or from a list of popular baby names, sometimes by family traditions, and sometimes with special meaning.  In some cultures a name has particular significance with regard to a blessing or something sacred.  Indigenous people seemed a whole lot better at this, maybe because they lived closer to nature?
Beyond a given name however, what do you call yourself as some kind of identification? It may have to do with your role as a worker, as some kind of survivor, as a citizen of a particular nation or the member of a group or association. It could be one of the big 8 social identifiers such as ability (physical and mental), age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation. Think for a moment how circumscribed those may be or how limiting. Is “writer” or “author” sufficient?  Even the word “American” can be controversial because when we are south of the border we are “Norte Americanos” and technically so are the Mexican people because they are still north of Central and South America.  Some people were identified as members of a particular tribe, a social division of families or communities with a lot in common.  Occupation or vocation? 
Rather than define ourselves by what we do, how about defining ourselves by who we are, our essential nature as human beings rather than human doings?  The essence or ground of our being brings to mind the writings and work of Paul Tillich, especially in The Shaking of the Foundations, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1955. 
 “The name of infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of our being is God. That depth is what the word God means. And if that word has not much meaning for you, translate it, and speak of the depths of your life, of the source of your being, of your ultimate concern, of what you take seriously without any reservation. Perhaps, in order to do so, you must forget everything traditional that you have learned about God, perhaps even that word itself. For if you know that God means depth, you know much about Him…. For you cannot think or say: Life has no depth! Life itself is shallow. Being itself is surface only. If you could say this in complete seriousness, you would be an atheist; but otherwise you are not.”  

 Perhaps we can call ourselves “believers” and that would require more discussion about where we place that belief.  As Tillich says, what is our ultimate concern, the depth of our life, our passion?  What are we to be about?  Suffice to say here that the next question may shed some light on this first one about what are we to call ourselves.

The second question has to do with the relationship between hope and fear.  What I have said for a long time is that faith and fear are perfectly correlated, inversely.  The more you have of one, the less you have of the other.  What if we were less invested in the outcome and more present and invested in the process, in the present moment?  Would that have any effect on our behavior?  On our choices?  On our relationships with our work and our colleagues?  On our connections with family, friends and neighbors?   I hope that, at the least, we believe in who we are and what we’re doing and that who we are defines what we do rather than what we do defining who we are.  Think about that!
Margaret Wheatley, in the excerpt noted at the beginning of this piece, has quite a lot to say about working beyond hope and fear, of living in the future now.  How about going beyond work and seeing what it is that motivates us to even consider the kind of work that we want to be about?  How about forming your own essential questions that define you?   If you come up with one or two that you find particularly helpful, I would be most interested in knowing what those are.  I chose my two questions based on what it was that moved me this morning to consider my continuing learning more about who I am and what I want to be about, today and all that may follow.  If you have gotten this far, let me know what you find to be your essential questions.  Thanks!

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