Social Intelligence

Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection or compassionate action. Daniel Goleman, from Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships What is the net collective effect of connective technology? Is it increased outward focus and social empathy or increased inward focus and narcissism? I tend to think that anything that allows people to reach beyond previously isolated tribes-ideologies-beliefs-borders, by definition, broadens our collective understanding of who “WE” are. And anything that truly expands our awareness and understanding of the broader human condition must, over time, increase empathy. The more continually aware we become of our collective presence and struggles, the more we will understand, even feel, the reality of others. I suggest that the net impact of connective technology, over generations, will be to diminish our sense of insider/outsider, us/them dualism in religion, politics, and nationalism. Daniel Goleman’s TED Talk from 2007 — “all it took was a simple act of  

Ritual Killings to End

The 2 or 3 readers of this personal journal may know that Cynthia and I produced a documentary film called Drawn From Water. The film explores a little-known practice called mingi — the ritualistic killing of children by S. Ethiopian tribes, and the efforts to rescue mingi children and ultimately stop the practice altogether. Today, I’m elated to announce that the elders of the Kara tribe have voted to permanently end the practice of mingi. This decision was mostly the result of the tireless work of Lale Labuko, a Kara tribe member, who plays a central role in the film. Lale is one of very few Kara to receive a university education. He returned to the tribe four years ago to help end mingi killing. Below are the translated statements of the Kara elders, explaining their reasoning for ending this century’s old tribal practice (from the Omo Child website). But this is just one step. At least two other S. Ethiopian tribes still practice mingi, such as the 45,000+ Hamer tribe members. The number of Ethiopian children (aged infant to 5) killed each year could still be in the thousands. Please help by going to the Drawn From Water page and making a donation or buying the film. 100% of donations go directly to on-the-ground efforts to end mingi. Other organizations working to end mingi include Omo Child and GTLI. … Elder Mero Dobo: This organization brought a good help for Kara land. We have seen a good development since this organization established. But before that everybody was assumed that Lale brought curse to the Kara land. However, we haven’t seen any curse both to the family and to the land. As I know so; far for the past four years nothing happen to the Kara land and family as well. But, last summer we discovered that Omo Child foundation became blessing for Kara land and we were astonished by John Rowe help which fed many families. As Kara elder last summer was unique, learning moment and an unseen blessing in our lifetime. Likewise, now we have a lot of rain in our land than before. Therefore, I am personal I say this organization brought blessing for Kara land. Now we have a grass for our cattle and everywhere is green. Thus, Omo Child/ Lale: we accepted and we agree with your plan to stop mingi and to change the culture next month. Therefore, we are ready to change the culture and it is mostly right all your advise Lale, for  

Equal Justice Initiative

Just back from TED2012 Conference in Long Beach California. Thomas Dolby asked me to play guitar in the house band this year. I’ll post some photos in a bit. Bryan Stevenson gave what I believe will become an iconic talk — in the same league as Jill Taylor or Sir Ken Robinson. Deeply inspiring and motivational, Bryan asks us to balance “TED” (technology, entertainment, design) with empathy, humanity, justice, and compassion. “We will not be judged by our technology, intellect, or reason. Ultimately, the character of a society will be judged not by how they treat the powerful, but by how they treat the poor.” After his talk, he received a breathtaking standing ovation. The raw energy and length of ovation was unequaled by any talk I’ve experienced at a live conference (probably 45 seconds of applause is edited from the video). He is asking us to do something about the injustices in our own country. Later in the conference, Chris Anderson (TED’s curator) asked the audience to help Bryan’s work. Within a short time, over $1.1 million had been pledged.  

Barrier

… “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi … “If in thirst you drink water from a cup, you see God in it. Those who are not in love with God will see only their own faces in it” – Sufi saying, attributed to Rumi  

It’s Not Your Imagination

“It is not your imagination that there are more bad things than ever before happening all at once, intertwined. It’s not your imagination, because the world that you are inheriting is at a crossroads – dozens of crossroads all at the same time. You are inheriting a world filled will peril my generation never faced. The good news is: you’re going to have tools we never had. I urge each of you to answer the grand challenges of our times by committing to positively impact one million people.” – Dr. Larry Brilliant’s 2010 keynote at Singularity University (with quote from Peter Schwartz) Larry (who co-founded one the world’s first public virtual network) chairs the Skoll Global Threats Fund, focused on promoting innovative solutions to the world’s most challenging problems. Singularity University hosts small gatherings of world leaders and bright students. The goal of “positively impacting one million people” is clearly within the reach of each Singularity invitee. More importantly, this goal is within the reach of virtually all people willing to dream big, sacrifice time, and continually renew their efforts in the face of tribal and ideological adversity. “We should not live out of a sense of duty, but out of a sense of intoxication” – Martin Shaw (HT Richard  

The 18th Camel (15,000 Tribes)

William Ury’s brilliant TEDxTalk on the mediation of conflict. The solution to global mistrust? Invest twenty minutes and find out (as we meet on the balcony). I also want to share one of the comments from TED.com addressing William’s talk… “From this moment on I will no longer identify myself as a member of any group which is in opposition to anything, anyone, or any other group. I will focus my energy on the creation and maintenance of a ‘balcony’ perspective. My position will be one which surrounds issues, my view will be one which includes the right of all views to be represented, my action will be to embrace US ” all of US ” on behalf of the enlightened future we can grow together.” -Puran Lucas  

The Prayer of the Children

I was at an audio show yesterday in Denver. In one of the endless demonstration rooms, a gear manufacturer was playing a song I had heard years ago, and forgotten how moving it was. I’m supposed to be there critiquing audio products and instead I’m sitting on their couch, weeping. Just a moment ago, I found the song with a video. This is hard for me to watch all the way through. The theme is religious, but the call is universal. Anyone touched by this poem cannot help but make the world a better place, regardless of their belief or tribe. Alas, human separation and alienation resulting from tribal and religious belief is part of the  

Melting Away

Whenever you are in doubt or when the self becomes too much with you, try the following expedient:?? recall the face of the poorest and most helpless man you have ever seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him.?? Will he be able to gain anything by it? Will it restore to him control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to?self-rule for the hungry and spiritually starved millions?? Then you will find your doubts and your self melting away.  

Create Something Beautiful

“Give me one wild word, and I promise I will follow. The word the Sea rolled back to me was “mosaic.” I began to see through acts of witnessing, that the extermination of a species and the extermination of a people are predicated on the same impulses: prejudice, cruelty, ignorance and arrogance, all circling around issues of power and justice. The world is broken. We are broken, whether it is through our distractive, fragmented lives or war. Taking that which is broken and creating something whole is an act of healing and restoration. Call it reconstruction. Mosaic: an art form, a form of integration. Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find. It is more than the act of assemblage, it is the act of daring contemplation that leads us to action. To bear witness is not a passive act. To be present with a piece of art, with a prairie community, with a Rwandan mother who is telling you a story of what happened to her children during the war, is to be moved to a different point of view. Empathy is the word that comes to mind. Through acts of witnessing our consciousness shifts and as a result, we can choose to act differently. Pete Seeger says, “Participation is the key to rescuing the human race.” I believe him. I certainly do not have any recipe for engagement, I can only share three things that have made a difference for me. Trust your heart, follow your passion and share it with others. Become biologically literate — learn the names of the plants, birds, and animals where you live, extending your notion of community to include all life. Become part of that community with all the rights and responsibilities that it offers, both human and wild. We can improvise. We can create without a map. And we don’t have to live in isolation. The gift of an attentive life is the ability to recognize patterns, and find our way towards a unity built on empathy. Empathy becomes the path that leads us from the margins to the center of concern. The pattern is the thing. The beauty made belongs to everyone. Finding beauty in a broken world becomes more than the art of assemblage. It is the work of daring contemplation that inspires action. Create something beautiful.” – Terry Tempest  

Hope I Don’t Die

My friend Nick sent me a powerful video essay on the Western ethos of war. Incredibly moving four-minutes. Hard to watch this film and not be changed. (You can view the film on its homepage here.) The line was continually blurred between perpetrator and victim, between hero and villain. In time, the labels that heretofore defined my perceptions of the world became meaningless. You see what you want to see. You see it the way you want to see it. You see what you can bear to see. – Peter van Agtmael The structure of the current global economy is not designed for equitable, plodding growth; it’s designed to reward opportunistic, risk-seeking innovators. Were one to construct an investment portfolio of illicit businesses, it would no doubt outperform Wall Street. – Nils