Saturday, May 11, 2013
How many days it has been since I have posted anything
life in Singapore can be intense - and consuming.
The following is a “concluding prayer” from Ethics for the New Millennium, by the Dalai Lama, which I just finished reading, this morning.
May I become at all times, both now and forever
A protector for those without protection
A guide for those who have lost their way
A ship for those with oceans to cross
A sanctuary for those in danger
A lamp for those without light
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter
And a servant to all in need
Saturday, April 06, 2013
THE MIND'S KNOWING ESSENCE - MORE EARLY MORNING TWEETS
The Lee Kuan Yew school is - potentially - one of the world’s highest leverage institutions. How can it fully realize that potential?
The primal delusion that mobilizes the forces of greed and anger is always cunningly concealed in the deepest resources of the heart. MCK
The mind’s knowing essence is a vast awareness; an unobstructed inner space that contains everything but retains nothing. MCK
Easter Morning Query: God has given me gifts for which I am thankful. Am I fully using them in the service of God’s purposes?
New early morning reading. HH Dalai Lama, ETHICS FOR THE NEW MILLENIUM. Reference: ENM
The contemporary rhetoric of growth and economic development reinforces people's tendency toward competitiveness and envy. ENM
“Carew” birds early morning calls. Memories of the quiet Sri Lankan garden view, writing Paradise Poisoned.
DYNAMIC SYSTEMS MODULES AND MORAL VIRTUE - RECENT TWEETS
(The MCK quotes are from Book on a Thai Bhikkuni – Mae Chee Kaew, my recently completed contemplative practice reading.)
Awake at 4:30. Thinking about dynamic systems molecules. How can I best share them with my students? At 5:15, I got up, and began writing.
What could be more fulfilling to a Professor than to have students producing work that exhibits disciplined learning and creativity?
Moral virtue is subtle and complex. It cannot be attained merely by reference to precepts and rules. It must be an expression of the mind’s pure intentions. MCK
All must die. We can’t know when we will die, for certain. But we can be certain that death will come when the time is ripe. MCK
Rules must be accompanied by empowering those “ruled” not to follow them for good reasons and to change them when circumstances dictate. The absence of such empowermen is a problem in many organizations. As I learn more about Singapore, though I know very little as yet, I am concerned that in this very organized and smoothing functioning society, it may be a problem as well.
Seeing stubbornness, gloom and delusion in themselves, intelligent people look for their own faults rather than faulting others. MCK
The primal delusion that mobilizes the forces of greed and anger is always cunningly concealed in the deepest resources of the heart. MCK
Friday, March 29, 2013
GMAIL Compose - A rant against the totalitarianism of software developers
Signing on my my GMAIL yesterday, I was alerted to the new COMPOSE feature. Today the evil genius produced the new RESPOND feature. These are not useful and not an option. How I HATE it when software developmers impose "upgrades" on me that I didn't request, don't want and make life more difficult. "Upgrades should be an option, not an imposition of a disembodied, uncaring, unresponsive big brother or big sister.
Labels: GMAIL COMPOSE
Saturday, March 16, 2013
Belated 75th Birthday Reflections - On Systems Thinking and Modeling, Pope Francis and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola.
Last year, on my 74th birthday, also celebrated in Singapore, I reflected on the fact 74 years old was about the same age that Deng Xiaoping consolidated power in China. Within a few years, his leadership had placed China on a trajectory that would make it one of the world’s two leading economic powers.
Last Tuesday, on my 75th birthday, it was perhaps appropriate that I would “celebrate” by spending the day writing a concise summary – the most recent of many I have written – setting forth principles for crafting public-policy oriented system dynamics models. In the evening, following a discussion of mathematical subroutines that play a role in my students’ present modeling projects, I presented the principles I had first begun drafting several days earlier when the need to do so awakened me at 5:30 in the morning.
The exercise was motivated by an exchange with an outstanding former student who called seeking feedback on important public policy modeling project in which she was playing a leading role. Her questions made it clear that she had forgotten one of the most fundamental principles of system dynamics model building: one always models a problem; one never models a system.
I was reminded of an observation that system dynamics guru Professor Jay W. Forrester has made in writing and in person on many occasions. By the time students reach graduate school, most have experienced years or creativity-stifling training in linear causal thinking. They have had little training – mostly none at all – that would prepare them to understand a world beset by problematic behaviors produced by complex systems comprising stocks, flows, and feedback loops. Both Deng Xiaopeng and Lee Kuan Yew, among their many gifts, possessed this fundamental understanding. Millions of Singaporeans and many more millions or Chinese have been given opportunities to live better lives because of this.
Here is a listing of the major points, outlining the somewhat passionate appeal I made to my students about the importance of good modeling practice
¨ system dyanmics modeling is, by no means the appropriate method to address every public policy problem.
¨ a system dynamics modeling project often begins with a story, though some do not
¨ What motivates us to undertake a system dynamics modeling project? We are seeking answers to questions about why some probematic behavior has occurred, is occurring or may occur in the future.
¨ A generic model or generic structures that highlight important dynamics can be important points of departure
¨ In general, the better that a theoretically grounded model, supported by data, reproduces the past the more confident we are about its usefulness in helping us to anticipate and shape the future. of the two, theoretical grounding must precede reproduction.
¨ The issue of “validity” or “confidence building” cannot be separated from the audience to whom the model is primarily addressed. “Validity” means different things to different audiences.
¨ However as Donella Meadows emphasized in her writings (cf. the Electronic Oracle) and in her Life, the unquestioned integrity of the model builder should always provide a context within which assertions of validity are grounded.
When I awoke on Wednesday morning, and tuned my iPhone to the BBC, I learned that God had given the Roman Catholic Church a new leader and provided me with a potential new role model. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bengoglio was 76 years old as he became the spiritual leader of the world’s Roman Catholics. Apart from his age, I was heartened by fact that Cardinal Bengoglio was a Jesuit, a holy order for which I have great respect. However he did not chose to name himself Pope Ignatius Loyola (after the founder of the Jesuit order) but Pope Francis (after St. Francis of Assisi). I learned that after his election, Pope Francis stopped off at the hotel where he had been staying to personally pay the bill and pick up his baggage.
But was Pope Francis, like Lee Kuan Yew and Deng Xiaoping an instinctive systems thinker? The Jesuits are known for independent thinking and intellectual brilliance. Seeking evidence, I turned to the pages of Saint Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises (The P.J. Kennedy & Sons. Edition, 1909 – On Line) I spent more of the evening than I had intended reading (or in some cases skimming) the entire 100 pp. of this remarkable, influential document. There was much about spirituality and meditative practice, akin to Buddhist texts I have been reading but – candidly – little about systems thinking. The only passages I found were these.
ELEVENTH RULE (p. 98) To praise positive and scholastic learning. Because, as it is
more proper to the Positive Doctors, as St. Jerome, St. Augustine and St. Gregory,
etc., to move the heart to love and serve God our Lord in everything; so it is more
proper to the Scholastics, as St. Thomas, St. Bonaventure, and to the Master of the
Sentences, etc., to define or explain for our times the things necessary for eternal
salvation; and to combat and explain better all errors and all fallacies. For the
Scholastic Doctors, as they are more modern, not only help themselves with the true
understanding of the Sacred Scripture and of the Positive and holy Doctors, but
also, they being enlightened and clarified by the Divine virtue, help themselves by
the Councils, Canons and Constitutions of our holy Mother the Church.
Among those listed, St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, the two whose works I know best, would certainly qualify as systems thinkers.
In a section entitled contemplation to gain love (p. 64) I discovered this passage.
FIRST POINT. The First Point is, to bring to memory the benefits received, of
Creation, Redemption and particular gifts, pondering with much feeling how much
God our Lord has done for me, and how much He has given me of what He has, and
then the same Lord desires to give me Himself as much as He can, according to His
And with this to reflect on myself, considering with much reason and justice,
what I ought on my side to offer and give to His Divine Majesty, that is to say,
everything that is mine, and myself with it, as one who makes an offering with
SECOND POINT. The second, to look how God dwells in creatures, in the
elements, giving them being, in the plants vegetating, in the animals feeling in
them, in men giving them to understand:21 and so in me, giving me being,
animating me, giving me sensation and making me to understand; likewise
making a temple of me, being created to the likeness and image of His Divine
Majesty; reflecting as much on myself in the way which is said in the first Point, or
in another which I feel to be better. In the same manner will be done on each Point
THIRD POINT. The third, to consider how God works and labors for me in all
things created on the face of the earth -- that is, behaves like one who labors -- as in
the heavens, elements, plants, fruits, cattle, etc., giving them being, preserving
them, giving them vegetation and sensation, etc.
Then to reflect on myself…
Will Pope Francis prove to be a systems thinker and will be prove to be a role model for systems thinking in matters spiritual and temporal? Will he transform the Roman Catholic Church spritually as Deng Xiaoping transformed China economically? Will he serve as a useful role model for me and one that I can share with my students?
And what will it be my karma to contribute, in the years remaining to me, however many those may be?
What an odd 75th birthday reflection this became.
Friday, March 08, 2013
"All we are asked to be in the world is what God is. "On Being" interview with Fr. Greg Boyle
While doing my laundry, fixing my ‘”take to the office” lunch and getting organized for a Saturday of work, I was listening to an inspiring www.onbeing.org podcast with Jesuit Father Greg Boyle. Fr. Boyle has ministered to gang members in Los Angeles, USA for more than 25 years. Here are short excerpts from the interview, entitled “The Calling of Delight. http://www.onbeing.org/program/father-greg-boyle-on-the-calling-of-delight/5053 .
Here are a few short excerpts:
“Anything worth doing is worth failing at.
“All we are asked to be in the world is what God is.
“The present political and ideological divisions in the US are the opposite of God.
“When will the day come when we stop throwing people away?
"We are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
“I feel happy when...” - a very personal response to a Singaporean development planning “White Paper.”
One of my current projects is writing a reflection on a Singaporean development “White Paper.” It is entitled, A Sustainable Population for A Dynamic Singapore. The Paper was recently made public by Singapore’s Office of the Prime Minister, Population and Talent Division. Last week, this document was the subject of an unusually vigorous public-media and Parliamentary debate before being formally adopted. A strong commitment to economic growth, requiring continued population growth to a possible level of 6.9 million or more, is one of the document’s major themes. I will be sharing excerpts from my more formal response to the document later. This posting is about a personal one.
A question emerging from the debate has also engaged non Singaporean scholar-practitioners who struggle with “sustainable development” issues is this: “What is the relationship between economic growth/income on the one hand and feelings of well being (or happiness) of individuals living in a country on the other?” In particular, my friends who are members of a leading sustainable development network, The Balaton Group, struggle with this issue. In the course of discussing my reflection with a colleague, she mentioned an exercise she had heard about (I can’t recall the source). She suggested I might give it a try as a possible help to clarifying my thinking. The exercise was to take a few moments, without much preparation and for no audience other than oneself, and to write completions to a sentence that begins, “I feel happy when I..." What follows is what I wrote early yesterday morning in response to this suggestion
I feel happy...
• when I experience unconditional love.
• when I greet someone and they greet me back.
• when I walk through the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
• when I can work with a supportive collaborator who will also tell me when I am wrong
• when I think about how my children are living their lives
• when I have finished a piece of writing that expresses what I envisioned it would express
• when I can help a student achieve his or her goals
• when a student, or someone else I have mentored, does great work
• when I look at the pictures of my mentors that I have posted in my apartment and remember how they have helped me
• when I have cooked a great meal and others have enjoyed it
• when I look at or through a book I have written and know I did the best I could do.
• when I have no debt and my expenses are less than my income
• when I can contribute to someone else’s happiness
• when, at the end of a day, I believe I have accomplished something good
when my commitments and the time I have to fulfill them are in balance
I feel happy when I reflect on many good choices I have made in my life
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
Opening Ourselves to Others Through "Meditative Attention."
The following passage is from my current early-morning read, Arthur Zajonc (2008) Meditation as Contemplative Inquiry, When Knowing Becomes Love. When I read the passage, I thought of a few luminous conversations I have had with students, especially during the latter part of my decade-long residency in American University’s Anderson Hall. It is a goal to which it is worth aspiring, even if only fully realized on rare and because of that, memorable, occasions. The passage from Zajonc’s book follows:Our meetings with others can be a repeated occasion for the cultivation of meditative attention. If we are sufficiently practiced in cultivating the meditative state of mind, then taking a few breaths, settling into ourselves and attending gently, openly and completely to the other is usually sufficient for a recognizable inner shift to take place. We drop the combative stance, we live into the thoughts of the other, and so are practicing a form of self attention. We need not correct what may be mistakes of fact or differences of opinion. In this moment, we are positive and open to each other. What we achieved in our preliminary solitary exercises becomes of practical use in relationships. In my experience, the visual background surrounding my conversation fades and the face and voice of the partner are all that remains. The exchange can even take a joyful sacramental character as a mutual recognition of the divine within each other suddenly arises.