Friday, June 17, 2005

Unselfishness: A Principle of Good Management?

This quotation headed the agenda of a recent CTE management group meeting.

But above all the [community members] had to learn to live together amicably. The inevitable difficulties of living with people whom they might not find personally congenial would put the equanimity they were supposed to have acquired in meditation to the test. It was no good radiating compassion to the four quarters of the earth if members could not be kind to one another.

Karen Armstrong , Buddha (2001)

This was a principle to which The Buddha was deeply committed as a guide for how communities of priests (the Sangha) should function. In CTE we have focused more on individuals; on aligning work in CTE with individual professional development goals. I have asked that the latter be clearly stated and operational. But in reading Armstrong’s passage, I was struck by another possibility. Suppose our overriding priorities were supporting another (our professional development partner?) or perhaps all other Management Group members in attaining their goals. How would this change the climate in which we work? Are we kind enough to each other?

Something to reflect on.

My 45th College Reunion

I’m not sure what I expected from my 45th reunion so it would be difficult to say whether or not my expectations were fulfilled. For Dartmouth College’s leaders, especially those in the all-important Development Office, expectations are unambiguous. Reunions are held to reaffirm graduate loyalty to the college and translate that loyalty into substantial gifts. For a relatively small number of graduates, perhaps 30 or so, ‘the class’ becomes a major focus of energy and socializing. These graduates do the major work of fund raising on which the continued success of the College depends. My class was targeted to contribute $1,000,000, probably more than American University’s entire annual fund. For most other class members, reunions provide a brief period of nostalgia during which we can connect with an earlier, simpler, more “collegial” part of our lives. The trip was definitely worthwhile but it seems unlikely that ‘class will become a major focus for me. I stay connected with campus life in other ways, as readers know.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The changing ratio of "maintenance" to the total of life's activities as one ages

A conversation among those in the post 60s decade (and even more in later decades) will frequently turn to matters of health and the challenges of maintaining good health. Even in a small group, there will typically be someone who has struggled – or is struggling - with cancer, bad eyesight, arthritis and other maladies. Other topics may include major surgeries, hospital stays, assisted living options and the challenges of a complex, costly heath care system whose providers often seem indifferent and inhumane. Such conversations rarely occur among the 18 -21 year olds who congregate in my apartment for Sunday night dinners and study breaks.

As our bodies age, the balance between producing output (work and pleasure) and maintenance (staying healthy and alive) shifts. Most young people take the reliable functioning of the biological-physical-psychic complex system that is the human body for granted. Those who have lived a few more years know, from friendships and personal experience, that this is not the case. The end point of this process is the intensive care patient for whom mere survival is the sole preoccupation. And then, in due course, we all die.

The following is an excerpt from a book Gems of Buddhist Wisdom (1983;1996) from which I have quoted, before.

Death is an inevitable process of this world. This is the one thing that is certain in the universe, …the most realistic view of all the realisms. For does not death consume everything? It does. The role of death is to make every human being aware of his or her destiny; that however high he or she may be placed, the end is all the same, either in a coffin or reduced to a handful of ashes. Should we then be in sack cloth to mourn the life that has turned into ashes? No this is not the purpose of life nor of death. The process of birth is a continuing process until we become perfect.