Tag dignity

{ Bless the Mess } The Dangers of Oversimplifying the Complexity of Self & Life Into A Single Narrative …*

{ Bless the Mess } The Dangers of Oversimplifying the Complexity of Self & Life Into A Single Narrative ...* | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

Storytelling has been identified as the unit of human understanding. It occupies a central place in early development and learning about the world, oneself, and one’s place in it. A critical function of the dominant left hemisphere of the brain is to continually make up stories about why things are the way they are, which becomes our understanding of the world. Stories are a way of putting disparate pieces of information into a unified context. As we grow, the drama of stories enliven us and the narrative structure tells us something about how things are and how things should be, whether we are listening to Big Bird’s take on life or Garrison Keillor’s tales of Lake Wobegon.

Stories remain central to understanding well after childhood. When people make judgments about right and wrong, even in politics or the jury box, they often do so as a result of a story that they construct about events that have happened. […] It’s just human nature.

-Stuart Brown in Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul

I’ve been thinking a lot about stories lately–those we tell, those we remember, those we believe, and those we feel compelled to challenge and rewrite. As Stuart Brown highlights above, stories are the key unit of understanding in human life. We look up at the sky and feel compelled to connect the stars with imaginary lines. Yet, the dangers of becoming too wrapped up in a single story are very real. If we are only able to view human identity–our own and that of others–through a single lens, we run the risk of falling prey to essentialism and a complete breakdown of any opportunity for empathy and true human connection.

The insistence, if only implicitly, on a choiceless singularity of human identity not only diminishes us all, it also makes  the world much more flammable. The alternative to the divisiveness of one preeminent categorization is not any unreal claim that we are all much the same. That we are not. Rather, the main hope of harmony in our troubled world lies in the plurality of our identities, which cut across each other and work against sharp divisions around one single hardened line of vehement division that allegedly cannot be resisted. Our shared humanity gets savagely challenged when our differences are narrowed into one devised system of uniquely powerful categorization.

Perhaps the worst impairment comes from the neglect–and denial–of the role of reasoning and choice, which follows from the recognition of our plural identities. 

– Amartya Sen in Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (Issues of Our Time)

How do we go beyond the single story or the first story that we create about ourselves and those around us? A few weeks ago, I wrote about the power of simply asking strangers and friends about their hearts and their stories. But I really am curious, how do you think we might go about getting a better sense of the plurality and fullness of each other’s identities? As I wait for your answers, here is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 2009 TED talk, in which she poignantly addresses the perils of limiting ourselves to a single story.

So that is how to create a single story: show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again and that is what they become.
. . . *
The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.
. . . * 
I have always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person. The consequence of the single story is this: it robs people of their dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult, it emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.
. . . *
Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and
to malign but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people but stories can also repair that broken dignity.
. . . *
When we reject the single story, when we realize that there’s never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.
– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story 

{ The Power & Potential of Stories } “I Was Seen By Many but Actually Known By Few | Every Single Life Matters Equally & Infinitely”…*

“I’ve learned about the poetry and the wisdom and the grace that can be found in the words of people all around us when we simply take the time to listen.[…] What else have I learned? I’ve learned about the almost unimaginable capacity for the human spirit to forgive. I’ve learned about resilience and I’ve learned about strength. […] And I’ve been reminded countless times of the courage and goodness of people and how the arc of history truly does bend towards justice”

– Dave Isay

This week’s Friday Link Fest theme–the power and potential of stories–was set by my teammate Jenna with her post on Monday about the artistry and potential of storytelling–for learning, for empathy, for social activism, for relevance and self-empowerment. I then received the latest issue of New York Magazine, their fifth annual “Yesteryear Issue,” a collection of vignettes about old New York and delighted in losing myself in stories of a New York I have longed for but never known. Then two TED talks kept repeatedly popping up on my newsfeed, Monica Lewinsky’s talk on the price of shame and StoryCorps founder Dave Isay’s talk where he shares his TED Prize wish:

“that you will help us take everything we’ve learned through StoryCorps and bring it to the world, so that anyone, anywhere can easily record a meaningful interview with another human being, which will then be archived for history.”

I loved the contrast between both talks, one about the risks and dark underside of a digital archive in a culture bent on shaming and public humiliation, the other on the immense potential of the Internet to act as a digital repository of human wisdom, dignity and compassion. Both talks were brilliant and urgent calls for courage, empathy and connection.

In her TED talk, Monica Lewinsky bravely opens up about her experience of being “slut-shamed’ and publicly humiliated in the nascent era of online news and calls for a collective rethink of our contemporary culture of shame and humiliation which enables cyberbullying.

“Public shaming as a bloodsport has to stop. And it’s time for an intervention on the Internet and in our culture. The shift begins with something simple, but it’s not easy. We need to return to a long held value of compassion; compassion and empathy. Online, we’ve got a compassion deficit and empathy crisis. Researcher Brené Brown said, and I quote, “shame can’t survive empathy.” Shame cannot survive empathy. I’ve seem some very dark days in my life. It was the compassion and empathy from my family, friends, professionals and sometimes even strangers that saved me. Even empathy from one person can make a difference.

[ … ] 

“We all want to be heard, but let’s acknowledge the difference between speaking up with intention and speaking up for attention.”

– Monica Lewinsky

“Over the past couple of month, the team at StoryCorps has been working furiously to create an app that will bring StoryCorps out of our booths so that it can be experienced by anyone, anywhere, any time. Remember, StoryCorps has always been two people and a facilitator helping them record their conversation, which is preserved forever. But at this very moment we’re releasing a public beta version of the StoryCorps app. The app is a digital facilitator that walks you through the StoryCorps interview process, helps you pick questions and gives you all the tips you need to record a meaningful StoryCorps interview. And then with one tap, upload it to our archive at the Library of Congress. That’s the easy part–the technology. The real challenge is up to you. To take this tool and figure out how we can use it all across America and around the world.

This is the key point, echoed in both Lewinsky and Isay’s talk, that technology is just a tool, a tremendously powerful tool, but that its power and potential comes entirely from us, the people that use it. Are we going to create a digital archive of shame and humiliation or a repository of empathy, dignity and human wisdom? The choice is ours and both talks remind us of the very tangible weight and responsibilities inherent in this choice.

“At this moment, when so much of how we communicate is fleeting and inconsequential, join us in creating this digital archive of conversations that are enduring, and important. Help us create this gift to our children, this testament to who we are as human beings. I hope you’ll help us make this wish come true. Interview a family member, a friend or even a stranger. Together we can create an archive of the wisdom of humanity. And maybe in doing so, we’ll learn to listen a little more and shout a little less. Maybe these conversations will remind us what’s really important and maybe, just maybe, it will help us recognize that simple truth that every life, every single life, matters equally and infinitely.”

How might we start going about nurturing these types of conversations? Isay shares a few excellent ideas:

“Imagine, for example, a national homework assignment, where every high school student studying U.S. history across the country, records an interview with an elder over Thanksgiving so that in one single weekend an entire generation of American lives and experiences are captured. Or imagine, mothers on opposite sides of a conflict somewhere in the world sitting down, not to talk about that conflict, but to find out who they are as people, and in doing so begin to build bonds of trust. Or that someday it becomes a tradition all over the world that people are honored with a StoryCorps interview on their 75th birthday. Or that people in your community go into retirement homes or hospitals or homeless shelters or even prisons armed with this app to honor the people least heard in our society and ask them who they are, what they’ve learned in life and how they want to be remembered. “

My 81 year-old grandfather is flying in from France next week and I absolutely can’t wait to try out the StoryCorps app with him!

Free Online Courses To Help You Become A More Effective Leader of Change …*

Free Online Courses To Help You Become A More Effective Leader of Change ...* | rethinked.org

Hope everyone is staying warm and safe today. If you’re stuck at home and looking for something to do, how about checking out some great (and free) learning opportunities to acquire and develop your skills and knowledge on change and leadership? There’s a whole host of great courses starting over the next few weeks on +Acumen.

+Acumen is a new initiative started in 2012 with the vision of providing thousands of emerging leaders around the world with the skills and moral imagination they need to become more effective at changing the way the world tackles poverty.  +Acumen makes Acumen’s work in leadership and the insights from our work in the field available to everyone. As of Summer 2014, +Acumen has reached 50,000+ participants from 167 countries through its courses. +Acumen also manages various in-person networks – such as chapters, alumni, and course ambassadors – that allow our broader course community to get more involved in supporting Acumen and each other.

From Adaptive Leadership to Storytelling for Change, +Acumen offers a wide variety of free online courses that focus on moral imagination, operational skills and financial skills to help you become a more effective leader of change.

At Acumen, leadership begins with moral imagination: the humility to see the world as it is, and the audacity to imagine the world as it could be. Combined with operational skills and financial skills, our courses aim to equip emerging change leaders with the tools to change the way the world tackles poverty and build a world based on dignity.

Head over to the website to browse the various learning opportunities on offer.

learn, lead & rethink . . . *

Friday Link Fest…*

Friday Link Fest...* | rethinked.org | Photo by Elsa Fridman

READ

Passion + Adversity = Success? ~Since adversity in life is a given, our success and happiness depend on our ability not just to cope with it but to actually grow because of it. Professionally, we have the greatest potential to grow when we challenge ourselves in our field just beyond our comfort zone. This means risking fear, embarrassment, errors, or even full-blown failure. And it means gaining new skills and abilities that contribute to our greater mastery and success in the future. Because grit is a combination of persistence and passion, adversity plays a significant role in helping us develop both of those qualities. via Greater Good Science Center, published September 9, 2013.

Montessori Classrooms: Observations through a Design Lens ~ Just as a designer sets out to create problem-solving products in human interaction, Dr. Montessori engaged in a life-long mission to understand and resolve the challenges in childhood learning. Drawing on years of observation and insight, her work was some of the first to acknowledge the inherent dignity of children. Instead of forcing children into an adult environment, she rather sought to defend children’s miraculous abilities through refinement of a myriad of designs. These included beginning-to-end learning tools in language, math, science, geography and practical life. Through a process of observation, design, testing and rapid refinement, she eventually arrived at a comprehensive learning environment. via Core77, published September 9, 2013.

When Memorization Gets in the Way of Learning ~ What separates memorization from learning is a sense of meaning. When you memorize a fact, it’s arbitrary, interchangeable–it makes no difference to you whether sine of π/2 is one, zero, or a million. But when you learn a fact, it’s bound to others by a web of logic. It could be no other way. via The Atlantic, published September 9, 2013.

‘Growth Mindset’ Gaining Traction as School Improvement Strategy ~ In some schools, a “growth mindset,” or the idea that people can improve by seeking challenges and learning from mistakes, has reformed how teachers approach their instruction. via Education Week, published September 10, 2013.

Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught? ~Once a small corner of education theory, S.E.L. has gained traction in recent years, driven in part by concerns over school violence, bullying and teen suicide. But while prevention programs tend to focus on a single problem, the goal of social-emotional learning is grander: to instill a deep psychological intelligence that will help children regulate their emotions. via New York Times, published September 11, 2013.

Google & edX to Create http://MOOC.Org : An Open Source Platform For Creating Your Own MOOC ~ This week, Google has a new announcement: it’s joining forces with edX, (the MOOC provider led by Harvard and MIT), to work on a new open source platform called MOOC.org. The new service will go live in the first half of 2014. And it will allow “any academic institution, business and individual to create and host online courses.” This will give innovative educators the opportunity to put a MOOC online without necessarily making a steep investment in a course. via Open Culture, published September 11, 2013.

Why Keep A Diary? ~ What a calendar cannot do, and a journal can, is help you reflect on the big picture of your life and your creative work—where it is, what it means, and what direction you want it to take. via 99u, published September 13, 2013.

LOOK

NASA Officially Joins Instagram, Already Uploading Awesome Space Photography ~ via PetaPixel, published September 8, 2013.

Everyday Quotes Replaced With The Word ‘Design’ To Highlight Its Importance ~ To India-based Ambar Bhusari, who designs for a living, design is one of the most important things in the world and play a valuable role in our lives everyday. As a way to emphasize this, he came up with quotes. Highlighted in posters, these quotes are real idioms replaced with the word “design”, to give it a different meaning that’s relevant to design. via Design Taxi, published September 11, 2013.

WATCH

Ken Robinson on Passion ~ Ken Robinson believes that everyone is born with extraordinary capability. So what happens to all that talent as we bump through life, getting by, but never realizing our true potential? We need to find that magic spot where our natural talent meets our personal passion. This means we need to know ourselves better. Whilst we content ourselves with doing what we’re competent at, but don’t truly love, we’ll never excel. And, according to Ken, finding purpose in our work is essentially knowing who we really are. via The School of Life.

John Cleese’s Philosophy of Creativity: Creating Oases for Childlike Play ~ The trick, Cleese says, is in making the space to engage in childlike play without relying on childish spontaneity—he recommends scheduling time to be creative, giving oneself a “starting time and a finish time” and thereby setting “boundaries of space, boundaries of time.” via Open Culture, published September 13, 2013.

Rethinking…* Homelessness & Artistic Expression ~ Starving Artists Project

There’s now a record 46,000 homeless people in New York City struggling to communicate their very basic need for help, the need for food, the need for shelter, the need to be recognized. They reach out through the only means they have: scraps of cardboard and their own creativity. Sadly, we don’t even look, we’ve been subconsciously trained to ignore even the passionate cries for help of the homeless to go completely unnoticed. But what if there was a way to change this by changing the way we interpret these messages. After observing the creation of these signs, it became clear that these were not just messages, but rather heartfelt, beautiful pieces of handmade human expression. These were in every way individual pieces of art. We made it our mission to redirect these artful cries for help away from the streets to a forum where they could be properly seen and appreciated to inspire change.

Starving Artists Project is a social art initiative giving the NYC homeless community’s artistic cries for help a larger platform to inspire greater action.  Founded by Thompson Harrell & Nick Zafonte, the Starving Artists Project is based on the recognition that the signs for help of homeless people are “not just messages, but rather heartfelt, beautiful pieces of handmade human expression”, which led to their mission: “to redirect their artful cries for help from the streets to a forum where they can be properly appreciated, giving the homeless a more powerful voice, to bring about a more profound change.” Partnering up with world-renowned photographer, Andrew Zuckerman, Starving Artists Project photographed nearly thirty artists and collected their messages. The collection made its debut at the Dumbo Art Center in Brooklyn, NY, with the artists there to be recognized by the public.

Enjoy & rethink…*

(The Starving Artists Project Film from Thompson Harrell on Vimeo.)

 

John John

By John John

Shavar Stora

By Shavar Stora

Head over to StarvingArtistsProject.com for more pictures of the artists and their work.

(images via: starvingartistproject.com)

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