Earlier today I had conversation that reminded me of one of the most fundamental lessons I've ever learned: always remember that you don't know what you don't know.
Now, that may sound like gibberish but it's not. The biggest mistakes most of us ever make it by thinking we understand something and then discovering that it was much more complex than we initially thought. To watch an expert do something—anything, really—is to watch someone who has spent a lot of time mastering the complexities of that task. Mastery means making those complexities invisible; all we see are the simple acts of the master. But, we shouldn't be fooled. That's what this video is about. Hope you enjoy it.
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We squander talent as if we didn't need it. We allow our most precious resource to lie unused in millions of citizens. We develop social networks that contain tremendous value and fritter it away.
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Imagine waking up every day planning to cause as much damage as you possibly can. Imagine the highlight of your life being the moment at which you shout some religious formulation or another and detonate the explosives strapped to your chest. Imagine hoping your children will live their lives similarly.
Difficult to fathom, isn't it?
It's that difficulty that ultimately gives us all our greatest hope because it points to an aspect of human life that is hard to extinguish: eventually, we all become exhausted by conflict. The fatigue that must blanket the people of the Middle East is impossible for we Americans to imagine. Yes, we've been "at war" for over five years but, for most of us, daily life is nothing like the scenario depicted above.
Cornflakes, gas prices and baseball scores is more like it.
And there's something else for peace loving people to count on beyond exhaustion. The constant churning of moral reflection lives in the minds of thinking people everywhere. In this excellent piece in the New Yorker, Lawrence Wright, author of the definitive history of Al Qaeda, chronicles the current conflict for the moral sensibilities of global jihadists. What it shows is the hope that humanity has always held out for itself is still alive within Islam: ultimately, we all want to see our children and grandchildren live peacefully and joyously.
We all carry around notions of the meaning of "self," many of which are not supported by experience and research. In this video, I explore the notion of "situation" and "context" and their relationship to the design of on-line social sites. I look forward to your thoughts.
Martin Heidegger's work was a large part of the foundation for our Ph.D. program in psychology at Duquesne University in the early 1970s. We were the most progressive thinking psychology program in America at that time.
Our work was based on a long and fruitful intellectual history going back to the pre-Socratic Greeks. I was introduced to this approach to the discipline, which I eventually came to know as existential-phenomenological psychology, by my mentor at the University of Dayton, Dr. Antos Rancurello. Antos was a genius. He had two Ph.D.s, one in philosophy from a university in Italy whose name I, ashamedly, do not know for certain (Bologna?), and one in psychology from Loyola University in Chicago. Antos carried within him an appreciation for the human spirit that was so abiding, so embracing, that nothing, nothing that any human being had ever done, or could do, was foreign to him, and, by extension, all of us. He recognized the commonality of human experience for what it was (is): a broad continuum on which we all abide. This is what Alfred Adler eventually came to call "social interest."
At Duquesne, we psychology students were required to take graduate courses in the philosophy department, the same courses that their Ph.D. students were taking; major league shit. So, in my first year, when I took a course in Heidegger's Being and Time taught by Father Andre Scheuer, I had no idea that I was about to be guided in the reading of this incredibly enigmatic, poetic, impenetrable tract (or, Part 1, to be wholly accurate), by one of Martin's own lifelong friends, someone who, in summers, would stroll through the Black Forest with the author himself, contemplating the true essence of sorge, translated in the English, as "care."
So, Andre had big time street cred.
And, he was an amazing prof. First, he was, after all, "Father" Scheuer, at a Catholic educational institution in 1971. One expected a bit of communal conformity.
No. None was discernible.
Each week, Andre silently walked into class impeccably dressed in a dark near-ganster-striped suit (even thinking about writing about Heidegger gets me started with the hyphens), wearing gold-framed wire rim glasses, carrying a sheath of papers. He'd walk slowly to the podium, take out another pair of reading glasses (identical to the ones he was removing), take a deep breath, and begin. In a thick German accent, Andre would read his lecture notes from the papers on the podium. He would precisely explicate the meaning of a particular paragraph, phrase or word from Being and Time; sometimes for up to two hours.
We were rapt. This was studying as close to the feet of the master as any of us could ever hope to get. The coolest intellectual experience I've ever had. I will remember it always.
Anyway, I was talking to a friend of mine last night and Heidegger came up. Well, not explicitly, of course, but he came up just the same.
My friend and I were talking about the powerful appeal of establishing online relationships with people (and things) that "interest" you. We allowed as how searching for, finding and connecting with...what?...people and things you care about...is the great engine for today's "social media" boom.
"Engagement" is the new black.
And, since (here's another Heideggerian part) care drives experience, we see that we find what we care about when scanning a richly populated landscape (read: crowded marketplace). So, literally, we see that-about-which-we-are-already-concerned (since fully explaining Heidegger's concept of "care" would wear us both out, let's use that phrase as a placeholder: "that-about-which-we-are-already-concerned").
Well, that may seem trivially obvious, but it's anything but. It means that as we enable ourselves to connect with the people and things we care about, and to interact with those people and things in the ways-we-do-when-we-care-about something, cool shit can happen (that's not exactly the Heideggerian "being-with," but "cool shit" gets it just fine).
And, that's what the city is all about.
PS - Oh, yeah. If Heidegger's picture freaks you out because he looks like some kind of SS stormtrooper, turns out you're probably about three-quarters right. Those beliefs were not at issue for us in the early 70s, struggling, as we were, to learn the basics of Heidegger's thinking, beyond which, I know, I have never progresses.
If you just went by what you saw in most American companies, you'd think that senior executives believed that people can do great work in any kind of setting.
But others don't. I know you're probably sick of hearing about Google by now, but take a look at this workspace.
Given what we know about creativity it seems obvious that putting employees in a setting that gets the juices flowing is the way to go. One of the key elements, for me, is the degree to which this space reflects personal identity. This working environment is a unique statement of this individual's way of being-in-the-world, fully encouraged and enabled by his employer. Contrast that with an approach that insists on workplace homogeneity and inter-changeability and you begin to see how organizational culture dramatically affects space. And innovative thinking.