Chapter 2: 5 Why's
It's so easy to lose sight of big ideas, when we are grappling with scores of e mails that need answering and details that keep cropping up and little fires that need quenching. You go to sleep at night thinking, "Ha! I answered 60 e mails today and revised two budget forms" because these, at least, are concrete things that you can measure. But however comforting, it is false progress.
I took a community development class long ago. Bernie Jones, the professor, said to us: "If you are going to mess with human beings' lives, you must first be very, very clear about why you want to do so. Affecting, influencing, people and their situations is volatile, often dangerous. You must not dare to try and do that without a framework of personal, ethical clarity."
So we had to partner with a classmate and ask, "Why do you want to do community development work?" After your partner answered, you asked “Why” again, probing the answer a little. And then again. And again. By the time you answered the fourth or fifth “Why,” you were talking about things so deep in your soul, so essential to the reason of your existence, that you found yourself talking about concepts like god or love or something else that you believed, with every fiber of your being, to be at the root of life. Very deep, emotional stuff.
It was a brilliant assignment (however agonizing): it forced you to confront the fact that your day-to-day behaviors relate, and must consciously relate, to your articulation of the ultimate meaning of things.
Although this practice framework was the final paper for a class taken long ago, I get it out every New Year's Eve, and read it to see whether it still rings true. Have I reflected my personal truths in my work in the past year? Can I do it better in the year ahead? TS Eliot talked about having the experience, but missing the meaning. Do I believe that the things I did in the past year have helped to make meaning in the framework of my deepest beliefs? What, then, must I do next?
Hmmm...just the writing of this makes me think I'd better not wait till next December 31 to pull out that framework and check in.