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Chapter 2: 5 Why's

Maryo Ewell

Wild_Phto_Maryo 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.

Then, we had to write these things down.  Then, we had to then write down what we believed to be true about human beings and their relationships with one another, in the context of these beliefs.  Then, we had to write down how these beliefs about human beings translated into what we saw as our "work."  And finally we had to write how, then, our day-to-day behaviors related to our work, related to our beliefs about human beings and their interrelationships, related to our notions of god/love/universal truths.  The writing of it - not just the thinking it or saying it - was crucial, forcing you to make public things easier (and safer) to keep private, forcing you to say in effect, "By these things, I will evaluate my day, my work, my life." 

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.

 

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Comments

June Ballinger

I love this! As the leader of a theater deeply engaged in community building work...and I feel I know personally why...how much more i might discover by doing this exercise !

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I love this! As the leader of a theater deeply engaged in community building work,thanks for sharing.

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make meaning in the framework of my deepest beliefs? What, then, must I do next?

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Lire une grande offre d'articles comparables, mais seulement découvert ce écrivez-up à mon goût, je vous remercie

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