Your Beehive Has No Queen

Connecting War and Peace with Today’s Organizations

Leo Tolstoy was an avid beekeeper who carefully observed the dying beehive and used it as a metaphor in War and Peace  (Vol. III, Part Three, Chap. XX) for the condition of Moscow when Napoleon entered the city in his campaign against Russia in 1812.  In my post earlier this month I shared his metaphor of a clock with no mechanism illustrating Napoleon’s actions upon finding the city nearly deserted.  As I share these further observations I invite you to apply the dying beehive metaphor anywhere it may fit.

From afar or at a superficial glance a dying beehive seems to be like all the other hives.  But if the beekeeper looks more closely his senses tell him otherwise.  The queen is dead.  The life-giving, regenerative force is gone.

bottom-board-starvation2dying hive

The smell is “not of spirituous fragrant smell of honey, but the smell of honey is mingled with a smell of emptiness and rot”.

To the ear it is “no longer that measured and quiet sound, the throb of work, like the sound of seething water, but one hears the discordant, scattered noise of disorder”.

Upon opening the hive and looking inside he sees “instead of the black strands of juicy bees…drawing out the wax with an incessant whisper of labor – sleepy, dried up bees wander absentmindedly in various directions over the bottom and sides of the hive”.

He watches the bees that remain.  “Bees, dried-up, shrunken, sluggish, as if old, wander about slowly, hindering nothing, desiring nothing, having lost the awareness of life.”

“Where formerly the entire space was covered by the black circle of thousands of bees sitting tightly back to back, guarding the lofty mysteries of generation, he now sees hundreds of dejected, half-alive and somnolent husks of bees. They are almost all dead, not knowing themselves, sitting over the sacred thing they were guarding, which is no longer there.”

Tolstoy returns his thoughts to Moscow.  “In various corners of Moscow only a few people stirred meaninglessly, keeping to old habits and not understanding what they were doing.”

There are two remedies for a dying beehive.  If discovered early enough, a new queen can be put in place.  The life-giving, regenerative force of the beehive is renewed.  But if is too late, the beekeeper will break open the hive and burn it.

Moscow needed to burn.  And when Napoleon was gone and the citizens came back to rebuild, the regenerative force was renewed.  The city became alive and productive once again.

Our inner life and the life of the various groups we belong to – family, volunteer organizations, church, recreational groups, cities, nations, work organizations – can be alive, vibrant, productive, and sweet or they can be dying, dried up, unproductive, and empty.  Like a beehive.  What is the life-giving, regenerative force that keeps each of these entities alive?  What happens when that is gone, when the queen bee is dead?

How can each be renewed so that honey flows again?

busybees

War and Peace was published in 1869, but it rewards the reader in 2014 by continuing to be relevant.  I have one more post to write connecting this novel to our modern life.  The first two have addressed leadership and organizations.  The next one will be about the individual human being.

 

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Clock Hands, No Mechanism

Connecting War and Peace with Today’s Leader

As promised my new posts this year will connect whatever classic literature I am currently reading to the modern work, family, or personal life.

War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy’s magnificent work about Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812, part novel, part philosophical treatise, part historical analysis is rich with material I could mine for connections to today’s world.  That is one of the reasons these works endure. This post and the next will connect this classic work to modern leadership.

In September of 1812 Napoleon entered Moscow as one of the last moves in his campaign against Russia.  To his surprise he found that the Russian army and every citizen who had the means to get out had left the city.  And shortly after Napoleon’s entry, fires broke out across Moscow.  His army looted.  The remaining civilians’ basic needs were not met.

Napoleon’s actions in Moscow are astounding and marked by his characteristic genius.  “Order after order and plan after plan proceed from him, from the time of his entry…He does not lose sight of either the welfare of his army, or of the doings of the enemy, or of the welfare of the peoples of Russia, or of the management of the affairs in Paris, or of the diplomatic considerations to do with the terms for the coming peace.” (Vol. IV, Part Two, Chap. VIII)

What a powerful leader, keeping everything in mind, planning everything, orchestrating everything.  He gave orders to find the arsonists and execute them, set up almshouses, resumed church services, issued laws against looting, created a city council, drew up a brilliant plan for his future campaign over the entire map of Russia and on and on. We know leaders who conduct themselves the same way.

“But strangely enough, all these instructions, concerns, and plans, while being by no means worse than others issued in similar cases, did not touch the essence of the matter, but, like the hands of a clock with the mechanism removed, turned arbitrarily and aimlessly, without catching the gears.” (Vol. IV, Part Two, Chap. X)

hands of the clock

We have phrases in our work and lives to describe this phenomenon:

  • Movement without meaning
  • Actions without effect
  • Going through the motions
  • Not understanding what’s needed
  • Busy but not effective
  • Activity without desired outcomes

Napoleon looked like the same genius who had conquered most of Europe, but in Moscow he ran again over his old familiar track which was now the most “disadvantageous and dangerous” path.  And Tolstoy created a powerful metaphor to illustrate the sad fact of this “great leader’s” self-delusion.

“Napoleon, during all the time of this activity, was like a child who, holding the straps tied inside a carriage, fancies that he is driving it.” (Vol. IV, Part Two, Chap. X)

In the end, Napoleon left Moscow with his army which was like a mortally wounded animal hastening its own end. He deserted the army to get back to Paris, and less than half of the million man army made it home alive to France. And though he tried, Napoleon never regained his former glory.

Napoleon leaves russia

 

Lessons from War and Peace for us as leaders in business or as managers of our personal lives in this modern world?  Yes, there are.

 

 

  • Do less and think more.
  • Understand the true nature of the situation you are in.
  • Realize that what worked well in the past may not be what is needed in this current situation.
  • In a complex situation involving many people and circumstances, don’t deceive yourself that you are or even can be in control.

Tolstoy was a genius with metaphor.  Next time I connect his metaphor of a beehive to our modern condition.

 

 

 

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A Distractable Mind

Connecting Of Human Bondage and Value…

Most human beings have an inexplicable capacity to endure and adapt to enormous pain, either from illness or injury, from disabilities, or from cruelty at the hands of other human beings.

Connecting the novel Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham and the word “value” lead me to consider this. Of the many themes and images in this coming-of-age novel, the one that has remained most clearly with me is the main character Philip’s club foot which was not corrected and which he had to endure all the days of his life. clubfoot And despite the pain and suffering his foot caused for him, he did adapt and was able to find a happy and satisfying life for himself in the end as his attention focused less and less on his foot.

In the mid- to late-1990’s as a home hospice nurse I was daily witness to cancer victims in pain. I tried to learn everything I could about pain management to be effective at the person’s bedside as the eyes and ears of the physician .  Besides medical interventions, one of the things I studied was music therapy for pain management. Patients experienced a decrease in pain perception as they listened to music that appealed to them.

music

The underlying reason for its effectiveness is a distraction from the pain, a shifting of the person’s attention to something else, the same as Philip shifting his attention away from his foot and towards growing in a career and human relationships.

The same principle applies to the natural childbirth techniques I learned and which allowed me to focus on a painting on the hospital room wall and on my breathing, and not on the pain of my abdomen in a vise every couple minutes.  I was consciously shifting my attention.

And I have seen this capacity exhibited unconsciously by my 4 year old daughter during her cancer treatment when the nurses would pierce her tiny arm to draw blood. I looked at her un-crying face which did not see me, but seemed to be somewhere else until the pain was ended.

The world has so much pain and cruelty that people would go mad if we had not been given this capacity.  In the novel War and Peace, Pierre a Russian aristocrat is taken prisoner by Napoleon’s invading French army and is forced to march in the cold without shoes.  I chanced to read this particular part of the novel as I was thinking through this blog.  Tolstoy expresses more eloquently than I how Pierre could endure the pain of his wounded feet and keep marching.  The same way Philip endured the pain of his “wounded” foot and kept marching through life.

“… by evening his [Pierre’s] feet were still more frightful to look at.  But he did not look at them and thought of other things. Only now did Pierre understand the full force of human vitality and the saving power of the shifting of attention that has been put in man…” (War and Peace, Vol. IV, Part Three, Chap. XII).

attention-disorders

The frustrating tendency of your mind to get distracted and stop paying attention, you may someday value as a precious gift in the face of pain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

**The Connecting blog has been a valuable experience for me for the past 6 months.  I hope reading it has brought you some pleasure.  I have learned that what excites me most is connecting thoughts from old literature to modern life.  My approach to the Connecting blog for the first half of 2014 will not be to connect two randomly chosen topics, but rather to connect whatever classic literature I am currently reading to the modern work, family, or personal life as a new thinking and writing experiment.

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What We Can Learn from Batman’s Manservant

Connecting “progress” and “cruelty” in workplaces, communities, and relationships…

In the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises Bruce Wayne has not been able to progress in living, bound as he is to the past in which he believes his girlfriend Rachel was going to marry him. That is, she would have married him if the Joker had not murdered her. Instead of moving on, Bruce is on a path of self-destruction as the Batman.

The Dark Knightthe-dark-knight-rises-michael-caine

His manservant Alfred watches and worries about having to bury another member of the Wayne family if Bruce keeps on his current path.  So to help Bruce make progress he uses what some might call cruelty.  He tells Bruce that before she died Rachel gave him a letter saying she had made a choice of another man over Bruce, and to spare him pain Alfred had burned the letter.

Alfred had kept the truth from Bruce out of love, but in the end he needed to be “cruel” and tell the truth. The cruel telling of the truth caused a rift between these close friends and Batman carried on with his dangerous mission, but in the end he did move on and settle down with a new love. And Alfred was able to know this.

Just  a few days after pondering this movie scenario that came to mind when I connected progress and cruelty, I attended a technology leadership conference.  At the final session of the conference I listened to a well-known speaker and author, Tom DeMarco, give a talk on ethics.  After a sprawling and mesmerizing overview of the history of Western philosophical thought on the topic of ethics, DeMarco concluded with the thoughts of the 20th century Scottish moral philosopher, Alasdair MacIntyre.

I’m going to paraphrase and outline MacIntyre’s view from his work Beyond Virtue in the simplest terms a la DeMarco, and then I’ll come back around to the connection of cruelty and progress, the subject of this blog.

  1. People in communities or organizations engage in complex, cooperative activities or practices.
  2. They experience benefits from trying to excel at those practices.
  3. As they strive for excellence the activity or practice is extended to something new, more advanced, more beneficial than ever before.
  4.  As social beings we need 3 character traits to advance the practice in this way:
    1. Truth-telling
    2. Courage
    3. Justice

In the workplace hiring managers tend to look for people who are “smart and get things done”.  This guy is a manager’s dream! But to extend the practice to some new level of excellence or to some advanced state of benefit for the company, the manager needs to hire the person who is truthful, courageous, and just – the manager’s pain in the neck.

Alfred did not want to tell the truth, but in the end the only way he could bring about progress, the only way he could “advance the practice”, so to speak, was to be truthful, courageous, and just.

In our communities and our workplaces sometimes our conscience cannot be a team player.  Sometimes in our communities and workplaces we need to courageously and justly tell the truth even if it hurts someone’s feelings, even if it means that someone rejects us, even if we are judged disloyal or insubordinate.

The alternative is a community, a workplace, a practice, a life that is stuck. And that is the more cruel.

oil_bird

Next time I’ll be connecting the novel Of Human Bondage and the word “value”.

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Grimm’s Tales, Stealing, and Becoming a Billionaire

Connecting Grimm’s Fairy Tales with Complexity

I approached this connection by considering which of the Grimm’s tales has the most complexity.  This lead me to the tale of “The Two Brothers” and from there to reassurance that creativity is available to all.

At eighteen pages in my edition, “The Two Brothers” defies brief summarization. I could summarize The Lord of the Rings or War and Peace more easily!  You can find the story online here “The Two Brothers” if you wish to read it for yourself.

kn_twobrothers

Instead of summarizing, I decided to list elements of the story:

  • Magic bird
  • Abandoned children
  • Mistaken identity
  • Greed and jealousy
  • Witch
  • Damsel in distress
  • Talking animals
  • And on and on and on covering a sheet of paper!

The Grimm brothers didn’t “invent” their stories.  They collected old ones in a project to preserve the oral folk tales of the German peasants.  As my list grew I started to see elements I recognized from stories and myths far older than the German peasantry – elements from Greek mythology, from Celtic Arthurian legends, and from medieval chivalric romance literature.

Take a look.

From “The Two Brothers” From Greek mythology
A wicked uncle who sends the brothers out into danger Jason sent off to danger to find Golden fleece by his wicked uncle
Witch turns animals and men to stone The witch Circe turns men and animals to stone in The Odyssey  of Homer
From “The Two Brothers” From Celtic Arthurian legend
A sword in the ground that could only be moved by one certain person The sword in the stone that only the future King Arthur could remove
A white deer/hart/doe that leads the brothers on a quest into a haunted forest The white hart/doe as a signal to King Arthur and his knights that it was time to embark on a quest
From “The Two Brothers” From medieval chivalric romance
One brother kills a dragon to save and win the princess In a medieval romance by Chretien de Troyes, Yvain slays a dragon to win his lady
A special root heals the brother after he is mortally wounded In another romance by Chretien, an herbal root remedy cures the wounded knight Erec

But then it got even more exciting for me!  Think about one of the most creative works of the 20th-21st centuries – Harry Potter, novels I love.  J.K. Rowling used every one of these elements (and more that I haven’t listed) in her Harry Potter stories.

  • The wicked Uncle Vernon who locks Harry in a closet
  • The Petrification curse that turns a cat and then Harry’s best friend Hermione to stone
  • The Sword of Gryffindor hidden in a frozen lake so only Harry could find it
  • A white doe leading Harry into a forest on a quest for the sword of Gryffindor
  • Harry having to battle a dragon – the Hungarian Horntail – to prove his worth and win a prize
  • The root of the Mandrake plant as the essential part of many antidotes, including against the Petrification curse

13-Hungarian-Horntail

My exercise shows me a long tradition of stealing elements and reusing them to create something “utterly different from that which it was torn” (T.S. Elliot).

During the summer I read a little book called Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative by Austin Kleon. The book has been sitting on my desk for a couple months, and this blog his made his concept “steal like an artist” real to me.  In both my efforts at writing and my efforts at being innovative in the workplace, I struggle with feeling that everything has already been thought of.

How discouraging, paralyzing even.

But it is coming home to me that all creative/innovative work builds on what came before.  J.K. Rowling became a billionaire by stealing and remixing old elements.  I could write another long blog on what she took from Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings!

How encouraging, energizing even.

In Austin Kleon’s words:

“If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.”

 

When I return I’ll consider the connection between “cruelty” and “progress”.  Random selection of topics is challenging me!

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French Toast or Arsenic?

Connecting the novel Madame Bovary and Time

french-toastArsenic

One idea in philosophy about the nature of human identity is that of temporal parts, that our identity is the accumulation of time slices throughout our lives.  In this view Emma Bovary, the wife of Charles Bovary, is the sum of these and all her other temporal parts:

The Emma absorbing longings for romance and luxury from the novels she reads

The Emma flirting with the law student Leon

The Emma ignoring her child

The Emma allowing herself to be seduced by the philanderer Rudolphe

The Emma borrowing money to buy luxuries she can’t afford

The Emma entering into an adulterous union with Leon

The Emma swallowing arsenic to end her life

Is there a relationship among the past, present and future parts in this accumulation of temporal parts that is Emma? Perhaps there is “something” that is the essence of Emma, the core, the real, the unchanging something that exists in each of her temporal parts, an identity more basic that allows the present Emma to have an intimate relationship with her past and future counterparts. The present Emma could be a brief stage, who takes responsibility for the actions of her past counterparts, and acts to benefit her future counterparts if she so chooses.

Solon the wise Greek told Croesus, king of Lydia and the richest man in the world, to “count no man happy until he dies”, meaning in the context of my thoughts about temporal parts that we can’t say that a man is to be called happy until the final temporal part has been added.  I would add the counterpoint – count no woman unhappy until she dies.

Emma is composed of a set of unhappy temporal parts; we would all most likely call her an unhappy woman at each part. Emma Bovary alta

But at any point could she take responsibility for the action of her past counterparts and act to benefit her future counterpart?  Could the essence of Emma that is found in each of her temporal parts make choices such that the final temporal part accumulated becomes “The Emma dying peacefully in her bed surrounded by her husband, daughters and sons, and grandchildren” instead of “The Emma dying an agonizing death after swallowing arsenic.”

I believe the answer is “yes”!  Until the very last temporal part is accumulated she still has the chance to act for the good of her future Emma, to redeem the lost and wasted time, to become French toast, the French pain perdu (lost bread), the sweet and delightful breakfast made from dried up, almost wasted bread rescued from its destiny in the garbage.  No mistake is too terrible, no past temporal part too evil to be beyond redemption. This is the hope and optimism that each of us living outside of novels will always have.

 

My next connecting thoughts will be about Grimm’s Fairy Tales and “complexity”.

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When You Look at Me Who Do You See?

Connecting the movie A History of Violence and the Verdi opera Aida

When I pass you in the corridors in the office or stand silently beside you in the elevator and you look at me, who do you see?

  • The agile program manager?
  • Piper, my alter ego during one partying week in Naples, Florida years ago?
  • The mother who almost lost both daughters to life threatening illnesses?
  • The hospice nurse setting up morphine drips to ease the suffering of cancer patients in their last days?
  • The reader devoted to the classics of Western literature – Homer and Virgil, Chaucer and Shakespeare, James and Dickens, overflowing my bookcases.
  • The undergraduate poring over Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu to learn advanced French grammar?
  • The (one time) marathon runner?
  • The descendant of Welsh maternal ancestors.

Who do you see?

When I look at you who do I see?

  • A project manager
  • A desktop support rep
  • An engineer
  • A manager
  • A cleaning lady

I fear I do not really know the richness of what lies within the men and women I interact with day by day.  And they don’t know me.

The connection between the movie A History of Violence and the Verdi opera Aida, is that the protagonists Tom Stall and Aida were not known completely, even by the people who were closest to them.   Tom Stall, the Midwestern family man and diner owner, had been a young and violent mobster in Philadelphia. Aida, the slave girl to an Egyptian princess, had herself been an Ethiopian princess.

History_of_violenceaida

Tom and Aida deliberately concealed who they were.  But even without trying to hide, we are hidden.

Out of busyness or self-absorption or fear we don’t try to know the fascinating variety of experiences and thoughts and feelings within each other. And yet most of us want to be known.  I want to be known.

Friendliness, curiosity, empathy, vulnerability, openness – these are the stances that will help us know and be known by these most interesting people around us.  Shut off the pre-set categories in our own heads and explore the mind and manners of others.  And conversely, let yourself be known as a person.  Forget about the role you are taught to play, especially as a manager and become known as a person to your team.  It’s one of the biggest facilitators of engagement at work.

Carl Sagan said, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

I say, even more importantly – somewhere, someone incredible is waiting to be known.

 

Next time I’ll explore what’s to be found in the connection between the word “time” and the novel Madame Bovary.

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Corned Beef and Getting Angry

Connecting Martin Luther and Cooking

I brined a beef brisket for ten days recently.

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Ten days it lay covered in a bath of salt, sugar, spices, berries, and seeds.

Ten days getting ready.  But I could have prepared it in the brine for ten more days, and I still wouldn’t have had the marvelous corned beef dinner that came into being with heat and cooking.  Heat changed my brined hunk of meat into tender, flavorful corned beef.

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Connecting Martin Luther and cooking made me think about heat and then about strong emotions.

Martin Luther

Luther “cooked” the Protestant Reformation into being through his strong emotions. So angry with the selling of indulgences to innocent unlearned believers, he pounded his 95 theses onto a door.  He publicly threw into the fire a papal bull threatening him with excommunication.  He railed against clerical corruption.  His strong emotions changed the history of the Western world.

I have been “in the brine” for years, preparing.  I have lived long and learned much and had my times of suffering making me sensitive to suffering around me.  I can see injustice or lack of ethical behavior.  I can feel it.  I know what I feel and why.

But I have been a self-control freak.

I’ve always valued my emotional intelligence, part of which is self-control.  I don’t get angry or overly emotional, especially at work.  Shouldn’t logic and reason and self-control prevail in the workplace?  Yes but, is it emotional intelligence I’m showing or is it just being comfortable and protecting my place in the status quo?

Anger can be destructive, but it is also what changes the world for the better.  When people sit back unwilling to get angry about wrong situations, things don’t change.   Luther had passion, he suffered with a burning anger over wrong.  That’s what happens when people get angry about a wrong that needs to be righted.

These are the times I should and will exert that magnificent self-control I have cultivated. I will exert it over selfish anger:

  • When things aren’t going my way
  • When someone’s personality annoys the heck out of me
  • When I don’t feel my needs are being met
  • When somebody does something stupid like cut me off in traffic

But when things are not right at work – people are being mistreated or abused, cover up or lying is happening, when things are being done or said which are wrong, hurtful to people, morally bankrupt I should let myself heat up, starting with baby steps, vocalizing more strongly my opposition to what I see wrong in the workplace.

I don’t think I have the constitution to ever be an angry Martin Luther or an angry Martin Luther King or an angry woman who stormed the Bastille July 14, 1789 or an angry bereaved Candy Lightner who stood up against drunk driving and created MADD, but I can start getting a little angry over things that are wrong, instead of being brined, but like uncooked meat, of not much use in changing my world.

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I explained to a friend recently that the goal of this “Connecting” blog has been to make me think more deeply and write about it with the hope that some of my writing will resonate with, or at least bring enjoyment to my readers.

Next time should be another wild thought exercise as I connect the movie A History of Violence with the nineteenth century Verdi opera Aida!

 

 

 

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A Glimpse of Joy

Connecting “Technology” with “Family” 

Warning: if you do not have a taste for fairy tales or fantasy, you may not be able to understand or appreciate what I found when I connected the randomly chosen concepts of “family” and “technology”.  Once again I needed to push past this first unimaginative thought – 21st century technology connects families.

Going deeper to connect “technology” to “family” I found fairy tales, spider webs, and happy endings.   I found books, the one technology that has made possible all the modern technologies we are so enamored with.   And I found three books exchanged within three generations of my family.  One book given; two books given and then given back.

My mother gave me the fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson.  I read of Thumbelina in despair, about to be married to a blind mole and dragged forever into the dark, a swallow rescuing and setting her down among the flowers, eight year old me catching a glimpse of joy and heart’s desire as a gift of wings are fastened to Thumbelina so she can fly from flower to flower.

hans fairy tales

Years later I read Charlotte’s Web to my first daughter who burst into tears learning that Wilbur the pig would be slaughtered.  But eight year old her catching a glimpse of joy and heart’s desire as Wilbur is saved by his spider friend Charlotte and will live the rest of his tranquil life with some of Charlotte’s descendants always as his friends.

charlottes web

Grown up her giving me the book back on the eve of her wedding inscribed with this:

DSCN0881

When I was pregnant with my younger daughter and in bed for a week with flu I read Jane Eyre for the first time. Grown up her giving me the book back for Mother’s Day two years ago, although she had never known how I “gave” her that book, both of us having a glimpse of joy and heart’s desire as Jane proclaims herself supremely blest at the book’s end after a life of so much suffering.

jane eyre

Technology is the very human creation of tools and techniques that answer certain uses in our lives.  Through the technology of books my family has shared in the consolation of the happy ending, building a bedrock of belief in us that there is always hope, soon or many years down the road, no matter how dire the disappointment, sadness, or loss has ever been.

 

When I return I’ll be sharing what I find when connecting “cooking” with “Martin Luther”.  I truly have no idea where that will take me.

 

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Amnesia and Innovation

My first experiment in random connecting and I almost threw the first two words back. The first two  – “Memento” (a 2000 Christopher Nolan movie) and “innovation”. This is too easy.  Here’s the connection – Memento was an innovative movie.  But throwing words back would be cheating, or at least lazy!  So I forced the act of connecting which brought me on a visit to a row of fruit trees in New Hampshire.

mementomemento 2

In the movie Memento Leonard can’t make new memories, and the last memory he has is of his wife being attacked and killed.  Because he can’t feel time he is stuck in the grief of the last memory, unable to find healing and satisfaction or create anything new.

Memory can kill innovation.  Selective memory of the good in the past – nostalgia – can lead to attempting to remake the past instead of something brand new.  Bad memories can hold us back in fear or grief – we stand still so we don’t get hurt again.

How do you wipe all that clean?  How do you get amnesia and its freshly washed whiteboard waiting for the next new idea?

By not trusting memory?  In the movie, the female character Natalie tells Leonard, “Memory is unreliable. Memory can be distorted; it can change the color of a car.  You can question everything; you can never know anything for sure.”

memory

I’m connecting. What memories are holding me back from being more creative, innovative?  What did I need to question?  And what came to mind was deeper in the past than recent events, like the bad memory of a failed innovation at work or the proud memory of a great award.

Instead it was the lifetime of memories of being the oldest child of five in a turbulent childhood, becoming the conservative caregiver concerned with order and the establishment, unlike my brother the middle child who has not feared to venture into new things or my husband the middle child who is wildly imaginative.  And other “middlers” Bill Gates, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Ernest Hemingway who  were all open to experience and  unafraid to think imaginatively beyond the establishment of their times, whatever one’s opinion of their ideas.  My own habitual response has been so restrained in comparison.

Connecting prompted me to search for a house a three hour drive away where I lived when I was 10 and 11, where my father planted ten sapling fruit trees alongside the house all those years ago, the best 2 years of my childhood. Nostalgia.

The house yellow now, stirring memories of my grandmother and birthday parties and learning to ride a bicycle, the sound of the Cold River flowing behind the house where we fished, the row of trees big and gnarled, I pick an apple up from the ground, small and disappointing and not worth keeping.  I drop it.

alstead fruit tree Alstead apple

 

Fear, nostalgia, or habitual response caused by memories can’t hold back our imaginations if we recognize and move past them with intention towards creating something big and worth keeping. Drop the apple.

 

When I return I’ll be sharing what I find when connecting the word “technology” with something seemingly unrelated.

 

 

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