It seems there’s a paradox at play. Our world is more connected, through our reach of communication and access to travel, than ever in the history of the human race. Our speed of change and disruption is unprecedented and exponentially increasing. We’re not only exposed to more information, but to more diverse information.
In theory, such an existence should offer greater experiences and profound insights. And sometimes it does. You would think that it would provide the possibility of a deeper understanding — nurturing more authentic relationships. And I’m sure there are examples where it has.
Yet, we often resist the inherent potential.
In our development as a society on a planet, one might assume our evolving conditions would naturally lend themselves to building bridges. Yet, we can fall into the trap of being overwhelmed and hunkering-down to narrow rather than widen our experience. At some level it is understandable — seemingly more manageable. Our “narrowing” can make life feel more controllable. Or at least give the illusion it is under control. Our control.
Yet, we’re forced to face our global reality more than ever before. It seems so large until we’re reminded just how relatively tiny it is. A glance at a cloudless night sky can be a gentle reminder that we live in a place tucked inside a vast existence. Most of us regularly lose the perspective this nearby reminder provides.
I recently viewed a video that showed the striking wonder of images captured through NASA’s Hubble telescope. It might be worth a moment for you to CLICK HERE to view it too. The images are beautifully overwhelming. And while these images are limited to the reach of the Hubble lens, there is no question that they will reset your scope into a broader context. There is great value in pausing to look beyond our own day-to-day home, work, community, city, state, country – and, yes, our “narrow” global experience.
At the same time, a broader context can be seeded right where you are.
I remember my first real taste of a broader experience during my sophomore year of high school. Our basically all-white boys’ school was consolidated with an all-white girls’ school and a coed black school. It was in Memphis – less than 2 years and 4 miles away from where Martin Luther King had been assassinated.
There was rich history and pride in each of these 3 parochial schools. The next 3 years would prove to be some of the most important years of my life. Challenging — yes. Eye-opening — for sure. Misunderstandings — everywhere. Did we get it right – sometimes. Did we change – somewhat.
But we all had the opportunity to learn something – about each other.
And we did. Not always the right things. Yet little-by-little, as we loosened assumptions, we learned some good things. Some really good things. I fully doubt that we learned as much as we could have or should have, but it was a start. A wonderful start.
Differences right in front of our eyes can create cause for misunderstanding — and our greatest opportunity for rich understanding. Especially when those differences are rooted on the surface. Variety on the surface can blind us from the richness of commonalities grounded deeply within.
In his book, Awareness, Anthony de Mello names the risk: “Understanding has stopped at that moment you slap a label on someone, and if the label carries undertones of approval or disapproval, so much the worse!” Because what you judge, you cannot understand.
Where understanding stops, misunderstanding begins.
With less craving for judgement and more longing for understanding we might just experience the complete wonder our more connected world has to offer here … and way beyond. It could very well explain this paradox: We can more easily discover what is within us through the broader context of what is way beyond us – while at the same time, we can have a greater appreciation and connection to what is way beyond us by knowing what lies deep within us. It is, in fact, all connected.
We always have the opportunity to rediscover integrity whenever we allow ourselves to have this experience of integration. Integrity calls us to a richer state of being – where all is whole, entire and undiminished.
When was the last time you experienced a form of integration within, without – or both? As always, please share your thoughts below.
Long ago, BU Professor and Management Consultant Stan Davis wrote what I consider to be a seminal journal article on Context. He starts the article by observing that one of the greatest challenges to corporate leadership is knowing what questions to ask. But the main point of the article is that context defines the meaning of EVERYTHING. (Including what questions to ask.) When I think about it, I cannot find an argument against this idea. Your thoughts also are congruent with the idea, John!
Jack … great to hear from you. Thank you for sharing on this idea on context. Love the idea that context is EVERYTHING.