Monthly Archives: November 2009

Water to Wine – A Prayer

Dear Lord,

Here I am half way through the wedding feast and I am to be found out to have ordered too little wine for the festivities?

What kind of groom am I to let my bride down and to spoil the celebration for my family and friends?

And Lord, you are an honored guest so how can I trouble you with such a frivolous problem?

I am not worthy, yet, please be merciful. Fill the six stone water jars to the brim cleaning my marriage in the ceremonials waters of your death and transforming the second half of the festivities into that which only the choicest blood wine can provide.

 

The Gospel of Saint John Chapter 2, verses 1-11

Water to Wine – A Prayer

Dear Lord,

Here I am half way through the wedding feast and I am to be found out to have ordered too little wine for the festivities?

What kind of groom am I to let my bride down and to spoil the celebration for my family and friends?

And Lord, you are an honored guest so how can I trouble you with such a frivolous problem?

I am not worthy, yet, please be merciful. Fill the six stone water jars to the brim cleaning my marriage in the ceremonials waters of your death and transforming the second half of the festivities into that which only the choicest blood wine can provide.

 

The Gospel of Saint John Chapter 2, verses 1-11

Update on Becoming Well Read – Middlemarch

I continue to read (listen) to Middlemarch and have enjoyed this book a great deal.  I’m on chapter 19 of 86.   My favorite line so far has been this musing of Dr. Lydgate about Rosamond Vincy in chapter 16.

Certainly, if falling in love had been at all in question, it would have been quite safe with a creature like this Miss Vincy, who had just the kind of intelligence one would desire in a woman—polished, refined, docile, lending itself to finish in all the delicacies of life, and enshrined in a body which expressed this with a force of demonstration that excluded the need for other evidence.

Labyrinth Communion: Renewal – Part 1

November 1, 2009
Seton Northwest Hospital
11113 Research Blvd.
Austin, Texas 78759 view map

A few days ago, I shared how I came to find myself ready to experience the walking mediation of a labyrinth (see Labyrinth Meditation).  I will try to give you some sense of the experience.   I share this with some trepidation. Keep in mind, dear reader, this is my experience so it may seem strange in the light before you.  I hope you won’t consider me a loon!? Whoops – too late.   Ah, well, if I have to be a fool, I will be a fool for Christ.  Of course, it may be some of my brothers and sisters in Christ – the fundamental, the pious, the moral; a few good men, that might think I’ve gone AWOL and immediately dispatch the MPs (Ministerial Pharisees) to drag me back to the pew.  Fear not friends, I haven’t gone all nuclear or even new age – I’m merely experiencing a new expression of communion with Christ, the holy Son of God.

When researching labyrinths in preparation for the visit, one suggestion I uncovered was to traverse the trail meditating on a specific word – something like forgiveness, peace, worship.  You want to make sure you eat before you arrive so your word isn’t “hamburger”.  Of course if you eat and drink first, you should take care of all the associated post processing so your word doesn’t become a bodily function.  It’s exceptionally hard to walk a labyrinth with your legs crossed and it makes you want to hurry which defeats the point.

All kidding aside, I found myself at the mouth of the labyrinth considering which word I would digest during this contemplative feast.  I had barely opened the menu in my mind to survey my options when the smorgasbord that is the word RENEWAL was served up to me.  There has been so much going on in my life and renewal was needed in every department and compartment.  But the word was as accurate in the macro-economics of my life as it was in the day-to-day.  As I stand, precariously on the pivot point to the see-saw of my life looking at the plank that got me here leading back to the ground and the plank ahead of me stretching upward to the heavens, renewal is the one thing needful.  What got me here cannot take me there – further up and further in – Christ, renew me.  I implored the Lord to meet me in this place at this time. Then, like a child anxious to ride the big-kid rollercoaster despite fluttering trepidation of heart, I stepped into the labyrinth.

I felt a bit awkward at first, like a child wobbling along on its bike just after its father removed the training wheels.  But I expected this, so I embraced it (then strangled it and left it gasping for air on an early, outer circuit).  One of the brilliant things about the labyrinth is you have enough rings in your path that you can afford one or two just to get your head in the right place – to empty your cup of all the junk our busy world has served up so you can receive fresh, cool water.  In fact, that is the very point, to lay aside all the noise of the world for a few minutes so we you hear the voice of the heart and the eternal.

photo Because the labyrinth I chose featured beautiful trees amongst the path, I found myself running my hands across their trunks as I passed by.  It was an incongruent experience; attempting to gently caress the contours of their form as a man might caress the face of his beloved or or woman might touch the cheeks of her grandchild, only to be met with the rough, scratchy, unyielding texture of the bark.  Even so, it seemed correct so as I continued the course, the practice progressed from this timid touch to a daring dance, a do-si-do circling around and in between my various oaken tango partners.  It reminded me of Lucy’s midnight dance with and through the trees to rest with the lion, Aslan in Prince Caspian. I deeply love these stories in the Chronicles or Narnia by C.S. Lewis.  The Lord has spoken to me many times as I read and reread these stories to my children.   I thought, “Just like Lucy, these trees and this labyrinth are waltzing me to the center to meet my love and Lord, Jesus.  It was then that I slid out of the moment, the way you might encounter a temporary reprieve from the drama of a movie or play for a detached thought, and I became aware that I was indeed sliding into renewal. And with that revelation of heart, I ceased to think about it and yielded fully to this ballet of the labyrinth.

About half way through the labyrinth, I came across a fallen branch from from one of the trees and picked it up.  It looked a lot like a dowsing rod, the type used to divine the location of water.  A flood of ideas poured into my head about this.  First, I considered how the labyrinth with it’s unicursal path was a type of dowser experience – the path in and out, the participant’s part, like the two forks held by the dowser while the purpose of touching the spiritual, God’s part, was like the outstretched arm in its effort to find water, and water, of course, is a symbol for the spirit. But for me, the experience drilled deeper than the near-surface layers of these general observations.  

When my parents were divorced from each other and married to other people, my mother and step-father ran a business called Dowser Consulting so this idea of dowsing is intrinsically tied together with some of my deepest heart experiences.  It would be impossible to share with you here the myriad and depth of emotion and thought interwoven in the fabric of this part of my life.  Still, it is distant in the day-to-day of my life. My parents are no longer married to others. In fact, they have been married to each other again now for more years than they were apart.  Generally, I don’t often think about my parent’s 15-year long marital detour or how it impacts me.  There were extremely positive and extremely difficult aspects of that chapter of my life which I now fully embrace as an essential part of the fabric of who I am and for which I am thankful to God. However, holding this fallen dowsing gift from God in my hand, a flood of deep, resident joy and grief exploded from it into my hands and through-out my heart and soul. I wondered if that was akin to the dowser’s sensitive touch, but mostly I felt deep reserves of emotion that connected with much of my current experience in a way that was clearly significant if not outright electrifying and shocking. I thought of a poem I wrote once called Point of Rest, that included the verse, “

Yet pure the silver water flows
Where the patient surgeon waits for those
Ready to trust his steady hand
To cut out the stone beneath the brand

Here I was finding the pure silver water in this labyrinthine dowsing rod of renewal and the surgeon was quick to touch me and cut out this stone beneath this scar tissue on my soul.   It was most unexpected. I simply was unaware that there was any more work needed in this area of my soul, but I could not deny the raw, tenderness of this wound now that my Lord was probing it and healing it in new ways.  This was clearly renewal. 

I continued to the cent
er amazed with this encounter as God guided me into renewal, but I will share the rest of this experience in the next post.

Labyrinth Communion: Renewal – Part 1

November 1, 2009
Seton Northwest Hospital
11113 Research Blvd.
Austin, Texas 78759 view map

A few days ago, I shared how I came to find myself ready to experience the walking mediation of a labyrinth (see Labyrinth Meditation).  I will try to give you some sense of the experience.   I share this with some trepidation. Keep in mind, dear reader, this is my experience so it may seem strange in the light before you.  I hope you won’t consider me a loon!? Whoops – too late.   Ah, well, if I have to be a fool, I will be a fool for Christ.  Of course, it may be some of my brothers and sisters in Christ – the fundamental, the pious, the moral; a few good men, that might think I’ve gone AWOL and immediately dispatch the MPs (Ministerial Pharisees) to drag me back to the pew.  Fear not friends, I haven’t gone all nuclear or even new age – I’m merely experiencing a new expression of communion with Christ, the holy Son of God.

When researching labyrinths in preparation for the visit, one suggestion I uncovered was to traverse the trail meditating on a specific word – something like forgiveness, peace, worship.  You want to make sure you eat before you arrive so your word isn’t “hamburger”.  Of course if you eat and drink first, you should take care of all the associated post processing so your word doesn’t become a bodily function.  It’s exceptionally hard to walk a labyrinth with your legs crossed and it makes you want to hurry which defeats the point.

All kidding aside, I found myself at the mouth of the labyrinth considering which word I would digest during this contemplative feast.  I had barely opened the menu in my mind to survey my options when the smorgasbord that is the word RENEWAL was served up to me.  There has been so much going on in my life and renewal was needed in every department and compartment.  But the word was as accurate in the macro-economics of my life as it was in the day-to-day.  As I stand, precariously on the pivot point to the see-saw of my life looking at the plank that got me here leading back to the ground and the plank ahead of me stretching upward to the heavens, renewal is the one thing needful.  What got me here cannot take me there – further up and further in – Christ, renew me.  I implored the Lord to meet me in this place at this time. Then, like a child anxious to ride the big-kid rollercoaster despite fluttering trepidation of heart, I stepped into the labyrinth.

I felt a bit awkward at first, like a child wobbling along on its bike just after its father removed the training wheels.  But I expected this, so I embraced it (then strangled it and left it gasping for air on an early, outer circuit).  One of the brilliant things about the labyrinth is you have enough rings in your path that you can afford one or two just to get your head in the right place – to empty your cup of all the junk our busy world has served up so you can receive fresh, cool water.  In fact, that is the very point, to lay aside all the noise of the world for a few minutes so we you hear the voice of the heart and the eternal.

photo Because the labyrinth I chose featured beautiful trees amongst the path, I found myself running my hands across their trunks as I passed by.  It was an incongruent experience; attempting to gently caress the contours of their form as a man might caress the face of his beloved or or woman might touch the cheeks of her grandchild, only to be met with the rough, scratchy, unyielding texture of the bark.  Even so, it seemed correct so as I continued the course, the practice progressed from this timid touch to a daring dance, a do-si-do circling around and in between my various oaken tango partners.  It reminded me of Lucy’s midnight dance with and through the trees to rest with the lion, Aslan in Prince Caspian. I deeply love these stories in the Chronicles or Narnia by C.S. Lewis.  The Lord has spoken to me many times as I read and reread these stories to my children.   I thought, “Just like Lucy, these trees and this labyrinth are waltzing me to the center to meet my love and Lord, Jesus.  It was then that I slid out of the moment, the way you might encounter a temporary reprieve from the drama of a movie or play for a detached thought, and I became aware that I was indeed sliding into renewal. And with that revelation of heart, I ceased to think about it and yielded fully to this ballet of the labyrinth.

About half way through the labyrinth, I came across a fallen branch from from one of the trees and picked it up.  It looked a lot like a dowsing rod, the type used to divine the location of water.  A flood of ideas poured into my head about this.  First, I considered how the labyrinth with it’s unicursal path was a type of dowser experience – the path in and out, the participant’s part, like the two forks held by the dowser while the purpose of touching the spiritual, God’s part, was like the outstretched arm in its effort to find water, and water, of course, is a symbol for the spirit. But for me, the experience drilled deeper than the near-surface layers of these general observations.  

When my parents were divorced from each other and married to other people, my mother and step-father ran a business called Dowser Consulting so this idea of dowsing is intrinsically tied together with some of my deepest heart experiences.  It would be impossible to share with you here the myriad and depth of emotion and thought interwoven in the fabric of this part of my life.  Still, it is distant in the day-to-day of my life. My parents are no longer married to others. In fact, they have been married to each other again now for more years than they were apart.  Generally, I don’t often think about my parent’s 15-year long marital detour or how it impacts me.  There were extremely positive and extremely difficult aspects of that chapter of my life which I now fully embrace as an essential part of the fabric of who I am and for which I am thankful to God. However, holding this fallen dowsing gift from God in my hand, a flood of deep, resident joy and grief exploded from it into my hands and through-out my heart and soul. I wondered if that was akin to the dowser’s sensitive touch, but mostly I felt deep reserves of emotion that connected with much of my current experience in a way that was clearly significant if not outright electrifying and shocking. I thought of a poem I wrote once called Point of Rest, that included the verse, “

Yet pure the silver water flows
Where the patient surgeon waits for those
Ready to trust his steady hand
To cut out the stone beneath the brand

Here I was finding the pure silver water in this labyrinthine dowsing rod of renewal and the surgeon was quick to touch me and cut out this stone beneath this scar tissue on my soul.   It was most unexpected. I simply was unaware that there was any more work needed in this area of my soul, but I could not deny the raw, tenderness of this wound now that my Lord was probing it and healing it in new ways.  This was clearly renewal. 

I continued to the center amazed with this encounter as God guided me into renewal, but I will share the rest of this experience in the next post.

Beginning or End – Amazing Insight Today

The journey with Christ, on day one, rises forward from the point where all other religions, philosophies, affections and pursuits aspire to attain at their final peak.

I was blown away by this idea while listening to a podcast this morning featuring Pastor Bobby Pruitt from Hill Country Bible Church Hutto.  The religions of the world provide men with a complicated map to Nirvana that only the most faithful and moral can even hope to attain, in some cases, even after many life times.  Philosophies fare even worst at their final destination as they rarely recognize God or the need for transcendence. All earthly affections struggle to achieve unity and unconditional, sacrificial love and none ever attains it. And all the ladders of success rising above the mountains like our own personal towers of Babel confound and haunt us with their beautiful view of all we can survey as far as our eyes can see – for we are left to wonder, “Is this all there is?”

None of these in their highest imagined zenith, much less the real ledge far below that might realistically be attained in the short morning walk that measures the brief life of a man, comes close to attaining what Christ brings to those who love him on day one of their life together.  And that is only the commencement – the beginning.  The Bible say Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.   It says the lamb was slain before the foundation of the earth and it says that only he will be able to open the scrolls that will complete history on this earth.  So all the starts begin after his provision for us and after his creation of us.  And all ends do not touch his.  All of mans effort to find perfection fall short – but Christ is not asking us to obtain this elusive and impossible perfection, he gives us his perfection by joining his life to our own – as a wedding gift.  We only have to say, I do.

Becoming Well Read – Update

Currently reading Middlemarch by George Eliot – but I’m on chapter nine of 86 so it will be awhile before I blog about this book.  In the meantime, I have completed, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni  and will blog about it this weekend.

Other exploration this weekend – I will be attending a workshop titled Listening – The 4th “R” – Uncovering the Forgotten Business Tool.  This is being conducted by Mike O’Krent who I’ve known with for some time and by Jacqueline Rixen.  I’m excited to be able to attend.

Mike O’Krent, founder of LifeStories Alive, LLC, makes personal history videos for families that value their heritage. Mike interviewed Holocaust survivors for Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation. During that incredible experience, he learned valuable listening skills and discovered the importance of recording the life stories of our loved ones. http://www.lifestoriesalive.com/about.html

Jacqueline Rixen  is an Austin attorney who uses listening every day to help her clients accomplish their legal goals.  She has over 20 years experience as a lawyer and many more years as a listener. http://www.rixenlaw.com

The Great Gatsby

In creating my list of novels to read (via audio book), I analyzed and combined several lists:  Times Top 10, Top 100 From Real People and the Modern Day Readers list from the panel and from readers.  Only two books make all four lists when combined and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald was the higher weighted of the two.  This is incredibly impressive considering The Great Gatsby sold only 25,000 copies from the time of it’s release in 1925 until Fitzgerald’s death 15 years later.

Fitzgerald’s writing style and literary skill is impressive in this book. The characters are so rich and vivid that you feel as if you are at a party with them and know exactly with whom you should and should not mingle. The book exposes the American Dream as materialism, pride, and class snobbery with a side dish of hypocrisy, pure cruelty and gross relational insincerity.   While the book presents a cynical view, it is a lens that could equally be applied to modern American culture and many do.  The lack of trust and honesty by the characters speaks so loudly that all other potentially redeeming qualities such as Gatsby’s attempt at sacrificial love echo back the much deeper self-centered obsession instead.

I enjoyed the book but was a little disappointed by the ending, even though it was congruent with the rest of the story.  You want to hope things will turn out better despite the evidence to the contrary.

Labyrinth Meditation

Labyrinth-entry I can be somewhat type-a in areas of my passion. This includes the practice of my faith.  I tend to play the role or Martha rather than Mary – sometimes even having a bit of disdain, just as Martha did, at Mary’s seemingly lackadaisical attitude toward service.

The deep surgery Christ performs on Martha during her ailment is not lost on me.  For quite some time, our Lord has been prying my hand from my prideful plow and and healing me to the place where, as Mullins puts it, “I’m lost enough to let myself be lead”  For a variety of reasons, the Lord lead me to take somewhat of a sabbatical from church activity.  As I did this, I realized how easy it is for me to be over zealous about Christian activity.

Putting me in the middle of a ministry driven church is like putting a cat in the middle of a floor surrounded by tuna fish and telling it to stay. There is an element of my zeal that is pure, but to be perfectly honest, my insatiable drive toward ministry is often more fueled by my need to feel good about myself.  I am capable of saying no and sitting down but I don’t want to very often.  So, consequently, I anxiously fill up my time with many good Christian duties but neglect the one thing needed that is so much better. Luke 10:41-42

But our Lord is teaching me.  A variety of experiences over the last few months have taught me more about prayer, meditation, solitude, silence, journaling and other disciplines. I’m a horrible student but He is a great and patient teacher.  Recently, he persuaded me to take up listening to many books, podcasts and other audio material.  It was a way to push me out of the nest of what I know and into the wild blue expanse that I do not know, to add new wonder to my life, and to prove to me how very limited all my knowledge really is anyway.  It’s kind of ridiculous that he has to go to such extremes to show me what is so obvious. 

In listening to the audiobook, “A Whole New Mind” by Daniel H. Pink – see my blog about it – I learned about labyrinths. Contrary to the 1986 film by this name or even the Greek mythology that made them famous, it is a general misconception that labyrinths are the same constructs as mazes.  A maze is a puzzle to be solved with many paths that are dead ends, keeping you lost.  A labyrinth, on the other hand, has a singular, connected journey to the center and back.  They are not puzzles to be solved but an intentionally elongated journey designed to slow your pace into a state of meditation. Mazes are analytical and left-brained where labyrinths are contextual, spiritual and right-brained.  A labyrinth is a walking meditation, a devotional act of worship, and a sacred celebration of life. It’s power is in its simplicity – it presents an orderly path to quiet the mind enabling deeper communion with God as the body moves in a peaceful walking rhythm. With each step, we are able to diminish the cares of the world and tune into the illumined voice of God. Walking the labyrinth is not something to learn or memorize, but something to experience.

LabyrinthLearning all of this, God immediately and strongly impressed upon my heart to visit a labyrinth, so I set my heart upon doing it the very next day.

First I visited the World-wide Labyrinth Locator at http://labyrinthlocator.com/.  There are different layouts, sizes, construction types of labyrinths. After learning about them and reviewing the one in Georgetown and 13 in Austin, I decided I wanted to visit one based on the medieval design then settled on a beautiful labyrinth at Seton Northwest excited by the feature of trees actually growing in the path of the labyrinth. I wasn’t sure what to expect – should I go for silence or bring some meditative music.  I decided to bring it just in case and to decide there whether or not to use it.  I loaded the best candidates in a special playlist onto my iPhone and then headed for the labyrinth with the feeling in my heart of embarking on an epic saga.

As I walked the labyrinth, I found myself in a deeply stirring encounter with God. I will share the experience in my next blog entry.  In the mean time, I thoroughly recommend walking a labyrinth as a form of prayer and mediation.  I hope you will experience it soon.

A Whole New Mind – Daniel H. Pink

t4_image Our brains are made up of two halves – left and right. The left brain controls serial, detail, analytical, logical types of functions.  The right brain is more simultaneous, big picture, emotional, artistic, creative, spiritual in orientation. Most of our world: education, business, culture has been traditionally left-brain oriented.  The SAT is left-brained, business analysis for decision making is left-brained, the drive to efficiently succeed materially has been largely left-brained.

However, as a result of our left-brained drive for efficiency, we continually automate as much as possible, we look for ways to drive cost down so that we reach greater markets enabling products that most everyone can afford.  To do this, we cut cost everywhere we can which includes outsourcing as much as possible to workers oversees where labor is much less expensive. These trends: abundance, Asia, and automation are driving a fundamental shift from near 100% left-brain focus to the need for androgynous minds that effectively use right-brain and left-brain skills. Why?

Well, what do you give to the person who has everything? If function is equal among plentiful brands, products are differentiated by design and other factors.  While computers can automated the serial, logical, analytical functions of the left brain, and are increasingly, they are incapable of automating the simultaneous, big-picture, synergistic and spiritual aspects of humans.  And while knowledge is more ubiquitous thanks to the internet/technology and knowledge work can easily be farmed out to others who can do it for less, this is not true of the creative work that relies more heavily of the specific attributes of the designer.

When she was alive, my grandmother had quite a disdain for computers and how they replaced jobs done previously by men in the refineries of Port Arthur, TX.  Though empathetic about the lost work for men, my historical and practical view saw this no different then the industrial revolution transition that took men from the farms to work.   These men could and should have retrained themselves and knowledge work with computers was likely better for them than the work they were doing.  Replacing caustic fumes of refineries for carpal tunnel syndrome with computers.   But now, here we are in my age at the place where my generation’s work is being replaced by automation and outsourcing.

Pink asserts we are moving beyond the age of knowledge into the conceptual age – the age of art and heart – where high concept and high touch are the difference between success and failure and left-brain skills are only table stakes.  In such as world, he recommends each person consider the following three questions about their work:

  1. Can someone oversees do it cheaper?
  2. Can computers do it faster?
  3. Are you doing something that satisfies the non-material, transcendent desires of and abundant age?

If your answer to 1 & 2 is “yes”, and your answer to 3 is no, you better go back to school (figuratively if not literally) and focus on growing your right brain skills. His book covers the six essential skills necessary and provides a wealth of ways to wean yourself from dependency on the milk of left-brain thinking toward a well-balanced diet including appropriate portions of right-brained meat so you can develop a whole new mind. It will help you:

  1. Fast forward from function only to destinations of desirous DESIGN
  2. Augment analysis and argument with stimulating STORY
  3. Fill in the blanks of focus with the big picture in SYMPHONY
  4. Look beyond logic by elevating EMPATHY
  5. Supplement seriousness with the primal pleasure of a plethora of PLAY
  6. Lift you from the rise of accumulation to the mountain of MEANING

I was very impressed with this book – more so than any I’ve read in a long time – and consider it essential reading and exercise.  I highly, highly recommend it for everyone.  Besides a book to read, it is a life study that can be very enriching and you can bet I will be blogging on my experience with many of the exercises from this book.  Plus, its a great deal.  It’s $17.47 as an audio book from audible.com but it was $4.95 on iTunes.  You can get the book in paperback for $12 online at Barnes and Nobel or $9.99 as an eBook. The CD version at B&N is $15.99 online.  Seriously, buy this book and read it – especially if your work is heavily steeped in the left-brain functions like the high-tech world. 

Also, if you’re a parent, realize that our schools have been increasingly centered in left-brain thinking.  Programs in the arts have been cut, scaled back, minimized.  Meaning has been stripped as a topic in the name of separation of church and state.  Your children will not develop or learn about many of these skills in school yet they will be the difference between success and mediocrity or even failure in their age.   Supplement!!  And try to overcome the sensation that your education and culture put on you – that this soft, artsy stuff is not relevant.  Even heavily science-oriented and technical roles such as doctors and lawyers are being transformed by this shift and your children will need to develop these skills somewhere.  Support it at the schools and supplement beyond them.

A Whole New Mind – Daniel H. Pink

t4_image Our brains are made up of two halves – left and right. The left brain controls serial, detail, analytical, logical types of functions.  The right brain is more simultaneous, big picture, emotional, artistic, creative, spiritual in orientation. Most of our world: education, business, culture has been traditionally left-brain oriented.  The SAT is left-brained, business analysis for decision making is left-brained, the drive to efficiently succeed materially has been largely left-brained.

However, as a result of our left-brained drive for efficiency, we continually automate as much as possible, we look for ways to drive cost down so that we reach greater markets enabling products that most everyone can afford.  To do this, we cut cost everywhere we can which includes outsourcing as much as possible to workers oversees where labor is much less expensive. These trends: abundance, Asia, and automation are driving a fundamental shift from near 100% left-brain focus to the need for androgynous minds that effectively use right-brain and left-brain skills. Why?

Well, what do you give to the person who has everything? If function is equal among plentiful brands, products are differentiated by design and other factors.  While computers can automated the serial, logical, analytical functions of the left brain, and are increasingly, they are incapable of automating the simultaneous, big-picture, synergistic and spiritual aspects of humans.  And while knowledge is more ubiquitous thanks to the internet/technology and knowledge work can easily be farmed out to others who can do it for less, this is not true of the creative work that relies more heavily of the specific attributes of the designer.

When she was alive, my grandmother had quite a disdain for computers and how they replaced jobs done previously by men in the refineries of Port Arthur, TX.  Though empathetic about the lost work for men, my historical and practical view saw this no different then the industrial revolution transition that took men from the farms to work.   These men could and should have retrained themselves and knowledge work with computers was likely better for them than the work they were doing.  Replacing caustic fumes of refineries for carpal tunnel syndrome with computers.   But now, here we are in my age at the place where my generation’s work is being replaced by automation and outsourcing.

Pink asserts we are moving beyond the age of knowledge into the conceptual age – the age of art and heart – where high concept and high touch are the difference between success and failure and left-brain skills are only table stakes.  In such as world, he recommends each person consider the following three questions about their work:

  1. Can someone oversees do it cheaper?
  2. Can computers do it faster?
  3. Are you doing something that satisfies the non-material, transcendent desires of and abundant age?

If your answer to 1 & 2 is “yes”, and your answer to 3 is no, you better go back to school (figuratively if not literally) and focus on growing your right brain skills. His book covers the six essential skills necessary and provides a wealth of ways to wean yourself from dependency on the milk of left-brain thinking toward a well-balanced diet including appropriate portions of right-brained meat so you can develop a whole new mind. It will help you:

  1. Fast forward from function only to destinations of desirous DESIGN
  2. Augment analysis and argument with stimulating STORY
  3. Fill in the blanks of focus with the big picture in SYMPHONY
  4. Look beyond logic by elevating EMPATHY
  5. Supplement seriousness with the primal pleasure of a plethora of PLAY
  6. Lift you from the rise of accumulation to the mountain of MEANING

I was very impressed with this book – more so than any I’ve read in a long time – and consider it essential reading and exercise.  I highly, highly recommend it for everyone.  Besides a book to read, it is a life study that can be very enriching and you can bet I will be blogging on my experience with many of the exercises from this book.  Plus, its a great deal.  It’s $17.47 as an audio book from audible.com but it was $4.95 on iTunes.  You can get the book in paperback for $12 online at Barnes and Nobel or $9.99 as an eBook. The CD version at B&N is $15.99 online.  Seriously, buy this book and read it – especially if your work is heavily steeped in the left-brain functions like the high-tech world. 

Also, if you’re a parent, realize that our schools have been increasingly centered in left-brain thinking.  Programs in the arts have been cut, scaled back, minimized.  Meaning has been stripped as a topic in the name of separation of church and state.  Your children will not develop or learn about many of these skills in school yet they will be the difference between success and mediocrity or even failure in their age.   Supplement!!  And try to overcome the sensation that your education and culture put on you – that this soft, artsy stuff is not relevant.  Even heavily science-oriented and technical roles such as doctors and lawyers are being transformed by this shift and your children will need to develop these skills somewhere.  Support it at the schools and supplement beyond them.