Go Home, 2016. You’re Drunk.

by Jean Richardson on December 30, 2016

This topic was proposed by a colleague at a local monthly Sunday morning Lean Coffee I attend.  This Lean Coffee is held in a coffee shop in a garden like setting with lots of big windows.  The convener and facilitator is a gentle soul with a rakish sense of humor, and this helps to set the tone.  That sunny November morning, we all had much to say about the topic sited above when its turn came on the Kanban board that is our organizing metaphor for the discussion.

It’s not just developments in the US that have been headshaking for many of us, but all around the world one amazing thing happened after another.  At times, it seemed that we were all speeding toward a dystopian sci-fi vision.  And, clearly, if you’re a twitterer or a reader of Twitter, many people are convinced of it.

There is this debate about whether life imitates art or vice versa.  I’m not here to hash that through, but my experience, my reading, and my conversations with people who have lived a lot more history than I have leave me with a number of understandings including these:

  • We are human systems within systems, and humans are the only ethical force within the amoral systems we inhabit. Apparently, we have some accountability.
  • Ethics and morals—if you will—are the lubricant that keep us—collectively–alive.
  • It’s really hard to understand yourself, let alone another person, so build all the skills you can for this and practice, practice, practice.
  • The highest ethical standard is “An it harm none, do as thou wilt.”
  • Anthropocentrism is myopic.
  • The biggest shifts in our understanding of who and what we are in all our multivariance are yet to come and imminently impending. Hold onto your hat.
  • The young really do think their vices are nastier and tastier than the vices of previous generations. They lack imagination.
  • Aging is a trip.
  • Almost everything we do in knowledge work, especially software development, is metaphorical and sometimes metaphors within metaphors.
  • Your consciousness as a software developer matters but is not a reflection of goodness. Goodness matters, too.
  • Poetry matters.

Last night I supported yet another canine companion over what some people refer to as the rainbow bridge.  It was the topper on this nasty year of “wait a minute—what?”  This kind of thing just doesn’t seem to get any easier.  I learn not only from reading and dialogue (my favorite) but also from the many practices that my work as an agile coach expose me to.  And, I learn from the flora and the fauna, from human and non-human animals.

People say that dogs are endlessly loving.  I think it’s more likely that they are true servant leaders.  This one spent twelve and a half years keeping me out of the ditch.  It wore him out.

For a while now, it looks like we’ll be having a number of tussles over the appropriateness of power-over versus power-with relationships.  The themes of whether we are ready to lead our own lives—and willing to do it or whether this must be done for us versus “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one” are going to vibrate through the culture with a more insistent thwang.  This could hurt a bit.  Here’s your opportunity to dig in and love well.

As Theodore Roethke said in his poem “The Waking”:

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

He was ahead of his time.  Best wishes in 2017 for getting better at that shaking that keeps you steady and waking from your sleep, however slowly.

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