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Tag: Parker Palmer

What is Intelligence?

What is Intelligence?


Of late, I have been completely consumed with the idea of intelligence leading me down the murky path of curious discovery. Always an above average student, one would believe I had a handle on this concept. On the contrary, bouts of low self-esteem and social anxiety left me afraid to take risks, challenge others in debate or share personal philosophies. It has only been through writing that I have discovered hidden strength and allowed parts of myself to be seen. To this point one of my favorite authors, Parker Palmer, states,


As teenagers and young adults, we learned that self-knowledge counts for little on the road to workplace success. What counts is the “objective” knowledge that empowers us to manipulate the world. Ethics, taught in this context, becomes one more arm’s-length study of great thinkers and their thoughts, one more exercise in data collection that fails to inform our hearts.


What speaks to me is Palmers use of the word manipulate. We often choose to show up each day as society expects us to and with the information required for each interaction. In my field we call this data driven decision making. In doing so we hide our authentic self and shield our hearts while navigating a professional life. We gladly put on errs and dish out facts and figures to support positions, forgetting the points we argue remain eternally elusive. Intelligence of the heart gently reminds, it is better to be kind than to be right. Parker speaks further with,


Not knowing who or what we are dealing with and feeling unsafe, we hunker down in a psychological foxhole and withhold the investment of our energy, commitment, and gifts… The perceived incongruity of inner and outer-the inauthenticity that we sense in others, or they in us-constantly undermines our morale, our relationships, and our capacity for good work.


I have felt this inauthenticity in both myself and those in my workplace. If I am not showing up as myself, trying my hardest to be as others wish me to be, am I not doing a disservice to everyone? If I had to define true knowledge, I would have to say universal intelligence fits the bill. It is a knowing that no matter how much we think we know, it is never as vast as the great unknown. The divine light in each of us, no matter how we name it, holds this universal knowledge and tries desperately to show us the smallest of sparks during our lifetime.


What we name it matters little to me, since the origins, nature, and destiny of call-it-what-you-will are forever hidden from us, and no one can credibly claim to know its true name. But that we name it matters a great deal. For “it” is the objective, ontological reality of selfhood that keeps us from reducing ourselves, or each other, to biological mechanisms, psychological projections, sociological constructs, or raw material to be manufactured into whatever society needs — diminishments of our humanity that constantly threaten the quality of our lives.


My writing is a playground for self-examination, self-reflection and philosophical interplay. I debate with myself as I write and the outcome is never predestined. I flirt with new ideas and old tales of wisdom, never really settling into one frame but rather enjoying the entire picture, even the odd brushstrokes and frayed edges. The universe is such a creative space and the joy I feel when floating in this galactic sea of creativity is unmatched by any measure of intelligence we know of.


I have no name for this other but know it is with me and is relentless in providing learning opportunities for my soul. Sometimes I fail miserably while other times I shine brightly, soaking in the love of a perceived success. It is only with this duality that we learn, grow and come home to ourselves. The journey can be frustrating, but maybe this is the only way to truly earn our intelligence wings.


Families and Compassion

Families and Compassion


Having lived a great distance from my family since I was twenty, I am the first to say that my heart feels the pull of those closest to me often. These are the people that have known me for the longest and know my true self well. As the second of five children, I find that we all fall effortlessly into our birth order roles for better or for worse each time we see each other.

My older sister is just that, that oldest of the flock. She has been “in charge” of the rest of use since as long as I can remember. Back in the times when children were allowed to be home alone, she was our babysitter in a house full of rambunctious trouble makers. She could not have been more than ten or eleven and I hesitate to think what could have gone wrong. As such she still likes to direct the rest of us and gets frustrated when she feels she is not being heard or respected. As the second daughter and second child, I was and am overly sensitive. A bit more of a dreamer than my sister, I didn’t like confrontation and disharmony of any kind. My sister often spoke for me and she still does at times, even if I don’t want her too. The next two siblings are boys. The first being hyperactive as a child and is still very energetic as an adult. As the first born son he plays that role well, always dictating his “plan” and not always taking into account others perspectives. He has the alpha male and leader mentality. The fourth child, another brother, played the part of the peacemaker. He still does this as well, except his peacemaking comes in the form of stepping away from the action in order to remain neutral. Finally, the fifth child is my little sister. Much younger than the rest of us, she is of another generation and we all struggle to find connections between us.

I love all of my siblings dearly and always will. The thing about family is that the relationships vacillate between love and disdain depending on what is happening and what discussions are being had.  It is a grave misnomer that just because we all came from the same parents, that we will view the world in the same way.  This could not be farther from the truth. The challenge for me continues to be to honor and respect my family without forcing my opinions and views on them in the heat of the moment, difficult at best. While I tend to stay away from confrontation, if pushed up against a wall, I will become quite stubborn and stick firmly to my views. I forget that it is not as important to be right as to be happy. It gets lost in the emotion of the moment. As a member of a family of very strong willed individuals, this is magnified when we all gather together. Yes, we love each other. Yet this love can become secondary when one is set on getting a point across.

I like to think about the story of the butterfly adapted so well by Paulo Coelho. Each person has to arrive at their destination in their own time. No amount of cajoling and argument will get them there any faster. Read the excerpt below and envision the butterfly as another family member.

The Lesson of the Butterfly

by Paulo Coelho

A man spent hours watching a butterfly struggling to emerge from its cocoon. It managed to make a small hole, but its body was too large to get through it. After a long struggle, it appeared to be exhausted and remained absolutely still.

The man decided to help the butterfly and, with a pair of scissors, he cut open the cocoon, thus releasing the butterfly. However, the butterfly’s body was very small and wrinkled and its wings were all crumpled.

The man continued to watch, hoping that, at any moment, the butterfly would open its wings and fly away. Nothing happened; in fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its brief life dragging around its shrunken body and shriveled wings, incapable of flight.

What the man – out of kindness and his eagerness to help – had failed to understand was that the tight cocoon and the efforts that the butterfly had to make in order to squeeze out of that tiny hole were nature’s way of training the butterfly and of strengthening its wings.

Sometimes our need to help is just that, our need. Everything will come about in due time. It is painful to see people that we love struggle to free themselves from their self-made cocoons. It feels so personal and we can take on the struggle as our own if we are not careful. All we can do is love one another, consistently, constantly and with vigor.

I like the Quaker practice of Clearness Committees and Circles of Trust. These are comprised of a close group of peers that are tasked with listening and just being present for the person in need. No judgment. If only family could do the same. Judgement is rift in families, and I have never understood why this is.

“That’s why in a Circle of Trust we have a Touchstone for “No fixing, saving, advising or correcting.” It means that you don’t convince other people to see things your way or give them your idea of a good solution. Instead you provide non-judgmental support that empowers them to explore the questions and answers that will be the most meaningful to them.”

I have renewed my commitment to stay true to myself during my visit with my family yet respectful of others views. If this means sitting quietly while others argue about politics, religion or any other hot button issue, so be it.  It is a part of my life lessons and I continue to give it my best shot. Love is love, no caveats or stipulations. I accept my siblings as they choose to show up, and my prayer is that I they extend the same courtesy to me.