I love unpredictable combinations. I like to have three or four ideas in my head and see how they come together into something new. I'm still pretty jazzed about the cool combination that is Rocky Road ice cream -- chocolate, marshmallows, and almonds -- now we take it for granted, but in 1929 it was a jaunty juxtaposition of flavors, a bold idea soon to become a standard.
According to the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, "language is the house of being." When we humans create some cool new combination with language, we have a new house to be in, a new possibility. Though Rocky Road ice cream is right up there as far as cool combinations go, some other recent combos are: Internet cafe, eco(ological)-tourism, carbon footprint, and social entrepreneur -- all new language houses opening up new possibilities for individuals and for humankind.
After a week of looking at the possibilities for a whole world fit for kids, I've been searching for conscious, simple acts we can each do, right here, right now to create such a world. As if by magic, three ingredients bubbled out of my personal and electronic interactions, and by the end of the week, presto! I had a combination nearly as interesting -- but possibly not as delicious -- as chocolate, marshmallows, and nuts. Here's what happened:
It started with an e-mail from my friend Lauralee Alben, who with 30 years of design expertise has turned her signature product design models into her big vision: designing the world we all want to live in. She works with groups and leaders to design world-changing social entrepreneurial ventures, organizations, and lives. A blog entry can't do her justice. Her unique model is the natural sea change process, and one element in her elegant workshops is the thoughtful consideration of the ripples we want to create in the world. It's very cool.
Lauralee often profiles thought leaders and world-changers in her work, and her latest e-mail tells me her upcoming example is Riane Eisler. Riane is also someone I could talk about endlessly, but here I'll just say she has spent a life researching, writing, speaking, and encouraging humans to take a new direction in our evolutionary development. At the heart of her work is the distinction between relationships built on a "domination model" and a "partnership model -- one of mutual respect, mutual trust -- in our personal lives and in our global community.
Though Riane counsels governments, leaders, and educators, she has a message easily incorporated into our individual daily lives: caring (mutual respect, mutual trust) can be incorporated into our families, our schools, our economic and political decisions to create a sustainable world. My personal way of integrating her message is by asking myself these two questions: "Is this interaction, conversation, or relationship following a domination model or a partnership model? What can be done right here, right now, to correct an imbalance in this relationship?" Feel free to take those questions for your own, or use them to make new ones.
So, as I was holding on to an image of ripples and the concept of the caring/partnership model in my mind, a friend and I were reviewing our recent difficult family interactions (we call them meltdowns at my house),
and she mentioned Marshall Rosenberg's model for non-violent communication (we had a cool video of him in this blog). After we talked I found his wonderful essay about family interactions. And an hour after that, I read Gretchen's new list of 21 phrases to use during a fight with a loved one. All that insight into conversation competence, all at once! I was excited.
And, voila, the jaunty juxtaposition of Lauralee's rippling, Riane's partnership vision, Marshall's conversation model, and Gretchen's list came together into my new language house: caring conversations that create ripples everywhere you go. Rippling care-versations? Hey, it could catch on, with your help. Rocky Road probably seemed strange at first, too.
Even if you're not contributing to UNICEF this month, or if you already donated bednets to protect children from malaria (thank you!), or if all the ways you're thinking of getting involved aren't feasible at this moment, there's still something incredibly personal you can do today toward making a world fit for children: Pick one conversation or interaction today, with one child or one adult, and participate in it as if it will create ripples of caring that we can't imagine into the future. Imagine yourself standing not above, not below, but with the person you're interacting with.
How would a world of more caring conversations -- at the check-out, in school, at work, in the media, at home -- actually look? If we imagine caring ripples spreading out from those conversations, what would happen?
We'd love to hear your comments: Do you have some examples of jaunty juxtapositions that create new possibilities (or can you suggest a better name for rippling care-versations)? Have you had a recent interaction that changed a relationship from the domination model to the partnership model? Did you change how you spoke to a child or an adult who might someday influence another child, creating ripples toward a world fit for kids? Please share by sending a comment. We'd love to hear from you.
And we hope you come back next week for an awesome interview with Ann Cotton, the founder of Camfed, which works with communities in sub-Saharan Africa to send more girls to school. She's an amazing, inspiring woman!
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