You know what getting married is? It’s agreeing to taking this person who right now is at the top of his form, full of hopes and ideas, feeling good, looking good, wildly interested in you because you’re the same way, and sticking by him while he slowly disintegrates. And he does the same for you. You’re his responsibility now and he’s yours. If no one else will take care of him, you will. If everyone else rejects you, he won’t. What do you think love is? Going to bed all the time? -Jane Smiley, novelist (b.1949)
As far as I can remember(!), this poem has nothing to do with mediation and conflict, but more with the aging process and our common fate. It’s beautifully read here by its author, Billy Collins.
(H/T: Barry Briggs)
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis when the United States and the former Soviet Union were poised on the brink of nuclear war and the world collectively held its breath.
On Monday, October 22, 1962, President Kennedy announced a U.S. naval blockade to form a 500-mile circle around Cuba, where Soviet missiles with nuclear warhead capability had earlier been detected, and threatened to sink any Soviet ship crossing the blockade. The crisis ended on Sunday, October 28th, with the announcement by Soviet premier Khrushchev of the dismantling of the Soviet missiles in Cuba.
As Paul Koring of The Globe and Mail notes today:
Mostly forgotten, the United Nations untested Secretary-General U Thant played a pivotal role in defusing the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Half a century later, with the UN regarded almost with contempt by many, including Canada’s outspoken Foreign Minister John Baird, the key role of diplomacy in averting nuclear doomsday has emerged from dusty archives, perhaps as a lesson worth remembering.
“In the historical record, U Thant has largely been written out of the crisis,” says Walter Dorn, who heads the Security and International Affairs department at Canadian Forces College, in Toronto. The Kennedy camp preferred to portray their man as a gutsy Cold Warrior, not a President so unnerved by the hawks in his own camp that he sought mediation by the UN.
Yet at one critical juncture, American diplomats woke U Thant at midnight and begged him to deliver a face-saving solution to the Russians. And long before the term “shuttle” diplomacy was in vogue, the obscure Burmese diplomat who became Secretary-General almost by accident following the death of Dag Hammarskjöld in a Congo plane crash, was defining it.
“Hardly anybody know about what U Thant did … but at one point there were separate teams on the 38th floor of the UN building – a U.S. team and a Soviet team – and U Thant was literally shuttling between the two rooms,” Mr. Dorn said in an interview.
U Thant went to Havana, brought back the body of the downed American pilot, calmed Fidel Castro and – months later – after it was all over, was quietly thanked by both Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Khrushchev.
Read the entire news feature and its accompanying sidebars at The Globe and Mail.
The starting point for the transformative model of mediation is an understanding of the nature of conflict as a crisis in human interaction. In this view, the crisis is characterized by two kinds of adverse impacts. First, in conflict each individual has a sense of her own diminished capacity to move past the situation. Second, each individual becomes more self-absorbed and, consequently, unable to see and hear the other person in an undistorted way. The transformative model then articulates how conversation, whether or not with an impartial third person, can foster the conditions within which people may move beyond their circumstances.
There is a poignant illustration of this power of conversation in Marsha Lederman’s feature article, “The collision: Fred Herzog, the Holocaust and me”, that appeared in The Globe and Mail on Saturday, May 5th, and online here. (Lederman describes Herzog “as arguably [Vancouver’s] most important — if for many years, obscure — visual documentarian.”)
Last fall, I had occasion to interview Herzog, who is 81, at his modest home on the west side of Vancouver. The book Fred Herzog: Photographs was being published, and it was an opportunity to talk about his life, his method, the impact of his late-in-life success.
The ‘collision’ or conflict occurs when Herzog, in response to a question, refers to the so-called Holocaust:
It’s a question about his early time in Toronto that leads to the Holocaust. We’re about 30 minutes into our conversation when I ask whether he, as a German, experienced any racism in postwar Toronto; I note that his employer – an importer of glass and china – was Jewish.
Herzog explains that George Zimmer, with whom he got along very well, had had a business in East Prussia before the war, a big furniture business, and that he must have sold it at a comparatively low price, given the times.
“He never complained to me about that,” said Herzog. “That marks him as an unusual person, because even now, many of the people I know, many doctors, are Jewish. And there isn’t one who spares me hearing about relatives who were, you know, treated badly during the war and the so-called Holocaust.”
My throat goes tight.
Read Lederman’s entire piece here and note how the conversations between Lederman and Herzog move for each of them through personal shock, reflection, and then openness to the other.
Listen to Herzog in a later conversation:
The reason I gave you the wrong answer to the Holocaust. … To begin with, when I grew up in Germany after the war, nobody ever talked about the Holocaust. Nobody. Not my boss, not the other employees. Nobody there ever talked about the Holocaust. It was actually a seamless denial. And it was only after I had left Germany, I think there were some trials in West Germany where the Holocaust problem was driven home to Germans in such a way that they could no longer ignore it. … I remember reading right after the war that there were six million Jews killed and I talked to people about that and most people said they had no idea. And I think on the other hand some people must have had an idea that bad things were happening but simply put their head in the sand.
And Lederman’s insight into what she has experienced:
After months of living with this, I’m surprised: I am able, I think, to see it all through Herzog’s battered lens.
I see his photography as the expression of a victim whose pain was not deemed valid in light of the atrocities of his countrymen and what others suffered; a young man who came to Canada and had to remain silent, but whose work speaks volumes.
- The collision: Fred Herzog, the Holocaust and me (theglobeandmail.com)
The Templeton Prize 2012 has been awarded to His Holiness The Dalai Lama. The prize has a monetary value of ₤1.1 million and, as such, is the largest monetary award given to one person. It honours “a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.”
For decades, Tenzin Gyatso, 76, the 14th Dalai Lama – a lineage believed by followers to be the reincarnation of an ancient Buddhist leader who epitomized compassion – has vigorously focused on the connections between the investigative traditions of science and Buddhism as a way to better understand and advance what both disciplines might offer the world.
Below is a four-minute video in which the Dalai Lama talks about two dimensions of the quality of compassion:
You can read more about the Templeton Prize and see more videos with the Dalai Lama posted on YouTube by clicking here and scrolling down to “Big Questions”.
A couple of weeks back, Dan Simon drew a comparison on his new transformative mediation blog between the thinking of Carl Rogers, the founder of humanistic psychology, and the premises and principles of transformative practice.
Now, this week, he looks to the words of His Holiness The Dalai Lama and finds another parallel with our practice’s objective of recognition or openness to the other. This is of particular interest to me given my earlier post of February 7, Transformative Mediation Training and Spiritual Communities. Dan quotes from the HHDL’s Facebook page:
“The first beneficiary of compassion is always oneself. When compassion, or warmheartedness, arises in us and our focus shifts away from our own narrow self-interest, it is as if we open an inner door. It reduces fear, boosts confidence and brings us inner strength. By reducing distrust, it opens us
to others and brings us a sense of connection to others, and sense of purpose and meaning in life.”
This is a perfect summation of what Baruch Bush, the co-author of the transformative framework, calls compassionate strength. Briefly stated, the ‘transformative’ in transformative mediation is about supporting parties who wish to change their conflict interaction from negative to positive, or to one of compassionate strength, i.e., strength of self and openness to (or recognition of) the other.
Read Dan’s entire post here.