(Covering pp 55-74 of Havel)
“out of intense complexities emerge immense simplicities”
I had heard the idea before (previous reading? TV? Internet? can’t remember…) of the cyclical nature of our ‘times”; that somewhere like a huge clock, I would imagine, we are nearing the midnight hour of change…impending…irrevocable change. So in the traditions of “Medieval Times” to “Reformation” or “new World” to “Revolutionary”, our current era, the “Millennial” era, is about to shift into a new time period. The scary thing is that unlike a clock which clicks seamlessly from 11:59 PM to 12:01AM each night, the “clicking over” or shift to the new period will bring about chaos and turmoil, at least at first. Eventually, we’ll get there, in the same way that “eventually” does always arrive. Journeys and paradigms shift into new paradigms, and new dichotomies, or at the very least, newer versions of the old paradigms and dichotomies.
Example: “There’s always a winner and a loser. One cannot exist without the other… The strongest wins, the weakest loses.” (clarification: I’m speaking to WESTERN paradigms, as I am woefully ignorant of Eastern thought paradigms.) This structure is a way current Americans sort out the value of one another “winning” and being “strongest” takes the form of wealth and power, of material consumption and painfully ethnic/religious/political “correctness” (I am referring not to “PC” as “politically correct”, but that the greatest number seem to decide the “correct answer” given for the times, by majority approval) Whether women, Blacks, Catholics or the poor are ont he bottom of the pile seems to be an irrelevant detail, the fact remains that our country’s identity sees “winning” at any given time as possible only if someone else is losing.
There are clear examples of humanitarian outreach and conscientious objections made over time. Change in our country only happened when someone complained loudly enough to be morally or ethically outraged. It would be interesting to consider if it is possible to really “change” anything without being dissatisfied with the earlier version first.
In summation, can we change course change gears, in the absence of dissatisfaction? Can we change for the better without something or someone “losing”? Havel’s perspective for tonight’s part of the reading dealt with the nature of hate. The profile of the “hater” as the person who cannot step aside…and “see his own foolishness” He sees no problem with pride or appreciation of one’s unique status ethnically, religiously, etc. but to use the difference of “the other” to prove that dissatisfaction is evil. he reminds us of the Hindu story of the two-headed Bherunda bird, and compares divisive hate to the two-headed bird who attempts to poison the “other head and ultimately does cause it own demise due to its hate of the other “head”, which was really a second manifestation of itself.
So, Havel speaks to the connectedness of us all to one another….
Our challenge therefore, according to Havel is to recognize our differences and to tolerate, not objectify them. He spoke a month later in New York to scold the parents of the totalitarian regime, who believed that ‘going with the flow” or staying submissive for the sake of the children actually contributed to the regimes strength. He makes the point that children are often used to justify evil, or to validate evil actions. Lastly in Copenhagen, while accepting the Sonning Prize, Havel notes that power presents such immense temptation and that the offices of politicians need to be filled with very moral persons. To be mindful of the temptations by remaining humble about them is very important. Ultimately, the interests of the country must take precedence over the love of privilege. To be in “power” is an expression of responsibility and is a sacrifice personally.
Interesting connections to leadership in education:
- Live authentically and stay humble.
- Live a truth-filled, action-filled life, don’t allow the status quo to exist just because it always has…
- Stay in touch with the morality needed for leadership, be sensitive to yourself, and your personal motivations.