No Matter Which Way We Turn Wisdom Will Find Us

Many years ago I worked with a public agency, improving communications within one of the departments. I had an in-house departmental contact person coordinating some of my activities who, like me, was passionate about positive organizational change. At some point after the completion of my work, I learned there had been problems again in the department and she had lost her job. I didn’t know all the circumstances, but clearly she had been blamed for “stirring the pot” in her organization and became at odds with the leadership. I was not too surprised for I knew the top person in the department and he seemed very easily hijacked by his emotions and judgments. It was some time after that, maybe a year, that I ran into my contact again. After her separation, she had gone on a long trip to Indonesia. She told me about her interest in psychic matters and their relationship to workplace culture, including what she described as “organizational vortices of positive and negative energies.” While on her trip she had even asked a healer to tell her whether she appeared to have any psychic power herself. He took her by the hand, and after a few minutes she was overcome by waves of heat coursing through her body. She broke into a big sweat. “You have plenty of power,” the healer said.

I tell this story because it reflects two sides of life from which we can learn: mistakes and vision. Clearly something had happened. There had been problems in her relationships at work, and she had been blamed and held at fault. But there was also another energy, the energy of her vision for organizations, and that vision took her to an entirely new place where she might awaken more deeply to her own power. We don’t even have to be talking in literal terms about psychic power, just the power to be ourselves, to follow our paths and trust them, to do what we need to do as we move through experience. That there is blame and fault is tremendously painful, but to also see this blame and fault fall away and the “good medicine” return is the breath of inspiration. It would be wonderful if we could only focus on what is positive and good, if events never turned out badly, if positive energies would always prevail, if there was a universal alternative to dealing with too many snakes on a narrow road. But that is a fantasy. Sometimes we must go through the challenge, deal with the venom just as it is, and hold on, trusting that no matter what we face or which way we turn, in the end wisdom will find us.

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  • Thank you for sharing this story Dan.

    When bad or unfortunate things happen to those we consider good people, we will try to comfort them with phrases like, “when one door opens, another closes” and our hope to share comfort is nice, but it falls a bit short, for we give up destiny to fate, and to good luck wishes and placing bets on happenstance. I like the connections you make here instead, of tapping into any previously dormant energies we have, so that we become more diligent, and seek our wisdom with an eager, open-minded intention.

    There is a great deal of change occurring in our world, and it is magnificent when we can shift any alarming questions of “What now?” to those which instead ask, “What if?” Why wring our hands when we can put them to happier use?

  • Beautiful, Rosa, especially that line about giving up destiny to fate. Fate, as I understand it, comes from a Greek word meaning, “portion.” So our fate is our portion of life and therefore has a very passive tone. But destiny to me has always meant the interplay of this portion with our capacity for choice, and in that choosing we find that we are free, making our path by the steps we take, and also following a thread that has our name on it. The implication is that, as you say, we can let go of the hand wringing any time now and put our hands to a better, happier purpose. And how this all happens — it’s a natural thing, don’t you think, for us to turn toward that purpose? — ah, that’s a mystery, a beautiful one indeed, with the Universe sending us any number of signs if we have the eyes to see them.

  • As you might infer from my inundation of comments on your blog, wisdom is finding me today (or, at least, I’m opening up to wisdom today).

    Every one of your blog posts includes at least one inspiring turn of phrase. In this one (for me), it’s organizational vortices of positive and negative energies.

    Your reference to “mistakes” reminds me of an inspiring interview by Ross Reynolds on KUOW’s The Conversation with author Kathryn Schulz on Why Being Wrong is Right. Among many insights and observations, she notes that what makes humans so powerful is our ability to reason inductively – i.e., generalize from specifics – but the power of inductive inferences must be balanced by the ability and willingness to identify and correct the mistakes that are an inherent part of induction (vs. the more limited, but guaranteed correct, process of deductive reasoning).

    I haven’t yet read her book, Being Wrong: Adventures on the Margin of Error, but consider her recent Slate interview with This American Life’s Ira Glass, On Air and On Error – about the central importance of wrongness in great stories (and storytelling) – to be one of the best interviews I’ve ever read.

    Speaking of stories, are you willing to share any more of the unfolding story of the central character in your post? I’d be very interested in knowing what happened after her encounter with the healer.

    Finally, I love Rosa’s contrasting images of wringing our hands vs. using them for something more constructive in her comment above. And I often react reflexively and negatively to well-meaning but hollow attempts to comfort me when discomfort is the very key to working through whatever challenge is confronting me.

    However, I do not share her dismissal of the positive potential of Alexander Graham Bell’s famous quote. As someone who has encountered the opening and closing of numerous doors, I’ve thought a great deal and even blogged about the idea that when one door closes, another opens.

    I won’t say too [more] much about it here, but I will note that the order is important – i.e., the quote suggests a direction of causality from the closing door to the opening door rather than vice versa (as might be interpreted in Rosa’s characterization of the quote). And the full sentence from which the quote is excerpted acknowledges the challenges of becoming aware of the presentation of new opportunities to let wisdom find us:

    When one door closes, another opens, but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.

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