Saturday 20 July 2013


This is a strong focus of my next book. Thomas Kuhn set a trend by writing about the paradigm and what this concept means in respect of setting and dealing with vast change. He provided an idea and a model for grand conceptual change.

The given way of thinking, held by the authoritative thinking in sway, undergoes transformation in the following way:

There's an emotional element to this, though, and I see it dancing in the box of authority.

I am an ultra-expert on authority. In my fourth year of this lifetime, I took on God, which is daring, to say the least. What this means is that I refused to back off from any particularly strong sense or feeling. I made enemies early.

However, they refused to be enemies. Whereas they spoke condemnation to me, as I was way beyond the pale, their hearts were kind, and I could sense, feel and know this.

It was a difficult situation.

Whose authority was in charge?

I made it mine. No matter how much their thoughts and attitudes gave me eternal damnation, mine would give them freedom. I wanted this for all, even them, it didn't feel as though, at bottom, they were a "them". They felt closer than that, although I could not easily reach them.

There is one verse in the book of Revelation that still tugs my heart:, and is echoed in "The Holy City":

"and all who would may enter there, and no-one was denied..."

This is echoed again in a mantra that was indelibly written on the wall of my five year old soul:

"He drew a circle that shut me out;
I was a heretic rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We made a circle that drew him in."

I was taught this by a gleaming, smiling Irishman who was one of my father's best friends, from his :"bachelor's club".

He put the heat on me when I was an innocent four to five year old.

"Young Walter, are you saved?"


"Ah but are you properly saved? Can you feel it like I do?"


"Are you sure you're going to a saved and not a lost eternity? There's no mistake in this, y'know."


"Can you feel the call on you? It's a mighty call that knows no saying no, y'know!"


"Take it clear now: eternity's not a long time: it's forever!"

Well if you've got that in your personal account, you've got balance if nothing else, because it's a great depth to know, inviting vertigo, at least.

From there I made it my business to know where I stood with eternity.

I learnt the following:

Humans don't know who or what they are.

If they progress, ego will usually get in the way.

Eternity isn't an out there waiting for you when you die, it's a here and now.

Eternity has started already, and if you aren't deliberately participating, you're losing ground.

Presence is everything.

Surprising presences are present.

Acceptance and forgiveness are also everything.

Back to the authoradigm:
Approval doesn't make you competent.
Acceptance doesn't make you authentic.
Acknowledgement begins to realize.
Alignment creates.
Action prescribes.

Human authority is a nonsense. History should have taught us this, by now. The endless circle of payment, certification, registration goes in the opposite direction to the circle of attention, modelling, competency, growth, recognition and admiration.

Authority is an emotional negotiation. If you back off before you begin, you're not the author of the story that's going to happen. If you take charge as an opening gambit, you may not author the final version, but at least you'll have a voice.

An authoradigm exists where there's a bubble of non-negotiable competence. If you can do cobbling, book-binding, surgery, sewing, sport, spelling, admin and apps, there isn't a great margin for error. All of these have to work well, and you will soon be told if you aren't doing it well. Poetry, music, cooking and sex are more open to criticism, and taste matters more, here, than finding a solution.

Even leadership has an element of taste to it. I spent two years in one of the most efficient armies of the second half of the twentieth century. There, I learnt about teamwork, brute force, precision and deadly intent. I know how to apply these, but not many in my university department had the taste for such leadership. I also had the good fortune to spend two years under the tutelage of one of Cape Town's foremost educational managers who taught me about research, unflappability, self-discipline at the core, creative and accountable problem-solving and professional cheerfulness. These have been far more to the taste of all I have met, but I have one problem with this set of skills: I am more than this.

The "more" to which I refer connects with the business of coaching. I am convinced that coaching is primarily about growth. Who can be said to be an authority on growth? For me, growth is different to mind-tickling. A lot of gurus write and speak well enough to make you laugh, get fascinated, look for more, and then have a need to scratch the itch, the memory of which can last quite long.

Growth means irreversible change, because not only do you not want to go back, in fact you can't. It's new wine in new wine-skins, and no longer 750 ml but a litre. You can't fit back in, like T.S Eliot's Journey of the Magi. "No longer at ease in the old dispensation".

The authority for this is in the doing of it. The eye of each needle has a different shape, when you pass through it, and each moment is an eternity unto itself.

Whereas authority depends on ownership of a grand narrative, or at least, a short story, an authoradigm holds the proficiency, competence and clarity of a given alpha through omega. Threading the needle, writing the book, completing the sonata, sharing the meal, opening the present, filling the grave, firing the rifle, hitting the target. Style as well as substance. I remember the look on my GP's face when he was taking out the stitches that my plastic surgeon had put in: "Wow, these stitches are so small and perfect, Wally!" I'm glad, because they were on my face, and cost about a thousand rand, each.

But I'm going too micro.

Authoradigms are the emotional platforms for paradigms, and paradigms don't change often. Human emotions are fairly predictable, and whereas an individual may convert, manifest, individuate or otherwise grow, global patterns are slower to change.

Taking charge, telling the story, creating the narrative, supplying the uncreated loop: these are not merely cerebral activities: they necessitate daring, conviction and felt purpose.

The authority of many spheres is facing challenge: naturopathic and homeopathic vs allopathic medicine; orthodox religion vs personal spirituality; gender issues; capitalism vs neo-capitalism; modernism vs post-modernism; open-mindedness vs closed-mindedness.

The book on all this will have to go into much detail. This is the point to make now: what you accept is what you allow yourself to feel. Change your emotional permissions by losing your need to be accepted, approved of, even loved, and you will change by growing and grow by changing. Acceptance and authority are first cousins at least, sometimes twins. The sense of one depends entirely on the sense of the other. Pathological acceptance of external authority defeats consciousness. Criminal rejection of external authority kills conscience. Somewhere in the middle we walk a tight-rope of permeability and resistance.


Thursday 11 July 2013

Checking in and checking out of civilization

I've been traveling. For two and a half weeks I've moved into tomorrow, come back to today, slept through yesterday, caught up with three decades ago, dreamt that I died and set my Swiss watch through a number of time zones. I also checked in and out of airports and hotels.

The checking in and out made me think about living in South Africa. I grew up in a first world, somewhat British South Africa, in the southern suburbs of Cape Town, where the neighbourhood was safe, friendly and things were quite different to what was happening a few miles away in Langa, Nyanga and Gugulethu.

I wasn't checked in for that, didn't have a boarding pass. I grew up in a civilised neighbourhood where the neighbours were always polite (although the Greeks were a bit noisy from time to time). Across the road they were English, other side of the block, Scottish, next door, Jewish, down the road, Australian, a few blocks away, Irish. Swiss down the way, and so on.

We drove to work, we caught the bus, we caught the train, we paid our bills, the toilets flushed, we celebrated Christmas, Easter, New Year, went to each others' funerals and went to the local schools, and knew which wind would bring rain.

We were checked in. Our parents had supplied the boarding passes; history, pioneers and governments had provided the social and material infrastructure, and we were on that side of the line.

Now, in South Africa, that zone has been declared exactly that: a zone.

"Please board in the following order" said the official voice: "First class and business class, then families and disabled passengers, then economy class, zone d and c, then zone b."

If you want to be dispassionate about the zone you're in and the zone you aren't in, you have to take a look at the aeons of civilization that divide historical awareness. The first and third worlds are time-curves of proficiencies that have come and gone. Proceeding from pre-history, the Cro-Magnons made it through to digital software in plasmic screens and beyond. Pyramids were the apex of civilization once, although not many owned one. Geometry and standing stones both carried weight. Algebra and astronomy discovered a spherical world that has proceeded in more than one straight line.

Now you tell me how to balance out macadamised roads, the Wellington boot. the chip, (of a fried slice of potato, not a silicon one) with a president who has five wives, twenty-one children and wears a suit but not a condom, and is in charge of my ex-first-world country. No-one will believe me when I say that this is not a complaint. It's a statement that I have not checked in to where he is, and he has not checked in to where I am. Neither of us has the boarding pass.

Civilization is not continent specific. It's a big word that refers to aspiration of magnificent proportions. I am not necessarily anti-Zuma. I just do not prefer to wear a leopard skin, dance and sing monotonous rhythms for hours on end when I lose an argument and walk about permanently wet in the showers of transparency.

Checking in and out is both formal and expensive. You don't want to make a mistake. This is where I part company with that other zone in which I don't belong. I want to be in the zone that takes me to the destination in respect of which so many have made sacrifices, discoveries, journeys and commitments on my behalf.

Let Zuma (for the sake of argument) honour his zone and I'll honour mine. He has put himself in first class, using my money to pay for his ticket, and that skews the honour, already. Yet this is not a complaint. We're just checking.

Another thing about journeys is that they never end. We may pass through where we started, according to T.S.Eliot, and recognize the place for the first time, although if you do that, in my view, you're pretty badly jet-lagged.

The bottom line is that you can wear whatever you want, or not, you can prattle all the political rhetoric ever invented or to yet be entertained, but you can't pretend that first class is economy class or that economy class is first class when you're in the same Boeing together. I've been in both (thanks Howard) and I know the difference.