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If By Yes

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What we grow when we sow “Yes”


For the past three weeks I’ve not been able to escape the orbit of an old story. It’s a story that tells what happens when one takes a stance of extreme listening. I’ve not been able to escape the story because it has a lot of moving parts that defy easy categories—just like real life. The story refuses to be reduced, which is great because I’m trying to be rid of my old reductionist tendencies.

The story has a woman on the rise and a man on the decline. The product of the woman on the rise was a boy who demonstrated what can happen when one is committed to extreme listening. The story has a narrator who seemed to know more than any narrator has a right to know. And then there was someone standing behind the narrator who could control all things but chose not to.

Right now I’m focused on the son of the woman. This man had a way of listening and agreeing that looked like progress for him and actually pivoted a nation. The man was known far and wide (so the story goes) as one who told truth—because the stuff he said happened out in the world. He was sort of a walking speech-act performative generator.

I’m grappling to understand what seems to be movement between generations—a movement of willingness to listen. That sounds crazy, right? Because we are all responsible for ourselves, yes? Genetic stuff is only physical, only the stuff we inherit. And yet…the social norms, the expectations, the ways we approach life, much of this is nurture rather than nature, so movement of attitudes between generations could apply. Much as I am horrified by North Korea’s policy of imprisoning political prisoners for three generations, it is true we transmit all sorts of ways to think and be through our families.

The woman demonstrated deep listening. Her son demonstrated even deeper listening. The woman’s son learned to say yes to certain risky opportunities that presented. He practiced saying yes. His “Yes” affected wider and wider circles of people around him, as these opportunities became actions out in the world, actions which changed history.

Of course we don’t say yes to everything. Not every opportunity that presents deserves a “Yes.” But some do. Some opportunities need a “Yes” from us, and those around us need us to say “Yes.”

There is a quote that connects our “Yes” with what follows. It’s from the oddly interesting book Pricing on Purpose by Ronald J. Baker. It’s long but worth the effort (bold emphasis mine):

Because economies are governed by thoughts, they reflect not the laws of matter but the laws of mind. One crucial law of mind is that belief precedes knowledge. New knowledge does not come without a leap of hypothesis, a projection by the intuitive sense. The logic of creativity is “leap before you look.” You cannot fully see anything new from an old place…. It is the leap, not the look, that generates the crucial information; the leap through time and space, beyond the swarm of observable fact, that opens up the vista of discovery.

–George Gilder, Wealth and Poverty, 1993. Quote from Baker, Ronald J. Pricing on Purpose (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2006) 15

So. If some small, long forgotten voice speaks up reminding you of something you once treasured, consider saying yes.


Image credit: 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

February 10, 2013 at 2:34 pm

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