‘You have too have an ego structure to then let go of it and move beyond it.’*
What Richard Rohr is describing here is movement from dependence to independence.
It’s critical we know ourselves. How we are different to each other in our thoughts, our feelings, and the things we do because of these. What Rohr also sees is the human need to move from independence to interdependence, from ego to eco, how we live in relationship to others who are like us and others who are not, and how we live in relationship with the world.
In Tribal Leadership Dave Logan, John King, and Haylee Fischer-Wright describe this movement as five tribes.
The first tribe’s mantra is “Life sucks!” – arguably an expression of dependence.
The second tribe exclaims “My life sucks!” – seeing the movement from dependence to independence as possible for some, although not for them.
The third tribe voices the mantra “I’m great!” – here is someone discovering independence, although the corollary of this mantra is “But you’re not!”, independence also carries exclusiveness.
The fourth tribe declares “We’re great” – with the corollary, “But they’re not!”; there are stronger signs of interdependence but it remains limited.
Finally, the fifth exclamation is “Life is great!”, including everything and everybody.
This is a difficult journey to make, Erich Fromm reflecting on how people ‘want to live happily without knowing how to live happily’.**
“Happily” means something different to each of our five tribes.
Brené Brown tells of an encounter with someone quite unlike her, an inconsiderate room-mate who had already marked the sofa in her hotel room with her filthy boots before wiping icing of her cinnamon bun over the cushions, then going out onto the patio to smoke when the whole of the hotel was non-smoking.
As a rule-keeper, this incident left Brown seething and, turning it into some research, she asked this question of about forty people:
“Do you think, in general, that people are doing the best they can?”^
Most people responded with “yes,” with 80% of those participating sharing a personal story of how they knew they could try harder and do better:
‘Still, at any given time, they figured, people are normally doing the best they can with the tools they have.’^
I found myself wanting to ask a follow-on question:
How do you want to do better, and how will you achieve this?
There are always more tools we can use.
I know, though, my thinking becomes messy and even harsh when I generalise about people. I can’t really answer Brown’s question with people in it. I need it to be: Do you think “Anne” is doing the best she can?
As I was wrestling with all of this, I read these “against the grain” words from Frans Johansson, followed by some from Ursula Le Guin:
‘How do we reconcile these two facts – that we hate randomness, and yet need it to succeed?’^^
‘If you don’t know what kind of book you’re reading and it’s not a kind you’re used t, you probably need to learn how to read it. You need to learn the genre.’*^
Johansson is writing about ideas and Le Guin about genres of writing, but now I’m seeing people as random genres. There’s something here that allows me to move from ego to eco, from isolation to inclusion – where I’ve isolated myself and others include me.
Everyone is a different genre needing to be learned – that is, understood in their uniqueness.
Unless this happens, I don’t think people will ever be able to give their best, because our best can only be provided in interdependence with others. Then Fromm’s hope for life begins to take focus:
‘In which the process of living itself, if you please, is a work of art, as a masterpiece, of anybody’s life, hold the optimal strength and growth, and which in his life if the most important thing.”**
And a tool?
Don’t give advice, ask a question.
(*From Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.)
(**From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Listening.)
(^From Brené Brown’s Rising Strong.)
(^From Frans Johansson’s The Click Moment.)
(*^From Ursula Le Guin’s Words Are My Matter.)