Sitting in the warmth of my home, a fire burning, a house that's been here since 1723, since before there was a United States of America, miraculously watching Barack give his address on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Mac on my lap, hubby with his machine on the old pine chest, watching the TV...and thinking about the future.
We all share the concern that the aspirations we hold at moments of change will run into reality, float away in anger and dust. We're all in love with the future (when it isn't frightening us) but there's a way for this relationship with possibility not to end in heartbreak.
How? Because it's up to him, of course, to do what only presidents can do but it's never been more up to us. Without going all preachy on you, I truly believe that this is our time, our moment to do everything we can. To perform our own jobs as if they are the most important in the world, to come up with new ideas and execute them as fast as we can, and to help everyone we know who's hurting as much as we can. (Anyone need a house or office cleaner? I have a great referral for you!)
There are these inflection points in history, brief moments when grand vistas appear before us, ours for the decorating with our great visions.
For the past three years, we've been working on OrgScopewith Ritesh Rajani, a brilliant software developer employed by ProdExNet, which is headed by our colleague and dear friend, Sujatha Bodapathi. The story of our collaboration with Ritesh -- across distance, organization, timezone, language, culture, hearing impediment, and age -- deserves its own post. But this is about what happened last week.
Ritesh is in Chennai, India, 640 miles southeast of Mumbai, and on the opposite coast. Distance aside, our hearts have been with Ritesh and his colleagues, the people we know best in India, ever since the terrible attacks. Jeff Stamps, who's worked extremely closely with Ritesh on OrgScope, wrote to Ritesh and today we received his very heartfelt reply, along with those that followed, posted here with his permission.
Jeff, Thank you for standing by us in these turbulent times.
Though the real intention of these acts is to destroy the harmony and spread social chaos; in some ways, inadvertently, it is bringing the people of the country and the world closer and united against terror. At this point, we hope that the anger and grief of the people is channeled constructively, in the right direction to bring about the change and awareness required in us, and our leaderships to deal with these new-world crises more effectively.
I also got quite a few emails with similar content...
I replied, asking Ritesh if I could post here (he's a great reader of this blog), and he came back almost immediately with this note:
Sure, you can post that on your blog (but there's no need to put my name :-)
Well, since I was not in Mumbai I cannot give any personal anecdotes, however, most Indians (including us) were glued to their television sets for 3 days throughout all the events unfolding. The media had a minute to minute coverage of the sites (they were also criticized later, since this might have been helping the terrorists).
A surprisingly good account of the entire episode can be found at: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/26_November_2008_Mumbai_attacks> Also you can see sections: Criticism of politicians and resignations, and Nationalism among the Indian public
Best Regards, Ritesh.
Then came this one:
I also got quite a few emails with similar content...
Dear friends across India and the world,
We're all feeling the shock of the awful attacks in Mumbai. All our hearts go out to the victims and their families.
The attacks were aimed at our people, our prosperity and our peace. But their top target was something else: our unity. If these attacks cause us to turn on each other in hatred and conflict, the terrorists will have won. They know that hatred and chaos feed on division. As radical extremists, their only hope of winning is by turning the rest of us against each other.
Let's deny them that victory. We're launching a message to extremists on all sides and all our political leaders, one that will soon be published in newspapers across India and Pakistan. The message is that these tactics have failed, that we're more united than ever, united in our love and support to each other, determined to work together against terror and call on our leaders to do the same. If millions of people sign it, our message will be unmistakable, click below to sign it and please forward this email widely:
New York Times' op-ed columnist, Bob Herbert, takes his turn in interpreting what's just happened here in today's piece, "Take a Bow, America." Among his other points, he writes, "Barack Obama won the state of North Carolina, for crying out loud." This is a very big deal.
Among the people whom Bob heard from after the election, he writes, is a friend of mine:
I got a call on Friday from David Goodman, whose brother Andrew was
one of three civil rights workers slain in the searing racial heat of
Mississippi in 1964.
“It’s shocking, isn’t it?” he said of the election.
“It’s wonderful,” he said.
I heard from David on election day myself. First came a video that was being distributed to the Jewish community, in which David had a cameo, explaining the connection between his brother's murder and Barack's election. It's a powerful piece and my only regret was not receiving it until 3 o'clock on election day.
Then as the returns became clear, we exchanged text messages. From David:
--Somebody in Heaven organized.
--Yes We Can.
Here, in honor of the Goodmans and their indomitable spirit, a picture of David and his son, Jacob, taken just a few weeks ago atop a 1000-foot sand dune in Mongolia.
My husband, Jeff Stamps, a long-time student of world affairs, politics, and Buddhism, wrote this piece, which I hope you will read.
An Easter prayer for the Tibetan people and their spiritual leader By Jeff Stamps
This Easter, my prayer is for the Tibetan people everywhere and for their spiritual and temporal leader, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
This global spiritual force, with his inclusive religious mantra, is an intensely-trained monk from the distant nomadic steppes of Shangri-La, the “roof of the world.” He also runs a government-in-exile from a generously-provided sanctuary in India.
The Nobel Peace Prize apostle of non-violence, the Dalai Lama is the Gandhi of our time, albeit with more spiritual depth but fewer political skills. Since his exile, he has held the same “middle way” view: cultural autonomy for Tibet, but not political independence. Today, he struggles with both the oppression of his people by the Chinese and with the now-unconstrained frustration of Tibetan youth demanding independence. Among all of us who love Tibet for whatever reasons, we share a deep sense that time for the Dalai Lama’s “middle way” and Tibet’s very survival is running out.
By “Tibet” surviving, I mean Tibetans as an ethnic group with roots deep into pre-history, a people treated as racially inferior (“barbarians”), as a coherent religious group of Tibetan Buddhists, and as a national group of several millennia standing. For the Dalai Lama’s strategy of non-violence to work, the world must find ways to help Tibet and China find a path that provides Tibetans the cultural and local autonomy they require within the Chinese federal system of governance.
There are four reasons the world should care about the Tibetan uprising at this time: (1) the preservation of an ancient and abiding culture; (2) respect for a very old spiritual tradition; (3) the act of genocide; and (4) concern for the environment.
I don't know if Lt. Gen. Bill Caldwell is the first US Army three-star to say this but, with all that brass on his shoulders, he's got to be near the head of the line. Regardless, I reckon others will take notice. In Changing the Organizational Culture, his article in Small Wars Journal, Caldwell writes that it's time for the Army to rethink its approach to the new media. Caldwell has some experience here: he was the person you saw in the Baghdad press conferences last year, speaking for the Multi-National Force [MNF, as he refers to it below]. Wherever you stand (or stood) on the war, what he's saying here bears reading, as he's proposing a new approach:
Recent experiences in Iraq illustrate how important it is to address
cultural change and also how very difficult it is to change culture:
After MNF-I broke through the bureaucratic red-tape and was able to start posting on YouTube, MNF-I
videos from Iraq were among the top ten videos viewed on YouTube for
weeks after their posting. These videos included gun tape videos
showing the awesome power the US military can bring to bear. Using
YouTube – part of the new media – proved to be an extremely effective
tool in countering an adaptive enemy.
In a new and different world, one none of us was educated to reside
in, we need new thinking in all areas. Next, I'd like to see General
Caldwell blogging - or at least commenting on this post. My entreaties to him aside, the general goes on to list four areas where the Army should rethink its rules:
First, we need to Encourage Soldiers to “tell/share their story”...That is why we must encourage our Soldiers to interact with the media,
to get onto blogs and to send their YouTube videos to their friends and
family. When our Soldiers tell/share their stories, it has an
overwhelmingly positive effect.
...Leaders need to not only encourage but also Empower
subordinates. A critical component of empowering is underwriting honest
mistakes and failure. Soldiers are encouraged to take the initiative
and calculated risk in the operational battlefield because we
understand the importance of maintaining the offensive. However, once
we move into the informational domain, we have a tendency to be zero
defect and risk averse. Leaders have to understand and accept that not
all media interactions are going to go well. Leaders need to assume
risk in the information domain and allow subordinates the leeway to
Hand in hand with encouragement and empowerment is Education.
If Soldiers are better educated to deal with new media and its effects,
they will feel more empowered and be encouraged to act. We need to
educate Soldiers on how to deal with the media and how their actions
can have strategic implications. They need to know what the second and
third order effects of their actions are. I believe that most people
want to do a good job.
Finally, we need to Equip Soldiers to
engage the new media. If we educate them and encourage them, we need to
trust them enough to give them the tools to properly tell/share their
stories. The experience of trying to gain YouTube access in Iraq and
even back in the United States is a prime example. A suggestion for
consideration might be equipping unit leaders with camcorders to
document operations but also daily life.
A.R.T. in Cambridge, Mass., which is staging the play until Feb 3, is a stunning space - you walk in on the stage floor, seating stadium style on sides, and "in front," the many tiers that face the set. In this case, being seated on the side seemed an advantage. The play requires thinking from many perspectives and having to watch from an oblique vantage is conceptually fitting.
"The set:" Three large oval light tracks arced at odd angles to one another circle the ceiling. "Electrons" whip around at various intervals, flick on at different times during the performance. Mirrors along the back wall are the stage design; the set comprises three chairs that the characters move around the stage. That's it.
Characters: Three - 1. Niels Bohr (Will LeBow), the Danish physicist who proposed "complementarity," the principle that says, in essence, you can't have black without white - in physics, his theory is connected with waves and particles - one can't exist without the other; 2. Margrethe Bohr (Karen MacDonald), wife of same, mother of six sons (one of whose deaths provides a refrain in the play), typist of manuscripts, and the character who translates physics into English - and humanity - on the stage; and 3. Werner Heisenberg (John Kuntz), the German physicist whose name precedes "uncertainty principle," meaning that once you start studying something, your intervention so changes what you're studying that it's not the same thing as when you started.
Plot: In 1941, Heisenberg arrives in Copenhagen for a meeting with Bohr. "Why did you come to Copenhagen?" Margrethe repeats this line many times in the play. It's the central question that allows the characters to reflect on their lives (when the play opens they're all dead; everything is a flashback), explore physics, argue about collaborating with the Nazis, hint at the nuclear bomb projects underway in both Germany and the US, mourn, walk away, come back, and love one another - even as they all have different memories of how those discussions transpired.
The characters play their parts in relationship to one another and comment to the audience, the work of narration passing among them as they discuss ethics,
science, families, politics, the Nazis, love, skiing, Norway, walking, babies,
anti-semitism, Einstein, drowning, each with its complement, each uncertain.
Powerful, powerful. Complementarity has been a big topic in our house since hubby Jeff used it as one of two core principles (the other was level structure) underlying "human systems theory" in his dissertation. Thus, the play picked up a lot of threads we've talked about.
I kept wishing I had the script in my lap as the ideas are heady, worth thinking about at a slower pace. An editor friend whom we went with said she wished she could have had at the script - would have removed a third of the lines she said. I can understand this. The sheer complexity of the material might be easier to comprehend if the acts were shorter. In one sense, it's a really long lecture about the most abstract of ideas.
Last point, bloggers: Those involved are keeping a blog about the production. "Heisenberg" (who signs his posts "johnny kuntz") is posting about his part, what it's like to rehearse, and such, very interesting. And today, Nick Peterson (thanks for inviting us, Nick) posts an email they received from Heisenberg's son Jochen Heisenberg, professor of physics
at the University of New Hampshire (Jeff's alma mater), who apparently attended the same performance we did:
Thank you indeed for the wonderful experience of seeing this
different Copenhagen performance. As you know, we have been guests at
a number of performances since the NY opening in 2000, and I have had
the burdensome opportunity to become a participant in those symposia
that dealt with the controversy arising out of this play.
What was so refreshing this time was the fact that the play was
allowed to be a drama on many levels and that the one-dimensional,
contentious aspects did not dominate the many-layered personal story.
Many years ago, we had the chance to become friends with Olivia and Hob Hoblitzelle, beacons of clear thinking in the fields of psychotherapy and spiritual development. I liked them immediately when we met - Olivia's calm presence even when everyone around us seemed to be going nuts, Hob's sense of humor.
To my young eyes, their home was everything an abode should be - simple, beautiful, and with a Japanese garden, this before everyone had a couple of bonzai in the kitchen and a Buddha or two in the backyard. Their children were close to adolescence; ours weren't even born. I truly admired them. Then, as is the case with so many who influence us, our lives drifted off into our futures.
About five or so years ago, I was in a yoga class at Kripalu, the yoga center in Western Massachusetts, and noticed a beautiful woman, intent on her practice, a few mats from me. It was Olivia. We spoke briefly, long enough for her to tell me that Hob was quite ill, that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and that she had come to the yoga center for rest and retreat. Some months after that, I read in the paper that Hob had died.
What must be written isn't accompanied by the time it deserves. I need a couple of hours to capture Carolyn Goodman's memorial service, which took place Sun, Oct 7, 2007, while it's still fresh. But life is breaking the speed limit at the moment and, having gone to three memorial services in the past ten days, I'm a bit spent. That said, given the others who attended this one--historians, journalists (see Jerry Mitchell's article here), and her extraordinary friends--I know there will be a good public record of a unique memorial for this one-of-a-kind icon of courage, forgiveness, and sophistication, who will forever principally remembered as the mother of Andrew Goodman, one of the three civil rights workers murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi in 1964.
Thus, quick notes:
I had left an hour for the subway from Brooklyn to the Upper West Side but the proper train from my stop was not running. At 3:15, I was still waiting for the train I had to take two stations in the wrong direction to get on the right one. The service was to start at 4, but I'd only made it to Lower Manhattan by then. So it was that I was nearly 20 minutes late but just in time for Carolyn's son David's introduction to the first speaker: NY City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. I'd already missed her grandson Ivan's sounding of the ram's horn, her son Jonathan's reciting of Kaddish, Clarissa Sinceno-Taylor's Amazing Grace solo, and the first video of Carolyn's biography.
There were four or five hundred people in the mahogany auditorium of Ethical Culture Society when I arrived; I took a seat just a few rows from the front, on the left hand side.
By the time the Mayor was finished, I'd managed to get out paper and pen. "Carolyn got in the way," Congressman John Lewis said just after coming to the podium with a standing ovation. "She made necessary trouble." He said the three slain civil rights workers (Carolyn's son Andy, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney) "should be called the Founding Fathers of the New America;" and that, despite all, Carolyn "never demonstrated one bit of bitterness," a theme that others echoed. Others being WNBC correspondent Gabe Pressman (after first citing the bad wars, civil rights, he said, was a "good war"); Ben Chaney, the younger brother of James; Sarah Siegel and Allison Marie Nichols, college students whose lives were turned around by meeting Carolyn; NY Times columnist Bob Herbert ("she seemed almost magical"); NY1 reporter Budd Mishkin, who wore the shirt Carolyn always asked him to wear; and his brother, the attorney Doug Mishkin, whom she'd asked to sing "Carry on, my sweet survivor" at her memorial service, which he did; and, here I need to break paragraphs to highlight the powerful speaker...
Dick Molpus, former Secretary of State in Mississippi, who met Carolyn 25 years after the three young men's murders, and the first public official to apologize to their mothers, who also asked two key newsmen to stand: Neshoba (Miss) Democrat editor and publisher, Stanley Dearman, and reporter Jerry Mitchell of The (Jackson, Miss) Clarion-Ledger, "who relentlessly stayed on top of the case," ultimately leading to the conviction of Edgar Ray Killen, who finally went to jail 41 years after masterminding the murders.
And so it went through another dozen speakers: two colleagues from the board of Symphony Space; two from public radio station WBAI (one of whom joked that Carolyn decided that "Heaven clearly needs work" and that "it will be a better place when she's done"; Regina Solano of PACE, a mental health program for mothers of young children that Carolyn founded and ran for many years; Eli Lee, who worked for her at the Andrew Goodman Foundation; Rabbi Bruce Cohen of Interns for Peace, whose board she chaired; her niece, Dr. Cathey Eisner Falvo, and...
The final speaker, Harry Belafonte, who said, "Carolyn Goodman's name will live forever."
The three-hour event ended with a singalong led by VOCE and Friends, gospel singers from Riverside Church, including the signature melody of the civil rights movement, "We Shall Overcome."
As Mr. Belafonte said, "We are fortunate that she lived so long. Hers was the work of noble warriors." Indeed, Carolyn. I was lucky to have met you when I was young and, like those who spoke, have been inspired by your example.
PS: Thank you, David, for organizing and graciously conducting this remarkable tribute to your mother and for including me in the dinner that followed.