[ISN] Islands in the Clickstream. The Shadow of the Dog. May 27, 2001

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Tue May 29 2001 - 01:44:08 PDT

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    Islands in the Clickstream:
    The Shadow of the Dog
    In the last Islands in the Clickstream, On the Dark Side of the Moon,
    I quoted a friend who said:  "Ants don't know that dogs exist."
    To which a reader responded:
    "The tasks at hand are relatively insignificant once I've glimpsed the
    shadow of the dog and my brain struggles toward the brilliant light
    behind the dog."
    This happened in the middle of the night when things are either very
    clear or not clear at all.
    On a private email list, a news item was shared about a thirteen year
    old boy who hung himself after he was suspended from school for
    hacking into his school's computers. His parents, understandably
    bereft, blamed the suspension and the schoolmaster, who they claimed
    had threatened their son with jail. The schoolmaster defended himself,
    saying he had not.
    The item elicited intense anger from young technophiles who recalled
    being marginalized by teachers unable to acknowledge their
    intelligence. They railed at the inability of schools to train
    teachers who understand computer technology and those adept at using
    it. Horror stories scrolled down the monitor of teachers who tried to
    control what they feared or could not understand.
    One member of the list, a journalist who often champions the
    technophiles about whom he writes with insight, did not weigh in
    against the headmaster but instead shared insights grounded in
    memories of a suicide attempt by his own child.
    The suspension and the headmaster, he suggested, were catalysts, not
    causes, the latest wave crashing in on a child's psyche, the one "that
    kept him down and didn't let him come up for air. That's what it feels
    like to a kid committing suicide," he wrote, "like there's no air,
    like it's dark and just too-damn-scary one-too-many times."
    Anyone who has dealt with a suicide attempt knows that the walls get
    narrower and narrower, the pain greater and greater, until one day
    there is the overwhelming relief of the decision to end the pain.
    Often a person is not trying to end their life, they are trying to end
    the pain.
    I felt for the headmaster, too. I imagine he is experiencing the
    torments of the damned because the helplessness we feel when we are
    involved with someone who is deeply depressed or self-destructive is
    absolute. We are outside their skins, looking in, unable to get our
    hands on the switch.
    Maybe because it was the middle of the night, I felt the pain and
    anguish from every point in this particular compass. I thought of the
    many times, like the headmaster, I have acted with less than perfect
    kindness. If I had a nickel for each time I spoke impatiently, harshly
    or stupidly to someone, I could retire in Barbados. I wish it did not
    take a lifetime to learn what King Lear learned at the end of his
    tragic suffering, that "none do offend, none." Only then, worn down
    into humility, do we become appropriately gentle and forbearing with
    people who are only doing as we have done so many times.
    I was an Episcopal priest for sixteen years. I entered the ministry
    because I needed a training program to learn how to become a more
    fully human being. It required years of listening to people sharing
    the reality of their lives to begin to learn what I deeply wish I had
    always known.
    They showed me what it means to respond to whatever life brings with
    dignity, resilience, and genuine heroism, that everyone is pretty much
    doing the best they can with what they have, and that everyone's
    story, when you really hear it, makes sense of their behavior.
    My job was to make sense of what was often senseless, the sudden death
    of a child or a crushing reverse, events that knitted pain with
    seeming meaninglessness.
    Ministry is often done with words. The words are intended to
    articulate what no one really understands. Just as loving another
    brings you closer to the mystery of their being, moving more deeply
    into the reality of others' lives makes them more mysterious and
    worthy of compassion.
    You begin talking and - if the process works - end up keeping your
    mouth shut.  You begin thinking you understand. You end up knowing
    that you haven't got a clue.
    I was awake in the middle of the night because I awakened from a dream
    in which I was crawling along a dark fence through which I saw the
    faces of my mother father aunt and uncle. When I awakened I remembered
    they had all died decades ago. I have spoken or written for a living
    all these years as a way to fill up the silence of their absence. My
    words have been a search for meaning, but paradoxically, the only time
    I feel close to the mystery is when I have nothing to say.
    When we meditate or pray deeply, words cease to matter. The levels of
    consciousness we discover when we sink into a larger life erase the
    daylight distinctions that no longer make sense. Language falsifies if
    we try to say what we know in such moments.
    Yesterday I listened to a master of the intelligence world discuss the
    depths of awareness required to go places no human being should have
    to go. He reminded me why the intelligence community uses spiritual
    tools to equip its people, why I taught courses in clairvoyance,
    telepathy and psychometry when I was a priest in an effort to disclose
    that non-local consciousness is the sea in which we all swim, that the
    symbolic landscape described by all of our sacred texts is the literal
    truth, and that the seeming miraculous is normative for human beings.
    We write or speak or do whatever it is we do to affirm that life
    despite the ostensible evidence is meaningful and good, that we are
    inextricably linked in a single web of consciousness, one
    manifestation of life in a universe teeming with life.
    Our power lies in our powerlessness. In the dark hour before the dawn
    when we are most alone and most ourselves, we sense connections in all
    directions, far beyond earth and the evidence of the senses.  How do
    we speak of these other dimensions with mere tongues? How do we turn
    this insubstantial vision into flesh and blood? How do we find the
    courage to close our deceptive eyes and see?
    Islands in the Clickstream is an intermittent column written by
    Richard Thieme exploring social and cultural dimensions 
    of computer technology and the ultimate concerns of our lives.
    Comments are welcome.
    Richard Thieme is a professional speaker, consultant, and writer
    focused on the impact of computer technology on individuals and
    organizations - the human dimensions of technology and work - and 
    "life on the edge."
    Feel free to pass along columns for personal use, retaining this
    signature file. If interested in publishing columns online or in print 
    or employing Richard as a professional speaker, retreat leader 
    or consultant, email for details.  
    To subscribe to Islands in the Clickstream, send email to
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    Islands in the Clickstream (c) Richard Thieme, 2001. All rights reserved.
    ThiemeWorks on the Web:  http://www.thiemeworks.com and 
    ThiemeWorks  P. O. Box 170737  Milwaukee WI 53217-8061  414.351.2321
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