I have decided to engage in a bit of suspension. I do not mean suspension in the musical or chemical sense, nor do I mean it in the sense of being prevented from playing a sport or stopping something. I mean it in the sense that Edgar Schein uses it as a technique for dialogue. I drew upon Schein’s work on suspension for my dissertation several years ago. I described Schein’s concept of suspension in this way:
Through the technique of suspension, individuals first listen to themselves in order to become aware of their perceptions and misperceptions of others, conscious of their own thought process by which the perceptions are created, and then aware of the effect of these perceptions and process on how and when they choose to engage the other.Klaus, T. W. (2013). Leadership in an intractable conflict over public school sexuality education in the United States: A constructivist grounded theory study. Eastern University. ProQuest UMI Number: 3665017, p. 197.
Wow! Could that sentence have been any longer? You got to love academia!
The “noise” of the past six months has been nearly unbearable. It was noisy before the pandemic, to be sure, but it has been far worse since. Now, as we are approaching the November 3rd election, the noise is increasing. The announcement of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg last night, September 18, will undoubtedly raise the decibel level as the political parties jockey over the appointment of her replacement.
This week I participated in two Zoom events that have encouraged my reflection during this period of suspension.
One was a meeting with others who have formed a community of practice around teaching followership as a part of our work in leadership development. What we all have in common is that we each have been trained by Ira Chaleff in the delivery of his Courageous Follower material in workshop, training, and classroom settings. It was interesting to learn some new techniques for teaching followership and to have my thinking expanded on the use of the material. Next week, in fact, I will be doing a Courageous Follower training for a public agency in New York – via Zoom of course, and hope to use a couple of the ideas I picked up in the meeting.
The other Zoom event was last night and it was a 90 presentation and conversation with George Lakey, a sociologist and fellow Quaker, who has been at the forefront of social change through nonviolent direct action for many years. His presentation last night focused on the question “What to do if there is coup?” around the November 3rd election. I received late notice about the presentation (as in yesterday afternoon). So I was surprised to learn that over 700 people in 34 states were in the Zoom webinar. It was an interesting presentation. In it Lakey called on people to reach out to the elected officials now with the request (well…okay…demand) that they refuse to accept the results of the presidential election until every vote is counted.
In addition, he asked people to go to ChooseDemocracy.us to take the pledge to engage in nonviolent direct action if it appears a coup is being attempted.
It seems so strange to me that we would have to be seriously concerned about a coup in the United States. However, I have been in three such discussions with different people over the past week. Obviously, we have taken our freedom and democracy for granted. It is far more fragile than we ever imagined.
Though George Lakey and I run in the same Quaker circles (those are pretty small circles, after all), I did not know as much about his work as I should have. Today I did a bit more research and came up with two brief videos that provided a deeper introduction to him as a person and his work in nonviolence. I have decided to include them here. The first is a 15-minute lecture he did for a class at Swarthmore College where he taught for many years. It is an introduction to nonviolent action.
The second is a bit more personal as it is from the QuakerSpeak series that highlights individuals within the Religious Society of Friends as they discuss key ideas in the faith and practice of Quakers. This video is less than a year old and it came out at the same time as one of Lakey’s most recent books, How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning. This video is about 8 minutes in length. By the way, in this video you will hear Lakey refer to a man by the name of George Fox. He lived in 17th Century England and began a reformation movement within the Anglican Church which became the Quakers. He was a contemporary of Roger Williams, another Brit, who established Rhode Island and founded the Baptist movement.
Both of these Zoom events this week supported my need for a bit of suspension. They also produced the unexpected benefit of bringing some sense and calm to the noise that has dominated for so long. I hope you find these to do the same for you this weekend.