Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Martin Fowler's "You Always Belonged and You Always Will"


Author: Dr. Martin Clay Fowler

Title:You Always Belonged and You Always Will: A Philosophy of Belonging

Publication: 2014, Durham NC, by ZuberFowler Initiatives, ISBN 978-0615931326, 293 pages, paper, some black and white illustrations (photos and drawings); 3 Parts, 14 Chapters
  

I knew the author personally (usually calling himself "Martin Fowler") when I lived in Dallas in the 1980s, and I will come back to that.  The author now lives in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, according to his own statement, probably for employment.   (It’s booming.  I was there in December myself.)  He has an earlier book from 2008 on Amazon, “The Ethical Practice of Critical Thinking”, which I will have to look into soon.
  
In an early chapter Fowler refers to this book as a “Manifesto of Belonging”.  “Manifesto” has become a trendy word, not always with positive connotations.  My own first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book in 1997 was called “The Manifesto” by coworkers!  
  
Fowler asserts that “each life belongs in every life, and every life belongs in each life” (p. 253).  Belonging means “living within lives”, whereas a “relationship” refers to interaction between distinct lives (like in a romantic sense, marriage, or friendship).  Belonging implies “vulnerability to transformation”.  This implies accepting a risk of being changed.   Of course, in the Christian faith that can mean being “born again” to some people.

My own take on this, at a high level, is to see this as part of physics and cosmology.  In nature, everything tends to deteriorate, with entropy, according to laws of thermodynamics.   Life is nature’s way to oppose entropy.  But life needs a cycle, which means reproduction (including some sexual reproduction to mix genes) and termination of the body in one particular place (“death”).  It also needs to develop “free will”, which is the ultimate victor over entropy.  That’s why I think life has to be ubiquitous throughout the Universe.  Now will of consciousness can express at various levels.  In higher animals, like humans (and dogs, cats, foxes, chimps, orcas) it connects to the individual body.  In bees, ants or other social insects, free will may exist with the entire hive as a “group mind”: we aren’t sure.  What could happen in other worlds seems unimaginable, but I think there are other worlds that are more similar to ours than we expect.   Fowler talks about what it would mean to belong on another planet (Mars) philosophically, if humans decided to settle there (as they must some day).

Fowler spends a lot of space talking about personality attributes and processes, often in pairs.  The list includes “power and speed”, “strength and flexibility”, “balance and coordination”, “agility and accuracy”, “endurance and stamina”.  He defines concepts like Love, Truth, and Justice.  He makes the interesting observation that “endurance is about your relationship with suffering, and stamina is about your relationship with strength” (p 191), partly because suffering can happen as part of transformation.

He discusses social media under the concept of "virtual belonging", make-believe which is still "real".  (I know that others have purported the idea of "Alone together", Nov.2, 2011).   He also discusses acting in relation to virtual belonging, 

Now all of this reminds me of the “polarity theory” of Paul Rosenfels, as explained in a book “Homosexuality: The Psychology of the Creative Process” which I review here April 12, 2006.  I learned about Rosenfels when I regularly visited (and for a while “belonged” to) the Ninth Street Center (in the East Village – now called “The Paul Rosenfels Community”) in the mid 1970s after I had moved into New York City.  Rosenfels speaks of personalities as having attributes that are polar opposites, like “masculine and feminine” and “objective and subjective”, “balanced and unbalanced”.  This connects up to Fowler now pretty readily.  What is different is that Rosenfels pins these characteristics to individuals who may participate in a polarized romantic relationship (particularly relevant today as gay marriage develops in society).  A male person (even heterosexual) might well be a “subjective feminine male”, and therefore “unbalanced”.  The feminine personality is more interested in developing the capacity to “love”, the masculine, to exert “power”, but always “creatively”.  Now Love corresponds to Truth (which Fowler defines), and Power corresponds to “Right” (Paul’s word) or “Justice” (Fowler’s term).  Fowler does mention feminine-masculine as yin-yang at one point. What makes Fowler different is that in his view, all personalities should have access to all of these traits and processes, because all of these processes derive from “belonging”. It's interesting to remember that the Ninth Street Center offered acting classes back in the 1970s and considered acting a value venue for growth (especially for "masculine" personalities -- it helps if you have a devoted dog to do it with you) 
  
I don’t see Rosenfels mentioned in Fowler’s endnotes, which surprised me.  (Maybe I missed it.)  I believe I had mentioned Rosenfels to him back in Dallas in the 1980s.   But I would say that Fowler’s philosophy is like that of Rosenfels, with some elements of Zen. (There is a chapter on “inactivity”.)  It would fit well at Yogaville or the Monroe Institute (both of which I just visited this past weekend).

I could suggest a couple more concepts myself: "momentum" and "traction".  
The book offers “25 meditations” early, and “25 epigrams” near the end.  He uses illustrations to tell some parables (like “Animal Crackers”). 
  
I did know Martin and Clyde (Zuber) when they were living in Grand Prairie, Texas (near I-20, between Dallas and Fort Worth) in the 1980s.  At the time, they ran meetings of a group called “Evangelicals Concerned” and worked with Dr. Ralph Blair, who at least once led a service in their home (link).  I seem to recall Thanksgiving dinner there in 1985, right before a big implementation at work.  Some memories last a long time.

I do have a bit of an issue with the idea of being open to belonging unconditionally.  Suppose an outside aggressor, possibly aggrieved with poverty or indignation or religious ideology, forces an unchosen “transformation” upon me.  This is becoming more of an issue as the media covers brazen belligerence, violence and particularly terrorism.   I do understand the Christian idea that without forgiveness and Grace, one winds up paying for the sins of the perpetrator, or in sharing the debt. I have been able to be effective as an individual in my own way in the world in which I have lived (at least to age 71 now), but if that world were destroyed (by war or terror) I feel I would have nothing more to offer it, having always remained aloof at some personal levels (a topic we talked about in Dallas).  I would just “belong” but against my will, in a subordinate or unintentionally (not creative) submissive situation.  I do have a real problem with that, and have said so online. "Belonging", for me, has a moral component.  





Sunday, August 24, 2014

Blue Moon Antique Mall in Lovingston VA


I visited the Blue Moon Antique Mall, on the northbound side of US 29, in Lovingston VA, Saturday.  It offered one of the largest collections of used books on retail I’ve ever seen.  (I think I encountered a similar store near Rochester MN one time.)   I found out about the place from a cover story in the Nelson County Times.

Furthermore, there were three wonderful dogs to greet the visitors.  I did share a book stub from Xlibris for my third “Do Ask Do Tell” book – the first time I’ve actually had them with me when encountering an outlet like this unexpectedly while on the road.

I purchased some old sheet music (the Schumann concerto) and a 1977 book “Journeys out of the Body” by Robert A. Monroe, associated with the Monroe Institute, which I had visited earlier that day.
There may be more point to presenting individual book copies than I had thought.
  

Many communities have book clubs that meet like once a month (like at the Westover Market in Arlington), but they tend to emphasize items that are naturally popular (regional fiction, mysteries, genres, etc), not social and political issues.  
 
The Orange County Magazine (VA) reports (Aug. 15) on p. 3, in a story bt Meghann McKnight, on a "local authors book fair" on Sept. 12 in the Wildnerness and Lake of the Woods area.  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"The Alliance": Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn explains a strategy for the 21st century workplace, benefiting both employers and "The Talent"


Authors: Reid Hoffman (Cofounder and Chairman of LinkedIn), Ben Casnocha, Chris Yeh

Title: “The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age

Publication: 2014, Boston, Harvard Business Review Press; ISBN 978-1-62527-577-6, 194 pages, hardcover, relatively large print and small pages; 8 chapters and a conclusion

Amazon link
    
Author’s link:

Fareed Zakaria recommended this brief book recently on his Global Public Square program on CNN.
The authors start by recounting what we know: that the world of lifetime employment with one company or organization is gone, most of all for blue-collar people in manufacturing, but pretty much everywhere else, too.  My own father was a manufacturer’s agent, paid on commission only, for Imperial Glass (in Bellaire, Ohio), representing the company to mid-Atlantic retailers, from 1940 (when he married) until 1971, when he was forced to “retire” but was called back because the replacement couldn’t do as well.  That provided a stable financial world for my parents to bring up me in Arlington VA.  That’s gone now, too.


The employment world began to unravel in the 1980s, particularly toward the end of the Reagan decade as hostile takeovers became more common.  The growth of “shareholder capitalism” put pressure on old-fashioned employment practices.  This is a subject of moral controversy now in the debate over inequality, especially wealth inequality, as explored in Thomas Piketty’s “Capital” (July 22). 

But the authors argue that the idea of lifetime employment can be replaced a “teamwork” concept which can be temporary, somewhat like that of a pro sports team where players can be traded or become (“Curt Flood”) free agents.  This is first implemented by the “tours of duty” concept, which can be “rotational” (most common), “transformative”, or (for executives) “foundational”.  A good example of a “rotational” tour was my first job at RCA at its Princeton Labs (David Sarnoff Research Center) in 1970.  The “operations research trainees” was to have assignments at several company locations.  I went to Indianapolis (“a nice place”) and later Cherry Hill, NJ.    The authors describe how rotational tours work at Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn work.  No doubt, if I could get into a time machine and be 19 years old now, and in an appropriate university program, I could prepare properly for one of these and would love it. In my time, we faced a military draft.  I wondered, what about national service?

The authors also talked about network intelligence, and encourage employees to use their own social media accounts at work, within certain limits, which would be more liberal in technology companies than, say, in banks.  (I wonder about proprietary products and trade secrets.)  He also promotes alumni networks, with some continuing perks.

Another idea comes to my own recollection, the notion of "piecework" as an alternative to layoffs, that Lincoln Electric in Cleveland used in the mid 1990s.  But "piecework" is not a set of "tours" or part of an "alliance".
    
This whole concept would have been problematic for me in the 1990s, even as my employer at the time (USLICO, to become ReliaStar and finally ING) promoted Team Handbook and Total Quality Management, the buzzwords of the mid 1990s.  USLICO specialized in selling life insurance to military officers.  During my time there (1990-1997), I became involved in the controversy over the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding gays in the military and began to prepare my own first book.  I saw this as a “conflict of interest” (eventually leading me to transfer to Minneapolis in 1997), but in those days you could lead a double life, even online.  Since social media (most of all Facebook) became so dominant (by about 2008), that approach to a “double career” is no longer possible.   Indeed, I was approached numerous times over the years to become (in “retirement”) a salesperson or agent for financial products and life insurance, but I can no longer “pimp” with my own social contacts, except with my own media.  Yup, I might have to “pimp Kickstarter” soon.   



Update: May 22, 2015

Vox has a story by Ezra Klein, "LinkedIn founded Reid Hoffman on the biggest lie employers tell employees, here.  Reid has interviewers ask, "What is the best job you would like Post LinkedIn?"
He is also big on reference checking, makes a case for hiring friends, and believes in studying "A History of Philosophy". 

Friday, August 08, 2014

Hundreds of authors claim to be caught in the middle between Amazon and a major NY publisher: but they really have to make a living at it!


The New York Times is reporting Friday about a “battle” between Amazon and 900 writers.  The story *by David Streitfeld) reports that Amazon is “discouraging” readers from buying books from Hachette (whose most familiar imprints are probably Grand Central Publishing and Little Brown).  The story (link here ) discusses the situation of Douglas Preston who, (like Stephen King) lives in coastal Maine.  But I just checked Preston’s page on Amazon and found the books priced in an average way, with the newest book “The Lost Island: A Gideon Crew Novel” sold for free on Kindle, but older books variably priced.  When I look a second time, I see that Amazon offers a “free preview” (even chapters) and over 600,000 titles “free” to subscribers.   The article goes into efforts by Hachette to get higher prices for Kindle titles than Amazon is willing to support.  Publisher’s Weekly has a story here  By the way, a promotional campaign for my most recent book from the would have cost about $15000, a bit over-scaled for me.

Preston seems to be playing ring leader of “Authors United”, which has a letter to “our readers” here.  I’m not sure that what I see online myself comports with this letter.  The letter mentions refusal to discount books.  The group will take out a full page ad on Sunday in the New York Times, as it stays now. These are writers who actually make a living at it, and they feel caught in the middle between two conflicting business models. 

I’m not exactly in this group, where some of the material seems to be genre fiction.  (Oh, I have enjoyed some of it in the past, like Sidney Sheldon (“If Tomorrow Comes”, “Rage of Angels”,  and “The Other Side of Midnight”. (Dean Koontz had a horror movie in 1985 called just "Midnight" and it was a corker.)  To sell paperback “potboilers” like these in supermarket lines (or in commissaries) you have to make yourself popular.  Sheldon certainly could create a wide range of characters.
  
Self-publishing companies price their books high (although some of the Kindles are very low).  Then they offer volume discounts to sell back to authors, as if authors could compete in retail selling with Amazon (and run their own credit card operations, in these days of Vladimir Putin’s hackers). 

But Hachette seems to own “it’s authors”.  Doesn’t sound too healthy.  

Saturday, August 02, 2014

"Bishops on the Border: Pastoral Responses to Immigration": review


Authors:  Kirk Smith and Mark Adams as editors
  
Title: “Bishop’s on the Border: Pastoral Responses on Immigration”
  
Publication: 2013, Morehouse, ISBN 978-0-8192-2875-8, 128 pages (and 32 roman pages), paper; also available as e-book
   
Amazon link is here.

This book comprises a Foreword by Kirk Stevan Smith, and Introduction by Mark Adams, and then four essays on immigration.  Despite the title, and the ethnic nature of the border areas, most of the contributors are not Roman Catholic.  Smith is Episcopal, and Mark Adams is Presbyterian.  The four essays are “Immigration: A Bishop’s Perspective” by Minerva G. Carcano (Methodist); “Meeting at the Border: Restoring Human Dignity”, by Gerald F. Kicanas (Roman Catholic); “Something There Is That Doesn’t Love a Wall” by Kirk Smith (should the word order in the title be “something is there that doesn’t love a wall”?)  and “We Are All Cousins: A Biblical Mandate”, by Stephen S. Talmage (Lutheran). 
It’s significant that the book was published in 2013, before the current child migrant crisis had become acute, although the migration of minors had been going on at lower levels, unnoticed by politicians, for a few years as violence in some Central American countries escalated.  The book, however, is more focused on immigration from Mexico itself.
  
The Introduction, particularly, explains the history of immigration law in the United States border areas, as it was affected by all kinds of historical evolutions, including the independence of Texas and then the Mexican wars.  In the past, the free flow of workers was generally welcome, as labor was needed.  But in time, farmers and ranchers began to employ dirty tricks to avoid paying workers fairly.  The US government became complicit with this behavior. The chapters in the book pay a lot of attention to Arizona law SB 1070 (“show me your papers”) as upheld by the Supreme Court (ACLU link ).
    
The nature of discussion is high-level, tends to refer to scripture and unwillingness of politicians and some American landed interests to heed it.  Caracano starts taking up warm when she puts “sins of omission” in perspective with “commission”, with a focus on Matthew 25.  Talmage mentions the concept of “radical hospitality” on p. 92 and gives an anecdote as to the shutdown of an entire town in Iowa, including Internet access apparently, to round up a large number of illegal aliens in May, 2008, and incident I had not heard of.  Talmage also explains the concept that “we are all cousins” (not necessarily brothers, as in composer Beethoven’s belief when he wrote his Choral Symphony) by explaining an interesting historical link between Muslims, Jews and Christians.
  
The challenging question for an individual, of course, is, “What I am supposed to do about it?”  We have heard that migrant children are often being housed with relatives in the US and may be in public school systems.  I know when I was a substitute teacher, that it would have been very difficult for me to deal with these students at any personal level.  Yet, usually the discussion concerns budgets of school systems to deal with these new needs, not personal demands on teachers.  We could take the “radical hospitality” idea further, and wonder if there is some moral responsibility on those who might be capable to participate in housing minor immigrants, however illegal.  In Maryland, the governor has already put out a request for people to “volunteer” to become foster parents.  What kinds of homes would be welcome?  Singles?  Same-sex couples?  Imagine where this can go.  This sounds like the “omission” concept in Matthew 25, or the hospitality concept known in Genesis.  This concept could come up in consideration of asylum requests for various kinds of abuse (including for LGBT people).  The same idea could apply toward some sort of national readiness for really big national disasters and could be viewed as a national security issue someday. 

The violence in Central America rings another bell.  Various churches do send youth groups to Central America on missions, in Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua; I wonder how they perceive the child migrant crisis now.     

This book was provided to me as a review sample by the publisher. 
  
  
Above is an address by Jose H. Gomez, of SDOP, the San Diego Organizing Project (20130?