Friday, September 30, 2011

CONTAGION, A CAR CRASH, A CONSTITUTION, AND CONFERENCE

Early Spring is known for its turbulent weather here in Tassie. This time last year we were without an entire section of roof on the motel in our village following probably the biggest storm we had experienced in the sixteen years I’ve lived here. This year though the winds have been a little kinder, but dramas of another kind marked this first month of spring.

My granddaughter Bella is a devotee of all things pink, but scarlet does not fit in that category. Looked like she was coming down with the flu right at the start of her recent school holidays, until a rash appeared, so off to the doc, whose quick diagnosis of scarlet fever courtesy of the coated bright pink tongue meant a trip to the hospital was also on the agenda.

Armed with an arsenal of antibiotics and rehydration supplies they managed to avoid a hospital stay and any procedures Bella definitely didn’t want, and she eventually recovered from an illness I had associated with such times as the Middle Ages and the Industrial Revolution when people used to drop like flies due to lack of medical treatment.

Not to be outdone my son Kris chose the first day of Fusion’s annual conference to miss a sharp turn on a narrow country road in the dark in the rain, and came a cropper through the fence over the ditch and into the bank on the other side (the dirt variety, not the sort with money). His first accident in almost twenty years of driving, his greatest concern was for their dog who went from the back seat to the front in rather rude fashion, but apart from some nasty bruising from the seat belt, he was none the worse for wear, albeit somewhat shaken and stirred.

Poor old Stirling, the car that is, has definitely seen its last ride, and was duly driven into the sunset the next day on the back of a trailer.

Which brings me to the conference itself, a time when the wider family of the community organisation I have worked with for many years get together to share what has happened over the past year and look forward to what is next on the agenda. This year was somewhat different. It was obvious that in the past couple of years while we have had two different leadership structures, we have also needed to reexamine the roles and expectations of our leadership, not only to make life more manageable for the people in those roles, but to see our work flourish as we go about the business of working for transformation in local communities.

It was an interesting exercise to say the least, and one not taken lightly, as we really had to go back to grass roots and wrestle with who we are as a movement, what are we about, and how do we work into the future in such a way that we all get there in one piece, and none are left behind. It was great to see resolution come over a period of days as a new constitution was brought into being and a new Board of Trustees elected.

Maintaining a sustainable lifestyle is not a simple thing in this complex world we find ourselves, and when those we love are sick, injured or hurting the tendency when we have so much on our own plate can sometimes be to distance ourselves from the problem rather than lending a hand. Fortunately, and I do mean fortunately, challenges staring us right in the face are much better dealt with than avoided. Caring for those who need us, and sharing the burden instead of expecting someone else to do it all brings its own rewards.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

LOST IN TRANSLATION

It’s a rare occasion that finds me perched in front of the idiot box before 5 o’clock in the morning, but since I’d been awake since 2am and my innards were telling me it had been a long time since dinner, figured I might as well get up and obey.

Armed with a piece of toast and lemon and ginger herbal tea, turned on the telly only to be greeted with the choice of a never ending Zumba infomercial on one channel (who coined that annoying word?), a never ending handyman tools infomercial on another, Rage, and the SBS worldwide weather report. Without the luxury of digital TV my choices are limited, so stuck around until 5am when what was on offer broadened to Power Rangers, more Rage, an American charismatic preacher at full volume, and the Polish News broadcast.

Hmm, what to choose? Opted for the Polish News, which at first I thought might have been Russian News seeing as I’m not exactly a linguist and hadn’t looked at the TV guide, until the cameras focused on a hospital in Warsaw following a motorcycle crash, so at least I knew what country we were in.

I’m not averse to watching an SBS movie with subtitles, but watching the news in a foreign language without subtitles is quite strange. Knowing what’s going on is obviously out of the question, watching what I assume are politicians strutting about doing the sort of thing politicians do the world over, sports reports featuring local heroes I’ve never seen before, redevelopment of places I’ve never heard of, human interest stories, your usual news broadcast fare. Making up my own commentary, trying to piece the stories together from what little clues I could pick up was an interesting exercise. Finally dragged myself back to bed for another couple of hours sleep.

I have a great poster on the wall next to my desk at work.

I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but, I am not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant.

Not a bad excuse for those times when maybe my level of communication isn’t that clear. We don’t have to be watching the news in a foreign language to misunderstand what’s going on. Without any trouble at all we can hear without listening, look without seeing, speak without conveying what we mean. It’s one thing to deal with the nuts and bolts of what may be taking place in any given moment, in a conversation, argument, discussion, or whatever, but to recognize the underlying process that is taking place at the same time can be a whole other kettle of fish.

We see the world through our own filters, and they colour how we receive data and process it. Reading the signals as well as taking in the information can tell us whether or not we are accepted, trusted, respected, disliked, being manipulated or a myriad other things. Many a misunderstanding has been based on our perception of the intention of the other person, rather than their actual intention, so listening, really listening, and reading the signals correctly, that’s the challenge.