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Keep Up with the Curve of Our Own Transformation

These words from the English (now living in America) poet David Whyte pretty much summed up my experience of this past week at a workshop with him and the Pegasus Conference.

I am still in the process of going over my notes and trying to re-capture and re-create the moments and experience in my own consciousness, so this is by no means my final impressions …

At the core of Theory U, which our community has spent significant amount of time and efforts in the past two years, is an attempt to get to the core of human existence or reality. Poetry has essentially the same aim using a different and complimentary language. Imagination plays a critical role here as the gaze of our minds and feelings extends beyond current and often chaotic experience. This is the essence of the creative emergence at the bottom of U, as in the moments of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly.

The theme of this year’s Pegasus Conference is on critical skills for courageous organizations. In his opening key note, Peter Senge made it very clear: there are no courageous organizations but only courageous leaders. That’s why his key note was titled “Institutional Courage Starts with You”. It is fitting that the French origin of the word “courage” means “amount of heart”. Through the lenses of Theroy U, that is still a field 3 insight. It goes deeper into our Self identity, a field 4 phenomenon. Courage is simply a natural outcome of our identity shift at the bottom of U. Personally I feel that this is where David’s most important contributions lie. Theory U provides a brilliant analytical framework but lacks the practical means of exploring the richness at field 4. It led to many people mistaking field 3 or even field 1 experience as co-creation or collective intelligence. David articulated a highly practical yet profound architecture and pathways of three marriages in each of our lives: those with our Partner, Work and, above all, Self. There is holiness as well as debris in all three relationships. Work-life balance is too simplistic. We are NOT just balancing each other and ourselves out. The power and hope of our existence comes from discovering and co-creating the larger context of as well as living within these three relationships. Otherwise, we are being schizophrenic (it’s both humbling and reckoning to realize how pervasive this illness has spread among humanity, including ourselves!).

I am just beginning to read David’s book, The Three Marriages. Here are some precious and yet down-to-earth gems about these relationships:

Natural origins of the three marriages lie in “the three questions others ask us repeatedly through our lives, and the three questions we ask ourselves repeatedly in the mirror: When are you going to get married? When are you going to get a job? And, when, oh when, are you going to grow up?” It is entirely human that “most of us grow up during a marriage or a work-life or a sweeping self-examination, not before them.” Therefore, “the only question is whether you will respond, whether you will not turn away, whether you will turn towards it – whether, in effect, you will become a dedicated spirit.”

Why is it so hard and rare to become such a dedicated spirit? David reminds us that “you cannot enter any world for which you do not have the language.” That’s why we are so grateful to David for offering such a language through his works. I am sure that our community and interested friends will dedicate much time in the coming months on learning and practicing the language in our own three marriages. The payback of doing so and penalties of ignoring it is simply too enormous.

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