What is an underlying question that gives form to your work or interest in this field?
In the 20th century humanity gained the knowledge to
unleash explosions to incinerate entire cities; how can we now achieve
the wisdom to survive this knowledge?
What is your personal experience of collective
wisdom in groups?
I have had a diverse 30-year professional career. At
one extreme, I was a strategic planning consultant to the Director of
the Los Alamos National Laboratory during the Carter administration.
My assignments included a white paper that presented the first rationale
for the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars) and a 30-year global
strategic forecast that anticipated the U.S. military’s invasion
of Iraq and Iran. Here, I saw firsthand how the political forces that
exiled Robert Oppenheimer were applied to enforce a debilitating kind
of collective blindness upon the group of people charged with inventing
ever more potent nuclear weaponry.
At the other extreme, I walked the length of the West
Bank (Palestine) on a Christmas peace pilgrimage to Bethlehem alongside
Father George Zabelka, the Jesuit priest who had been the Chaplain to
the plane which dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima. After arriving in
Bethlehem our group spent the entire night reading prayers for world
peace that had been collected over the course of the entire 5,000 miles
For the past 10 years, since selling my consulting company
to a Fortune 1000 firm, I have trained and worked as a group facilitator
teaching transformation, peace, and reconciliation. Collective wisdom
is the centerpiece of my practice.
What is it about the work in this field that excites
you and connects you to your own deepest self?
The groups I facilitate focus each process on a single
individual’s pressing personal issue. The issue can be anything
from an organizational concern to a matter of life and death. Since
2003, I have been working with a group of “lifers” in a
Massachusetts prison. We have worked with many issues that connect each
of us to the depths of human experience.
Some examples include, “I have had no contact
with either of my two daughters for 30 years. To this day, whenever
I think of them, it breaks my heart.” “After 25 years in
prison, I am up for parole. How can I ask the State for mercy if I cannot
forgive myself?” “I’ve only spoken to my brother twice
in the past 15 years. Both times we starting arguing almost immediately
and he hung-up in anger. How I can heal my relationship with him?”
In each case, our group found a powerful healing movement
for these questions. So powerful, that the first man is now in regular
contact with his daughters (and grandchildren he didn’t know existed!),
the second man reports he can carry his guilt with dignity, and the
third man has a caring and loving relationship with his brother.
Each time a group accesses the external field of collective
wisdom, it touches my heart deeply.
Please provide a brief storyline or snapshot of what brought you to this work.
During the years when I traveled to Germany and Palestine
as a peacemaker, I experienced a series of serendipities and synchronicities
that shook and finally shattered my belief that everything can be adequately
explained in mechanistic, materialist, positivist terms. The final blow
that brought down the edifice of belief in a universe that is empty
and does not care occurred in Jerusalem on a cold rain swept night in
January 1984. This is when I stood on an empty street, getting soaked
through to the skin, arguing with a playing card laying face down at
my feet. I was living in a rented room in Bethlehem and had bicycled
10 miles to Jerusalem to eat dinner with a childhood friend. After the
meal, I walked back to my bike. As I was unlocking it, I saw a single
playing card face down on the sidewalk.
Six months earlier in Boston, I was walking across the
Common in the company of a young woman I was trying to impress. There
was a spray of playing cards on the path, tossed away by one of the
3-Card Monte dealers that practiced their trade nearby. I reached down
to the ground with a flourish and plucked one card from the rest: the
Queen of Hearts. My trick worked. A few weeks later, it happened again
in another part of Boston: Jack of Diamonds. That October, I was in
Cambridge, England and saw a single playing card face down on the sidewalk.
I picked it up: Queen of Diamonds. A few weeks later it happened again
in Amsterdam: King of Spades. Then again in Nürnberg: Jack of Hearts.
By the time I saw that face-down playing card by my bicycle
in Jerusalem, my conviction that such serendipities can only result
from blind coincidence was ready to topple. I stood over it, afraid
to pick it up. I was frozen, paralyzed by the prospect of experiencing
a watershed moment (or not). As I stood there, rain seeping in through
the seams of my jacket and running down into my underwear, the voice
of the playing card spoke inside my head, “Why do you make God’s
angels do card tricks?" The voice spoke in annoyed tones and went
back and forth with the internalized voice that represented me. It offered
a deal. “One last time, find magic from a single playing card
face down on the sidewalk. But in return, you must promise never to
invoke half-feigned disbelief in the face of mystery.” After debating
with myself for an eternity, I accepted the deal, reached down and picked
up the Queen of Hearts.
I had heard the same stern voice before, months earlier
on the first morning of this trip upon waking in a traveler’s
hostel in London. After a frighteningly intense and vivid apocalyptic
dream, the voice spoke firmly and succinctly as I lay semi-awake in
a strange bed on a different continent from where I had woken the day
before. It said: “If you want to be holy, you must give up sex
and language. But your job in this lifetime is not to be holy. Learn
to be human.”
My experiences with the face-down playing cards did not
lead me to embrace any mystical creed. Rather, my stance towards countless
such experiences with serendipities, synchronicities, telepathy or clairvoyance
has always been as an enchanted agnostic, one who is open to mystery
and skeptical of explanations.
How would you like to be available to others in
I am always interested in making connections with other
kindred spirits. I especially welcome invitations to work with groups
interested in deepening their understanding of peace and reconciliation
and healing their own most painful relationships.
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