Ken Ferlic, an energy physicist and former acting director of the U.S. Department of Energy, writes about the nature of seeding dreams and the conditions that best support realizing them. Ferlic writes, “Our creative endeavors, the intentions, the dreams, and the desires we carry need to be allowed to live and follow their own nature into manifestation. Any creative endeavor can be seen as creating a seed condition which when planted in a fertile space grows and bears fruit” .
One of the biggest frustrations for visionaries and creative professionals has to do with the first laws of motion: Energy in motion tends to want to stay in motion . The whole process from hunch to dream, from sketch to construction requires a lot of forward progress each step of the way. It’s a relay. One phase both passes and creates the baton to the next. One of the most painful, energy-draining things that could happen for a creative is something or someone that seeks to interrupt active energy.
A creative’s biggest fear is that of a grinding halt. Worse than a wrench in the system, which after a good yanking, allows everything to start up again—is a deliberate slow-walking made to look like activity but really is death by another name.
Here’s where politics enters in, and not just “big government” politics, but local and organizational politics.
A creative’s biggest fear is that of a grinding halt.
For example, you have a business idea, but the town clerk in your area doesn’t fancy much your projects. How would you feel if you went down to the town hall to put in an application for a permit on time with full payment in hand, having previously timed how long the approval process takes, and set up product sales to begin once the permit is cleared—but the town clerk starts to, you later realize under the guise of assistance, slow walk you—popping up with arcane statutes to hurdle at every turn?
Town Clerk says, “Fantastic, thanks for bringing in your application.” He takes a good and long look at it and says, “You know, by the way, you listed the county on the wrong spot on your application. The people up at the State Capitol are really particular about these things. You wrote the county in when all you had to do was circle it, so you will have to start the process all over from the beginning. They don’t like to see too many mistakes on an application. Make sure to issue a new check or money order for the date signed on the new application once you have filled it out.”
The four-page application takes a half-hour to fill out. You offer to fill out a new one right there on the spot. Town Clerk tells you that he’s the only one there that day that can accept the special permit you requested and that he was on his way out for the day, saying you’d have to come back the next Tuesday when he’s back in to do special permits.
You’re eager to make nice with the local officials and to start your business off with a good name. You tell your crew waiting for you that they are going to have to wait a little longer, no more than a week for the application to be submitted but that all the needed documentation is all there. You have a client waiting on an order once the permit is approved and reassure her that all will soon be in order.
Next, Tuesday, you get back to the town clerk, Town Clerk takes a long look at your application and accepts all your documentation. He gets ready to give you a receipt but, oh, suddenly a notification popped up on his screen. He begins reading to you some archaic provision that says applications submitted after the date you first visited will have to wait until the new submission cycle begins at the start of the upcoming fiscal year—six months away.
You go back to your Jeep or bike or hybrid and hold onto the steering wheel for a good 10 minutes before leaving the parking lot—just to feel what it is like to sit in a stalled dream.
The pain that creatives face is not the heft required to pull wrenches out the system or the long hours it takes to see a project through to completion, to midwife a dream. Creatives aren’t afraid of labor pains. Their greatest heartbreak is a deliberate and calculated slow down.
Creatives aren’t afraid of labor pains.
Unfortunately, business people often view bureaucracy that way—when at least at the federal level there are guidelines in place for consumer and citizenry protections. Governments that function well want to issue out as many licenses and permits as they can within because it helps get more business ideas up and running, creates more jobs and gets more money circulating in the economy.
As a small business owner, I am actually thankful when notified about a new compliance rule or filing requirement. I am appreciative because that means there is a watchdog looking out for me—making sure I don’t get tangled inadvertently in a statue I need to be aware of. I am appreciative because it also means there is a watchdog group looking out for my employee(s), making sure they hold me accountable to fair and equitable business practices.
The danger that I’ve faced is not the regulatory aspect of running a business. In fact the IRS has been helpful to me. The most damaging thing that happened to me in any business endeavor is in the bottlenecking of the production process.
Sometimes intra- and inter-organizational politics are far more damaging than the straightforward compliance requirements from state and federal agencies.
I was taught you work and you go home—that work is left at work. That’s easiest to do that when you believe your work aligns with a what you hope betters the world. It’s most terrifying when you feel you are just following orders. Worst if you believe that the hope you've cast into what you do, will be cast into a future that will distort it.
Today is election day—the 2018 Midterms. People all over the country have cast their votes…People all over the country are voting for our future together.
While there are many issues galvanizing people to the polls this day, they all are casting their votes for a world they already believe has been compromised. They are voting, already, from a distorted dream.
Millennials stand a 50-50 chance as to whether they are going to fare better than their parents. (See an earlier blog post with the stats on this: here). The new tax bill limits the deductions first-time homebuyers can make in writing-off their mortgage interest rates and property taxes—which historically have been there to add a couple of extra bucks to their already squeezed budgets . While unemployment is low, wages have not caught up to inflation and the average worker has far less purchasing power than they did 40 years ago—meaning that people are working harder to get less . Do we even have to mention the dizzying, vitriolic speech that floods onto people’s phones and into their TVs by the hour?
The dystopia is here. This is why, I believe, more segments of the population are increasing their civic participation. They are seeing that the poetry of the policies and poetry from the politicians they believe in have left them in a prose of woe.
They are voting, already, from a distorted dream.
When a phenomenon occurs that is outside of our expectations, we experience minor shell shock—there’s a small tear in our country’s consciousness. If our brains could talk, they’d say we all looked like Swiss cheese.
Our collective fragmented minds are seeking a new patchwork, paradigm. We are seeking to refashion our democracy, again, toward its highest ideals. When we vote, we are trying to vote our way through to a renewed land. And, I don’t only mean by what we do at the polls—although that is a crucial and sacred place to stake our claim in the change that we want to see—we are also voting in how we are living with, Tweeting at and talking to one another.
If what’s going on in the country as a whole, at the macro level, could apply to the personal level, I’d ask this question: What does it look like to remake oneself after one’s life has been shattered? For, a country is made up of individuals like the day is made up of the minutes within it. There might be some things we can glean—in this new dystopian reality—from a more personal struggle of resurgence, of reemerging from a life torn apart.
This is what the new Netflix series “Homecoming” with Julia Roberts explores. Robert’s plays Heidi Bergman, a novice psychologist, who “works to help transition military veterans back into civilian life—at least in flashbacks,” writes Karen Han in a review for Vox.com .
The veterans with whom Roberts’ character works struggle with survivor’s guilt and what it means to piece their lives back together. Ironically, after working as a psychologist at a highly controversial veteran treatment facility, as it is later revealed, Roberts’ character finds herself working a low-wage job as a waitress just a few years later .
In the present, Roberts’ character while working the waitress job is approached by Shea Whigham, who plays a Defense Department auditor, about her time working with her former employer. During that point “her new life starts to fragment” and she embarks upon the “thorny detangling process” of coming to terms with a tragic life event that she can barely remember.
At the Homecoming treatment facility where Robert’s character worked, the executive for the Geist Group, Bobby Cannavale, played by Colin Belfast, seems to have been “more interested in extracting ‘data’ from the vets, for some unknown purpose, than helping them” . James Poniewozik in his article, “The Machinery of Corruption,” so deftly encapsulates what “Homecoming” is about, “Part of what ‘Homecoming’ asks is: How responsible do you have to be for a thing before you’re morally responsible for it? How high up in an organization” .
We solve for other people's weaknesses.
For all of what Robert’s character has seemed to learn reintegrating soldiers back into civilian life, she is having trouble herself metabolizing what it means to simply make a living after her world has been torn asunder. Slowly the reality hits her that she may have been performing a noble service for a nefarious company. This is all the while, while the Defense Department auditor who Whigham plays, at each inquiry, shakes the thin and fragile fabric she’s called her “new life.”
Her own mind seems to have been Swiss-cheesed in a way.
A fraying life is not some stigma to avoid. It is the realization that the entire world is a network of fallibility. We solve for other people's weaknesses. They solve for our own. When people say, "Have faith," what they mean is that we cannot rely on our own strengths. We work in agreement with others toward a goal.
The unfortunate aspect of this is that throughout history—when we have sought something upon which to stake our faith, our claim—humans have tended to blindly trust leaders who have mismanaged that faith; the same way Belfast’s character mismanages the psychologist’s talents and the recovery space of the veterans themselves.
Han describes "Homecoming" as having an “aura of unsolvability” . What is more unsolvable than the work we do? The more we build. The more things break. We may build a new life. Yet, as spiritual financial guru Dave Ramsey says, “Murphy and his cousins move in” .
We may rebuild our minds, set them on a course, let them alone and are later astonished at the wake of calamity they leave behind. Like our minds, we have to when we see ourselves slipping, get up, dust off the cobwebs and keep it sharp so that we wrangle this flesh of life we call a body--and get to where we planned on going.
Our minds are like our country. We have to fashion it, to check on each other and our leaders—and vote at each cycle of life in order to wrangle our actions toward the arc of justice.
Otherwise--it will slip from any iota of recognizability.