Monday, 14 January 2013

Graduation Day

The other day I had my graduation.  For the past year, I've been following a course held by MIT Sloan School of Management Executive programme called IDEAS Indonesia, together with United In Diversity.  It is a leadership course designed to bring together people from the three sectors, private, public and civil society, to teach us to co-create prototype initiatives to address some of the most pressing problems we face today.  The method is to breakdown the sectoral thinking and decision making that we normally employ when dealing with complex issues, by creating an environment that is inclusive and wholistic, and employing a mental model that goes to the source of our being and who we are.  What my professor calls Eco System, as opposed to Ego System.

As the programme comes to an end, I try to think back about what I've learned in the past year and what sticks in my mind.  Granted in the bigger scheme of things, this is not exactly earth shattering event.  Not unlike the discovery that scientists made a few days ago when they found a new subatomic particle, the Higgs boson - the particle that underlies all the matter in the universe and what helps give the universe size and shape.  The so-called 'god particle.'  This is a discovery that took over half a century to make.  And it should be celebrated by all of us on this planet that have a curiosity about our origins, and not only by a few scientists.
While my graduation may not have much by way of cosmic significance, nevertheless I try to view it as the culmination of a year-long journey of discovery and learning for me and my colleagues at the IDEAS programme.  And perhaps there is no harm to see it in the context of our relationship with the world, and even with the universe and the Higgs boson particle.

So, what have we learned?  What discovery has been made?

For one thing, we learn that as we wish to transform the world, the first thing we need to do is transform ourselves.  As the secret of the universe lies in its smallest particle, we learn that the secret of true knowledge lies in the source of knowing deep within ourselves.  All we have to do is to connect with it.

We also learn that in order to really connect, with ourselves and with others, we need to know the different levels of communicating; through deep observation and deep listening.  Not through superficial downloading and reconfirming of old opinions, but with open mind, open heart and open will.  We cannot get to the source of the human heart by closing barriers, in the same way that it is only in the breaking up of atoms can we get to the source of all things.

We learn that there are two sources of learning, by reflecting on the experience of the past and by learning from the future as it emerges.  While I'm still trying to grapple with the meaning of learning from the future, I understand that in order to embrace the future and all its generative potentials, we have to free ourselves from the burdens that we carry.  We have to let go of the past. We must suspend our voice of judgment, voice of cynicism and our voice of fear that keep us stuck in our old identity and narrowness.

We have to let go of our old habits and mental model so we can welcome new ideas, act with authenticity and create a new reality that is not merely a rerun of the old.

We learn to say goodbye to our small self, to merge with our big Self, the Self that connects us all to each other, to the planet and to the universe.  In other words, to become that god particle.  That magic particle that gives shape to who we are, our world and the universe that we inhabit.

As we let go, we have to let come.  This requires an awareness of being that keeps us rooted to the present.  We must always remain in the present.

Our learning is a journey, both individually and collectively.  But then life too is a journey.  A journey where the ride is more important than the destination.

In this I am reminded of an essay by Robert Hastings 'The Station' from which I quote an excerpt:

Sooner or later, however, we must realize there is no station in this life, no one earthly
place to arrive at once and for all. The journey is the joy. The station is an illusion--it
constantly outdistances us. Yesterday's a memory, tomorrow's a dream. Yesterday belongs to a
history, tomorrow belongs to God. Yesterday's a fading sunset, tomorrow's a faint sunrise. Only
today is there light enough to love and live.
(Desi Anwar:  First Published in The Jakarta Globe)

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