Words of Wisdom
cards and 15 activities to spark conversations and make sense of learning.
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|Simply Exact||Fog||Year-End Review|
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My friend Sarah likes to be precise. Send her a simple email, she'll reply with an essay. She wants to be clear, exact, understood. But, by hearing so many details, you begin to wonder about things that hadn't occurred to you.
You write to Sarah for clarification. She replies with more specifics, leaving you curious about a few instances she hasn't outlined. After another round of messages, you find yourself questioning the meaning and looking for hidden implications. Sarah's "clarity" becomes a fog of confusion. Her main point has been obscured.
Sometimes, fewer words can mean more.
Having temporarily relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area, I expected to see much more of the misty stuff. But during more than two months, there have been about 5 cloudy days and perhaps two that were really foggy. Maybe the California drought has siphoned the fog away. Maybe it's my location in the East Bay across from the city. Whatever the reason, the fog never lasts long. At 8:00 AM yesterday it looked like a totally mist-filled morning. But within 15 minutes the wind swept all traces of vapor from the sky.
I'm not complaining. I love the sun - and I enjoy fog too. Whether at home in Vermont or here in San Francisco, fog offers a quiet gentle atmosphere for reflection. From my window, starched sheets of mist float over a narrow creek bed obscuring and exposing at the same time. What will be revealed next? What is to come? The possibility and potential are palpable.
Sandburg's poem captures this feeling of silent mystery. Discoveries crouch, just hidden. Watch carefully or they will move on!
Yes, a sun-soaked morning screams, "Get up and get moving!" But a fog-filled morning whispers, "Wait, listen, I am about to show you something important - but you must look for it."
*The Poetry Foundation
in the Fog
Sometimes fog is an opportunity to be quiet and reflective. After all, it's not safe to move too quickly when you can't see anything! It makes sense to sit.
Yet at other times, it's just as unsafe to stay still. I learned this while driving a twisted mountain road from Riobamba to Cuenca in Ecuador. For two hours we inched along the steep mountain side somehow finding our way between a sheer cliff and a very deep ditch. It would have made sense to stop except there was no place to pull over. I was afraid of being hit if we didn't keep moving and it would soon be dark.
The best course was to keep an eye on the white line at the side of the road and watch for oncoming traffic.
You don't have to see fog to be surrounded by it. The 99-Word Story gives one example of how we might obscure what could be in plain sight. A desire for precision creeps on silent cat feet to envelop and confuse.
And this kind of fog takes other forms: having so many choices that we are befuddled by indecision; being distracted by crazy-making and chaos; balancing the stresses of over commitment; lacking the will to change; focusing on tiny details while avoiding the big picture.
- Once enwrapped in the metaphorical mists, it's easy to stay cloudy. Here's why:
- Information overload dulls the senses and fills all the quiet reflective spaces of our lives
- Interruptions, especially from our electronics, force our brains to reboot their complex thinking
- Unclear goals make our direction uncertain and our destination fuzzy
- Entropy and stagnation entrench us in conformity
- A profusion of choices leads to the fear of making the wrong choice
Tackling a big problem alone strains our physical, mental, and emotional energy How can we stay clear-headed and make our way through the fog? Here are some strategies:
- Recognize you are in the fog. Don't let it creep in on cat feet.
- See the danger. Assess your risk.
- Strain & focus your senses. Stay alert and vigilant.
- Be still but be ready to move.
- Find an anchor or safe location. Look for guideposts and markers.
- Increase communication. Follow a guide.
- Test by taking tentative steps. Introduce a small change.
Fog. It's in the forecast. It's part of the climate. Let's use it and learn from it but avoid creating it!
The last month of the year offers a good excuse to be reflective, to count up accomplishments, and project into the year ahead. Perhaps you do that every year, or even more often than annually. Do you have a favorite method for your year-end review? Here is one self-reflection activity based on our foggy theme. Try it by yourself or with a group of friends or teammates.
Materials: A sheet of paper and a pen for each person
Time: 20 minutes
Participants: Any number
Give these instructions as you demonstrate:
Take a large sheet of paper and cut a small hole, about 2 cm. in diameter, in the middle.
Hold the paper up to one eye and look through the hole focusing on a specific object. Now slowly move the paper away from your face while keeping your target object visible through the hole.
What do you notice as the paper moves further from you? Compare what you see when you remove the paper. Alternating between the two views the object might appear closer when you look through the hole. It's almost like having a telescope. The small peep hole focuses your attention allowing you to ignore a huge expanse of detail. At the same time, the paper restricts your visual field defining your point of view.
Ask yourself some questions:
- What do the paper and the hole represent for you?
- What are you focused on that is worthy of your full attention?
- What is blocked from your understanding?
- What is obscured by information overload, interruptions, unclear goals, entropy, too many choices, or going it alone?
- Do you feel a sense of foreboding or a tingle of anticipation? Why?
Then ask the critical question: Should you cut through the fog or is this a time for waiting?
Jot a few notes on your paper to answer some of these questions. Save the paper where you'll find it in another month or two. End this activity with a review of the methods for moving through the fog in the IDEAS section of this newsletter.
If you try this activity, please what happened and what you learned. Your thoughts might be just what I need to get through the fog sometime!
Bonjour, cher ami
Thank you and a wink for including Carl Sandburg's poem, proof of your premise that sometimes fewer words are better.
An underlying message, I think, in the poem, is about non-verbal communication, of which cats are such masters. Perhaps an exercise in which the participants sit and blink slowly at each other, without talking, as cats do to communicate their affection ? No words at all, why not ? Amitiés, Pierre Corbeil
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