Prior Quotes of the Week
First Quarter, 1999
(books may be ordered through our online
Quote of the Week (1999.03.28)
Context has become absolutely essential
to grasping what is taking place in society, no matter what the area of examination.
Seeing the whole range of actions in a set pattern . . . is essential to understanding
the specifics of what needs to be done. . .
Data, information and knowledge are
levels of awareness along a continuous scale. Data are facts in isolation -
the specific number of this, or the particular color of that. In common language,
"Do you have the data?" means do you have specific, unconnected facts.
Information emerges when data are combined to make a point about a topic. Again
in common language, "information retrevial" mans to acquire data within
a specific category, or to piece together data in one category. Knowledge is
information in context. In common language, "she's knowledgeable"
means she has accumulated information within a larger context of theory or experience
and has that learning at her disposal. All of this differ from wisdom, which
would be knowledge in perspective.
R. Hey and Peter D. Moore, The
Caterpillar Doesn't Know : How Personal Change is Creating Organizational Change,
pp. 247. A Free Press Book, 1998.
Quote of the Week (1999.03.21)
I have an appointment with spring. She comes to the window to wake me, and I go forth
an hour or two earlier than usual. Though as yet the trill of the chip-bird is not
heard — added — like the sparkling bead which bursts on bottled cider or ale. When
we wake indeed, with a double awakening — not only from our ordinary nocturnal slumbers,
but from our diurnal—we burst through the thallus of our ordinary life with a proper
exciple, we wake with emphasis.
Henry David Thoreau, On
Man & Nature, a compilation by Arthur G. Volkman, pp. 7. The Peter Pauper
Press, Inc. 1960. (Out of Print)
Quote of the Week (1999.03.14)
Once Upon a New Economy ...
After prayers, the next thing to be mass-printed on paper was money. The very oldest
paper money, however, was neither mass-printed nor used as currency. Produced from
the first year after Ts'ai Lun's discovery, and solely symbolic, it was called spirit
money. Spirit money and spirit paper—which came also to be block-printed to represent
all sorts of worldly goods; hats, shoes, horses, carts, treasure chests with little
silver paper locks—were burned in effigy at Chinese funerals as a way of ensuring
that the departing spirits would bring happiness and riches with them into the next
Printed paper money as we know it appeared in China at the turn of the ninth century.
It was called flying money. Certainly it flowed more freely than did metal coins,
or pigs or rice or cloth; it hovered oddly free from any palpable tether to the goods
it represented. In 1298 Marco Polo, trading in the Orient, wrote of this phenomenon,
this feat of abstraction: money was the first printed paper ever seen by a European
traveler. It was perhaps some time, however, before paper currency got quite wholly
assimilated into the realm of the abstract. A story about Emperor Hung Wu, who ruled
China from 1368 to 1398, tells that he wanted to create suitably ceremonious paper
for the printing of money; he also wanted it to be difficult to counterfeit. One
of his advisors came up with the suggestion of blending the hearts of great literary
men into the standard mulberry bark pulp. Luckily, the empress declared that the
heart of a true literary man could be found in his writings; therefore, only their
manuscripts and not their organs were appropiated for the mixture.
Leah Hager Cohen, Glass,
Paper, Beans : Revelations on the Nature and Value of Ordinary Things,
pp. 78 - 79. A Doubleday/Currency Book, 1997.
Quote of the Week (1999.03.07)
A heirarchy of embedded frames: "For more information,
My chief problem is what to study. Something empirical, something hard. My prospect
of success depends on where in the hierarchy I attach myself. I start with top magnification,
fix my lens on cosmology. If that level remains abstract, I could drop to the step
below, stop down an order of magnitude, make due with astronomy. A working knowledge
of galaxies must be of some use in naming the place where I'm left.
But the light-year is too long for me to get my bearing. I must reduce the magnification
another exponent, start my study with the earth under my lens. A geologist, I suppose,
or oceanographer. But the explanations of this critical niche are still too large.
I am after not earth science but its underwriting specific. Down another order. The
search for a starting point begins to resemble that painful process of elimination
from freshman year, spent in the university clinic, a knot accross my abdomen from
having to choose which million disciplines I would exclude myself from forever.
This time I narrow ruthlessly. I sharpen my focus to the raw component populations
inhabiting this planet. Zoologist, anthropologist? Neither would yet clamp down on
the why I'm after. I go a finer gauge, assuming that understanding can be best arrived
at by isolating terms. That means downshifting again to the vocabulary of political
science. The first limb of the heirarchy that speaks human dialect: what do we need,
and how best to get it? The question is powerful, but as I zoom in on the increasingly
precise concern, explainations recede, grow fuzzy and qualified. A faction of me
secedes, insists that political science can be understood only in terms of constituent
economics. But the study of goods, services, and distribution produces more problems
Herds, it seems, are hundreds of individuals. Feeling no edge, I scale myself down
into psychology. Here my lens reaches that cusp magnification: one-to-one. But a
complete explanation of behavior requires somatic cause. Focal ratio flips, increases
again, now in the microscopic direction. Psych shades over the bio threshold. The
gradients, the gauges are continuous. Fields of study, like spectral bands, differ
only in wavelength. No discrete moment when red ends and orange begins. Yet every
constituent bent from white has its precise and particular name.
The final gloss hovers always one frame beneath. Physiology. Biophysics. Biochemistry.
More light. Molecular biology, the transitional rung where Dr. Ressler hung.
Downwards toward delineation, I consider studying chemistry. Unsatisfied, I pass
another strangeness barrier, into quantum physics, beyond conceptual modeling. A
push for terminal detail takes me into the statistics of perhaps. Here, in the domain
of sub-subatomics, whre I expect to butt up at last against fundamental phenomena,
I find, instead, a field veering startingly philosophical: eleven dimensions, superstrings,
the eightfold way. Like a Klein bottle, insides twisting seamlessly onto out, small-scale
physics drops off the edge of formal knowledge back into cosmology.
Richard Powers, The
Gold Bug Variations, pp. 88 - 89. A HarperPerennial Book, 1991.
Quote of the Week (1999.02.28)
Conjuring Abstract Ideas
The organization has formed ideas about its world, the entities that make it up,
and its relationships to other organizations. However, the ideas it has formed about
itself are at different levels of abstraction. If the organization were to think
of itself as a complex adaptive system, it would recognize that it needs to understand
that it lives with the ideas of complexity just as much as it lives with a lot of
other factors in its environment. Within the organization, we have to find some way
of utilizing the ideas that facilitate adaption and recognize those that don't. We
must then focus our attention on those that do, prioritizing them while seeing the
patterns of their relatedness to each other. Some ideas shape other ideas and provide
access and entrèe to those shaped ideas, because we can understand them as
representations and formulations, in terms of yet more encompassing formulations
The more abstract the idea or formulation is, the greater the number of other
ideas it can include. We can then select from those ideas those which can be used
most effectively for successful adaptation. This adaptation, then, derives directly
from the power of the abstract idea to generate a broad range of ideas and behaviors.
What we are suggesting is that a business look at the most abstract ideas it can
conjure up about what it does. We have already seen how one abstract idea - providing
service to customers - can lead to different behaviors than an abstract idea which
holds financial gain on each transaction is more important than service. This is
the business's essence stated most simply. These larger ideas shape some of the smaller
ideas. In looking at the pragmatic value of an idea, let us start with a simple idea
(the more abstact an idea is, the simpler it is): that a business is a complex adaptive
system. That is a very abstract statement about the way a business thinks of itself
and subsequently behaves, one that shapes and forms everything that flows from it.
We can refer other ideas back to it and ask whether fit or don't fit. We can look
to that idea for clarification or enlightenment. This idea, by giving shape to
other ideas, allows us to make distinctions between ideas that are relevant or important
and those that are not.
Howard Sherman and
Ron Schultz, Open
Boundaries : Creating Business Innovation Through Complexity, pp. 148
- 149. A Perseus Book, 1998.
Quote of the Week (1999.02.21)
High Capability Means Higher Challenge
To devolve demands going against all the best qualities of an organization all
at once. The organic world offers a number of lessons in this regard. Biotechnology
is built on the knowledge that most genes don't code for anything themselves. Most
genes regulate - turn off and on - other genes. The genetic apparatus of a cell,
then, is a dense network of hyperlinked interactions. Any gene is indirectly controlled
by many other genes.
Thus, most attributes in a biological organism usually travel in the genome as
loosely coupled associations. Blue eyes and freckles, say. Or red hair and a hot
temper. Two important consequences follow from this. First, to get rid of the redhead's
feisty temperament by evolution may also mean - at least at first - getting rid of
the red hair. . . .
Companies work the same way. The interlocking guild of competencies, which gives
them their advantages, becomes a drawback during change. The increased interlinkage
of the network economy heightens this dilemma. In the network economy, the skills
of individual employees are more tightly connected, the activities of different departments
more highly coordinated, the goals of various firms more independent. The net brings
the influence of formerly unrelated forces to bear upon each potential move
The more succesfully integrated a firm's capabilities are, the harder it is to
shift its expertise by changing just a little. . . .
Kevin Kelly, New
Rules for the New Economy; 10 Radical Strategies for a Connected World,
pp. 88. A Viking Book, 1998.
Quote of the Week (1999.02.14)
with the Invisible Forces
Healing, ritual, and community - the goods that the indigenous world can offer
to the West are the very things that the modern world is struggling with. Ritual
in the indigenous world is aimed at producing healing, and the loss of such healing
in the modern world might be responsible for the loss of community that we see. The
problems experienced in the West, from the pain of isolation to the stress of hyperactivity,
are brought on by the loss of community.
The problems that come from the loss of ritual are less clear, but it is the absence
of ritual that the West is struggling with, the loss of connection with the unseen
aspects of the natural world that have the ability to bring the needed healing. The
West is also struggling with a confusing notion of ritual, the word usually refers
to some sort of dark, pagan, and archaic practice that has no place in modern society.
The only accepted rituals are ceremonial practices with clearly predictable content
and outcome, such as what can be seen in the Sunday church service of one of the
organized religions. When we talk of ritual here we are talking about something much
deeper. We are talking about the weaving of individual persons and gifts into a community
that interacts with the forces of the natural world. We are talking about a gathering
of people with a clear healing vision and a trusting intent toward the forces of
the invisible world.
What villagers bring to a ritual are trust that the invisible forces will heal
and the knowledge of what needs healing. These are the only things they know ahead
of time; the rest, the shape and outcome of the ritual, is put in the hands of the
Great Ones. The road from the felt need for healing to the healing itself is paved
with gestures, touch, sound, melody, and cadence, and most of these are spontaneous
activities, unpredictable in their outcomes. When villagers act together on their
need for healing and engage in such spontaneous gestures, they are requesting the
presence of the invisible forces and are participating with those forces in creating
a harmony or symbiosis. This partnership replentishes each person by restoring his
or her relationship to nature . . . Ritual is an art, an art that weaves and dances
with symbols, and helping to create that art rejuvenates participants. Everyone comes
away from a ritual feeling deeply transformed. This restoration is the healing that
ritual is meant to provide.
Malidoma Patrice Somè,
Healing Wisdom of Africa - Finding Life Purpose Through Nature, Ritual, and
Community, pp. 22 - 23. A Tarcher/Putnam Book, 1998.
Quote of the Week (1999.02.07)
The Feelings of Heart Work
Feelings are quite literally energy in motion (e-motion). Positive feelings create
coherent heart rhythms; negative feelings produce incoherence in the heart's electromagnetic
waves, thus depleting energy. Therefore, we energize or deplete our mind-body systems
with each perceptual choice we make. As Goswami (1993) suggests, Descartes' famous
words cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) could, perhaps, more
accurately be stated as opto, ergo sum (I choose, therefore I am).
Choosing to see the positve aspects of all the events in our lives changes our minds
as well as our hearts. As the heart's rhythmic beating patterns become coherent,
the brain's electromagnetic waves (EEG) entrain accordingly. In this state of heart-brain
syncronicity, we not only feel more vital and alive, we experience greater clarity
of thinking and we generate more creative ideas.
Leaps: 7 Skills for Workplace ReCreation, pp. 62,
A Butterworth Heinemann Book, 1999.
Quote of the Week (1999.01.31)
Creative Chaos Means Each of Us
The Romantics pictured the creator as genius and hero, but this first lesson of
chaos is that creativity is available to everyone. We can all access an ability to
let ego die for a while and touch the chaotic ground from which forms and orders
are constantly bubbling up. Creativity is not just about what takes place in traditionally
recognized creative fields. It's what happens in our small and large moments of empathy
and transformation, the moments when we contact our authentically individual and
therefore universal experience of truth. The British psychologist N. K. Humphrey
claims that our greatest use of the human creative intellect is not in art or science
but in the day-to-day spontaneous acts by which we hold our society together.
In spite of this, many of us don't feel creative and persistently block the action
of creativity in much of our lives. We lose it in our obsessions with control and
power; in our fear of mistakes; in the constricted grip of our egos; in our fetish
with remaining within comfort zones; in our continuous persuit of repetitive or merely
stimulating pleasure; in our restricting our lives to the containers of what other
people think; in our adherence to the apparent safety of closed orders; and in our
deep-seated belief that the individual exists in an irreducible opposition to others
and the world "outside" of the self.
Chaos theory teaches that when our psychological perspective shifts - through
moments of amplification and bifurcation - our degrees of freedom expand and we experience
being and truth. We are then creative. And our true self lies there.
and F. David Peat, Seven
Life Lessons of Chaos: Timeless Wisdom from the Science of Change,
pp. 28 - 29, A HarperCollins Book, 1999.
Quote of the Week (1999.01.24)
Celebrating the Seeds of Knowledge:
Ignorance and Curiosity
Knowledge is at the heart of a dynamic civilization - but so is surprise. A dynamic
civilization maximizes the production and use of knowledge by accepting widespread
ignorance. At the simplest level, only people who know they do not know everything
will be curious enough to find things out. To celebrate the pursuit of knowledge,
we must confess our ignorance; both the celebration and that confession are central
to dynamic culture. Dynamism gives individuals both the freedom to learn and the
incentives to share what they discover. It not only permits but encourages decentralized
experiments and competitive trail and error - the infinite series by which new knowledge
is created. And, just as important, a dynamic civilization allows its members to
gain from the things they themselves do no know but other people do. Its systems
and institutions evolve to let people develop, extend, and act on their particular
knowledge without asking permission of a higher, but less informed, authority.
A dynamic civilization appreciates, protects, and nurtures specialized, dispersed,
and often unarticulated knowledge.
Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict over Creativity, Enterprise, and
Progress , pp. 88, A Free Press Book, 1998
Quote of the Week (1999.01.17)
Coming to Knowing Potential:
Testing the Limits of Skill and Commitment
A limitless commitment to learning was less important than knowing the limits
we had and what they were. Our training was a matter of defining our limits to ourselves
as well as a way of sharpening our skills. Stalking Wolf taught us the basic principles
of survival. The essential question anyone needs to ask to survive is "What
do I most need and how can I get it?" Built into that question is the idea of
knowing how much each thing is needed and how much each thing is worth. We learned
those limits by testing, by experimentation. . . .
We learned two things from our tests, the limits of our power and the limits
of our will. One was a measurement of our skill and the other was the measurement
of our personality. If we were in the woods and without food, we knew how long that
fact would make us uncomfortable and how long before it would affect what we could
do. We always knew how long before we would have to think in survival terms and that
thinking allowed us to function normally in what would have seemed like life-or-death
situations to anyone else. Most people underestimate their abilities because they
have never had a chance to test their limits.
Tom Brown, Jr. as told to William
Jon Watkins, The
p. 116, Berkeley Books, 1979.
Quote of the Week (1999.01.10)
... It is the rule of thumb among cognitive scientists that unconscious
thought is 95 percent of all thought - and that may be a serious underestimate. Moreover,
the 95 percent below the surface of conscious awareness shapes and structures all
conscious thought. If the cognitive unconscious were not there doing this shaping,
there could be no conscious thought.
The cognitive unconscious is vast and intricately structured. It includes
not only all our automatic cognitive operations, but also all our implicit knowledge.
All of our knowledge and beliefs are framed in terms of a conceptual system that
resides mostly in the cognitive unconscious.
Our unconscious conceptual system functions like a "hidden hand"
that shapes how we conceptualize all aspects of our experience. This hidden hand
gives form to the metaphysics that is built into our ordinary conceptual systems.
It creates the entities that inhabit the cognitive unconscious - abstract entities
like friendships, bargains, failures, and lies - that we use in ordinary unconscious
reasoning. It thus shapes how we automatically and unconsciously comprehend what
we experience. It constitutes our unreflective common sense.
George Lakoff and Mark
in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought,
p. 13, Basic Books, 1999.
Quote of the Week (1999.01.03)
The fusion of movement, thought and feeling
A major turning point in my thinking about the hand came as a result of
a presentation I made to a group of musicians about a particularly difficult and
puzzling problem called musician's cramp. I had brought along a video clip to show
during the talk. It was a brief clinical-musical medley of hands that had either
been injured or had mysteriously lost their former skill; formerly graceful, lithe,
dazzlingly fast hands could barely limp through the notes they sought to draw out
of pianos, guitars, flutes, and violins. Just a few minutes after the film began,
a guitarist in the audience fainted. I was amazed. This was not the sort of grotesque
display one sometimes sees in medical movies; these were just musicians unable to
play their instruments. When the same thing happened at subsequent presentations
- a second and then a third time - I was genuinely puzzled. I decided I must have
missed subtleties or hidden meaning in these films apparent only to very few viewers.
It was not until much later that I came to understand the real message these fainting
musicians were expressing.
I now understand that I had failed to appreciate how the commitment to a
career in music differs from even the most serious amateur interest. Although I had
worked very hard as a beginning piano student, took the work seriously and spent
a great deal of time at it, it was not my life. Consequently I did not anticipate
the profound empathy for the injured musicians that would be felt by some viewers
of these films. Moreover - and this is a lesson I learned, one person at a time,
as I conducted interviews with nonmusicians for this book - when personal desire
prompts anyone to learn to do something well with the hands, an extremely complicated
process is initiated that endows the work with a powerful emotional charge. People
are changed, significantly and irreversibly it seems, when movement, thought, and
feeling fuse during the active, long-term persuit of personal goals.
Serious musicians are emotional about their work not simply because they
are committed to it, nor because their work demands the public expression of emotion.
The musicans' concern for their hands is a by-product of the intense striving through
which they turn them into the essential physical instrument for realization of their
own ideas or the comunication of closely held feelings. The same is true of sculptors,
woodcarvers, jewelers, jugglers, and surgeons when they are fully immersed in their
work. It is more than simple satisfaction or contentedness: musicians, for example,
love to work and are miserable when they cannot; they rarely welcome an unscheduled
vacation unless it is very brief. How peculiar it is that people who normally permit
themselves so little rest from an extreme and, by some standards, unrewarding discipline
cannot bear to be disengaged from it. The musician in full flight is an ecstatic
creature, and the same person with wings clipped is unexploded dynamite with the
fuse lit. The word "passion" describes attachments that are this strong.
As I came to learn how such attachments are generated, it became the mission of this
book to expose the hidden physical roots of the unique human capacity for passionate
and creative work. It is now abundantly clear to me that these roots are more than
deep and more than merely ancient. They reach down, and backward in time, past
the dawn of human history to the beginning of primate life on this planet.
Frank R. Wilson,The
Hand; How its use shapes the brain, language, and human culture, pp.
5 - 6, A Random House Book, 1998
Other Prior Quotes:
October 3, 1998
through December 27, 1998
July 5, 1998 through
September 27, 1998
April 5, 1998
through June 28, 1998
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