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by: Bernard Teo

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Bernard Teo
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Sat 13 Mar 2004

Black Elk Speaks

Category : Commentary/blackelk.txt

I fill this
sacred pipe
with bark from
the red willow. But,
before we smoke, let us see,
how it is made, and what it means.
This eagle's feather represents the thoughts
of Man, and how they should rise high, like the eagle.

I don't where I first discovered it, but I've always liked this poetic rendition of the words of Black Elk (Chapter 1 of Black Elk Speaks).

"How it is made, and what it means." I thought about this while re-reading my last post - about how we don't think enough about the meaning of the tools we are using.

I'm thinking about events of ten years ago, about an organisation I had worked for, and the proposal paper that was written to standardise the organisation on Windows, which ultimately sounded the death knell for Mac, in this and in so many other organisations. I was thinking about how that paper was written on a Mac, and how it got through a few management levels, many of whom were also using the Mac to read, edit, and approve it.

When the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing, we have a clinical term for it - schizophrenia.

I don't really know who - except for a few people I know - really reads this weblog. But I write to untangle my own thoughts, and to see where I ought to be going.

I'm writing about how we don't reconcile what we are saying, and what we think we believe in, with what we're really doing. The management books are full of "delighting the customer", creating "stark raving fans", "building things to last", doing things "the right way", thinking "creatively", thinking "out of the box", "teaching elephants to dance", "passion for excellence", and "taking the path less traveled".

But the gurus don't seem to be able to recognise what they are writing in praise of, even when it hits them on the head.

Somewhere, along the line, we've got to reconcile all these. And think things through, if we are not to be humbug.

The problem with espousing these ideals and thinking out loud is that people may come along and try to make you live up to those ideals, to serve their own ends. For example, when they want help with their Mac. Or want support, free or otherwise, to the ends of the earth, for the things I've put up? Hey, after all the things you said in your 'blog. That's the danger. But we've got to move on. Like how the Vietnam War vets took to saying, "it don't mean nothin".

Writing is a good way to clarify one's thoughts, and to take part in shaping the emerging worldview (the Weltanschauung). And when it stops being fun, it should stop.

Posted at 1:57PM UTC | permalink

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