Grotesque nature

The Two-Headed Calf

Tomorrow when the farm boy find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.

But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass. And
as he stares into the skies, there are
twice as many stars as usual.

Laura Gilpin in The Hocus-Pocus of the Universe

Belden Lane refers to this poem in a chapter called Grace and the Grotesque in his book The Solace of Fierce Landscapes He writes: “The paradox of the grotesque is that it summons those who are whole to be broken and longs for those who are broken to be made whole.”

It’s not just common sense

Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people. W C Fields

The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. Vladimir Nabokov

Ivonprefontaine has a nice phrase from his wife Kathy in a comment on my last post about telling the time when the clocks change. He refers to “uncommon common sense”, a phrase from Kathy’s farming culture. “Common sense” was a phrase I woke up with this morning. Such telepathy across the world. This stream of consciousness comes from my having to justify the value of the common sense of a group of highly intelligent people (and the knowledge and understanding that their common sensing has developed over a period of time)  against inflexible bureaucratic procedures.

I grew up in a house of common sense. My questions were often answered with “it’s just common sense”. That is a frustrating answer for someone too young to understand how common sense is developed and who wants to question cultural forms.

Common sense approaches are developed from evidence that reaches beyond proscribed data bases, that are pre-conscious, sub-conscious and conscious; from our gut, our core, our thinking; from all our senses and sensing; from our relationships and our timing.

Common sense may often defy logic and challenge reason because it draws on deepest seated learning. It grows through communities of practice and cultural interactions which sometimes transform common sense out of all recognition.

I suggest that there is a common sense about common sense.

  • it makes sense
  • it frustrates the young
  • it builds intelligence
  • it represents a practical wisdom
  • it networks
  • it represents more than words can ever tell
  • it has its own ethic which is to be always open to learning (that is what senses do: they learn and sense)
  • its capacity for learning is infinite – each and every sense has mind blowing intelligence gathering capacity
  • it is the culture of community and home
  • it makes community wonderful.

The image is via Gail Bottomley

Leadership lessons

Photo by LHG Creative

For Dave Soleil, in this blogpost, leadership is a community action rather than a person. Soleil, like so many others, is critical of the traditional model of leadership which consists of a single heroic person that large groups of people follow.  Soleil describes this as the “find a parade and walk in front of it” model of leadership.

If leadership is identified with a particular person we are often left in a position of waiting on that leader (who we can also conveniently scapegoat). Soleil suggests that “if we see the visionary … as one of many pieces of a community-based leadership movement, we empower everyone in the community to contribute their gifts as a critical piece of the collective effort we call leadership.” Those gifts will include vision, co-ordination (of the collective effort), encouragement etc etc.

Leadership models forged in the heat of battle and industrial process have looked for control, but Meg Wheatley asks:

What if we stopped looking for control, and began, in earnest, to look for order? Order we will find in places we never thought to look before – all around us in nature’s living, dynamic systems. In fact, once we begin to look into nature with new eyes, the teachers are everywhere. (Leadership and the New Science, 1999, p25).

The flight of geese is one of nature’s stock supply teachers when it comes to leadership programmes. I have never heard the translation of Goosehonk, but my guess is that the question they are asking is not “who is the leader?” but “who is leading next?”.  Leadership is not something they leave to the next bird. There isn’t a goose who ducks the responsibility it shares with its whole community. Leadership is a community inter-action.

Lessons on leadership from nature

“There is a simpler, finer way to organize human endeavor. I have declared this for many years and seen it to be true in many places. This simpler way is demonstrated to us in daily life, not the life we see on the news with its unending stories of human grief and horror, but what we feel when we experience a sense of life’s deep harmony, beauty, and power, of how we feel when we see people helping each other, when we feel creative, when we know we’re making a difference, when life feels purposeful.”
“Over many years of work all over the world, I’ve learned that if we organize in the same way that the rest of life does, we develop the skills we need: we become resilient, adaptive, aware, and creative. We enjoy working together. And life’s processes work everywhere, no matter the culture, group, or person, because these are basic dynamics shared by all living beings.”
“Western cultural views of how best to organize and lead (now the methods most used in the world) are contrary to what life teaches. Leaders use control and imposition rather than participative, self-organizing processes. They react to uncertainty and chaos by tightening already feeble controls, rather than engaging people’s best capacities to learn and adapt. In doing so, they only create more chaos. Leaders incite primitive emotions of fear, scarcity, and self-interest to get people to do their work, rather than the more noble human traits of cooperation, caring, and generosity. This has led to this difficult time, when nothing seems to work as we want it to, when too many of us feel frustrated, disengaged, and anxious.”
“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”
“To resolve most dysfunctional situations, the first thing to do is flood them with information.”


The striking of a match is every bit as wonderful as the working of a brain; the union of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen in a molecule of water isevery bit as wonderful as the growth of a child. nature does not class her works in order of merit; everything is just as easy to her as everything else: she puts her wholemind into all that she does … she lives through all life, extends throaugh all extent, spreads undivided, operates unspent.
Stephen Paget