1318 Slices
Medium 9781855759466

CHAPTER FOUR. Hermeneutics: the art of creative understanding and life management

Rainer M. Holm-Hadulla Karnac Books ePub

In the view of its most prominent present-day representative, Hans Georg Gadamer, modern hermeneutics is no longer concerned exclusively with the interpretation of texts. Hermeneutic understanding is much broader in scope, a process in which, at a fundamental level, human beings understand, manage, and shape their individual and social realities.

All experience is conditional upon understanding. The human mind must be able to grasp the events crowding in on it if we are to experience ourselves as coherent individuals. In this sense, hermeneutic understanding is synonymous with the art of living. This art is one practised by each and every one of us in dealing with our everyday concerns, by teachers instructing their charges, by counsellors advising their clients, and by psychotherapists seeking to help their patients. It is invariably subjective, unique, it frequently defies reproduction, but for all that it does not stand in contradiction to rational thought.

Although, strictly speaking, the origin of the term hermeneutics has not been established beyond doubt, it is useful for our purposes to spend a little time looking at the role played by Hermes in Greek mythology. Hermes is first of all the herald and messenger of the gods, entrusted with the task of conveying, announcing, and translating divine messages to humanity. This makes him the interpreter not only of the laws from on high but also of Nature, which the Greeks understood as being divine. Hermes gives humans the language they need to experience and interact with the world. But also inherent in language is the possibility of concealment, distortion, and deception. It is in this context that we must regard the playful and roguish characteristics associated with Hermes.

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Medium 9781576752302

Choice 22: The Power of Purpose

Charles C. Manz Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.

—Viktor Frankl95

Difficult challenges and difficult feelings are an inevitable part of life. Sometimes things can seem so dark and gloomy that it may be all we can do just to carry on with our work and lives. These times are especially challenging when our efforts lack a sense of purpose. Eventually we must all face the questions: “What has my life contributed of lasting value? What was it all about? Why was I here at all?” And when these times come, we will be greatly aided if we have exercised the emotional discipline to harness the power of purpose.180

In his book The Power of Purpose, Richard Leider wrote:

Purpose is that deepest dimension within us—our central core or essence—where we have a profound sense of who we are, where we came from, and where we’re going. Purpose is the quality we choose to shape our lives around. Purpose is a source of energy and direction.96

Indeed, when life is its most challenging, we need a sense of meaning and purpose to provide us with the energy and direction that can help us sustain ourselves. But what can provide us with the sense of purpose we need? One primary source of purpose is service to others that is driven by an altruistic spirit. For those who might question the realism of prescribing altruistic service as a valuable source of finding meaningful purpose in our seemingly self-centered world, a creative perspective on the subject was proposed years ago.181

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Medium 9781605093512

THREE Claiming Your Selves

Marcia Reynolds Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

If you want to change how you relate to others and run your life, you have to first transform your concept of self. If you try to change your behavior without first transforming who you think you are, the changes will last a few days until you quit thinking about them. Then you will return to the same exhausting behaviors. Transformation is not a technical skill to be mastered. It is a process that includes identifying, reflecting, imagining, letting go, allowing things to unfold, and experimenting before you can step into the person you are most happy to be. The questions change from “What can I do?” to “Who can I be?” which takes some mental adjustment. The success you have created so far is built on what you brilliantly do. Now you have to define, refine and compose a new perception of who you are as you continue to perform.

One of the primary goals of coaching is to help you understand how your brain gives meaning to particular situations. Generally, you pay little attention to how you define the world around you as you go about your day. You have no knowledge that your brain is constantly scanning your environment, and then judging and explaining everything you see. This unconscious process enables you to act without having to think through every step. If you are working with a coach or someone adept in dialogue techniques, you can bring this process to light. You can explore the underlying beliefs that drive your behavior today, muse about what else is possible, speculate about the times you didn’t act on an option, dream about the future, and, if you want to, accept a bigger reality for yourself. As you explore and expand your perception, you will come to know that you can alter your “selves-concept” to better achieve your goals.

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Medium 9781887208086


David C. Korten Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of. And since Hiroshima we know what is at stake.1

Viktor E. Frankl

This troubled planet is a place of the most violent contrasts. Those that receive the rewards are totally separated from those who shoulder the burdens. It is not a wise leadership.2

Spock, “The Cloud Minders,” Star Trek

The “Cloud Minders” episode of the original science fiction television series Star Trek takes place on the planet Ardana. The planet’s rulers live in peaceful splendor in the beautiful city of Stratos suspended on a platform high in space. Far removed from the planet’s desolate surface, they are also far removed from the misery and violence endured by the Troglytes, who toil under slavelike conditions in the planet’s mines below to earn the interplanetary exchange credits used to import the luxuries that the Stratos rulers enjoy. The rulers consider their privilege to be wholly fitting given their perception that it is their superior intelligence, cultural refinement, and moral sensibility that set them apart from the Troglytes below.

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Medium 9781609949198

4 The Path of Stone

Anasazi Foundation Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

I mentioned that on the night of the great storm I found
safe passage on a formation of stone—one of many times
that stone has supported, taught, or saved me.

Taught? you might wonder. Stone teaches?


Every stone we observe has been on the earth for ages.
Should we be surprised if they possess wisdom
that we do not?

In the months and years I was separated from my people,
wisdom was at my feet all the while.

The stones that met my every step—
those silent patriarchs from years past—
they made wisdom my foundation.
Or at least offered to do so.

To become wise, I had to learn to hear their silence.

Initially, I heard stone only when I turned to it
for help—as when I needed to cross a stream
or when I desired to shape a tool.

But even when I have ignored it, stone has always
offered itself to me and supported my every step.

What has stone offered?

In a word:


Why peace?

Because amid turmoil, such as during the great storm,
stone has offered me safe passage.

When the earth has seemed to be shifting around me,
stone has been my sure foundation.

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