The Land of Broken Legs – As You Were

As You Were – looking for connections between the work of Brené Brown and Daniel Quinn as I revisit them in book clubs. See the introductory post for what this is all about. In this post, I look at:

  • Daniel Quinn Book Club — Beyond Civilization: Humanity’s Next Great Adventure, session 1 reading: Part One: Closing In on the Problem through Part Two: Closing In on the Process
  • Brené Brown Book Club — Daring Greatly, starting session 4 reading: Chapter 7: Wholehearted Parenting: Daring to Be the Adults We Want Our Children to Be through End

(Commissions earned on Amazon links.)

Beyond Civilization: Humanity’s Next Great Adventure

Part One: Closing In on the Problem

“Tribalism worked well for them for millions of years, but there cam a time when they decided to experiment with a new social organization (called civilization) that was hierarchical rather than tribal.” Brené’s focus on power-over vs. power-with relationships directly parallels Quinn’s focus on civilization vs. tribes.

“… there’s nothing the people of our culture want more than change. They desperately want to change themselves and the world around them. The reason isn’t hard to find. They know there’s something wrong — wrong with themselves and wrong with the world.” Echoes Brené’s notion that people in scarcity/shame culture believe there’s something wrong with themselves.

“Here’s how old minds think of stopping us. They think of stopping us the way they stopped poverty, the way they stopped drug abuse, the way they stopped crime. With programs. Programs are sticks planed in the mud of a river to impede its flow. The sticks do impede its flow. A little. But they never stop the flow, and they never turn the river aside.” Parallels Brené’s thoughts on strategy (programs) as opposed to culture.

“The river I mentioned earlier is the river of vision. Our culture’s river of vision is carrying us toward catastrophe. Sticks planted in the mud may impede the flow of the river, but we don’t need to impede its flow, we need to divert it into an entirely new channel. If our culture’s river of vision ever begins to carry us away from catastrophe and into a sustainable future, then programs will be superfluous. When the river’s flowing where you want it to flow, you don’t plant sticks to impede it.” Again, Brené on strategy (programs) as opposed to culture (vision).

“Even after we’ve acknowledged that programs don’t work and never have worked, however, it still seems natural to ask, ‘If not programs, then what?’
“I’d like to recast the question this way: ‘If programs don’t work, then what does work?’ In fact, I have an even better way of asking the question: ‘What works so well that programs are superfluous? What works so well that it never occurs to anyone to create programs to make it work?’
“The answer to all these questions is: vision.” Compare Brené affirming that culture is more important than strategy.

“One in the land of broken legs, in inhabitants heard rumors of another land far away where people moved around freely, because no one’s legs were broken. They scoffed at these tales, saying, ‘How could anyone get around without crutches?'” Compare Brené talking about people who uphold shame as useful/appropriate/necessary.

Part Two: Closing In on the Process

“It’s tempting to imagine that agriculture represents the path of least resistance for people trying to make a living, but in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Growing your own food represents the path of greatest resistance, and the more of it you grow, the greater the resistance. It’s been established beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is an exact correlation between how hard you have to work to stay alive and how great your dependence on agriculture is. Those who grow the least also work the least, and those who grow the most also work the most… For a food-hungry person to trade hunting-gathering for farming is like a money-hungry person trading a job that pays five dollars an hour for one that pays two dollars an hour. It makes utterly no sense, and the hungrier you are, the less sense it makes.” Consider Brené’s Guidepost about cultivating rest and play and letting go of productivity and exhaustion.

“Of course, none of them actually vanished. They just took up less conspicuous ways of making a living, either by foraging or by some mixture of foraging and farming.” Previous civilization-abandoners are, then, role models for living out that Guidepost for Wholehearted Living.

“For example, the Maya, the Olmec and the people of Teotihuacán became rigidly stratified into wealthy all-powerful elites and impoverished, powerless masses, who naturally did all the grunt work that made these civilizations magnificent.” Compare Brené on power-over and productivity/exhaustion as distinct from power-with and rest/play/belonging.

“But this is exactly what was missing in the minds of these peoples. When they no longer liked what they were building, they were able to walk away from it, because they didn’t have the idea that it must continue at any cost and not be abandoned under any circumstances.” Compare Brené on the struggle it takes for individuals to be willing to change as opposed to staying rigid.

“The is an example of the Cultural Fallacy, which is: The memes of our culture arise from the very structure of the human mind itself, and if you don’t have them, there must be something wrong with you.” Compare not directly in Brené’s work but, on the individual level, projection bias.

“The meme we brought with us to the New World was nothing new. We’d been spreading it from the beginning: Ours is the one RIGHT way for people to live and everyone should live like us. Possessing this meme, we made ourselves cultural missionaries to the world, and, lacking this meme, the Maya, the Olmec, and the others did not.” Again, compare Brené on rigidity vs. Wholehearted people lacking rigidity.

Daring Greatly

Chapter 7: Wholehearted Parenting: Daring to Be the Adults We Want Our Children to Be

“I say ‘dangerous’ because certainty often breeds absolutes, intolerance, and judgment. That’s why parents are so critical of one another — we latch on to a method or approach and very quickly our way becomes the way.” Compare Quinn on Taker culture feeling it has the one right way for people to live.

“Somewhere buried deep inside our hopes and fears for our children is the terrifying truth that there is no such thing as perfect parenting and there are no guarantees.” Perhaps this truth is only terrifying to people brought up in a culture of shame and scarcity — Quinn talks about tribal ways of managing life as being imperfect but entirely satisfactory for a tribe’s members.

“Have no doubt, however, that when it comes to our sense of love, belonging, and worthiness, we are most radically shaped by our families of origin — what we hear, what we are told, and perhaps most importantly, how we observe our parents engaging with the world… As Joseph Chilton Pearce writes, ‘What we are teaches the child more than what we say, so we must be what we want our children to become.'” Compare Quinn on Mother Culture.

“Are we sending messages to our sons that we expect them to be emotionally stoic, to put money and status first, and to be aggressive? Are we teaching our sons to respect women and girls as smart and capable people, not objects?” Compare Taker culture’s general characteristics in terms of abhorring wildness, prizing status, habitually engaging in aggression and objectification/othering.

“Knowing as we do that shame is positively correlated with addiction, depression, aggression, violence, eating disorders, and suicide, and that guilt is inversely correlated with these outcomes, we naturally would want to raise children who use more guilt self-talk than shame.” Compare Taker culture’s general characteristics.

“Shame corrodes the part of us that believes we can do and be better. When we shame and label our children, we take away their opportunity to grow and try on new behaviors.” Compare Taker culture believing that humans are inherently flawed (can’t do and be better) and believing that it has the one right way (incapable of trying on new behaviors).

“When you listen to conversations, or read books and blogs, about controversial and/or divisive issues in parenting, like how and where women labor, circumcision, vaccinations, co-sleeping, feeding, etc., what you hear is shame and what you see is hurt. You see people — mostly mothers — engaging in the exact same behaviors that I earlier defined as shaming: name calling, put-downs, and bullying.
“Here’s what I’ve come to believe about these behaviors: You can’t claim to care about the welfare of children if you’re shaming other parents for the choices they’re making.” Raises the question: which parenting practices give or deny support for shame/scarcity culture itself? Even if those could be found that deny support for it, Brené’s point holds that promoting those practices must be done without shaming in order to lead to the broader results those parents want.

“Daring greatly means finding our own path and respecting what the search looks like for other folks.” Compare Taker culture’s belief about one right way to live and the countless places one-right-way thinking then trickles throughout Taker culture.

“‘I’m so tired of being the other!” Compare Taker culture intrinsically fostering othering.

“What do parents experience as the most vulnerable and bravest thing that they do in their efforts to raise Wholehearted children? I thought it would take days to figure out, but as I looked over the field notes, the answer was obvious: letting their children struggle and experience adversity.” Compare Quinn in The Tales of Adam, the story about the lions’ avoidance of adversity leading to their undoing.

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