For the last quarter-century it has been my spiritual practice to get up before dawn and write. It connects my dreams with the rest of the world. I start writing what I think I know, and in the process, connect my hopes, loves and fears. The messages from my amygdala bounce around in my cerebral cortex, and I connect my sorry little self with the rest of this humongous, scary, exciting, incomprehensibly changing world. Continue reading →
An hour before dawn this morning, as my brain rose to semi-consciousness the day after the cyberknife (radiosurgery) finished killing the Melanoma cells in my brain, I noticed that my imagination was the first thing to come back on line. Images of people I’d never met before, words never heard before, thoughts I’d never thought before—and I said to myself, “Yea! I have my brain back! And look at what it’s doing! It’s playing.” Continue reading →
I just found out I have metastatic melanoma showing up in two small places in my brain, three in my lungs and one in my liver. Yes, melanoma—that notorious killer—has metastasized inside me.
I was surprised to discover that I already feel prepared. Maybe, because I spent the better part of my career being responsible for the integrity of a school, I find that maintaining integrity of my self is the same dynamic, spiritual process. Whether person, community, or organization, the keys to integrity are the same.
Static: I See that Word a Little Differently.
Stasis: All organisms have within them an integrity, something at their core—like instructions in the acorn of an oak—their genius, their character, their soul—that keeps urging them toward thriving and becoming what they are supposed to be in the midst of all the other activities of other organisms going on around them. Anthony Damassio even thinks he knows where that point of integrity is in the brains of creatures with brains: the brain stem.
Signals from all over my body go to this part of the brainstem every split second to get their initial sorting into messages of what’s happening to me. These messages, then, check in with other members of the Keep Rick Going Committee, then help to coordinate those responses into action, then monitor, then mobilize for the next action. Stasis is the conscience of the Keep Rick Going Committee. Humans for millennia have given this point of integrity many different names from genius (Roman) to kharakter (Greek) to Kama (Japanese), soul, spirit, etc.
Stasis in Relationship
However, this stasis, this vital drive toward integrity—true for all life—has two parts, not one, whether you study it from the point of view of an oncologist, or the head of a school, or my three-month-old granddaughter, or an organizational consultant. The other part can be summed up in a single word: relationships.
Paradoxically, maintaining stasis requires change, because of relationships. An organism has to be doing two paradoxical things at once—maintaining itself and changing itself. For, no organism has a “life of its own” on its own. It lives, works and does its business in relationship with other organisms as each is striving to maintain their own integrity—changing is essential. “It sounded right yesterday–oops–not so much today–got to change.”
Day in and day out we all struggle with the tension inherent in being ourselves in relation to others—I can picture the cells in my body working the problem right now as I eat my banana and drink my coffee—it’s the engine of change.
The trick of life, from my blood cells (that are having a hard time right now) to my schools (which all seem to be doing just great right now), is to keep asking this question: How does my integrity relate to the integrity of all the other living things around me? The secret of life is knowing that my genius and your genius are in league with each other, that my little acorn is in cahoots with all the other acorns in the world, and looking for synergies.
Meta Static Bullies
Now as head of my body—just as I did as head of a school—it seems I have to deal with bullies. I have blood cells in my body that have stopped asking the relationship question. They don’t care!! That’s how I think of Meta static: taking stasis, too far.
But, guess what. It’s okay. I know how to deal with bullies. Thirty-five years of being in charge of maintaining the integrity of school dedicated to making sure everyone is safe to pursue their own integrity, has wired my brain nicely for this one.
So, listen up, everybody: “If you want to be here, you have to show how you are using your integrity to support the integrity of everything else, and that means you have to listen to each other and allow your minds to be changed, when it’s called for.”
To my metastatic miscreants: “Your communications are deceptions. You seem to have no interest in collaborating, and no interest in contributing constructively to others around you. You have to go.”
We will start by zapping the two lesions in my brain this week. Then, we will see about strengthening the dynamic cells to deal with the meta static ones. (Immunotherapy.)