Grandma Reflects on Working in the Women’s Movement

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GRANDMA REFLECTS ON WORKING IN THE WOMEN’S MOVEMENT

In the spring of the year 2000, I wrote the following letters to my granddaughters, to be shared with them when they reached adulthood. The story embedded within these letters reflects a part of my developmental path along the way of creating and making visible, the living philosophy of potential; and my sharing them here reflects my recent realization that the thoughts and questions those twenty some years ago, are in many ways relevant today. Sandra Maslow Smith

Living Our American Philosophy

Dear Granddaughters,

I feel there is much I wish to share with you when you grow up and become beautiful wise young women; being your grandmother, this is my duty, my responsibility, and my blessing. But since none of us know how long our time on this earth will be, I have decided to write a letter, or series of letters if one letter does not complete the work I am setting before myself, to be shared with you when you reach adulthood.

I will write the entire letter by hand. Why, when the computer is faster and so available? I want you to know I am writing this myself, with thoughtfulness, and from the heart. Also, I have learned over the past few years that when I write by hand, I am able to think more clearly, more wholly, and with greater discipline… and when I put pen to paper, I am more able to speak from the heart. So, I will begin to share with you what is on my mind and in my heart.

I feel very blessed to be living at this time – at the end of one millennium and at the beginning of another. I hope, wish, and pray your future has even more potential than has mine, and that your grandchildren have even more life and spirit available to them in this wonderful country and precious world. Perhaps it is the change to a new millennium that has evoked this letter, for these times have brought to me a good deal of fruitful reflection. I hope that by the time you read this, you too have found the power of reflection in your lives. For through reflection on our thoughts, feelings, experiences, and images, we begin to see the whole and to access wisdom that can give good and right guidance to our thinking, feeling, and doing. Without reflection, I am afraid we human beings are not living up to what we could become, for we find ourselves increasingly mechanical, habitual, and pattern-following rather than becoming the self we are intended and created to become – pattern creators who are a credit to the Creator, who honor the Creator by our ways of doing, being and becoming.

Up until now, I have been blessed with five grandchildren. Why am I writing only to my granddaughters? Well, these reflections on the past and on our future life – the future of the human being and the future life of humanity – relate, in large part, to my experience of being a woman (and girl) during this life and these times, and my thoughts about the work and role of women in this new millennium.

Perhaps it would help if I would share with you some of my experiences, hopefully in a reflective way, relating to the role of women in our American society and culture. By the time I was born in 1946, women already had the right to vote. For in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, many women (and some men) tenaciously and courageously “fought” for this right. Since I was “born” with this right, I must say I never gave its importance much thought during my childhood and early adulthood; however, later reflection has shown me that this right is indeed very significant… in several ways. 

First of all, we live in a country of the people, established by the people, for the people. The United States of America is the first country established with structures that truly make possible (do not guarantee) equality of dignity of each person and all human beings. Before the Independence of our country and the establishment of our Constitution, people could (and some did) have good lives under benevolent “kings” and “queens,” but no governing process existed that was by, for, and of the people. If we reflect on it, Jesus of Nazareth set the stage for formation of a nation such as ours when he, by his teachings, behaviors, ways of living, and ways of working, showed us that all human beings have dignity – people of all walks of life, all disabilities, all colors, all nations, all religions, all ages, all roles, and both sexes; all people are made in the image and likeness of the Creator – and therefore, we must learn to love and care about all people as the Creator loves and cares about us. So, over 1700 years later, a nation was formed, based on Christ’s teachings of equality. However, our Constitution was colored by economics and human bias (initially allowing slavery) and by social norms and habits (all “men” are created equal). But through much struggle, effort, courage, and tenacity, and the guidance of wisdom, this country, founded from a belief in the Creator, is slowly purifying the original structure to move in the direction of what is implied to be our philosophy:

+ Honor and realize the open-ended potential in each and all.

+ Elevate human dignity.

+ Create life for future generations and create life of the whole.

We are also working to attain the aim of this country: “Create a World at Peace.” Through this purifying process, we have eliminated slavery and given women the right to vote. It is hard to imagine, is it not, that only one hundred years ago, women were not (from the perspective of governance) considered equal human beings with men? Women had no right to directly influence their governance. They had no equality of economic rights with men. So, the first phase of the women’s movement was, and is, to establish rights… and then to acquire fairness of economics. Why is this important? To realize one’s open-ended potential requires freedom – freedom to think, to act, to be and to become all that we were created and intended to be. 

The Constitution is a framework to provide freedom. Women, to realize our potential, require the same governance and economic rights as men such that no artificial boundaries would stand in the way of potential. The right to vote enables women to partner with men in determining the law… and the law plays a major role in determining how society’s resources (including economics) are allocated. Determining law and developing the capability to discipline oneself to be obedient to law are a first level of development – the first platform of development – of a civilization. For our country’s laws to have wholeness and integrity, require wholeness in thinking; and it is my belief that wholeness of thought – particularly thought which determines structures of a country, a community, business, industry, trade, family, education, etc., – can only come when men and women think and image together. I believe men and women need one another beyond physical, beyond biological, beyond reproductive processes; they need one another beyond companionship and beyond child rearing. Men and women need one another for wholeness of thought – for reason to come together with wisdom – in making the decisions and choices which impact on the future of all life, the dignity of the human being, and peace on earth. It is clear that voting impacts on laws, and laws set the structure within which decisions and choices are made in a society. The right to vote, to which I gave little thought as a youngster, is indeed a fundamental foundational element for living out our American philosophy. I pray and hope we will all remember economics and rights are not the end state; they are a stepping-stone along the path of creating a nation where the dignity and potential of all human beings may be elevated and realized, ultimately aiding in the creation of a world at peace.

I now see a theme of these letters will be and is, “Let us not lose our way.” Let us always keep our attention and awareness on the overall aim and philosophy so that we do not become mechanically or habitually attached to those problems, issues, causes or physical outcomes which, although intended to clear the way for dignity, potential, life, and peace, might make themselves the center of our lives and our thinking. Or worse yet, that we might make ourselves the center of all – while the truth is that life is the rightful center of our thinking. For life of the whole and all of its interrelated elements is far more important than our often-selfish egos. 

Well, my granddaughters, I must stop here for today. We are off to a good start, don’t you think?  

With much love & caring,  Your Grandma Sandra

Learn to Think for Yourself

Dear Granddaughters,

Since I stopped writing to you earlier this morning, so many subjects I wish to reflect on and share with you have streamed through my mind that I am now certain this must be an on-going series of letters. I hope that you will find them interesting; even more so, I hope they will, in some way, contribute to your development as well as to the meaning and purpose of your lives. For I hope that your reflections on my thoughts and experiences will give you greater insight and wisdom from which to live your lives. I am certain that by the time you read this, you will have discovered that most of what we call education in this country develops the mind’s capacity to reason. Little of what is called education focuses on building the capacity to access wisdom – the capacity to “see” the whole, to “see” what is essential for the good and right working of the whole, and to use this understanding to guide the decisions and choices presented by reason. It is my hope these letters will, in some way, contribute to your building capacity to access wisdom. For I know when life comes to an end and we ask ourselves if our life had meaning and purpose, we will find that accessing wisdom and exercising caring (about the whole and all of its parts) were essential processes on the path of meaning and purpose.

As you know, I had four sisters and no brothers. In our household, we were six women (when you include my mother – your special Great Grandma Alyce) and one man (Great Grandpa Hank, who I am sorry you never met). Mom, as it seems is true of all mothers, played (and is still playing!) a significant role in my life. From a very early age, she told us to learn to think for ourselves… often sharing her belief that thinking for oneself was something no one can ever take away from us. I asked her once how she came to see this; she said she didn’t remember, but she did know she realized this while she was still a teenager. It was such a blessing to be raised by parents with this philosophy (for although I only remember Mom speaking of it, I remember my father living it out even in the face of injury, death, and loss of employment). 

During the fifties and sixties when I was an impressionable teenager – a time when peer pressure was more powerful than “think for yourself” – although there were very few role models of women in non-traditional roles (“traditional” roles were mother, nurse, teacher, cook, waitress, secretary, etc.), Mom always told us we could be or become anything we chose if we put our mind and effort to it. How wonderful to be guided in this way when “affirmative action” was not yet in place – when it was still legally permissible to discriminate by race and sex in hiring, promoting, educating, etc. When I was young and had to choose a field of study for college, my limitation was more a lack of awareness of a range of careers than lack of belief I could do something; this was significant at the time because society’s norms and patterns still pigeonholed women. For example, I remember the rationale for women to go to college was predominately “so that they would have something to fall back on if anything happened to their husband.” You can see how much the world has changed – or perhaps, I should say, the United States has changed. I am sure that throughout school, you have been expectedto think about and plan a career. But let us not forget what Great Grandma Alyce used to say: “Learn to think for yourself.” For, have we, with all of the efforts of the women’s movement, advanced at all if we have traded in one culturally prescribed pattern in for another? What freedom did and does the women’s movement diligently pursue? We seek the freedom to pursue the vocation to which we feel called, the freedom to choose the path through which we might realize our open-ended potential. 

We have not advanced in our freedom if we have an increasing number and complexity of patterns and norms to follow to be able to be “viewed” as successful by society and ourselves. Yes, women in our society today have more rights than in very recent history; we are afforded both greater access to resources and opportunity for economic equality with men… but do we have greater inner freedom? Have we developed in spirit and wisdom such that we can and do self-create our patterns of doing, thinking and feeling such that we can play a role in creating better life for generations in the future? For if the advancement of women, etc., in our society leads to more and greater demands on our time that perhaps result in material gain yet cause a decline in the richness of our inner life, can we say we have truly progressed? 

In the seventies and early eighties, I put an incredible amount of effort and energy (not always positive in nature) into demanding and training for the fair and equal treatment of women in the workplace. Yes, her co-workers viewed your Grandma as a “bra-burning (although I never did that!) radical women’s libber.” I knew I was equal in intellect and intelligence to the men in similar roles – and expected and demanded I be given equal development, coaching, and opportunity; I wanted an equal chance, a fair chance, to make a contribution. Many men with whom I worked felt women “belonged in the home” and that “they were taking men’s jobs away;” (it was still acceptable for people who held this belief to express it freely… now we have so sensitized our language that it is almost impossible to express an attitude… but that is another tangent). At the time, I felt I wanted equal opportunity and equal treatment. Now, when I look back, I see we have come to the point of – or I ask if we’ve come to the point of – expecting women to pursue a career, even when it is to the detriment of her family or her community; we’ve come to the point where women who can’t or don’t “do everything” are viewed as not “successful.” The attainment of this stereotype is not what we worked for, but it seems to be where we’ve ended up. So, again, we must remember to “think for ourselves.” Mechanically following prescribed patterns makes us little better than robots. Following the call of our hearts to the right and good path for our particular essence and uniqueness leads to becoming the authentic human beings we were created to become. This is my wish for you, for all of my grandchildren, and for all children.

I’ll stop for today… and write more tomorrow… Love, Grandma Sandra

Remembering Self & Aim

Dear Granddaughters,

Remember in my last letter, I mentioned I was “not always positive” when I worked to eliminate stereotyping of women in the workplace?  Well, perhaps that was an understatement.  I am sure that you have already had experiences where people make assumptions about who you are or what your potential is based on your sex, size, family configuration, economic state, the house you live in, the color of your skin, etc.  When this happened, did you get angry?  Did you perhaps feel this to be unfair?  Well, in the seventies, when women entered industrial manufacturing jobs – particularly line management roles such as shift supervisor, production manager, etc. – the men in management felt very threatened.  This was their territory… and for various reasons, many did not want to work either with a woman, as a peer, or for a woman.  

Many changes have come about in the past 25 years. For example, at the plant where I worked from 1975 to 1978, all of the employees have worked for a woman by now (they have had a woman plant manager).  But then it was different.  People made many assumptions about women’s capacity to manage pressure, conflict, operating equipment, etc.  The way many companies chose to deal with stereotypes was to bring in consultants who provided a process by which men’s stereotypes were made visible and public… and then called upon the women to “straighten out” the thinking and behavior of the men. You name the stereotype about women, and someone among the managers was bound to have it in their frame of reference.  If we are acting from stereotypes, thinking from stereotypes, living out stereotypes, and “seeing” through stereotypes, we don’t give ourselves the possibility or opportunity to experience and appreciate the essence and uniqueness of ourselves and of those to whom we relate.  Stereotyping occludes seeing essence and potential.  We see a gesture or one’s appearance and our mind puts a label on what we see… then we interact with them as if they were the label instead of trying to discover who they are and to see and appreciate their specialness and uniqueness.

As you might imagine, it would require a good deal of self-development and self-management to operate out of anything but anger or tears in the face of unjustified stereotyping.  For, as human beings, we are so constructed to wish to see ourselves and to be seen by others for who we really are – on the inside.  We long for person-to-person, self-to-self, heart-to-heart contact with other human beings; this is one way in which we truly experience our humanness and truly experience the gifts of life and love.  When others prejudge our potential, capacity, intentionality, motivation, and/or “rightful position in society,” we often respond with what I will call our shadow-side (aggression, “poor me,” “why, why, why,” or aloofness/superiority) frequently accompanied by feelings of hurt and/or rage or anger. Holding all of this in mind, one can imagine the nature of interactions that took place when men were required to reveal their stereotypes and women were encouraged to confront them by “sharing their feelings” and “getting out their anger.”  Let us say, it was not pretty… and did not bring out the beauty of the truly human person – or what a person could become if they lived from virtues such as faith, hope, and love.  Unfortunately, your grandmother was a favorite participant when the consultants were planning a workshop; I was not afraid (having grown up in a house full of women) to speak out and (I thought at the time) correct an injustice.

After a while, I began to see that, although we all learned “politically correct” ways of speaking to one another (for our language was a major subject in such workshops), I was uncertain if any change that really mattered had occurred.  I did feel I grew in self-esteem and gained self-observing capacities, but later began to reflect on “at what price?”  Now I have words to express what was only an image for me then:

True development takes place only when all in the interaction  develop… and the subject of true development is essence – development of essence to realize and grow potential.  They and we are not developing when we force a new behavior pattern on someone so that they don’t insult us or hurt our feelings.

Stereotyping can be a form of oppression – oppressing the true self and potential of others.  Matters of oppression are never resolved with or through oppression.

I was very aware that our societal norms and roles had to change if women were ever to experience, realize, and grow their open-ended potential.  But I resolved not to work directly on these “women’s issues” again until I was able to do it developmentally (all in the process would grow and develop).  I would no longer be a part of or party to a process that evoked anger and did not help people to appreciate one another as human beings.  It took many years to find a way – and when I found it, I discovered it was not women’s issues that would need to be our focus, but human potential.  As I reflect back now, I can see that we do not carry feelings around with us. Feelings are evoked by the process or processes in which we participate and engage.  I did not walk into those sessions so many years back feeling angry; the process was constructed to evoke feelings within me by “illuminating” injustice and unfairness. Then I was encouraged it was healthy “to get my anger out.”  I have discovered that it is possible not to have anger as a feeling.  For this to be so requires a great deal of self-observation and self-remembering.  When we observe our inner processing, we notice, for example, that after someone makes a gesture, words flash through our minds (like “that’s unfair” or “he has no right to treat me that way” or “it’s always like this for poor me” or “what does he matter anyway?”)  It is the “words” that evoke the feelings in us, not the presenting gesture.  And if I remember myself and remember my aim, I can observe these “words” versus identify with them – and the reactive feelings of anger, hurt, resentment, etc., never enter into me.  Self-observing and self-remembering make possible the experiencing of higher emotions such as joy, heartfelt sorrow, compassion, and hope.

I hope this morning I have effectively shared with you my learning from having engaged during my early adulthood in processes which were carried out with a high and honorable aim, but with a lack of understanding of the path to becoming the human being we were created and intended to become.  If I could undo some of the things I have said to others, I would.  But, more importantly, what I say to others and the processes I create now (as a result of my learning, experiences, and reflections) are hopefully more developmental and spirit creating.

Much love, Grandma Sandra

Are Men and Women Different?

Dear Granddaughters,

It’s a beautiful sunny spring day in Collierville. I’m taking advantage of the weather by sitting out on the front porch as I write this – flowers everywhere – and seemingly hundreds of birds chirping, and a gentle breeze on my back. What wonderful gifts we are given that we can experience and appreciate life and beauty.

When I awoke this morning, it was with an image of the subject I must write to you about today: Are men and women different? I can picture you as young adult women reading this and laughing – “that Grandma really is (or was) crazy!” Every young woman knows that men are different! But, yes, I am serious. Biologically and physically we know we are different – we do not need a scientific study to prove this! But as energy processors, as energy transformers, as energy orderers and organizers, are we different? And even if we discovered this to be true, why would it matter?

Remember when I wrote (a day or two ago) that within the laws of this country at the beginning of the twentieth century, women did not have the same rights as men? At that time there was a definite belief that there was a difference between men and women in their physical, mental, and emotional capacities, and therefore within society, women and men needed to occupy particular space and fill particular and differentiated roles. Oh – and I forgot to mention that overall women’s capacities were viewed as inferior or lower order to men’s. This did not mean we were not valued, for the roles women took on were seen as essential and contributing to family, society, health, and home – to mention only a few of the arenas of contribution. 

When women asserted their equal rights to pursue education and vocations in all fields of interest to the human being, one of our platforms (I say “our” because I was active in this movement) was that women are equal to – in fact the same as – men in capacities for thinking, doing, and managing “emotions.” We can work as a team, die for a friend, face conflict, and provide leadership in the face of danger as well as can a man. Much energy and effort was put to proving to society and ourselves that we women are equal to men – which translated (perhaps unconsciously) to a belief that once you get past the biological differences, we are all the same. I must say I did not give this much thought at the time; my focus was on my career in manufacturing management, and in character and intellect I felt I could match my peers – so we were “the same.” I should, therefore, have the same opportunities for development, to make a contribution, and to receive helpful recognition and feedback.

But then I began to notice that my way of thinking was different. For one, I relied a great deal on what I called “intuition.” If the men relied on intuition, they did not say so unless they had proof to back up their thought – and if they had proof (some told me much later) they acted as if the idea were “rational” versus “intuitive.” The rational mind held a low value for intuition – especially when presented, like I remember doing: “This is only my intuition, but maybe…” To solve this communication problem I believed I had, I studied assertiveness and “positive language expression” so that my ideas would not be “discounted.” At the time, it did not occur to me to reflect, not on the language patterns and not on the unfairness of giving reason more status than intuition, but to reflect on the processitself. 

What is the process by which we come to optional choices? What is the process by which we decide what to pay attention to? What is the process by which we make judgments and decisions? How do we make our choices about which process to use in which situation? 

I did not think of such things until I was at least in my mid-thirties. Now, when I reflect back, I see that from grade school through my masters in business, with few exceptions, my formal education taught me facts to remember or patterns to follow. Some patterns were very difficult and complex – like calculus. But they were patterns, none-the-less. Although I developed some proficiency in choosing the appropriate pattern (or formula or principles) for a particular problem, I cannot recall ever being truly aware that I could think about my thinking or that I could observe my mental processing. I chuckle now, but I remember thinking it was not fair that all the formulas, etc., had already been developed before I was born so I was stuck with memorizing them (versus having the fun of creating them in the first place!).

One exception was in grade school when my sixth grade teacher helped us to see that thoughts that go through our mind are not “ours” unless we attach ourselves to them, identify with them, and act on them. They are simply a stream of “temptations.” In my language today, I would say she gave me a very big clue to the possibility of self-observing inner processing; for example, we could choose a particular virtue (like sharing) and live it out (e.g. for a week). She also gave a process for self-remembering: remembering the self I want to be.

What does all of this have to do with the question, are men and women different? My point is that I was so anxious to obtain my rights that, without taking time for reflection, I risked (as the saying goes) “throwing the baby out with the bath water;” I risked abandoning my uniqueness and my essence for the opportunity I wanted. I had not ever (that I can remember) consciously observed the processing I called “intuition,” but was willing to “throw it out” to pursue the path of reason. On reflection, what capacities for intuition I had were almost all developed outside of my formal education – so not using these capacities in the workplace did have some logic to it – after all, one could rationalize that formal education is to prepare us for work, and informal education (that acquired in family) is to prepare us for life. Logically, I should apply my education to my work, and leave the process of intuition (learned mostly from Mom and Grandma, etc.) at home. 

We are beginning (only beginning!) to frame an answer to our question. I do not know if built into the intended ways of the human being itself is a particular leaning toward specific ways of ordering and organizing the energies we take in (or a particular leaning toward the nature of energies we seek for nourishing our souls and spirits). I do know that within the home, a developmental process takes place often (but not always) between mothers and daughters which prepares the daughter’s capacity to receive, order, and organize energies such that she is receptive to and can “see” the whole, “see” the good and right working of the whole, and from this “seeing” create processes that are developmental, nourishing, and breathe life and spirit into a home. This teaching process between a mother and her children (often daughters) is not formally recognized, honored, and developed by our society.

I have come to “see” that within human potential are two natures of processing – and over the history of humankind, they have come to be called feminine processing and masculine processing. Perhaps, from the beginning, men tended to develop “masculine processing,” and women, “feminine processing;” this may be why they were given these names. I have come to believe that men and women can develop both… but maybe, left only to “informal” developmental processes, most women might gravitate to the development and perfection of those processes of perception, intuition, receptivity to energy, spirit, and mood; while men might gravitate to those processes we today associate with logical, factual, rational, provable, etc. From my perspective, it matters not whether women or men “own” a particular process. As far as humanity, the human being, life of our socio-systems, and the life forces of ecosystems and earth are concerned, what matters is whether we human beings see the essentiality of both feminine processing (which can lead to the capacity to access the truth of wisdom) and masculine processing (which can lead to the capacity to access the truth of reason). What matters is the way in which we “position” these processes and their potential outputs. For at this point in the history of humanity, we have so perfected our reasoning capacities that we are now able to clone. But (as the saying goes) “We are driving way out beyond our headlights:” we, through reasoning, have developed technologies in advance of developing the wisdom to determine what is the good and right thing to do. We have developed the ability to change biological processes before attaining understanding of the healthy ongoing evolution of the overall ecosystem within which we are manipulating parts. The greatest contributor to this hazard is our blindness to the truth that capacity for accessing wisdom must be developed in each and all in a way that we as humanity and as human beings have the ableness to guide reason such that we are able to live in harmony with the life forces of earth and with the intent and intended ways of the Creator.

I know now that when my mother said, “learn to think for yourself,” she was talking about developing, within yourself, the capacity to access wisdom. For once developed, no one can take this capacity from us. Only our own egos can take it away when they give themselves credit for the ideas, insights, and guidance wisdom so generously gives us when we open our hearts and quiet our minds to make a place for it to enter.

So how are we doing on answering the question we began with yesterday?   “Are men and women different?” seems to be the “wrong” question. “Is partnering between men and women essential for the effective working of and relationship between wisdom and reason?”  Perhaps this is the question every thoughtful human being might ask themselves instead… and search their soul for an answer.

Now I must go out to work on the flowerbeds… it is such a beautiful day!! 

With much love, Your Grandma Sandra         

Are We Creating a Better Life for Future Generations?

Dear Granddaughters,

Given the trail we have been on with these letters, we may very well be ready to become forward-reflecting as far as the role and work of American Women are concerned.  At the time I am writing to you, energies in this country are becoming coarser and coarser.  We experience this in entertainment that seems to need to shock us (with volume, vulgarities, violence, sex without love, etc.), in our communities where violence, separation, and isolation have been increasing, in our schools where teachers are allowed only to teach facts and patterns (versus more refined values and virtues), in recreation where, by our organizing and structuring of activities, opportunities for creative play are lost, in the workplace where motivational drivers are economics over ethics, and in the home where computers and television seduce us away from family interaction and dialogue, self-initiation, creativity, and craftsmanship.  

Yes, we – as a whole – have been dropping to coarser and coarser energies.  At the same time, however, repotentialization processes are emerging – repotentialization to a level of human capacity that accesses and guides itself with wisdom and that operates out of caring.  Now here is the difficulty:  It takes being to access wisdom.  Wisdom cannot be accessed by the rapid-fire, doing mind.  Accessing wisdom requires reflection which evokes being and receptivity. Wisdom is a gift we are given, not a skill we build.  We engage in development to build the mind that has the capacity to access wisdom.  Once we build this capacity, we still must quiet the mind and open our hearts to let wisdom enter.  As far as our formal education is concerned, this development of capacity to access wisdom is largely ignored; actually, it is unseen. Therefore, we must search elsewhere to find or develop this capacity.  

What Terry (my work partner) and I have found is that currently this capacity can be found in many women… developed in them through interactions and dialogues with their mothers.  Given the changes that have been made in the access women have to societal roles, women are now responsible for work in many arenas – all arenas of society – such that we can now bring wisdom to every societal process.  But, at the same time, most women have gained access to these roles by their perfection of the powers of reason.  Will they now be able to find and access the will to cross the boundary from reason to wisdom; will they be able to quiet their reasoning mind and tap their hearts such that wisdom might come forth and take its rightful place as guide to reason? For if we wish to truly solve the problems of this country (and the world), reason has shown it cannot do the job alone; reason needs wisdom to guide it so that choices and decisions are made that are good for the whole and right for each element from the perspective of each and all.

Remember when we began, I asked if our families, our neighborhoods, our communities, our businesses, our industries, and our country have greater future potential, have elevated dignity, and promise a better life for future generations because women have raised economic position and gained rights.  We must remember rights and economics are means… not ends.  If we gain rights and sacrifice our ethics, if we acquire materials and resources, but sacrifice our values, have we realized our open-ended potential?  Have we elevated human dignity?  Have we played our role in creating life for future generations?  Through a change in our laws, we were able to develop and bring our capacities for reason into every field of work in this country.  Now is the time to open the door for wisdom to enter.  This is, and must be selfless, for wisdom enters when we become instruments in the hands of the Creator.  And when the wisdom flows and its images are carried out by reason, then we know our lives have had purpose and meaning.

So, my dear and precious granddaughters, sometimes I wish the world were in a better state… but at other times I am filled with hope when I think, “How wonderful to live in this time when the Spirit is pouring into all open and empty vessels.”

God bless and keep you on your life journeys… Love, Grandma Sandra 

Attachment to Issues takes Us off Our Path

Dear Granddaughters,

It has been a while since I last wrote to you with my reflections on the Women’s Movement.  In my earlier letters, we began to lay the groundwork for the subject matter we will take up today:  WORK. As you read this letter, you will be of an age when you will be deciding on a field of study beyond high school. It is my hope and wish that your choices will be made based on what your heart tells you will lead to the greatest fulfillment, development and contribution, and that you will not be seduced into choosing a field based on economics.

When the Women’s Movement was in what I might call “full swing,” the focus of attention was frequently on work and on resolving the issues standing in the way of women receiving equal compensation for equal production, as well as removing artificial barriers to success, opportunity and advancement in the workplace.  In our drive for economic fairness, we often lost sight of the true source for economics, which is value – a manifestation of virtue.  We also lost sight of the role of work in relationship to development of the human being in becoming increasingly human. Focusing on what was summed up as “women’s issues,” we lost sight of the true value women were (perhaps meant) to bring to work itself.  

“Women’s issues” in the workplace included traveling alone on business (I expect this sounds very strange to you now, but in the seventies, this was a very new occurrence), caring for sick children and parents, eliminating sexist language and behavior in the workplace, exclusion from the “old boy’s club” where business decisions were frequently made, maternity leave without career repercussions, appropriate business attire, protocol and etiquette, and what some called the “glass ceiling” in career advancement of women.  Organizations serious about integrating women into all levels of previously all-male fields of work often formed core teams, task teams or study groups to address these issues and find ways in which they could be resolved with least disruption to the ongoing work of the particular organization.  Through participation in such teams, the creative project time of women was often consumed by and directed to “women’s issues.”  As I participated in such efforts, I felt at the time that I was doing something important that would make a difference – I was helping to change the culture of work so that women would have opportunities that were equal to those of men to actualize and realize their open-ended potential.  

Can you begin to see what was not obvious to me then, but certainly is now?  These women’s issues were being worked on and sometimes solved through laws, or resolved with changed policies or shifts in work culture without beginning from their relatedness to the core work of the organization or business itself:  These “improvements” were made without people looking at their overall effects on the work trying to be accomplished.  While we worked on policies, relationships and work culture, perhaps the greatest potential contribution of women in general to the arena of work outside of the home was left unattended and un-accessed. 

If we reflect on ways of doing business today, we can see business is operated largely based on facts, reason, economics and time… while insight, wisdom, values and open-ended potential frequently go unnoticed and/or. undervalued.  As I entered consumer products manufacturing and advanced in management level, I lost track of the gifts of insight, wisdom and seeing open-ended potential; I was distracted into seeking hierarchical advancement and working on women’s issues. Yes, these issues (did and some still do) need to be resolved… but from what perspective?  

While this work on women’s issues may have been a natural early phase, I have come to see that issues and problems cannot and will not be lastingly and holistically resolved unless we begin with the essence and potential of the whole of which we are a part, and of each and every element within that whole.  Our society today is out of balance:  We seek answers to all of our questions through reason, facts and economics, while wisdom, insight and potential are lost to the busyness and mechanicalness created by this one-sided perspective.  One of the greatest gifts women can bring to work in general and to business specifically is the capacity for reflection such that work can truly become the means for realizing open-ended potential, elevating dignity, and creating a better future life-of-the-whole. Yes, we have capacities for reason which we can contribute to the working of the world, but without the guidance from intuitive wisdom which we access through reflection, how will we ever know if we are on the right path… that is, a path that is right for us personally, right for the business, right for the country, and right for the world?

The subject of work is a big one.  I hope to write again soon to pursue it in even greater depth.

With much love… Your Grandma Sandra 

Are We Finding a Developmental Way?

Dear Granddaughters,

I hope you will find what I am saying in these letters to be relevant to you, for I do not know what changes will come about in the years between my writing them and your reading them.  One thing I do know is that development of one’s spirit and soul does not come automatically.  Just as our bones and walking develop progressively, developing one’s soul and spirit is also a process.  We must work consciously and conscientiously at development of our being and our will throughout our adult years if this development is to take place. We are all born with the possibility of becoming truly and authentically human – but to live up to this intent requires us to work on ourselves.  My hope is that these letters will sufficiently focus on development of our hearts, spirits, minds and souls such that they will be relevant to you no matter the state of the world or the values and attitudes of the culture.

I am not saying that the impetus for development cannot be externally stimulated, but for the process to be kept alive requires our intentional work.  For example, since my sister Heidi died suddenly at the young age of thirty-two, the reflection her death evoked in me has contributed greatly to my development over the years – but I have had to make effort to keep the reflective and developmental process alive.  So life gives us processes – e.g. death, birth, super-ordinate challenges, etc. – which can “wake us up” and therefore evoke development, but we are so created that ongoing access to will and consciousness of our state of being is required to keep the developmental process alive.  This requires inner work on our part, which only we ourselves can do.

Perhaps it would be useful for us to take some time to differentiate between development and training.  Training is the process by which we learn a pattern to follow and, with practice, perfect our mind or body’s ability to follow the pattern. Remember when you took driver’s training (I assume by the time you read this, you will be car drivers)?  At first, all felt clumsy.  Now you probably drive without giving your movements “any thought at all.”  The idea of training is to imbed a pattern into the body or mind such that we are able to do something with perfection without thinking about it.  Training is non-transferable.  For example, driving is relevant only if you are driving – and not transferable to other processes such as writing, playing tennis, or weeding the garden.  Development is a process we engage in when we begin with “seeing” the whole and “seeing” potential… and from that “seeing,” we createa process for ourselves to follow to bring that potential into being… all the while observing and remembering our selves while engaging in the process.  So development is a capacity that is transferable.  

Ali, do you remember when you were six and seven years old, how you enjoyed creating birthday parties for family members? Through “training,” you became very good at applying frosting to cake in designs of flowers and leaves and decorative edging.  I remember when you learned to “start” a balloon.  Later, you learned to tie a knot to close the balloon.  Each of these is a “learning” – and (although “informal”) you participated in “training” to learn to do these things.  At the same time, creating these parties was also “developmental” for you.  The week before Grandma Alyce’s 75thbirthday party, you built in your mind an image of the whole of the party – you imaged how we would surprise her and who would surprise her; you imaged her tasting the cake and enjoying the taste; you imaged the nature of gift she would truly appreciate and how you might give it to her, the colors she would enjoy the most, decorating the house, etc.  You imaged the whole and the potential – then decided the way in which you would bring that whole into being.  I could tell while I helped you those days how you always held the image in your mind – and operated creatively against it.  The things you did – like decorate the cake – continued to perfect your skills.  The process of “seeing” the party that “could be” – the party that would add value to our family… that was development.  For it served to build and extend your capacity for increasing potential. Skills are being built when we are trying to understand how frosting behaves so that we can manage it to create a rose for the top of the cake; development takes place when we image the whole, all of its elements (e.g. the whole of the family and the whole party within the family whole), and image “what could be” that would add value to the family and to a party – what party would be good for the whole, right for Grandma Alyce, and right for each of us, and right for all of the resources we might employ.  I think you can see that having another party just like the last party might build skills, but would not be developmental.

We can now reflect on some of the activities of social movements – such as the Women’s Movement or the Civil Rights Movement. Teaching a pattern to follow (e.g. using non-sexist language) was training.  That is like driving a car.  For me, learning to drive a car was not developmental (although the accessthe car gave me led, in some cases, to development!):  I did not change on the inside.  Building the mind’s capacity to image a better, more life giving whole for all… and then developing the capacity to reflect on my actions, language and gestures against the value-adding image of a future with greater potential (now that would be developmental!) would begin to change me on the inside(or, more accurately, would give me a capacity through which, if I chose to exercise it, I could change on the inside).  Perhaps now you will understand a bit better why (in the early eighties) I decided I was not going to work on “women’s issues” until I found a developmental way to do it; anything less than that would be about as useful as “rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.”  People might learn all of the “politically correct” language, but in reality, nothing would be changed; no new potential… no more potential realized or actualized.  We would have to ask, have we really added any value?  Yes, my sensitivities would no longer be disturbed; but what am I doing with the energy I have saved?  Am I using it for potential, or have I dropped to automatic?

This may be a bit more than you needed or wanted to “hear.”  Papa Wes always says about me, “You ask her what time it is and she tells you how to build a clock”… and he might add, “and asks you the meaning of time to humanity.” Bless you for staying with me.

With much love, Grandma Sandra 

All and Everything Dignity

Dear Granddaughters,

Today, I thought I would write some of my personal reflections on human dignity.

Two thousand years ago, a man some think of as teacher, others as prophet, and others as messiah or savior, showed us that everything can be dignified.  By dignifying the work of carrying and dying on the scandalous cross, this man showed humanity that all work can be dignified – even dying on a cross.  By being with, teaching and loving all – be they tax collectors, lepers, “unclean,” prostitutes, people of other religions, races or governments – he showed us that all of creation has dignity and is dignify-able.  By his works, life and legacy, many have been introduced to the dignity of all work and all life.

More recently in the history with which we are familiar, Dr. Martin Luther King led a process in this country that had as its foundation a belief in the dignity of the human being.  Based on this sound foundation, King was able to lead a movement (a continuation of the movement to dignity begun almost two thousand years earlier) which held the potential for dignifying each and all:  dignifying those who crossed boundaries placed to inhibit the manifesting of their full human potential in ways that invited and evoked reflection and essential dignity in their oppressors.

In Poland, while still under control and rule of the Soviet Union, the people united and developed a leader – Lech Walesa – to aid them in peacefully gaining their freedom.  They believed in the dignity of the human being and in the essentiality of the dignity of work.  They too joined in something we today might call the movement to dignity. 

As you know from my previous letters, for many years I participated in processes that firmly confronted stereotypes and the stereotyping of women.  The basis or justification for my efforts was that stereotyping is unfair and oppressive. All people – women included – have a right to develop, contribute and be recognized for their work and contributions. Reflecting now, I can clearly see that love and dignity were not in my processes!  My efforts more related to rights than to dignity.  Yes, certain rights and freedoms are essential for each and all of us to do the work we are called to do and to become the real human being we intended to become; yet we are faced with this dilemma:  If rights are accessed without love in the process, will love ever be in the outcome?  If dignity for each, all and everything is not in our process, then will dignity be in the products we produce by that process?

Great leaders in the history of civilization are always somewhat of a mystery to us.  They did not view the world the same way we do.  Reason was not guiding them.  Reason would say a group of disciples – common men and women – led by a carpenter (many of whom ultimately died scandalous deaths) could not change humanity as a whole for the better.  Reason would say that loving one’s oppressors would not change laws of the land, but they have changed in India, in Poland, and in the United States.  Reason would say the shipyard workers in Poland could never peacefully gain their freedom from a power as strong as the Soviet Union. No, reason cannot give us the path… nor will reason shine its light on the path to becoming truly and fully human. Reason shouts at us, “Don’t point to these higher aims – they are not proven possible.”  Confidently and calmly, wisdom tells us that we, each and all, have dignity; it assures and guides, knowing that every single human being is created such that we can work and live to dignify everything.

You, my dear grandchildren, were and are created with the potential to live and work with dignity.  May God grant you the wisdom to guide your lives in this direction.

Love, Grandma Sandra 

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