TLC Book Tour: Something Beyond Greatness
In Something Beyond Greatness: Conversations with a Man of Science and a Woman of God, the authors conclude:
What the world needs now is not only individual moments of greatness or even individual lives of greatness, but whole communities of greatness. We need to move beyond admiring greatness in the other to becoming like that ourselves.
This slim volume, written by Judy Rodgers and Gayatri Naraine, explores what it means to do great things and what qualities are commonly possessed by people who have done selfless deeds or who live their lives dedicated to the service of others.
The woman of God in the subtitle refers to Indian spiritual leader Dadi Janki, a leader of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University. The man of science is Humberto Maturana, professor of biology at the University of Chile and founder of the Laboratory for Experimental Epistemology and the Biology of Cognition. The two of them reach a similar place, though they take different paths to get there.
I was particularly intrigued by Maturana's discussion of linear thinking and acting. He points out that our goal oriented cultures cultivate linear thinking and acting.
We want success; we want efficiency; we want perfection....But when we configure our thinking in such a linear way, we fail. Linear thinking, pursued to its extreme, unavoidably leads to the destruction of humanness, because it leads to the blind destruction of the systemic conditions of life - the biosphere and the anthroposphere that make human existence possible. (Page 97)It is this linear way of being that prevents the big picture way of viewing life and therefore prevents us from acting spontaneously "sometimes in ways that we later can only explain as miracles." One of the examples cited was Wesley Autrey who jumped onto the New York subway tracks in front of a train to save a man who had fallen. He acted spontaneously. "Whatever he saw in that moment ... evoked an instant response in him. Maturana and Dadi Janki would likely call it love."
Though nods are certainly given to universally known people of greatness - Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. - most of the examples are people who are relatively unknown, people who commit single acts of greatness, like Mr. Autrey, or those who devote their lives to "improving the life and/or awareness of others with no self-interest," such as Hafsat Abiola who "works to promote women, youth and democracy in her home country of Nigeria" through several initiatives that she founded.
The stories of most of the people they interviewed were sparse, and there was a fair amount of repetition in the book. Overall, this is an inspiring, thought provoking book that left me wanting more.
Links of interest:
Something Beyond Greatness blog
Dadi Janki discussing Something Beyond Greatness (YouTube)
Humberto Maturana discussing Something Beyond Greatness (YouTube)
Book giveaway! The publishers kindly sent me an extra copy of Something Beyond Greatness. To sign up for a chance to win, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Reading, Writing and Retirement contest."