12 years ago, I wrote an article for this HEN newsletter entitled “The Brutal Facts.” That article and its story came back to me recently when I was attending an early morning Kundalini class by Zoom. As part of the Kundalini and Zoom experience, we were invited to “tea” after class, and put into Zoom “chat rooms” to talk with a few others in the class.
I shared the story from my article as a way that has helped me make sense of the COVID realities we are all facing at the moment. There was a calming reaction to it.
So, I went back to the article and rewrote it all for us – for the times. I hope it has the same kind of effect on you. And, if you like that kind of feeling, check out the White Raven Collective, as you can do their classes from anywhere!
Admiral James Stockdale was an American naval officer who was also the highest ranking military officer to be held as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War and one of the longest to be held in captivity. For nearly 8 years, he was routinely tortured brutally, had no prisoner’s rights, no set release date, and no certainty as to whether he would even survive to see his family again.
When his captivity finally ended, he had wounds that included a broken back and shoulders pulled out of his sockets. He documents his experiences in his memoir: In Love and War.
How did Stockdale deal with being imprisoned for that long and in those conditions – especially since he wouldn’t have known when his captivity would end (sound familiar?). As Jim Collins documents in his book Good to Great, Stockdale said:
“I never lost faith in the end of the story. I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”
Collins then asked: “Who didn’t make it out?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” Stockdale said. “The optimists.” Collins couldn’t understand this answer, as he thought Stockdale had just told him that it was an optimistic attitude that kept him sane through his harshest experiences. Stockdale clarified:
“The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”
He then said, “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Collins named this conundrum the “Stockdale Paradox.”
It offers us a path through the present intensities. We musn’t ignore the “brutal facts” of what is happening in our world, in our communities, in our lives at this time. Deal with them. Figure out ways to engage with the hardship. At the same time, keep one part of you reserved for your vision and the belief that we will come through.
Stockdale led the POWs’ culture of defiance, finding ways to communicate and govern prisoner behavior that gave them all hope. Let’s leave him with the last words:
“Our very fiber and sinew were the only weapons at our disposal. Each man’s values from his own private sources provided the strength enabling him to maintain his sense of purpose and dedication. They placed unity above self. Self-indulgence was a luxury that could not be afforded.”
How can you rise up a better person?
What does a better tomorrow look like to you?
Who do you want to grow into as a result of this experience?
Archives for April 2020
Along with my podcast co-host, Gordon White, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Moscrop recently. Moscrop lives in Ottawa, Ontario, and Gordon and I in Victoria, BC, but we were all confined to our own homes because of COVID. The new realities are certainly stark and for some, quite brutal.
Our conversation with David is so full of rich wisdom for the times. I would love for you to listen. If you like it, please leave a review on itunes so that others can find it!
As the days have turned into weeks now, many of us are stuck at home, adapting to a new reality. I am practicing having one eye on the vision of a new, better reality and the other on current reality.
Current reality is people are needing new ways of being together. I noticed a lot of new books and games are being purchased by people and it got me thinking about Mediator in a Box.
Mediator in a Box was created by 2 sisters, Clare Sprowell and Marla Sloan and it’s a product I fell in love with when I first came across it years ago.
As a mediator with a mission for everyone to be a mediator, this box gives a way to realize that idea!
As soon as I found out about Mediator in a Box, I started a dialogue with the two sisters, and ended up creating a dedicated training to take the use of the Box deeper, as a workshop.
That enthusiasm also led to connecting with a mediator in the USA. Together, we have taken over full distribution for the Box: Alyssa Bernhardt in the US and me in Canada.
Here’s a short video she and I recorded recently, sharing our love for the Box in these times of COVID.
The Box is really designed so that anyone can use it, almost any age, any situation! Pretty bold promise! And, I love it!
Bring a mediator into your home during these new topsy turvy social times. Check it out here.