Are we falling into a trap of believing that our work, and indeed, our lives, should always be fascinating and all-consuming? Are we somehow lacking if we’re bored at times or buried under routine tasks or failing to challenge ourselves at every turn?
So asks New York Times writer Alina Tugend, in a recent article asking what it means to “be passionate” about your job, and whether it’s a faire tale of the modern work world: nice to imagine, but not really possible.
Keima Sheriff can speak to that. An Organizational Systems student at Saybrook, she founded the Institute for Balance Restoration (IBR), a consulting company that builds stronger organizations by building stronger, and more passionate, individuals. Keima also just got an experience in practicing what she preaches, when she became interim CEO of a Pennsylvania non-profit.
Cookman Alternative Learning Community is a small, alternative school that helps kids the educational system has given up on get an education and graduate into a better future. It was also no exception to the freeze on government payments when the state of Pennsylvania couldn’t agree on a budget.
Suddenly left with an organization whose employees she couldn’t pay, Keima called a staff meeting in July.
“I gathered the staff together and said ‘my gut is telling me that even if the state comes up with a budget by October, we won’t have money by December to start paying you,’” she recalls. “‘But we have these kids, and we know that if we send them anywhere else they will not graduate on time. So, guys, what do you want to do?”
The Cookman employees decided that they would all get other jobs, and then donate their labor as full time volunteers until the state passed a budget that could pay them to come back again.
Why? Because they cared for the kids, and they loved what they did.
“So my staff have gotten other jobs and then, based on their availability, we’ve cobbled together a schedule that they can use to run the organization,” Keima says. “I have a teacher who comes in after five, one who has to leave at 3, one who can only come in three days a week … and they love their work so much that they’re doing this, for these kids.”
Most of us have had an experience so surprising, so moving, so profound, that it changed our lives in an instant.
Perhaps falling in love for the first time, or seeing a child born, or looking up at the night sky and really understanding how immense it all is. This feeling, we’ve told ourselves, is the real essence of life.
Then we’ve gotten on with our lives, and all but forgotten about it.
How is this possible? How is it that we let these moments go so easily, instead of putting them at the center of our lives?
“That’s the $64 million question,” says Saybrook psychology faculty member Kirk Schneider. Memory is always fleeting, the present is always distracting, but he thinks there are other factors at work. “Our society, industrialization in general, puts a premium on control, efficiency, and expedience, and these are helpful in meeting people’s needs. But at the extreme … and I think we’ve moved into the extreme… it becomes debilitating to a fuller experience of life. I think our quick fix model of living has alienated us from awe, even made us fearful of it.”
That becomes “a vicious cycle,” he says. “Experiencing awe requires profound reflection, pausing, searching, and sensing, all the things we’re not given time to do, which means that even when we experience awe, it’s harder to stay with.”
Schneider’s recent book, Awakening to Awe: Personal Stories of Profound Transformation, is a guide to help recapture the ability to experience, and stay with, awe.
Tenure-Track Faculty Positions Open at Universithy of West Georgia's Humanistic Psychology Department10/13/2009
The Department of Psychology at the University of West Georgia announces at least one tenure-track faculty position to commence Fall 2010. The department houses dynamic undergraduate, masters, and doctoral degree programs, and engages an integrative approach with roots in humanistic, existential/phenomenological, transpersonal, depth, critical, and feminist psychologies. We emphasize human...
A Day with Roberta Goldfarb, PhD Sunday 25 October 10am - 5pm Click Here for Information
SAVE THE DATE: November 7, 2009 AHIMSA & The IWR’s Fourth Bade Conference On the Human Capacity for Peace Local Actions for Global Transformation: The Power of the Human Spirit Saturday, November 7, 2009 10:00 am to 4:30 pm Bade Museum Located on the Campus of the Pacific School of Religion 1798 Scenic Avenue, Berkeley, California 94709 Guest Speakers on The Power of the...
Documentary Featuring the Work of Alumni David Paul, M.D., Ph.D. '06 and Bonnie Paul, Ph.D. '06 Receives Cannes Film Festival Award10/02/2009
Saybrook alumni David Paul, M.D., Ph.D. (06) and Bonnie Paul, Ph.D. (06) have been directing and presenting an ongoing series of workshops, titled Freedom to Choose, at Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) in Chowchilla, California twice a year since 2004. VSPW is one of the largest medium/maximum security women’s prisons in the world. A documentary about this work won “Best...
Alumnus Dr. Bob Hieronimus is featured on the Discovery Channel's Hunting the Lost Symbol premiering October 18th at 8 PM Eastern. Produced by Hollywood filmmakers Ron Ziskin and Mark Victor, and based on the new best-seller by Dan Brown, this program promises an exploration of the ancient and hidden meanings of American symbols – which is the theme of both Brown’s new book and of...
Candidates Sought for the Permanent Positon of Saybrook University President The exciting process of seeking Saybrook University’s new president is being led by Board of Trustees' Chair, Alison Bonds Shapiro, in cooperation with the Nonprofit Leadership, Education and Foundations Division of the San Francisco firm, Rusher Loscavio Executive Search. Please refer potential candidates to the...
October 9 will be Saybrook President Lorne Buchman’s last day on the job – although he will remain on Saybrook’s Board of Trustees for at least a year.
In an interview with the Saybrook Forum, President Buchman – better known across Saybrook as “Lorne” – said that he has been personally inspired by much of the work Saybrook faculty have conducted during his tenure as president. He leaves with a richer education in humanistic thought that has inspired him to believe more deeply in the potential of people around him, and to try and lead accordingly.
The man who first envisioned Saybrook as a university, Lorne has overseen a remarkable period of growth in Saybrook’s history. “We went back to the roots of our mission and expanded from there,” he said. “New life has been given to an educational tradition that started at Saybrook 40 years ago, and maybe the most remarkable thing of all is to realize how pertinent and vital are the values of that tradition within the contemporary discourse.”
Still, he emphasized, in the end it is all about the basics: the relationship between students and teachers, and enabling great education. “I think that the measure of our work together will be the extent to which our students feel a sense of gratitude toward the education they received at Saybrook.”
An edited version of the Saybrook Forum’s interview with Lorne Buchman is provided in its entirety below.
Saybrook Forum (SF): One of the things I hear most from alumni and students is how their experience at Saybrook was a transformative one. How much it changed them. Does that go all the way up to the top? Was Saybrook a transformative experience for you as well?
Lorne Buchman (Lorne): “Absolutely. Very much so. I think what’s happened to me is that I have, over time, internalized the values of Saybrook and its mission in a very deep way. That has affected my way of thinking about higher education and its possibilities, it has affected the way I want to encourage and lead community, it has brought me to a place where I understand the significance of a values-driven education in a way that I hadn’t before.
“I had certainly been compelled by my previous experience in education for creative people, for artists, for scholars in theatre and literature – I understood deeply the openings that can be created for people in a rigorous, creative, and intellectually rich education. But there is something profound in the unique values of Saybrook that have gone to the core and have impacted how I lead Saybrook and how I hope to live my own personal life.”
SF: Which values most come to mind?
Lorne: “It begins with a fundamental belief in the creative potential of each individual and with a belief that each individual has the capacity to go deep within to know themselves: and that the combination can produce astonishing results for positive change.”
Eugene Taylor doesn’t hesitate to be provocative. “(T)hree of the most dreaded plagues in the history of scientific psychology,” he writes in the very first sentence of his new book, “have been conceptions of personality, models of the unconscious, and systems of psychotherapy.”
Throughout psychology’s history, Taylor’s new volume reminds us, there has been a movement to classify psychology as a natural science, and this movement has insisted that psychology is no more and no less than what can be “verified” in the experimental laboratory.
As a result, this movement has tried to replace “personality,” which can’t be experimentally proven, with measurable “attributes”; it’s tried to replace the unconscious, which is stubbornly unsystematizable, with conditioning; and it’s tried to replace psychotherapy, which happens with individual people in unrepeatable conditions, with drugs. The result is not “psychology” as most people think of it, but it’s the “official” psychology of the history books.
“Since psychology wants to pretend that it’s a science, the history of psychology has turned into the history of experimental psychology,” Taylor says. “The proponents of experimental psychology were comparing themselves to Newtonian physics in the 19th century. They’ve stayed with that epistemology through this day, which is why I say the experimentalists have kept us in diapers.”
However, “What was not examined by the experimentalists is often more interesting than what is.” Taylor has published in his new book to set the record straight.
The Mystery of Personality: A History of Psychodynamic Theories, shows that there are, in fact, three “histories of psychology”: the history of the experimental “scientific” psychology, (which has tried to crowd out the others); the history of psychology as therapy – “applied” psychology, in which therapists advanced the understanding of how to help patients; and the history of psychodynamic theory: the history of questions like “what is a person?” “What is the personality?” “What does it mean to be psychologically healthy?”