The following is a chapter from my book ‘Parables For The New Conversation.’ One chapter will be published every Sunday for 36 weeks here on Collective Evolution. (I would recommend you start with Chapter 1 if you haven’t already read it.) I hope my words are a source of enjoyment and inspiration for you, the reader. If perchance you would like to purchase a signed paperback copy of the book, you can do so on my production company website Pandora’s Box Office.
From the back cover: “Imagine a conversation that centers around possibility—the possibility that we can be more accepting of our own judgments, that we can find unity through our diversity, that we can shed the light of our love on the things we fear most. Imagine a conversation where our greatest polarities are coming together, a meeting place of East and West, of spirituality and materialism, of religion and science, where the stage is being set for a collective leap in consciousness more magnificent than any we have known in our history.
Now imagine that this conversation honors your uniqueness and frees you to speak from your heart, helping you to navigate your way more deliberately along your distinct path. Imagine that this conversation puts you squarely into the seat of creator—of your fortunes, your relationships, your life—thereby putting the fulfillment of your deepest personal desires well within your grasp.
‘Parables for the New Conversation’ is a spellbinding odyssey through metaphor and prose, personal sagas and historic events, where together author and reader explore the proposal that at its most profound level, life is about learning to consciously manifest the experiences we desire–and thus having fun. The conversation touches on many diverse themes but always circles back to who we are and how our purposes are intertwined, for it is only when we see that our personal desires are perfectly aligned with the destiny of humanity as a whole that we will give ourselves full permission to enjoy the most exquisite experiences life has to offer.”
15. The Mayor
One warm summer day the arborist and her daughter were busy transplanting potted saplings in the village park on the island of Allandon. A portly gentleman who was casually picking up trash noticed them and said brightly: “Good morning ladies. Beautiful day isn’t it?”
“Yes it is,” the arborist said.
Her daughter nodded, and moments later said to her mother: “Every time I see that guy he acts like he hasn’t got a care in the world.”
“Maybe he hasn’t,” said the arborist.
“Who is he anyway?”
The arborist laughed. “Don’t you know? That’s our village Mayor.”
“He’s the Mayor?” she asked incredulously. After pondering for a moment, she added, “Well, that’s very odd.”
“Well, what kind of Mayor is he? I mean, hasn’t he got more important things to do than pick up trash in the park?”
“Apparently not,” said the arborist as she continued to enjoy the scent of the young evergreens in their new home.
“So how did he become Mayor?” asked her daughter.
“He became Mayor because he’s a great leader.”
“What’s so great about him? I didn’t even know we had a Mayor. I always thought this village kind of ran itself.”
“Exactly,” the arborist replied.
Part of the evolution of consciousness we are going through today is a change in the way we see the leaders of our nations. We no longer put them on the pedestal we once did, nor are we willing to follow them blindly. The very word ‘politics’ immediately conjures up images in our minds of deception, corruption, and self-interest. We are convinced that hypocrisy is now built right into the system, and that someone who makes it to the top must be a person who owes a lot of secret favors and is good at making false promises that won’t be kept. We don’t believe any more that our leaders will do the right thing for us, for the community, the country, or the world. We have more than lost faith and trust. We have lost interest.
And I see this as a good thing.
Why? Because the time has come to be leaders ourselves—all of us. Instead of looking and listening for inspiration, it is time to be self-inspiring. Instead of waiting to be told what we have to do, it is time for us to decide how it’s all going to be. When Gandhi said, “be the change you want to see in the world,” he was exhorting each one of us to lead by example. He knew that lasting change does not happen by political decree but rather inside the minds of individuals, one at a time. Each time an individual has an insight, expands their vision, or learns something new, then the collective human consciousness that we all dip into is forever transformed.
Today our politicians don’t even try to influence the evolution of consciousness. The best they can do is react to it, and they are usually pretty slow at that. In fact our leadership and the institutions that support them may be the last things in our society to evolve as we move away from the outmoded belief that our leaders will save us and do what we actually came here to do.
In Ancient times leaders were considered far above the common people. Often they were not even considered people themselves, but gods, or at least having a direct link to divinity. In Egypt, for example, the faith that followers had in the divinity of their leaders was enough to move—or build—mountains. The great pyramids stand today as a testament to that. The rule was simple in those days: leaders command, subordinates obey. In this traditional master/servant relationship there was no place for conversation, debate, or differences of opinion. A hierarchy or chain-of-command passed edicts down in one direction, from top to bottom.
This format is the legacy of our modern institutions, not only in politics but in all spheres of life. The hierarchy of the church is a most obvious example. Followers were not capable of direct conversation with God but had to communicate through the priest, whose return message back to the follower was to be accepted as sacrosanct and beyond reproach. Our education system was founded on desks rigidly set in rows, with students uniformly dressed, all eyes forward and sitting in fear, as the teacher walked menacingly through the aisles, ready to slam the ruler down on the hand of any student not absorbing the immutable doctrines. Business was modeled after feudal society where the Lord had complete domain over the field workers underneath him. The Industrial Revolution’s production line only strengthened the conviction that workers were self-same cogs in the production wheel. And in the family, a man was the ‘king of his castle’, where his children ‘should be seen and not heard’ and his wife had to be subservient to his will.
This kind of leadership, which employs control and a reliance on unbending structure, is ultimately rooted in the perspective of the Ego Self. Since the Ego Self worries about being separate and insignificant, the leadership it sponsors drives leaders to try to elevate themselves above others. This way of being a leader means always being right, and never showing any doubt or hesitation. Ever afraid to reveal that they are not all-powerful and do not have all the answers, Ego-Self leaders tend to be rather inflexible and dismissive of contrary opinion.
Even though our society has been politically democratic for some time, our institutions still tend to be run by this control-oriented hierarchical leadership. Subordinates are implicitly expected to conform, and are not encouraged to have a point of view. Much of the thrust of this leadership amounts to maintaining order and exercising power, which means making subordinates follow the leader’s vision.
This is not to suggest that it is easy to lead in a more open and inclusive way; the power implicit in leadership can corrupt the most well-meaning among us. Here’s an example that history has revealed to us before, in a variety of iterations: a dissident leader in an oppressed country, a true ‘man of the people’, starts off with noble intentions and a vision of equality for all. With the people’s support he succeeds in orchestrating the overthrow of a brutal tyrant. However once in power himself, this leader is slowly overcome by his new-found sense of self-importance. His vision of ‘equality for all’ takes a back seat to his growing vision of his own grandeur. Lacking a deeper self-awareness, he doesn’t even recognize that he is changing. Soon enough he is faced with an ever-growing discontent among the people, and has to fight mercilessly to keep power and suppress revolt. He often wonders why the people are no longer happy about his victory over tyranny until the fateful moment, perhaps as he is being put to death, when it finally dawns on him that he himself had become the brutal tyrant that he once loathed.
Since our society is dominated by the Ego Self, it should come as no surprise to us that our leaders may have gotten seduced by the idea that their perspective is the right one, and that in some ways they are better than those they lead. This is only exacerbated when they surround themselves with yes-people who will not challenge them.
The thing is that we are rather fed up of being yes-people, and it’s beginning to show. Leaders have noticed that we don’t seem to be following orders as automatically any more. We have become less afraid to challenge the status quo, and have started asking our leaders to consider our unique visions, our talents or our aspirations. While some are paying attention, others have reacted by leading in the only way they know how: by shouting louder and banging harder on the drum of obedience. This may give them some results in the short term, but they are only stemming a far larger tide that will not hold for much longer.
Our institutions are already showing cracks in their foundations where individual expression and influence are oozing out. The Church structure has begun to crumble, as increasing numbers of people are bypassing the need for an intermediary and establishing their own private and personal contact with divinity. In education the whole concept of the classroom itself is being questioned, where conformity and uniformity are more and more being seen as a hindrance to learning. Successful businesses are being forced to flatten out their hierarchies and move away from the strict command-and-control structure they once enjoyed, realizing that their companies are more productive when their employees take greater part in the decision-making and their individual talents are considered. And in the family, the roles and rights of both women and children have changed immeasurably in recent times, as has the very nature of the family itself. The husband/father can no longer simply ‘put his foot down’ to squash any challenges to his leadership.
As we gain awareness as individuals, our leaders will continue to evolve by necessity. More and more, leaders in our society will have to move away from feeding their own sense of self-importance and be willing to deflect the spotlight so that individual expression and contribution can shine. Leadership will increasingly be doing the work that goes on backstage and supports the roles of those who are performing. It’s gratifying that we may be finally heeding the words of Lao-Tzu, written over two and a half millennia ago:
The existence of the leader who is wise is barely known to those he leads. He acts without unnecessary speech, so that the people say, “It happened of its own accord”.
Enduring leaders of modern day like Ghandi, the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, and Nelson Mandela walked amongst the people, as one of them. They did not seek to be deified or given superior status. They did not feel themselves as having privileged access to the knowledge that their lives modeled, but believed that each person was worthy. Their humility was not forced: it is a natural byproduct of leading from the Dao Self where we are all equal parts of the One. Doing this requires a high degree of self-awareness because to be human means to feel the constant pull of the Ego Self.
Jesus was considered one of the greatest leaders ever because he was able to resist the temptation to lead from the Ego Self, symbolized by the Devil. When the Devil offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, Jesus chose instead to remain firmly in the Dao Self. While maintaining his connection to the source of all things helped Jesus perform miracles, it was also the foundation of his conviction that anyone could do what he had done and even greater things.
For those who could not understand, he tried to be a model in his life, and told people to follow him—not blindly, but as an example of how to live. While Jesus tried in every way to point each person back to themselves and their capacity to live from the Dao Self, most were not quite ready for it. The difficulty he faced is comically illustrated in Monte Python’s Life of Brian, a parody of the life of Jesus:
BRIAN: You’ve got it all wrong! You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody! You’ve got to think for yourselves. You’re all individuals!
FOLLOWERS: Yes, we’re all individuals!
BRIAN: You’re all different!
FOLLOWERS: Yes, we are all different!
BRIAN: You’ve all got to work it out for yourselves!
FOLLOWERS: Yes! We’ve got to work it out for ourselves!
FOLLOWERS: Tell us more!
BRIAN: No! That’s the point! Don’t let anyone tell you what to do!
The irony is not lost on us. Since he lived at a time when people had not fully individuated, and so were not fully self-aware, it was difficult for Jesus to lead them to the internal and personal experience of being in the Dao Self. Instead his followers sought to deify him, calling him their savior, abdicating responsibility for their own behavior in the process.
Two millennia later, we are finally ready for leadership that comes from the Dao Self, not simply in the spiritual domain but in our politics, business, family and other human institutions. Leadership has begun to move away from commanding and towards facilitating. Rather than telling us what to do, leaders will have to engage each one of us in conversation, a conversation that leads us back to ourselves. This may come as a big relief to our leaders themselves, many of whom have become dissatisfied with the limitations of their command-oriented ways. Many will seize the opportunity to inspire rather than insist, to be authentic rather than simply do what is expected of them. And as the new conversation blurs the line between leader and follower we are all called upon to take up leadership positions, to support our individual expression while strengthening a collective voice that speaks for all of humanity.