“He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!”–Outwitted, by Edwin Markham
Consider for a moment the mechanics of eye-sight: a small aperture that lets light in.
Surprising, right? “Love and I had wit to win: We drew a circle that took him in!” There is both metaphoric inclusion and line-of-sight inclusion. What we take in with our eyes is essentially light — a substitute for love.
OK — maybe I’m pushing it. Any act of conscience is a moral evaluation — a decision to see things in a certain way. Not quite the same thing as light (or love really). But still…
Remember how I defined conscience earlier (see …conscience as the doorway to our depths…) — as the evaluation of right and wrong given a context of vulnerability and reciprocation.
So, just how similar is the “encircling” action described in the poem to what we ACTUALLY do with our eyes? Do we let light in? Do we enclose ‘the other’ just by looking?
For better or worse, vulnerability and reciprocation is the interplay that establishes mutuality and respect. It’s what we do — when we act conscientiously. If you’re vulnerable, I offer support. And the way I do that is through inclusion and exclusion, and that (exclusion or inclusion) contains allusions to sight-related ideas such as foreground and background, focal point and periphery. I make an effort to take you in.
Let’s look at an example: John stood up his date, Jennifer. He was called away. There was a context of expectation and a focus. They were creating a relationship together. The mirroring back and forth got disrupted. So how will they now choose to see one another when they next meet? (Hold that thought for a moment).
I’m reading a book, entitled The Circle Way by Baldwin and Linnea. It discusses how leadership and decision-making work via “the circle way” — when a circle is used — to define and contain both the relationships and the issue. The circle way is an approach that provides containment and focus.
No hierarchy — no “us” versus “them” — no competition for control.
“The circle way” builds up cooperative communications which allow for equal participation and synergy. Forming an enclosing circle equalizes the participants; it removes everyone from the “hot” center of focus. The focus is the invitation to participate – with mutuality and respect.
“The circle way” pulls us back to times when human beings sat around fires to discuss issues and share stories. The warm center united rather than divided people.
(Returning to our example) So … when John and Jennifer next meet … can they be on the periphery and let the relationship stand in the center? Will they see each other as equal participants? Will the warm center which they create — unite them — or divide them? It all goes back to honor, love, and attention – the basic terms of exchange between human beings.
So what happened? John apologized and Jennifer accepted the apology. They eventually had the date they both wanted. They shared mutuality and respect.
And that result came about because they independently wrapped each other within an enclosing circle – AND they did not replace or supersede, or substitute that focus with what they thought, or felt, or believed — individually.
When looking at one another, they saw something valuable enough to make space for … valuable enough to contain within an enclosing circle … but without closing it off.
The periphery became as important a place as the center. There was dialog. That’s how conscience works. The “hot” focus is there — always ready to engulf us — if we become too attached, too enmeshed, too obsessed with our feelings. The center must always be tempered by a quieter and cooler voice — a voice that remains on the periphery.
“Love and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle that took him in!” — Only by maintaining that open dialog — between the center and the periphery — does conscience have the chance to let the light in.
Thanks for listening and Happy Valentine’s Day!