Clueless at the Top Charlotte and Harriet Childress

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#460 -Dick Bernard: Clueless at the Top

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Last week I had the time to act on a long avoided task. I took on our long neglected bookshelves.

Among the collected works that caught my eye was a book I had purchased in 2005, “Clueless at the Top, While the Rest of Us Turn Elsewhere for Life, Liberty and Happiness” by Charlotte and Harriet Childress. The essence of the book is captured both in the title and at its helpful and informative website, here.

It’s hardly a revelation that we Americans live in a hierarchical (pyramidal) society – perhaps we’re inclined to a hierarchical structure. We seem to want somebody in charge, particularly someone to blame. But the collective body is often ill served by these same clueless leader(s). (I suspect you have someone in mind as “clueless” already.)

Most noticeable are the clueless ones at the top of the big hierarchies: the leaders of the country; of big corporations. They’re convenient targets. Indeed they can do immense damage by virtue of their position. But most likely in the course of any day we will witness many other hierarchies down to the most basic, seemingly never-ending (and endlessly controversial) biblical one: “wives, submit to your husbands” (Colossians 3:18).

At whatever level, hierarchies often create big problems.

As I relooked at the Childress’ volume, it occurred to me that we are ALL “clueless”, every one of us. Within each of us there is the constant struggle between belief and reason, between knowledge and faith, between the easy route and the hard. We lurch between wisdom and cluelessness, hopefully with a bit more wisdom than stupidity!

Sunday night, for a single example, I watched the 60 Minutes segment on recently deceased Steve Jobs, visionary founder of Apple and easily one of the people at the pinnacle of the hierarchy called success. Jobs is legendary and deservedly so (I type this blog on part of his legacy: an iMac).

At the same time, Jobs died at 56, still youthful in his career; his death came at a very early age in contemporary America. In a fateful decision some years ago, he apparently chose to not follow advice to get surgery for cancer when that cancer could conceivably have been cured. Rather, he opted for alternative means which did not work. He followed his own advice, and it served him ill.

Mr. Jobs apparently was no different than the rest of we mere mortals in at least the cluelessness aspect.

So, what to do.

The only reasonable place to start dealing with this cluelessness issue is within ourselves, starting exactly where we are, not even bothering to look elsewhere for people to blame.

Last May we saw a documentary which will be publicly available in a month or two. It is entitled I Am, the Documentary, and its main take-aways for me were 1) the inherent democracy of the natural world, the ability of natural systems to work together cooperatively; 2) what was called The Power of One: the capacity each one of us has to make a positive difference not only for ourselves, but for society at large.

Sunday night, after 60 Minutes, we watched a public television special on “Radioactive Wolves” at Chernobyl 25 years after the catastrophic nuclear meltdown in 1986. What sticks with me from that program were two things: 1) the natural populations (wolves and the like) seem to have recovered without apparent significant long term damage; 2) all that remained of human presence was the abandoned and stark evidence of former human occupation, including the virtually completely abandoned city of Pripyat.

As Chernobyl et al demonstrate daily, there is a great abundance of “Cluelessness at the Top” amongst we humans.

Let’s do what we can within our own individual “pyramids” to make this planet we occupy a better one.