I have been working as a leadership coach for many years. Every few weeks, I go in this role to a monastery with managers who have lost their jobs. In the workshop we work on the themes of inner images, the future, failure, fear, hope and so forth.
They have been dismissed because of a personal conflict, have fallen victim to restructuring or have themselves decided to leave the company. What the participants have in common is that they previously had power over others and now have lost it. Until now, they had been used to developing visions, strategies and concepts and making decisions for others. Now, others have often decided over them.
It’s spring again and time for a bird-lover to have her say. When I am woken (very) early in the morning, by the blackbird, the robin and other vocal birds, this cacophony of sounds, notes, voices and resonances that buzz, chirp, trill, beat, scream, whistle makes me smile involuntarily. Listen to the song “Grantchester Meadows” from the Pink Floyd album “Ummagumma” , which begins with the song of a lark. Then you will have an idea of what I mean. (By the way, I recommend listening to the song all the way to the end).
Translator’s note: the book mentioned in this article is not available in English. Other works by the authors have been published in several other languages, including The Compassionate Brain: How Empathy Creates Intelligence. We felt the central idea discussed here merited its publication.
The book has been on the market for a few years, but just recently in a seminar for executives on agile principles, I quoted from it a pessimistic message: “For centuries, many books have been published about love. But still we fail to give love more space in ourselves and in people.” Basis for an enriching group discussion.
The more I look at the painting, the more my gaze wanders from the face of the old, shabby-looking woman to the owl at her shoulder. The owl here stands for drunkenness and bad, vulgar behaviour. In the 18th century there was the expression “as drunk as an owl”. The picture hangs in the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, which was painted by Frans Hals in 1630 is called Malle Babbe1, 2. Owls are also considered wise because of their sharpened senses and night vision abilities, which already fascinated the ancient Greeks. The owl was the companion animal of the goddess Athena, the patron goddess of Athens and the goddess of wisdom.
What do you have to eat on Christmas Eve? In some German families, sausages with potato salad are a tradition. Or carp with potato salad. When I was a child, there was a lot of excitement at first because we children were not allowed in the living room because the tree had been decorated by our parents and was supposed to be a surprise (it looked the same every year). Then came the giving of the presents, followed by a 3-course meal, a sinful gluttony. Because at 11 pm we all staggered into Christmas mass, drowsy and our bellies full. That was the “family tradition” for many years. Today I experience it quite differently. Let me describe how we will probably celebrate Christmas Eve.
After I had recently done a one-minute (!) focussing exercise at the beginning of a retrospective, one participant remarked that he could never get used to these “esoteric” exercises. We then had a minor altercation about silence and how difficult many people find it to endure silence. Loving silence has nothing to do with the esoteric.
In my role as a facilitator, I have become a friend of silence. And my route there was not easy. I like to talk and passionately, when I do. I am sometimes impulsive and too quick for others. Through experience I have learned to keep quiet and to listen very carefully, especially when someone else is speaking. If you were to ask some of my colleagues how much progress I have made, they will probably say she is still practising. That’s how I see it too, it’s an ongoing exercise to become quiet and stay quiet. I am happy about every step I take towards stillness away from the deluge of noise.
There are also some kestrels breeding in my neighbourhood. Incidentally, they are not related to birds of prey, but to parrots. Once made aware of this peculiarity, one can see some parallels between the two species, e.g. in flight, motion on the ground and beak design. But that’s not what I wanted to write about. Kestrels, like tits, lay their eggs at intervals of a few days, so that some of the children will develop further than the stragglers. As a result, the older ones beg more loudly for food and are thus attended to more quickly and grow faster. And in years of shortages, such as this year 2022, only the older ones are then fed. The younger ones starve. This is a survival strategy of birds called cainism. This behaviour is also known in storks when there is a food shortage in their breeding area.
The stories told here are not for the faint-hearted. According to human moral standards, they are all about the rejection of all ethical behaviour and the deep abyss of social machinations. Things get really bad in the bird kingdom. So think twice: do you really want to read on? I warned you….
When I recently spotted the title in a science journal, my first thought was: Huh? (Hessian for Whaaaaat????) I understand the individual words, but I don’t know what they mean together.
I remember an episode when my brother happened to be standing in my office and overheard me talking to a colleague about a current IT project. When the colleague had left the room, my brother asked: “What were you actually talking about? I didn’t understand a word. What kind of gibberish was that?” He is a lawyer and therefore at home in his own language.
This is not about your unease as a mighty thunderstorm front approaches, although this spectacle of nature could also be worth an article in Harlequin, especially if there is a theatre of clouds in the sky (look up and discover, as I did, your grandmother as a cloudy silhouette). And it’s not about mosquitoes either, which are, after all, known as awe-ful bloodsuckers of mammals and thus also transmit diseases. Nor is it about ticks, which, once they have bitten into a mammal, grow larger and larger and only occur at altitudes of up to 1,200 metres.
Today it’s really about crime stories, S&M practices, pretense and deceit. And all this in nature. And it’s about small and tiny creatures trying to hold their own in a world of eating and being eaten with artifice, guile and trickery.
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