How can we live out our values more fully in our practice by an explicit exploration of our living contradictions? B. Cunningham and M. Laidlaw
Please find attached our joint paper on an exploration of our living contradictions.
We look forward to your comments.
Best wishes, Ben and Moira
Ben and Moira, I'm not one of your reviewers but I have read this powerful paper and hope it swiftly moves to publication. It is raw and honest, and its use of a lengthy history of online (and rare face to face) engagement suggests a commitment to each other's growth that is also evident in the dialogue.
I wish you both all the best as the paper moves through the stages.
Ich danke Ihnen! In Verbundenheit für Frieden, Gerechtigkeit und Freiheit
Dear Ben. I have read your EJOLTS article with real engagement and pleasure. Many congratulations!
I would like to thank you for your commitment and generosity in co-writing this article and thus being able to reach a wide audience who will be enrichd by your life-experience.
The article might consist only of words, but your devotion, and commitment to help people in dire straits, speaks loudly as an example for our own societies. It’s not about doing something prescribed, but instead being with an individual – whatever he or she has done – giving your time, stretching out a hand, gifting a smile; it’s about seeing the person behind the wall, empathising and feeling and caring, seeing them as real and human just like you, with needs and fears and regrets. It’s about doing this with an open heart. And that’s honourable work. Most honourable work!
Sometimes I am ashamed of humanity, of my own and other people’s. And then you come along and reset the balance, show me that there is goodness, that it can triumph. That it is quiet but pervasive. There are marvellous people like you, and I want to say this to you.
Wherever someone stands in the darkness of their lives, people need to build bridges connecting us all. It is the only thing that heals. You have gone where you saw the need. For that you needed goodness, love and immense energy and courage. That is what I understand as compassion.
The path you tread is riddled with dangers, cliffs overhanging the abyss, but that’s the path you’ve chosen. We need to learn, learn, learn, until the last breath of our lives. And we are seeing what you have done because of the article. I am glad we can see it, Ben.
Hand in hand is the only way we can go further into our own better humanity. And you have chosen to work with murderers. Chosen it. Your love for the men you visit shows them without stain and stigma, but as fully human. I am humbled by what you have done. You are a beam of light for those living in darkness. They appreciate you, although the world might not.
In 1980 I was imprisoned as a political dissident because I had tried to escape from East Germany to the West. I was incarcerated in Hoheneck women’s prison, there with child-murderers in a 24-person cell. I know from personal experience what it felt like to be there, alone and deserted, lost scared. To be imprisoned is to fragment reality, to loosen the grip of a life. But for a person to come from the outside world, from whom trust and love shine, that is heroism to the imprisoned. To stand with the prisoner and say, ‘I am no different from you; we are the same. I don’t despise you. I accept what you have done and I am still here and will continue to be here.’ It’s in the acceptance of the other as lovable that heals the prisoner’s fragmentation. A peaceful, kind word, a yes, an attempt to make connections. In life, I believe, it isn’t the length of the steps taken, it’s that first step, the first hand-shake, the first word of kindness and gentleness. The journey you have chosen to share with the other. It’s an invitation to freedom.
Through the writing of this article you appear to come to know yourself and your strengths even better. With Moira there too, who doesn’t give up a fight when the cause is just, then I believe there is nothing you cannot accomplish with your actions and with your writing, Ben. What you have uniquely achieved here, it seems to me, is a report that offers hope for the future of humanity. It is an example to us all.
Who has the
strength to look into the abyss? Only s/he who can, someone of your
extraordinary abilities. And only someone who can look into the abyss can have
the compassion and love that you show.
Dear Ben, from the bottom of my heart I wish you a continuing openness to your humanity, much strength, patience and devotion to the people you work with. It is those qualities the whole world needs now. And who will do it if not you? I thank you.
With deep respect, for peace, for justice and for freedom.
Dear Ben and Moira - I'm writing as a reviewer of your paper and will be recommending publication (with minor typographical corrections which I can do at the final editing stage) as it is. I also agree with the Pip's and Anke's responses to your paper.
What I'm wondering is whether you might like to include Anke's and Pip's responses at the end of your paper in relation to your point:
In inviting each other into dialogues about how we can better live out our values in our practices, we are at a micro-level embodying the kinds of values and processes we believe could pave the way towards a better social order.
Your paper not only shows that you have invited each other into dialogue, but also the others who have responded to your present, submitted paper.
I feel invited into a dialogue with you in relation to the following point.
You have provided a most persuasive answer to your question:
How can we live out our values more fully in our practice by an explicit exploration of our living contradictions?
I'm wondering if your focus on living contradictions whilst enabling you to clarify your values might, paradoxically, be masking a particular value you both experience and express in sustaining your values that carry hope for the flourishing of humanity. I'd use a photograph of Moira, that I think shows Moira's embodied expression of her life-affirming and enhancing relational value of inclusion in the natural world (and cosmos). I do understand that you might not wish to amend the ending of your paper to include this idea - many thanks for the delight you both evoked as I read your paper and the enlightenment I'm feeling in understanding your values. Love Jack.
Dear Moira and Ben,
Arianna suggested I read your paper as I am working on a joint paper with a past mentee of mine. We have been grappling with how to represent ourselves in the paper in the same way as you describe. We also gathered much of our research through email correspondence and it is helpful to see how you have done this.
The paper is also extremely powerful and is really helpful to see how you have both improved your practice and love and understanding in an area that is particularly emotive and important in creating a world that brings flourishing to everyone.
Thanks so much for this feedback, Sonia. Much appreciated. I hope your own paper is going well and I look forward to reading it when it's completed.
All the best, Moira
Dear Ben and Moira,
I very much enjoyed reading this paper and recommend it for publication. It reflects such an important topic for as as human beings and as researchers. Thank you. My life is enriched by reading it! I have inserted my comments for your consideration within the attached document (JRD Review).
I find your use of the literature particularly effective and useful in understanding your "evidence."
The now very old file in my brain labelled college psychology course is making me think that you are writing within a certain genre (Adler, Rogers, etc) but of course I can't remember what that is called--might it strengthen your paper to position yourself within that tradition?
Very minor items: There are a few places where it seems words are missing and I am unsure of the British spelling of judgment..
Really, I just think the paper is so important and already want to refer it to people that I have jointly tried to work with. You express so honestly how that relationship works, and how we grow through the process.
Mahalo to you both for your contributions,
Dear Jocelyn. I have read through your very kind and constructive words here and gone through the paper as well. Thank you SO MUCH for such a thorough review and so many affirming comments. I can only speak for myself, but I am really moved by the way in which you have engaged with the ideas, the feelings, the values, the situations. I take on every comment you have made referring to my particular aspects of the paper and I am particularly struck by your recognition of my living contradiction in terms of my attitude to working with C in which I was fulfilling a function, rather than responding to him as a full human being. I hadn't seen it quite like that. Thank you.
Ben and I will be discussing our responses to your review and going through the additions and amendments as necessary. Thank you. I feel really energised by the way you have responded to our paper.
Watch this space!
Ben and Moira,
I did not include the rubric in my last message but attach it here. It was useful for me to go through after reading through your paper.
Dear Ben and Moira,
I'm writing as one of your reviewers. May I first of all thank you for your great patience in waiting for my observations. The great strength of this work is the growth and insight that you have enabled each other to develop in this 'corresponding' stage of your relationship that you began to construct as a 'mentoring' relationship as you sought to support each other in your related areas of practice with offenders (if that's the right term). I have three areas that I would like to comment on. 1) Jack in his definition of Living Theory talks about the extension of our educational influence to the groups and social formations of which we are a part. I wonder if you were able to discern changes in disposition and behaviour in 'C' and 'E' and others as a result of your mentoring relationship. In one place you talk about the mentoring extending to your participants. I wondered if you could point to some growth in your participants as a result of your mentoring relationship - an extension of compassion and forgiveness through the network of relationships. 2) Ben, your thesis was one of the first works in Living Theory research that I read and it remains, to me, one of the most inspiring as you were struggling with issues of spirituality that included forgiveness and compassion to yourself and others that also spoke to my situation (for which deep, deep thanks). It seems to me that there are echoes from your thesis in this current work that might be worth noting as part of your journey. 3) Moira, On reading about your adapting to elearning I wondered if some of the 'fragmentation' you were struggling with in your relationship with 'C' might be part of the process of mastering a new instructional medium. Stephen Brookfield in his works (especially in Discussion as a Way of Teaching and in The Skillful Teacher) speaks of a similar experience to your own. I note that two other Living Theory research have wrestled with the issue of online communication (Hughes (2012) and Kinsella (2012)) and I wonder if it might not be worth comparing your experience with that of Brookfield, Hughes, and Kinsella. I also wonder if, as you developed your expertise, your communications with 'C' began to assume the character of the 'eletters' that you and Ben exchanged.
I agree with Jack that this paper is worthy of publication as it stands, but I wonder if engagement with the reflections that I offer might not enhance this fine piece even further.
Please find my specific observations on the text below.
Wishing you the flourishing of life in this season of renewal.
Many thanks, Brian, for your close reading and reviewing of our paper. It is kind of you to recommend publication without alterations. However, Ben and I will go through the remarks you've made and where we agree that an explanation will enhance the comprehensibility of the paper, we will of course make the necessary amendments.
Warm regards, Moira
Dear Jocelyn, Brian and Jack. We would both like to thank you very much indeed for your constructive comments on our paper, which we are now submitting for your final consideration. We realise you have all three recommended our paper for publication, whether or not we follow up on the points from your separate reviews. However, we felt it was very important to engage throroughly with your ideas and believe our paper is all the better for it.
Jocelyn: We very much appreciated your engaged responses to our paper and the questions you raise in terms of contextualisation. It is important to us both, that we contextualise our work from within Living Theory rather than another paradigm (Adler, or Rogers, for example). We use their insights where they help us to clarify our thinking, but don't see Living Theory as something which is located within an intellectual tradition. We have, however, included an explanation of 'face' in the way that Levinas uses it and an explanation of the term 'libing contradiction'. The British English spelling of judgement differs from the American English way. We are using the British version of the term. Most of all we were moved by the way you responded in your annotations to the values we are hoping to improve on. You often simply made comments about how a section made you feel, or might be of use to you personally. Those comments were particularly lovely to read. Thank you.
Brian: Thank you very much for your engaged and appreciative responses (D'Arcy, 1998) to our paper. We have looked carefully at the claims we are making - Moira in particular on the conscientisation of her practice through C. and added a little explanatory text, linking it with conclusions made later on. We've expanded as well a little on explanations for the differences in the terms 'law-abiding' and 'integrity' in order to show their significance to the building of our arguments. We've built on the issue you raised on p.6 to do with peer mentoring, linking it directly to the work I (Moira) have been doing with C.. In terms of the comments you make about Ben and his past experience in the priesthood, he has added a reference to his thesis on p. 2 and in the Introduction. The comments you raise about the quality of digital media for communication between tutor and student are very helpful. Thank you. I (Moira) have written a few comments about this on p. 17 and p. 21. It's something I am going to have to work on more consciously in the future.
Jack: Many thanks for the affirming review, Jack. We were both grateful for it and encouraged by its very positive tone. We have added two photographs to the final edition - see the Conclusion, starting on p. 19. We hope this embraces the idea you put forward about a delight in being with each other and also in being in nature and the cosmos. We have, I hope, strengthened this with the belief that we share a delight in life itself, and this is a quality we hope to bring to the work we do with others, that they might experiencing this pleasure in being alive too.
On p. 3 I (Moira) have also included the url with some explanation, which connects to the Chinese classroom, where I am saying goodbye to the Teaching Methodology students. In seeking to make some acknowledgement to as many individuals as possible, I single out one student for special consideration. Jack, you suggest there are examples of non-contradiction in the work we do, and I am offering this as an example of your belief in a non-contradiction: I espouse the right for a student to contradict my view of the world, and when this student does this (and contradicting a teacher in China is not expected or looked for in a traditional classroom), I make it very clear I am delighted by her courage.
In conclusion, we hope you will see how you have all helped to enrich our paper. Thank you very much for all your help.
Warmest regards, Moira and Ben.
p. 2--judgment vs judgement (which is why I had the earlier question)
p 4--an crisis (a British thing?)
p. 6--"I had not not had consciously..."
p. 6--human Equality I think
p. 20--Each other vs ach...
Also, you do not need to reference me but if you do, I use Jocelyn Romero Demirbag vs Jocelyn Demirbag.
I love how transparently you each work. Again, thank you for such an interesting paper!
Thank you so much for such a quick response, Jocelyn, and for the carefuly scrutiny of the paper again. We will amend the errors, and will continue to reference your contribution to our paper, if that's all right, but of course with your correct name this time!
All the best and thank you for such a lovely series of responses to our paper.
Happy Easter, Moira and Ben.
Dear Moira and Ben - many thanks for your delightful acknowledgement of your reviewers' constructive responses. I'm just repeating my earlier recommendation that your paper should be accepted for publication and I'm looking forward to it being published in the June 2017 issue.
I appreciated your inclusion of the two photographs. They seem to me to add something important to the main theme of your paper as you clarify your living meanings of tolerance, equality, compassion and love, in the course of their emergence through your experience of contradiction.
What I think your images add is the recognition of a relational dynamic between you that shows you (together with your writings, about meanings emerging through contradiction) expressing a relationally dynamic, ontological commitment to express and evolve values that carry hope for the flourishing of humanity. I like very much the way you distinguish and evolve your values of tolerance, equality, compassion and love. Through your writings together I experienced what I think Victor Frankl focused on in emphasising the importance of a search for meaning. What your paper has shown me is a cooperative/participatory search for meaning with values of tolerance, equality, compassion and love. Many thanks for sharing your journey together, through your writings.
Thank you, Jack, for your prompt response to our amended paper. It is really much appreciated. I felt that we had something to say, but I am so delighted with the responses from both our reviewers and people who have been moved to respond spontaneously. There is something very significant for me in this review process, something that augments my understanding of the living value I hold of democratising processes for educational benefits. I am hoping to put something together for another paper for the December issue of EJOLTS.
This has been an exciting time, and I want to thank you publicly for the part you have played in that.
Love from, Moira
Dear Moira and Ben,
I think this latest iteration makes even clearer the dynamism of your learning partnership in which you have supported each other in your growth. I am particularly pleased that you made clearer the changes that occurred with C in the course of his interaction with you.
Along with Jack and Jocelyn I am delighted to recommend publication with no further modifications.
Many many thanks for this, Brian. It is very much appreciated how closely you have engaged with our paper, and helped us to strengthen it.
Warmest regards, Moira