Moving To “And” Land

“The Master resides in the center of the circle, while yes OR no pursue each other around the circumference” – Lao Tzu

We are, every one of us potentially, (including the two gentlemen from Missouri, seen here disagreeing on Prop C.)  – the “master” whom Lao Tzu evokes.

I reckon that since that sage offered us the above advice 2500 years ago we haven’t been paying heed. Was he was prescient – channeling 21st century American politics? Or likelier, was he simply commenting on some identical incident, which he was observing in ancient China?

I’d like to offer a suggestion:

I’ve been thinking that if we could simply substitute the word AND, in the place of OR, things might be a lot less contentious, plus we would all be calmer. Let’s create “AND LAND”, then move there. I reckon it would be a more relaxed place to live. What do I mean?

Example: Suzuki Roshi, on the eternal question of whether OR not there is an afterlife said: “To say that we die, is not the correct understanding. To say that we don’t die, is not the correct understanding. We die, AND we don’t die. That is the correct understanding.” Think about that for a bit. Doesn’t that somehow feel more reasonable to you? All we did was change one word…AND…Voila!

Example: I have big trouble with the word “answer”, which is almost always preceded by the word ”THE”, as in “what is THE answer? You mean there’s only one? Hmm, is it this? OR, is it that?

Personally, I think that the French got it right. To “answer” in French is “repondre”, to “respond”. I way prefer the word “response” because that word makes room for your answers AND for my answers, which may, in fact, both be correct. We may actually both be right (instead of just me?) Huh! Imagine that!

Example: In the never-ending battle between black OR white, as Allan Watts pointed out, most of us seem instinctively to want to root for white, as though “white must win” – all the while forgetting that white has no meaning whatsoever, unless black is there too – at the other pole. After all, where would up be without down? They need each other to exist. Ditto with yes AND no, right AND wrong,

Example: In conflict resolution, whether the conflict is in the domain of relationship or business, or whatever,  settlements occur in that zone which recognizes the legitimate concerns and grievances of both parties – that same place wherein you AND I are both right.

So, That’s why we need AND instead of OR, and that’s where we need to live – in “AND LAND”. Things are more peaceful in that place, I’m pretty sure… AND way better for the digestion.

Practice Tip:

Today’s practice tip riffs off of a concept known as the “Ladder of Inference” originally conceived by Chris Argyris, then further developed by Peter M. Senge. Moving up from the bottom of the ladder explains why we often don’t remember where our deepest views come from, thus ruling out lots of opportunities.

Looking at the above sketch, we see right away that if, no higher even than the second rung from the bottom, we receive only the data we want from all that is really happening, we are already well on our way to getting rid of all those ANDS – which are, actually, most of the possibilities contained in the event.

By the time we arrive at the top rung, we are basically telling ourselves, believing, and acting out our own stories, which have little or nothing to do with what’s going on.

Of course, we can’t live without adding meaning or drawing conclusions – we need to do that.

But, before we do that, we can:

1) Get calm. Take a breath, or two. This is very important.

2) Allow yourself to feel how you feel. Your feelings are valid.

3) Acknowledge your feelings, and then say to yourself:  “OK, this is what I’m feeling, but now, what am I thinking? What is really happening here?”

4) Share what you are thinking about what you are observing with other witnesses or participants. Ask them for their thoughts. Be open to their perspectives.

5) Now, watch your understanding –  plus all those ANDS (your possibilities) –  grow.

Dear Reader, please be kind to yourself.



About Michael Scott

Michael Scott is a life coach, author and teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. After spending 35 years in business - coaching found him - and he's never looked back. Michael uses his coaching training and experience, in the service of his clients, as their constant and loving guide towards joyous, fulfilling lives which are genuinely their own. He lives with his dear wife in Sausalito, CA.

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