collective wisdom
collective wisdom bookkey concepts
collective wisdom book

Key Concepts:
Six Stances * Power Over vs Power With * Proving What We Know * Polarization is a Wound * Creating Fields of Belonging * Mindfulness Practice

Proving What We Know

Sometimes humor and fable can help us get enough distance from human behavior to see ourselves and our patterns more clearly. In the 1940s, Solomon Simon wrote a series of fables about the town of Helm, a curious place hidden deep in the mountainous forests of Eastern Europe. The oral tradition
of these tales dates back to at least the 1500s. No one knows exactly how Helm came to be, Simon wrote, but one origin tale has it that an angel was carrying a sackful of foolish souls back up to heaven for mending when he got lost in a storm. As the angel struggled to find his way, his sack got caught on the point of a tall tree, ripped, and spilled all of the foolish souls down the mountainside into Helm. Another origin tale had it that a strange stream of air, known for making human beings into simpletons, blew into Helm one day, and the Helmites breathed so deeply that they, their children, and their children’s children were afflicted.

However Helm came to be, what is most notable about the town, according to Simon, is that people there seem to reason . . . um . . . differently from the way people in other parts of the world do (or at least think we do). For example, the town sages often busy themselves by testing the logical reasoning of young novices. One novice might be asked a chemistry question: “What sweetens a glass of tea: the sugar or the teaspoon that stirs it?” If you answered, “The sugar, of course!” you would not make it far in the town of Helm. The right answer in Helm is that the teaspoon sweetens the tea; the sugar is needed only to tell the stirrer when to stop stirring. When the sugar has dissolved, the person can stop stirring, confident that the spoon has been in the tea long enough to sweeten it.

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