Aug 28, 2010

When One is Proud to be a “Blockhead”

One of our fine members—dare I print his name?—[Rick Smith] recently introduced me to Peter Block who is an author and a business consultant. Block lives in Cincinnati, OH. Block says on his web site that he sees his work as concerning empowerment, stewardship, chosen accountability, and the reconciliation of community.

Peter Block has written several best selling books. I mention them because I like it when people mention my books. Among Block’s books are: Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used (1st edition 1980, 2nd edition 1999); Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest (1993), and The Empowered Manager: Positive Political Skills at Work (1987).

In 2008 Berrett-Koehler published Peter Block’s Community: The Structure of Belonging. After spending several evenings with this jewel of a book, I want to share something that I read. Block writes:

One aspect of our fragmentation is that the gaps between sectors of our cities and neighborhoods; businesses, schools, social service organizations, churches, government operate mostly in their own worlds. Each piece is working hard on its own purpose, but parallel effort added together does not make a community. Our communities are separated into silos; they are a collection of institutions and programs operating near one another but not overlapping or touching. This is important to understand because it is this dividedness that makes it so difficult to create a more positive or alternative future—especially in a culture that is much more interested in individuality and independence than in interdependence. The work is to overcome fragmentation.

This is exactly right in my judgment. Community work is hard work because everyone’s success is tied to everyone else’s success. We all know the temptation to “do our own thing” and let everyone else pull their own weight.

I recollect that when Paul was addressing those obstinate Corinthians he throws at them their own words: “Each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos,’ or ‘I belong to Cephas,’ or ‘I belong to Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul” (1 Corinthians 1:12-13)?

I wonder if Paul ever said out loud—“I belong to you and you belong to me because we all belong together.” I wonder.

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