One Picture, Two Stories

bootsonwiresLook at the picture to the right.

What does this represent for you? What do you think about when you look at it? What story does it tell you?

In the workshops we facilitate for clients, we often use images to help people come together around different issues. Last week in a workshop I was facilitating, two women shared their stories about this particular image.

For one, it held a story of youth, of gangs and of the potential for violence.

The second woman originally came from a part of the world where electricity cables were often falling or damaged and there were many deaths from electrocution. For her this picture told a story of safety – the boots over the wire were potentially a protection from dangerous currents and from possible death! She said that, without the boots, the image would have been far more frightening for her.

By sharing their stories, these two women moved the group into a rich conversation about how the same experience can hold very different meaning for different people. Something we all know, but sometimes forget in our day-to-day dealings with others.

I can’t really understand how you experience what is happening or the meaning you make of it unless I ask you. Unless I take the time to listen deeply to your story and appreciate how you see the world and your place in it.

Reality is created in the moment, and there are multiple realities
(Sue Annis Hammond,  The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry)

Note: The image here is one card from a beautiful set called Picture This.  These cards are published by Innovative Resources, which is one of the best sources we know for obtaining a wide range of excellent strength-focused resources.


Indra’s Net

Photo: Indra's Net. Copyright Doug Benner

Photo: Indra’s Net. Copyright Doug Benner (Click for larger image)

There’s a beautiful Hindu legend about the god Indra, who commissions an artisan to craft a vast net across the universe.

When the net is complete, at each junction Indra places a shining jewel – the facets of which reflect every other jewel in this cosmic network.

Each jewel represents a single atom, cell or life form in the Universe and all are intimately connected with one another. Any change in one jewel produces a change, however small, in all the others.

The legend also reminds me of a passage from Sinuhe the Egyptian, written by Mika Walthari in 1949:

For I, Sinuhe, am a human being. I have lived in everyone who existed before me and shall live in all who come after me. I shall live in human tears and laughter, in human sorrow and fear, in human goodness and wickedness, in justice and injustice, in weakness and strength. As a human being I shall live eternally in all mankind.

Both of these stories – a 3rd century metaphor and a post-WWII novel – resonate for me in relation to our modern, networked world.

As human beings we are all interconnected. Even a small change in one of us can ripple out through those connections to make changes in others.

Or, as Peter Block said more recently, we can “change the world, one conversation at a time”.


My thanks to Doug Benner for his kind permission to use the beautiful photograph above.