Category Archives: Remembrances

Mediation Channel celebrates 5 years of blogging

This past Sunday my blog turned 5.

Two years ago I explained what blogging means to me. Those words still ring true:

It is the collegiality, the friendships that have sprung up across geographic distances. It is the pleasure of mutual discovery, of interests shared. It is the sparks struck and the ideas that ignite when viewpoints collide.

And so it remains.

Thank you so very much, readers, for your support – thanks to those of you who’ve been there since early days and to those of you who’ve just tuned in. I’m sure looking forward to continuing this conversation.

New Year resolutions: on friendship

More than kisses, letters mingle souls, for thus friends absent speak; copyright Diane J. Levin, do not use without permissionThe start of a new year spurs many of us who observe the Gregorian calendar to take stock of the year just gone and to set goals for the year ahead, whether personal, financial, business, or spiritual.

In looking back on this past year, one event stands out: I lost my beloved friend Maureen last April when she died after a two-year battle with cancer.

What kind of friend was she? Here’s what kind:

Quite a few years ago, my career headed in a new direction, I was about to depart on an out-of-state business trip that would take me many miles away from home and well out of my comfort zone. (I also have to confess that I was terrified of flying.) Knowing how important this first trip was, how much was riding on it, and how absolutely petrified I was about getting on that plane, Maureen mailed me a card filled with handwritten words of encouragement, optimism, and love. I immediately put it inside my briefcase so that it would be with me on my trip. The trip was a success, just as Maureen predicted it would be.

Her card’s my good luck talisman and travels with me to this day, no matter where I go. The envelope that contains it is frayed around the edges, and the card itself is battered and worn from holding it in my hands so often, but the words, in Maureen’s handwriting, remain clear.

Maureen was an extraordinary, luminous soul, lit from within by all the qualities of character she possessed. She let that light shine brightly into the lives of those fortunate enough to have known her. Like that card I carry with me, Maureen’s love still travels with us, packed up safe inside our hearts.

I will always remember how much that simple and sincere gesture meant to me. A card, a stamp, a few handwritten words. That was all. Friendship is built upon such foundations – the thoughtful deed and the stalwart heart.

And so, in Maureen’s honor, there’s one resolution I set for myself this year: to be a friend like her.

With best wishes to you all for a joyful and healthy 2010, and may you be blessed with loyal friends.

Thanks so much for reading.

Simply the best: good-bye to Geoff Sharp and Mediator Blah…Blah…

Safe trip, Geoff!Sad news today, friends.

One of the very best of the ADR bloggers is closing up shop.

Geoff Sharp has announced today that Mediator Blah…Blah… has ceased publication for now. Other projects beckon, and time with family matters. Geoff writes,

We’ve had fun, you and me. Thanks for reading, I remain grateful that you took the time.

We did indeed have fun, Geoff, and we are the ones who should say thanks.

Geoff wrote with honesty and straight from the heart, as posts such as “Rehearsing in poetry, practising in prose” will attest.

I’d been blogging for just under a year when I first met Geoff. His reflections on practice have been an important part of my online life for over three years, and I will miss him very much.

Best wishes, Geoff. Thanks for everything. And I’m really glad we’re friends.

Have you thanked your mentor lately?

Remember to thank your mentorIf we are fortunate, mentors await us along our path, reaching out a hand to guide us when the road grows rocky or shining a light on the way ahead. Later our lives lead us miles and years from our own beginnings. In keeping our eyes on the path ahead, it’s easy sometimes to forget to look back and remember the ones who steadied our steps.

I received an email this week that reminded me how important it is to stop and look back, to recall our mentors and the difference they made to our work and our lives. The email was from my friend Ericka Gray, who shared with her colleagues reflections and memories on learning of the death of a champion of ADR and justice, whose wisdom and encouragement influenced the direction of Ericka’s own life. I thank Ericka for allowing me to share her message with a wider audience:

Dear friends and colleagues;

I just learned of the recent death of my first mentor in the field of ADR, retired judge Martin L. Haines. I wanted to share my knowledge of him with you.

He taught me to always challenge the status quo when the status quo wasn’t good enough and to always question things that I thought needed questioning. At my interview to become the director of the 4th multi-door courthouse in the US, he asked me what I thought my job might be. I responded, after having listened to his ideas, that it was to challenge the court system to do better and to make people think about things differently. I was hired even though I wasn’t a lawyer, as the job supposedly required. After working for him for several months, I revisited the question of my job and told him I thought that it was my job to cause some sort of trouble at least weekly. He smiled, thought for a moment, and said that he was inclined to agree. His eyes sparkled as he added that he often caused trouble and it seemed that he had the most fun when he was doing so. Since he wrote many controversial decisions and was known to routinely be questioned by those above him, he truly enjoyed what he did! I resigned when he announced his retirement since I couldn’t imagine working there for anyone else.

Judge Haines was an incredible man who had the respect of all, even those who didn’t agree with him. He was truly a gentleman. I will miss him. He has left an indelible mark on my soul and encouraged my passion for pursuing justice in both process and outcome for all. I wish that you all could have known him.

Is there a mentor you’d like to thank? Let them know while there’s still time.

April 4, 1968

Robert F. Kennedy

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

Forty years ago today Robert F. Kennedy spoke those inspiring words as he announced the tragic death of Martin Luther King, Jr., to an African-American audience gathered in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Forty years later these words remain relevant. If you’ve never heard this speech before, or long to hear it again, read it or listen to it now.

Idealawg celebrates two years of blogging about the artistry of law

Idealawg celebrates the artistry of the lawyer's craftPerhaps the greatest gift that blogging has brought me has been the fellowship of fellow bloggers. Mediator and lawyer Stephanie West Allen, one of those remarkable bloggers I am privileged to count as friend, has just marked a milestone: the second anniversary of her blog Idealawg, which celebrates the artistry of the lawyer’s craft and honors the lawyer’s role as healer, not instigator, of disputes.

Stephanie shares the results of her intellectual inquisitiveness with readers by artfully covering topics ranging from idea productivity to life after law to conflict resolution.

Happy anniversary, Idealawg.

Why I blog: reflections on Mediation Channel's 3rd anniversary

connecting to the worldIt’s been such a busy month that my third anniversary of blogging, January 10, 2008, passed unnoticed. I completely forgot until now.

That is partly due to the attention that my blog’s move to a new home required, as well as the demands of work. And among the tasks involved in that move was the slow sorting-through and creation of categories for over 650 posts, the product of 36 months of blogging.

Among my archives I discovered several posts that reminded me why I continue to blog — some thoughts I’d like to share with you as I look back on three years.

Blogging of course is an effective marketing tool, one reason why many businesses and entrepreneurs are drawn to it, as my friend and fellow New Englander, Tammy Lenski, reminds readers today in asking an important question, “Is blogging a good mediation marketing strategy?

Blogs are also tools for gathering and disseminating knowledge and information. In a post from June 2005, “Five reasons why ADR professionals should be blogging“, I argued that blogging may make you smarter:

Successful blogging requires research. So bloggers surf the web, cruising for news. We’re Internet blood-hounds, tracking down the elusive scent of stories that will pique the curiosity of our readers. That constant prowling alerts us to stories, trends, breaking news in our field—and even in fields that have nothing whatsoever to do with our blog’s focus, which, I would argue, makes us well-rounded individuals.

But blogging by nature is designed to connect not just ideas but people — for me blogging’s greatest appeal. As I wrote in November 2006, “Get the connection: building your network through blogs“:

Although I have made many contacts the old-fashioned way—through personal introductions, conference attendance, and committee work–nothing has connected me to the world around me faster or more dramatically than blogging has succeeded in doing.

Blogs bring people together like no conference or convention can. It allows for conversation in a multitude of ways.

Here’s one: Publish a post and instantly the whole world hears your message. But this is no one-way conversation–because most blogs permit reader comments, the world can talk back.

Here’s another: Another blogger reads your post. Intrigued by the viewpoint or links you shared, he or she riffs on what you’ve written and links back to you, amplifying the conversation. Suddenly your voice is joined by someone else’s. Other bloggers chime in and the chorus of voices grows.

Here’s another: Someone discovers your blog. One of your posts has sparked their imagination or triggered questions. They email you to tell you. Or they email you a link to an article they think you’d find interesting. Or they email you just to say hello.

With a little encouragement, these conversations can ultimately give rise to meaningful connections–to collegiality, to inspiration, to collaboration. These connections, as I have happily discovered, can produce discoveries, insights, and, most rewardingly, friendships.

Contrary to popular belief, blogging is not a solitary activity. It is joyfully, boldly public.

You can shout into the canyon and hear your own voice echo back.

But wait and shout again, and you will hear other voices rise in greeting.

That, more than any other reason, is why blogging remains such an essential part of my professional life. It is the collegiality, the friendships that have sprung up across geographic distances. It is the pleasure of mutual discovery, of interests shared. It is the sparks struck and the ideas that ignite when viewpoints collide.

Here on the web, what matters most: Only connect.

Thanks to all of you for sharing some or all of those three years with me.  I’m glad you were here.

Martin Luther King, Jr.: lessons in conflict resolution and negotiation

Martin Luther King and the march on WashingtonOne of the best blogs on cognition, behavior, and the mind sciences is The Situationist, which examines the implications of social psychology for law, policymaking, and legal theory. In honor of Martin Luther King Day, which is celebrated in the U.S. today, The Situationist has republished a post from 2007, “Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Situationism“.

Pointing to excerpts from the text of King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail“, this post makes the case that “Martin Luther King, Jr. was, among other things, a situationist“:

To be sure, King is most revered in some circles for quotations that are easily construed as dispositionist, such as: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Taken alone, as it often is, that sentence seems to set a low bar. Indeed, some Americans contend that we’ve arrived at that promised land; after all, most of us (mostly incorrectly) imagine ourselves to be judging people based solely on their dispositions, choices, personalities, or, in short, their characters.

Putting King’s quotation in context, however, it becomes clear that his was largely a situationist message. He was encouraging us all to recognize the subtle and not-so-subtle situational forces that caused inequalities and to question (what John Jost calls) system-justifying ideologies that helped maintain those inequalities.

In reading King’s movingly written “Letter”, and The Situationist post, I would say that not only was King a situationist but a skilled master of negotiation and conflict resolution. Consider what King says about community and the mutual responsibility that flows from it:

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

Or this about negotiation and the need to confront issues and talk them through:

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

Read King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail“. What messages does it hold for you, as a mediator, as a negotiator, as a resolver of disputes, or simply as a human being?

11 November 2007

Veterans Day, November 11 2007

Thank you for reaching out

Thank you for connectingThank you to those of you who either posted comments or emailed me following “Requiem for a friend“, in which I wrote about loss, friendship, and the importance of staying connected with the people who touch our lives. This post evidently touched a responsive chord in many of you.

I am so grateful to you for reaching out.

Best wishes to you all–with deepest appreciation–