Review by: Woodrow W. Clark II, MA3, PhD (*)
Piloting Through Chaos--The Explorer’s Mind
(Bridge 21 Publications, August 2013)
By Julian Gresser
Rarely have I read a book that has engaged me so personally as Julian Gresser’s newest book Piloting Through Chaos—The Explorer’s Mind. Beginning with Chapter 1 where Gresser is interviewed by a colleague and asked in-depth questions about topics that must concern us all to the author’s original responses, I believe this book is globally revolutionary on every level imaginable today.
Piloting Through Chaos—The Explorer’s Mind comprises two books, which are woven in one fabric. I will comment briefly on each. The central theme of Book I, which is a republication of his 1995 work, is how to “navigate” the world with “integrity.” Gresser defines integrity as a state of “dynamic” balance where the “eye” of intelligence works in harmony with the “hand” of action and the “heart” of compassion.
At first this seemed to me a foreign Chinese concept, but as I reflected upon the circumstances of my own life I could see that the underlying theme of wisdom which Gresser maintains is closely connected to integrity is transcultural and universal. Since I have been involved in business with the Japanese in the 1980s, then Korea and in greater depth in the Peoples Republic of China (and Taiwan) in the 1990s, and continuing today, Gresser hit a basic core theme in my world. His book hit home in that he tied the Asian philosophical roots that I was aware of into a new way to look at the world and my role in it --- all of us. There is no that China will be playing more and more a key role in our everyday lives.
Gresser assists the reader in understanding ourselves, and hence cultivating integrity, through a roadmap he calls “The Five Rings” which was inspired he tells us by the great Japanese samurai-artist Miyamoto Musashi. The First Ring, which struck me like a thunderbolt, challenges us to “Know Yourself.” This admonition, it is said, was written on the Temple at Delphi, and it is the point of departure for virtually all the wisdom traditions.
Although knowing oneself seemed to me at first glance to be simple and straightforward, it is most difficult and subtle. Actually, it is the KEY. I am reminded of its significance daily with my six-year old son (especially as I am now in my 60s). I see in him what I might have done with my first family, when now both my children are in their mid-30s; I have two grandchildren now and one more grandchild on the way due in mid-2014.
from my grown daughter .
These days I dedicate more time to my six year old than I did with my grown children, when they were young. I have started to look back on some of the actions of my youth and where they have taken me. Did I know myself then? I did not. Even in my 30s I was a stranger to myself. My grown son recently told me that I lived then and in some ways now in “denial” of who I am and want to me. He said that he has gone through this same process. I recommended strongly that he read Gresser’s book Piloting Through Chaos—The Explorer’s Mind.
For me (and now I see this in my grown son), I became a serial entrepreneur (before the word “entrepreneur” was known and used in the early 1980s) when I was twelve years old. It is a long story, but my younger brother and I formed a landscaping business in Connecticut that did snow plowing in the winter when I was able to drive at sixteen years old. Our company, Wayne-Wood Nurseries (our two names) paid our way through undergraduate college until we sold the company. I started two other successful businesses; they prospered and I gained prestige, recognition and status --- and some wealth.
Over the years I have tried to understand more about who I was, and what I wanted to do. My key discovery was that I am Jewish. Our mother was Jewish and our dad was a Protestant, both from Boston. During WWII people in Boston tried not to be identified as being Jewish. Hence my name and that of my younger brothers’ middle and last names : Wilson Clark. I am Woodrow W. Clark Jr. named after my father who was named after the President. Jewish people do NOT name their children after living people, especially family members. I discovered I was Jewish as a freshman in college when I had to tell administrators my mother’s maiden name.
However, it took me until 2011 to convince my two younger brothers that they are Jewish. A family relative from New York City contacted me when he was going through his now deceased parents’ things. He discovered letters from me to his parents who were both Jewish. He was going to San Francisco with his wife on a vacation and we all got together. He showed us documents about the family and how he too was raised not to be Jewish. But we were. Did my brothers believe stories of our Jewish family?
No, they denied it.
The point is on a personal level Gresser’s book hit home. Like many things we read, there is a message, but rarely is it a home run with the bases loaded. How often do we come away from reading a book with a better understanding of who we are and what we are really about?
Instead, we just go about our daily lives as usual. Although I certainly have issues with my six-year old son, my wife who is twenty years younger than I confronts me with problems every minute of the day. What shall I do? The immediate impulse, my pattern, is to move out and move on. Find someone else. Keep moving but never address and resolve the issues or situation. But wait! I must think of the future. My son’s future is at stake. Even today as I write this review, I am experiencing this family trauma. My familiar pattern of behavior urges me to escape. But escape from whom? A voice says, “Know yourself! Know your integrity!”
I am reminded of the famous philosopher Hillel (הלל) born in Babylon traditionally c.110 BCE, died 10 CE in Jerusalem. He wrote: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am 'I'? And if not now, when?" [I have started to inquire how my actions affect not just my own life but also that of my family. Do I run away from myself? Or do I stay and straighten things out, this time without an attorney and without going to court? I believe I can.
As Gresser writes in the Forward to the Second Edition, Book II seeks to build bridges across conventional disciplines and fields of knowledge. Two of these bridges strike me as especially important. The first is the bridge between East and West. As I describe in my own book The Green Revolution, co-authored with Grant Cooke, the pendulum of history is fast shifting away from a world dominated by the U.S. and Europe to Asia where many countries are leapfrogging the west, and where China’s star is ascendant. As a veteran Asia hand and international attorney conversant with both Japanese and Chinese cultures Gresser brings deep experience and practical insight into this historic shift.
Gresser’s last bridge between the arts and science, embodied in his vision of a 21st Century Humanism and a Second Renaissance, strikes me as the most significant. He makes his case by describing several phenomena whose interrelationships are not well recognized. The first is the number of distinguished scientists who are also talented artists, musicians, or possessed of other artistic abilities. The second is the global trend of “citizen scientists” which Gresser suggests represents a great-untapped resource for solving the world’s most intransigent problems. The third is his proposal for “translating” complex scientific and technical challenges into “Discovery Puzzles” using imagery, metaphors, and stories, which will enable domain experts and a lay public to collaborate effectively.
Gresser’s analysis reminds me of my own experience during the 1990s when I was hired by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to manage their energy technology transfer program. I worked with dozens of scientists and ALL of them had creative and “artistic” brains along with formidable analytic scientific skills. My experience suggests that what Gresser is describing is not simply the capability of a few especially gifted scientists, but rather a more generalized natural endowment of a far larger part of the population. Piloting Through Chaos—The Explorer’s Mind is about everyone around the world no matter what his or her background, language, heritage and cultural roots.
In Book II Gresser offers a framework for “explorers” in navigating the world. There may be logic to the patterns in our everyday lives and in society, but what are these patterns and is it possible to decipher them? Can we bring some sense and order to our daily lives? Gresser provides us with a “road map” – including the stop and turn signs, the exits and U- turns. He calls it the “Explorer’s Wheel.” He invites us on a journey into 8 realms: The Past, Wisdom, Beauty, Life Force, Discovery/Invention/Innovation, Humanity, the Networked Brain, and the Future. As the book unfolds we begin to discover how these realms are connected in interesting and even mysterious ways, and how these linkages within our own mind can manifest in chance or “synchronistic” events in our external lives. Coupled with the integrity model introduced in Book I the reader has at her or his disposal a complete system for tackling not only personal issues but also for addressing the great challenges of our age, or any age.
The book’s cover and title pose a deep question and also suggests the author’s answer: In a world of constant uncertainty and turbulence is there a pathway to peace and personal freedom? The Explorer’s Mind is his reply—a mind that is curious and accepts the paradoxical beauty of the world, taken just as it is; what Albert Einstein reverently called-- the “mysterious.” If we can manage this subtle shift in our own minds, this sense of wonder in not-knowing, the author suggests the uncertainty we most fear can become our friend and chaos a primal source of our creativity.
There is a coda to do this quasi-musical work (Gresser himself writes he conceived the book as a “cantata” of many voices) and that is Piloting Through Chaos—The Explorer’s Mind is the world’s first smart book. The QR codes which are embedded throughout are programmed to modulate in response to the interests and preferences of the individual readers. The author’s invention invites us to experience published works in four dimensions as living and evolving creations that adapt like his Explorers Wheels with the vicissitudes of our extraordinary lives.
(*) Clark is author of six books and over 50 peer reviewed articles. His last book was The Next Economics (Springer Press, 2012). And latest book is Global Sustainable Communities Design Handbook (Elsevier Press, 2014) and The Green Industrial Revolution (in English and Mandarin) due in 2014, but publisher not determined. While at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the 1990s, he volunteered to work on the UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change as both a co-author and co-editor of chapters in the Third Report, whose scientists in December 2007 were all co-recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore and his film, An Inconvenient Truth. Today Clark is a co-founder of Earth Accounting (aka Green Bar Code) and back in the mass media. He rejoined the Producers’ Guild of America on its “Green Team” and is now producing a dramatic film on “Detroit: What happened to the American Dream?” based on books about John DeLorean