I am possibly one of the more disciplined people I know. In fact, some of my friends seem to think I run my life on six-minute slots* after my lawyer days where one of those six-minute slots would set you back twenty quid or so. (I feel obliged always at this point to clarify that I never saw anything like that much in my pay packet!)
I know the value of things, how to use time and money wisely, and I have no problem paying now and playing later. Except that I do usually then forget to play! So, given this self-discipline and related OCD tendencies, my book problem is a little unexpected. You’d think I’d be disciplined at finishing one before I move on to the next. But I’m not. I’m terrible. And the book problem has progressed to the extent that I don’t even know how many half-read books I have. Nor do I even know where they all are. But, even largely out of sight, their unreadness is pressing on my mind, a waft of guilt every so often followed by panic as to the impossibility of getting my head the other side of ALL of them. As for the unread articles that are scanned and sitting accusingly in my dropbox, let’s not even go there! The extent of my academic and practitioner interests makes it worse: the books range from trinitarian theology to commentaries on Isaiah, from discipleship to books on John, from Celtic Christianity to ecclesiology of the emerging church, feminist hermeneutics to sociology, and leadership in both Christian and secular contexts.
And the latest book? Well, that dips into quantum physics and the theory of living systems. I shouldn’t have started it. I know that now. But it looked so interesting in the connections that the author was promising to make with leadership and…all discipline failed me! Still this one is good: double science at GCSE doesn’t quite equip me to read it well but some of it is fascinating. It’s called Leadership and the New Science and is by the well-known Margaret Wheatley. Listen to this:
New understandings of change and disorder have also emerged from chaos theory…order and chaos…are now understood as mirror images, two states that contain the other. A system can descend into chaos and unpredictability, yet within that state of chaos the system is held within boundaries that are well-ordered and predictable. Without the partnering of these two great forces, no change or progress is possible. Chaos is necessary to new creative ordering.
Here’s a bit more:
There is another important paradox in living systems: Each organism maintains a clear sense of its individual identity within a larger network of relationships that helps to shape its identity.
If people are machines, seeking to control us makes sense. But if we live with the same forces intrinsic to all other life, then seeking to impose control through rigid structures is suicide. If we believe that there is no order to human activity except that imposed by the leader…then we cannot hope for anything except what we already have – a treadmill of frantic efforts that end up destroying our individual and collective vitality.
With almost every page, I am seeing connections. Connections with leadership and things I’d like to say theologically. I’m nowhere near ready to say them (so if you read this far and now feel shortchanged, sorry!) but I am so excited about the opportunities that the ‘new science’ offers for creative engagement in my thinking about leadership. I could do with a crash course in quantum physics and living systems as well as the mathematics of fractals to understand the book a bit better than I do; a bit more education in theology would help me too, though I am at least working on that! Still, suffice to say, that this is one book I shall finish sooner rather than later: the indiscipline in starting it this week will have no net effect on the book problem in the end.
* By the way, in case you were wondering, my friends are wrong – but only because six-minute slots don’t show up so well as half hour blocks on an Outlook calendar.