AGS Sunday Seminar April, 2004


(Presented by Robert James)


We All Dwell in the Gutter, But Some of us Have our Eyes on the Stars!


~ Programme ~


1.    “Introduction”
    Music (Bach)
    Personal meaning – “The Cards”

2.    “Some True Stories”
    Great historical figures
    Giants of GS
    Personal Encounters

    ~ Lunch ~
    (Music: South American)

3.    “The Meaning of Life” – Monty Python’s perspective!

4.    “Our True Needs and Meaning(s) – On the Ground or in the Stars?”
    Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the Structural Differential

5.    “Personal Perspectives”
    How to maintain a balance – the 80% - 20% rule?

6.    “Organisational Perspectives”
    AGS’s Organisational Hierarchy of Needs – Mission and Objectives.

    ~ End ~
    (Music: Python’s “Song of the Cosmos”)







AGS Sunday Seminar April, 2004


We All Dwell in the Gutter, But Some of us Have our Eyes on the Stars!



Section 1 ~ Personal Meaning ~ “The Cards”

We threw down some postcards and everyone chose one or two to reflect (aloud) on what “meaning” the card had for them, particularly hoping to reveal something that the group may not know about them.


Here are some of the cards selected, and the stories coming from them:


a. Sydney, featuring the Harbour Bridge:

“When I lived in New Zealand, the Harbour Bridge symbolised a great tourist icon – somewhere exotic to visit for leisure.  Now that I have live in Sydney, it is how I have travelled thousands of times to work … “


b. Great works of art from the “Edwardians” exhibition:

“I love the exquisite richness of these works, and the meaningful way they tell of the lives of people at that time.  This means a lot to me … “


c. A multi-coloured lion reclining and looking rather splendid:

“This evokes for me a strong feeling of ‘showing our true colours’ – a powerful metaphor for the importance of understanding and living who we really are, and striving for what we can be … “


d. Some outrageously-styled giant shoes, garishly decorated:

“These shoes remind me of the importance of the absurd in our lives – Sometimes we take ourselves far too seriously, and that’s not living life to the fullest … “


e. More art works, depicting rustic townscapes:

“I’m (imaginatively) transported to strange lands by these scenes, both in the subject matter, and the impressionistic style used by the artists … demonstrates that there’s so much more to life than what we can experience day-to day … “


f. View of a country-town park with a cenotaph, and aerial view of a big city:

“The ‘typical rural Australiana’ park scene tells of the history of country towns and importance of the community sending its people off to war … “

“The big city is alive with the continuity of people’s time-binding aspirations, energy and construction efforts.  It is a vast network of communications internally and with the rest of the world … “


g. Classic art depictions of great fig trees and gardens:

“This is a really lovely scene that evoke feelings of serenity and our one-ness with Nature.  I can just gaze at it for ever, and feel myself sinking into it … “


h. Natural marvels of Western Australia: Rock waves, desert and wildflowers:

 “I’m drawn into awareness of myself as a part of creation, when I contemplate the forces and time-scale of the creation processes at work in these scenes.  My sense of destiny and importance of my life is drawn out and demands attention … “


It was remarkable how many perspectives on the simple postcards emerged, revealing much of the sense of being and purpose of the participants.  Our discussions on the cards and “their meanings” (individually to the observers) could have continued all day!


We noted that each person’s words (map) represented but a tiny part of the thoughts-feelings (territory) that they were intended to convey.





We All Dwell in the Gutter, But Some of us Have our Eyes on the Stars!


Section 2 ~ “Some True Stories of People Who have found Meaning”


We re-told the (very limited version of the) stories of a few people whose lives embodied a huge commitment to fulfilling a purpose beyind their immediate needs for existence, including:


Great historical figures

    Viktor Frankl

  1. "Man's Search for Meaning"

  2. "The Unheard Cry for Meaning"

  3. "Logotherapy and Psychotherapy"

  4. A separate book explaining "Logotherapy"

Comment: It may be worthwhile looking up Logotherapy - LC has often thought of doing library research on it - "The Therapy of Meaning"?

Frankle's own life:

  1. A doctor

  2. A prisoner in 2 or 3 German concentration camps.

  3. Secretly wrote notes on logotherapy and psychotherapy which formed manuscript for book(s) after the war.

  4. During the concentration camp experience, he sustained fellow prisoners by example and by the use of language which influenced them to choose remaining alive instead of giving up by "throwing in the towel".

  5. After the War, he became a Professor of Psychiatry and lectured world-wide.


    Vera Brittain

  1. Author of "Testament of Youth"

  2. Born in the 1890's in England.

  3. When WWI broke out in 1914, supported her brother joining-up.

  4. In 1915, gave up her university studies at Oxford to nurse British soldiers at the Front.

  5. 1915-16-17-18: Four young Englishmen very close to her were killed:

       a. Her brother,

       b. Her fiancé,

       c. & d. Close friends of her brother and herself.


   6. After the War, became a convinced pacifist, and wrote “Testament of Youth”, deploring the War and death of Youth.


    Jo Jaworski


Author of " Synchronicity - The Inner Path of leadership"


1.       His father's insight about Nixon and Watergate.

2.       Divorce at his wife's request.

3.       Tour of Europe alone, reading and writing.

4.       Decision to inaugurate the "American Leadership Forum"

5.       The realisation that he would have to give up Law to promote the ALF.

6.       Things then seemed to fall into place (synchronicity).

7.       He had no formal training about leadership at all.

8.       He consistently met the right people who:

            a.     Contributed funds, and

            b.     Recommended to other influential people whom Jo Jaworski could contact.

9.       On one occasion, Joe and his second wife went out for dinner.  Then they went to pick up their car which they had parked in a dark place.  When he got there, a man with a knife forced his way into the car and threatened him.

This "near-near death experience" stimulated Joes's reaction - that he had the important task of inaugurating the Leadership Forum.  This motivated him to fight the criminal off with his hands - he succeeded!

10.     He had strong Christian belief.

11.      He felt that he had to build a team to promote the Forum.

12.     This included researching and writing a training syllabus.

13.     Joint learning occurred in the formation process.

14.     An important part of the syllabus was mountaineering - climbing a steep mountain (with the right equipment).

15.     This was to build managing fear and building confidence.

16.     LC: "Studying the book has developed my decision to include development of leadership skills in my work."


    Kim Beazley


1.                   Grew up in humble circumstances in Fremantle, WA.

2.                 Known initially as an “arrogant young man”.

3.                 Elected to Federal Parliament at age 28 when Prime Minister John Curtin died.

4.                 Attended the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London in 1953.

5.                 Visited Moral Re-Armament at Caux, Switzerland on the way home.

6.                 Unexpectedly stayed on for seven weeks, and was radically transformed.

7.                 Became “humble”, committed to the task of reconciliation between historical enemies, reforming Parliament to live by standards of “absolute honesty and integrity”.

8.                 Compromised his personal political career by adherence to strong moral principles. 


Giants of GS

    Alfred Korzybski (of course!)

(See "Dare to Enquire", Ch. 5)

  1. Early in life his father introduced him to the mathematical / scientific approach in personal life.

  2. He became an intelligence officer on the Front in WWI.

  3. became very disturbed by the suffering and wastage.  Asked himself "What evaluations led to the conflict in the first place?"

  4. Wrote "Science and Sanity", tracing civilization from 350BC, the age of Classical Greece.

  5. Formulated g-s and Time Binding, leading to a non-Aristotelian direction.


    Bruce and Susan Kodish

They have written on meaning and purpose, and asked us at Las Vegas:

  1. "What do you want to be remembered for?"

  2. "What do you want your legacy to be?"


    Sanford Berman

A great practitioner of General Semantics., successful as an entertainer (“The World’s Greatest Hypnotist”), an outstanding teacher, speaker, author and real-estate developer.


Sanford emphasizes that “You’ve got to keep your feet on the ground in order to have a clear view of the sky” (or something to that effect!).  That is, we cannot expect to achieve great improvements in our own lives and the wider world without ensuring solid personal, family, corporate and financial foundations.


Personal Encounters

We have all encountered people whose life embodies this obvious energy and drive that transcends normal “living requirements”.  We shared a few stories of how this affected the people, their family, friends, community and the wider world.



We All Dwell in the Gutter, But Some of us Have our Eyes on the Stars!



Section 3 ~ “Meaning of Life ~ the Monty Python Perspective” ~


We watched Chapter 11 of the movie (waiters etc discussing their “meaningless” lives during the restaurant clean-up), and considered how this frivolous rendition of the big issues might possibly carry a message of interest in our own lives.






We All Dwell in the Gutter, But Some of us Have our Eyes on the Stars!


Section 4 ~ “Our True needs and meanings ~ On the Ground or in the Stars?”


Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”


We considered Maslow’s chart of human needs:



*    *

*        *

*  Self   *

*               *

*     Love      *

*                     *

*  Life-Direction *

*                            *

*         Wisdom          *

*                                  *

*       Understanding        *

*                                        *

*              Knowledge              *

*                                              *

*                 Belonging                   *

*                                                    *

*                         Sex                        *

*                                                          *

*                         Shelter                         *

*                                                               *

*                     Clothing (warmth)                   *

*                                                                     *

*                         Air, Drink, Food                       *

*                                                                          *



Then we set an upside-down Structural Differential alongside this, with the “plenum of reality” at the bottom and the Object-level, Descriptive-level and Levels-of-abstraction ascending above.


It was a valuable exercise in observing how disparate models could “map the same reality” in attempting to illustrate this hierarchy.






We All Dwell in the Gutter, But Some of us Have our Eyes on the Stars!


Section 5 ~ “Some Personal Perspectives” ~


How to maintain a balance that is right for each of us?


Nobody can say how much effort we should direct to the “higher levels of purpose and living”.  It’s no good having my gaze fixed on the horizon if I are about to fall into a hole. 


On the other hand, if my gaze is focussed on my feet, how will I even know which direction to go in?


Should I expend 80% of my activity on “paying for the rent and the groceries” and 20% on “seeking new directions”?  Or what?


Laurie posed some important questions, eg:

  1. What do we mean by "meaning and purpose"?

  2. How is this manifested in our lives?

  3. Do we all need meaning and purpose?

  4. How do we discover our own meaningful concern?


He proposed some benefits emanating from developing meaning and purpose:

  1. Possibly a more effective immune system?

  2. Possibly an increase in stress ~ but this is likely to be beneficial rather than damaging (?)

  3. The personal satisfaction of knowing that to some extent, the World is a better place for your having existed.

  4. Knowing that to some extent, you have influenced others who in turn will influence others or contribute to society in some way.


He challenged us to consider how to determine one’s life direction:

  1. By reading literature on it.

  2. By reflecting on one's life history.

  3. Asking yourself not only "What do I want to do?", but rather/also "What should I be doing, given my talents / knowledge / experiences?"     


No one seemed to have “the answer”, but lots of provocative questions were raised!






We All Dwell in the Gutter, But Some of us Have our Eyes on the Stars!


Section 6 ~ “Some AGS-Corporate Perspectives”



Just for fun, we constructed a Maslow-esque “AGS-Organisation Hierarchy of Needs” chart, thus:




*   *

*        *

*           *

*               *

*    Vision     *

*                     *

*      Misssion      *

*                           *

*        Objectives      *

*                                  *

*           Programme          *

*                                        *

*                 Liaison                *

*                                              *

*              Communication             *

*                                                   *

*                       Finance                    *

*                                                         *

*                         Promotion                     *

*                                                               *

*                           Membership                     *

*                                                                    *

*                                 Content                           *

*                                                                          *





There was animated discussion on the relative levels for depicting these elements and processes.  A sub-committee will pursue the matter and elicit further creative contributions for discussion.


The outcome will be elucidated in later papers.






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