Greetings to you all.
Learning Organisations, Team Work, Leadership -- so much specialities to
choose from. Will I advance? Will I be happy?
It all reminds me of something which I observed in the desert. Long ago
my friend Basjan and I were travelling on a dirt road in Namibia. Scanning
the surface of the road for a sharp piece of rock is just as important as
scanning the wayside for a succulent plant. In the former we wish to avoid
contact and in the latter we wish to make contact.
Suddenly we saw something which repeated itself. A small piece of dung. It
was about the size of an apricot, larger than the single droplet of a
goat. Some two hundred meters further we saw a third dropping of the same
size. It repeated itself almost regurlarly every two to three hunderd
meters. It was as if some strange animal had been marking interspaces
along the road with it like a road engineer.
It stopped as it began -- suddenly. We were not able to find out what
Some years later I was again travelling on a dirt road in the Damaraland
desert. Suddenly I saw these strangely spaced droppings again. I was
determined to find out what caused it. After some fifteen kilometers, I
passed a cart. The driver had pulled off and was rearranging the asses
(donkeys) pulling it. As I drove further, I saw no droppings any more. I
then knew I had to seek sureness at the Damara who was driving the cart.
I turned back, greeted him, enquired about his welfare and offered him
some water. Then I bore down on this mystery. His explanation was
He had three asses pulling the cart. Should he team all three up side by
side, they will walk leisurely as only an ass can do. He would then have
to whip them regularly to get them into trotting and keep them trotting.
He does not like doing this.
So he teams them up -- two at the back and one in front. Sometimes he
need not whip them even once to get them trotting. After some half
kilometer, the ass in front will let go of a small dropping, but not the
two asses at the back. The ass will repeat doing this every two to three
hundred meters. Perhaps it is indignation. Perhaps it is stress. Perhaps
it is pride. Whatever the reason, these droppings indicate that the ass is
sustaining its leading role.
As soon as there is nothing left over to drop, the leading ass will stop
moving. It takes about ten kilometers for the leading ass to reach this
state. Even whipping will not make him move again. It is then time for the
Damara to change the order. He will replace the leader with one at the
back who is still "fresh". The new leading ass will soon set off
trotting, letting go of a small dropping as usual. It is most interesting
that the former leading ass will again settle in a trot, all rigidity
After some thirty kilometers, when all three asses had a go at leading,
the strategy of hirarchy stops working. Each of the asses will become
rigid when teamed up alone in front. Why? Is it because nothing left over
to make a small dropping? Or is it because they have wisened up? The only
strategy still possible is to team all three up, side by side,
"associated" in "one" whole. They then will walk leisurely the rest of the
distance only as an ass can do. The Damara can do nothing else.
Pardon the pun because each discipline is like an ass. How many more are
left over to mark the road by small droppings? What has become of
wholeness ("monadicity- associativity") in our so-called interdisplinary
projects? Do we not need to let go of the hirarchial strategy needed for a
fast pace so as to cover the rest of the distance, even if at a diminished
And what about nations? How many small droppings can the leading nation
still make? Who will wisen up like the Damara?
To those who have become tired of sustaining small droplets -- do not
become tired of life. Life is more than marking the road.
With care and best wishes.
At de Lange <firstname.lastname@example.org> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa
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