Motivation to Learn when in Despair. LO28553

From: Don Dwiggins (
Date: 05/19/02

Replying to LO28532 --

> Dear Organlearners,

> I wish the topic "Hard Work and Efficient Management = Success?" was dead
> by now because i want to ask your learned help once again. Nevertheless,
> thank you all very much for all your inputs in that topic. I intend to
> print all contributions out, collate them in one volume, and then present
> it to that organisation, person by person.

Playing catchup as usual, I've recently printed out the thread and read it
in two sittings. Fascinating to watch the one-to-many mappings emerge!
And I thinking about what I might be able to contribute.

But I want to devote this message to At's more primal concern:

> Last night my dear wife and I had been to a family for which we care. The
> youngest is a girl who is still in primary school. The last couple of
> weeks she had been more out of school than in it. What is happening to her
> is destroying her motivation and eventually her potential.


> We help materially and spiritually where we can. But last night we came to
> the conclusion that despite our support, they live in an environment which
> destroys that support faster than what we can provide. They still try to
> learn how to support themselves in this ghastly situation, but in the end
> it makes no difference. This makes them sliding irreversibly backwards
> deeper into the bog of despair. They are close to the point of giving up
> all hope.


> It made us think deep and hard to find a solution for this problem. My
> wife and i will appreciate help from you fellow learners very much. Can
> you imagine yourself in the predicament of this family? What would you
> fellow learners do when you imagine yourself in our position?

The best I have to offer is a set of thoughts, impressions, and
hypotheses; hopefully, they'll help your learning process in some way:

It seems to me that the root of despair is hopelessness, the belief that
nothing can be done, that one has tried every possibility and come up
empty-handed. If this is so, then the most critical thing you might have
to offer is a glimmer of hope, a thing or three to try that holds out some
promise, that gives a reason to choose* to be determined rather than
despairing. Here are some thoughts in that direction:

First, it seems to me that the woman's family could be a source of
strength, not just a burden. Remember my message on the number of
"entities" in an N-person group? In addition to the four people, there
are the other 11 entities that might be nourished, and in turn nourish the
people. Here's some examples that occurred to me:

Create little rituals of appreciation and celebration of the
relationships. Give each other little gifts (a feather, a colored rock, a
story, a song) presented and received with all due ceremony and care.
Never allow oneself to be too tired or despairing to give/get a hug and an
"I love you". Cry together, rather than alone. If the retarded boy is
not too "detached", he might even be a leader in this. I've known some
"mentally retarded" people who were "spiritually advanced".

Expanding the circle: you say of the environment that it "destroys that
support faster than what we can provide". Are there other families in the
environment undergoing this destruction? Is it possible that they might
come to believe (and rightly) that together they can resist, and maybe
even reverse the destruction? (Ben Franklin, to his fellow
revolutionaries during some of the dark days: "Gentlemen, we must hang
together or we will most assuredly hang separately".) Putting it somewhat
facilely: can part of the SU usefully be made part of the SY?

Re: "The mother does not want to contact a qualified social worker at all.
She fears that as soon as she do that, her young daughter will be taken
away and put into foster care." You might be able to research this, to
find out to what extent her fears are justified. You might even uncover,
in the laybrinth of social services, an organization dedicated to helping
families in trouble stay together, rather than tearing them apart "for the
good of the children".

I remember some of your stories of encountering the indigenous people of
the deserts you've explored. I have a mental picture (which may be
completely wrong) of a community of such people, living in a spare and
unforgiving environment, possessed possibly of even fewer material
resources than the family you're caring for; and yet, they've survived in
this environment for generations, having a viable community and a
generally positive approach to life. If this is descriptive of some of
the peoples you've encountered, you might find some inspiration in
comparing their culture with the family's situation. Remember the old
story "How much land does a man need?" How much "land" does a
family/community need to thrive?

Finally, here's a reference that I hope may prove fruitful. I read an
article a few years ago in Scientific American about an organization,
begun in Bangladesh, called the Grameen Bank. This is an institution
formed to combat the "culture of poverty" through a radical concept
(radical at least to the banking community) called "microcredit". It just
seemed so sensible and powerful an idea that left a lasting impression on
me. A good place to start to learn more is
-- and yes, it has found its way to your "neck of the woods". Take a look
at and
You can probably find some others by Googling for 'grameen "south africa"'.

(By the way, Rick and others: the Grameen organization just might be an
excellent case study of a learning organization for the SoL or some
enterprising graduate student. Start with the Scientific American article
on its origins in the November '99 issue, and continue on the web site.)

[Host's Note: Don, I agree. The Grameen organization is mentioned in SoL
discussions. ..Rick]

Oh yes, one other thing: tell them that there are people around the world
that know of their plight, and are rooting for them.

Hope there's a nugget or two in this, or at least a feather...

(*) I wrote "choose" in reference to Andrew's recently posted quote from
Senge on the difference between "I want" and "I choose".

With care and hope,


Don Dwiggins "Unless you fail at more than 10% of the things you try, you aren't trying enough things." -- Jack Cohen, coauthor of "The Collapse of Chaos"

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