The Return of CAN Meets Chopin

My apologies for not yet responding to the feedback from “CAN Meets Chopin”.   My wife and I moved our home a few weeks ago and now that my qi is not devoted to finding the kid’s lost box of pokemon cards, I would like to respond, clarify and expand some thoughts and soften a few of my rigid positions.

For seasoned CAN members, I appreciate your patience in entertaining this discussion as I know these topics have incarnated countless times since CA was born. I believe that from time to time there is value in looking back at reform movements of the past even though it is difficult to dissect something so complex and subjective.

Thank you to Lisa, Nora and Whitsitt for offering “primary” rather than “only” in my sentence “… the only action needed from CAN is creating and supporting successful clinics”.   I like the inclusiveness and flexibility of “primary”. And I agree that the task of getting information to potential CA practitioners and assisting them in the infinite steps along the way is huge, complex, and can involve many methods and paths.   There is nothing simple about that whole process.

In the context of CA, I am interested in the effectiveness of various reforms (methods, means and results) more than the personal lives of leaders…. although it is dicey trying to separate them.   We all have our own guesses about the state of consciousness of those figures and the effects they had on others….IMO it is too subjective to help us in this conversation.

I am not saying any saint, past reformer or anyone has the perfect prescription for any future reform although I obviously have some biases and influences.   I enjoy gathering inspiration from reforms and reformers but have no interest in blindly copying them.   In hindsight, I would modify my last blog to better express that.   I believe the ongoing conversation is worthwhile if a movement has the flexibility to change perspectives as experience, discernment and understanding expands.  

I hope that mentioning saints, mystics and other passionate reformers doesn’t have to trigger a negative or defensive reaction if we agree that the intention is not to hold any individual to any standard or to make personality or character comparisons and judgements.   I agree that a saint-o-meter is destructive and have never found it useful to speculate on how I or anyone else measures up to someone else’s ideal.   Again, for me, its about what strategies have worked and why and acknowledging that there is nothing simple about that evaluation.

As a relatively new movement, many of us are probably forming our opinions of how much pot stirring, righteous indignation, confrontation, provoking, social justice education, and ridicule is required to effectively move us closer towards our goals and deciding what we are personally comfortable with. Some of my views are influenced by my personal experience.   I am not able to engage for long periods in angry provoking and confronting the broken system without losing my sense of well being.   I appreciate and support Michael Moore but I have not cultivated the ability to do what he does and to simultaneously feel like I am at my best (emotionally, mentally, spiritually).   My motive to remain in that state is purely selfish since when I feel my best, all aspects of my life, my relationships, and my activity in the clinic feel more harmonious and fulfilling.

Those of you who are able to do it all simultaneously and ongoingly, I would appreciate if you would share your experience.

If someone doesn’t care what they experience mentally/emotionally as long as the job gets done…..that is personal choice and I have no judgement about it.   I don’t share the perspective that individuals in a reform just do and say whatever feels good, right, cathartic, and personally enlivening in the moment without concern for the impact on the movement as a whole and without any agreed upon guiding principles, strategy, consensus or intention.  Its not about holding anybody to any standard or judging or trying to control and change anyone. I just haven’t seen it work in my experience.

I am not saying any of the above has happened in CAN or is being advocated.  I wanted more just to clarify some of my comments from the first blog because I feel its a useful topic when a reform is quickly evolving and gaining members fast.

Before acupuncture, I worked as a state appointed advocate for individuals with disabilities inside another big system in constant need of fine tuning. (Below, I included the history of that reform movement which for me is relevant to CAN but too lengthy to insert here).   My coworkers and I experienced the same drained feeling when we spent too much time in aggressive advocate mode trying to get the system to wake up. We quickly learned that to stay motivated and effective long term, most of our energy needed to go towards listening to our clients and cultivating the services they wanted.

There were situations in my previous work where we felt compelled to make loud sustained trouble for the disability establishment using many methods and the diversity of skills within our agency.   I agree that CAN faces some of those same situations now including the FPD which require an immediate, powerful, and unrelenting response.

From what I have observed, CAN’s leadership and active members do a fantastic job of juggling those different situations while keeping the primary focus of attracting, educating, encouraging potential CANNERS and helping clinics succeed.   I am very grateful to Lisa, Skip, Lupine, past and current board for all you do to that end…we all are the beneficiaries of that dedication.   Although very inspired by your efforts, I have personally done little to help out so far.   I intend and look forward to contributing more as I gain experience with CA.   I imagine this blog is my way of putting a foot in the water with a subject I feel passionate about.   More importantly though, I like to think that I am more playful than this oddly formal blog would indicate and I look forward to connecting with people in that spirit.

Fred ____________________________________________________________________________________

If you are not exhausted yet….as referenced above…here is some history on system reform for people with cognitive disabilities. I believe they are relevant to CA…

From the early 1900’s to the 1970’s, most individual with disabilities in Maryland lived in massive institutions with problems that we can all imagine without giving details here. Although awareness to the problems grew through efforts of multiple organizations, the media, and concerned families, change could not occur until the reformers turned their energies toward creating the alternative support services needed (residential, vocational, medical, etc..).   This required a huge courageous effort for many hundreds of people to create private agencies providing these community based supports.

There was and still is a huge learning curve for these agencies in tailoring these services to the desires, needs and safety of each individual while adhering to endless regulations and remaining financially sound.   Many failed in the beginning and a fair percentage still do. They did not have an equivalent to CAN to assist them in the process.  

Many in the system doubted the ability of individuals to “make it” outside the institutions and questioned the financial feasibility of changing the structures.   Over time, they were proved wrong as we began to listen better to what our clients told us they need to be successful.   The reformers learned to help clients drive the whole system by teaching them to advocate for themselves and then the whole system watched individuals, one by one, successfully making the transition from institution to community.

I feel it was those initial successes that fueled the whole reform and swayed the minds and hearts of those who controlled the resources.   The angry debates instigated by reformers were vital in exposing the injustices of the system, the bias of some in power and in opening the door for reformers to begin experimenting with deinstitutionalization. It was a very necessary step but once begun most reformers’ energy was rechanneled to the creation of better and better community supports.

As with Malcolm Gladwell’s orchestral example, comparing this reform to CAN has many flaws and of course I am leaving out lots of details in the interest of space. Still I think it’s worth looking at.

Author: FredW

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  1. Hey Fred, thanks for sharing

    Hey Fred, thanks for sharing more of your experience.  I don’t have much to add except I’m glad we didn’t scare you off (I’m studying Wikipedia culture today and laughing about biting the noobs.)

  2. “I have no plans to eat anybody.”

    Anybody else see “Where the Wild Things Are”?

    Thanks for the follow-up, Fred. It’s interesting, because your clarification touches on some stuff we discussed last weekend in Portland. One important point: I don’t think we’re trying “to get the system to wake up”. Because it’s not going to.

    And ultimately, our goal is to make sure that we don’t need anything from the system at all. The things we currently need, that the system provides (such as training for acupunks, and a path to licensure) we’ll eventually re-create for ourselves, on our own terms. So that impacts how I think about reform. I’m not sure that real reform of the acupuncture world is possible — meaning, that it’s a question of either harassing the powers that be into changing, or nonviolently and sweetly persuading them, or any combination of the two. I think they are a lost cause.

    The mocking and the ridicule and the raging are for our benefit, not theirs. I would also find it exhausting to engage with the powers that be via aggression — but I don’t think that’s what we’re doing, not least because they won’t ever really engage, no matter how polite we are. What we’re doing is entertaining ourselves while we’re trying to construct a foundation for the acupuncture profession that isn’t made of greed and fear. 

  3. Speaking of eating

    Speaking of eating …. Jessica and I are reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Michael Pollan) about the state of the “industrial food complex” that produces most of our country’s food and controls most of the universe in one way or another.

    Just before we saw your comments this morning I was reading about Joel, a small revolutionary Virginia farmer who was asked if “the industrial food chain would ever be overturned by an informal, improvised movement made up of farmer’s markets, metropolitan buying clubs, slow-foodies…..”

    Joel responds, “We don’t have to beat them, I am not even sure we should try. We don’t need a law against slaughterhouse abuse – we ask for too much salvation by legislation. All we need to do is empower individuals with the right philosophy and the right information to opt out en masse. And make no mistake it’s happening. The mainstream is splitting into smaller and smaller groups of like-minded people. It’s a little like Luther nailing his ninety-nine theses up at wittenberg…..”

    Michael Pollan adds “Joel saw himself saw himself as more of a Luther than a Lenin; the goal wasn’t to blow up the church, but simply to step around it….”

    We haven’t seen the wild things movie yet or read about it.  What did you think?  Ok for 8 year old?  

  4. I think one reviewer said

    that it’s not a kid’s movie, it’s a movie about childhood. I definitely wouldn’t take anybody under 10. But it’s an amazing movie, and really great for parents to see!

  5. Greed and Fear?

    Is that really what you think is at the root of the acupuncture profession? If that is really what you believe, than I have a greater understanding for your labels that you use for other practitioners. I’m sorry you have had that experience. Mine has been the complete opposite.

    I posted a comment on Fred’s original blog. I don’t need to re-post anything here. Again, thanks Fred. Your prospective is very helpful.