Consensus learning manual, part 3: the process

THE QUESTIONS:

1. THE GROUNDING:


* "INTRODUCE YOURSELF AND YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO EDUCATION."

* "WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS OF THIS INSTITUTE?"

* "TELL US HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT BEING HERE"

INSIGHT ON GROUNDING (Page 23)


2. THE GREETING CIRCLE:


3. AN ADAPTIVE LEARNING PROCESS


* HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT IT?

* WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT THAT WILL MAKE YOU SUCCESSFUL?

INSIGHT ON GREETING AND FEELING/THINKING QUESTIONS (page 26)

4. THE ROLES OF THE FACILITATOR AND RECORDER

* WHAT IS THE ROLE OF A SUCCESSFUL FACILITATOR?

* WHAT IS THE ROLE OF A SUCCESSFUL RECORDER?

5. WORST/BEST/POSSIBILITY

* WHAT ARE THE WORST POSSIBLE OUTCOMES OF THE WORKSHOP?


INSIGHT ON WORST/BEST/POSSIBILITY (PAGE 35)


* WHAT ARE THE BEST POSSIBLE OUTCOMES OF THE WORKSHOP?

6. A PROCESS FOR COPING WITH CONFLICT

* DEFINE CONFLICT. HOW DO I FEEL ABOUT IT?

WHAT IS THE EVIDENCE OF CONFLICT IN YOUR ENVIRONMENT?


INSIGHT: CONFLICT IS MORE THAN DIFFERENCE: A VISUAL EXPERIENCE (PAGE 51)

* WHAT ARE MY WORST OUTCOMES OF CONFRONTING/NOT CONFRONTING UNRESOLVED CONFLICT?


INSIGHT: A RELATIONSHIP PROCESS (PAGE 60 )



THE QUESTIONS:



* WHAT ARE MY BEST OUTCOMES OF CONFRONTING AND RESOLVING CONFLICT?


INSIGHT ON BELIEFS/BEHAVIORS/STRATEGIES/ACTIONS (PAGE 70)



* WHAT BEHAVIORS/ACTIONS/STRATEGIES WILL FOSTER THE BEST OUTCOMES?

INSIGHT: THE TIES THAT BIND (PAGE 76)

7. CLOSURE

* HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS WORKSHOP?


* WHAT DID YOU LEARN THAT WILL MAKE YOU SUCCESSFUL WITH YOUR CONFLICTS?


8. COLLECTIVE STATEMENTS


INSIGHT: THE COMMUNITY IS TELLING A STORY (PAGE 106)


EXPERIENCE THE PROCESS - A PERSONAL CONFLICT

a learning activity


The best way to learn the process is to experience it in a situation that is personal to you. This section will help you do that. I am assuming, since you attended this session that you have an interest in, or a difficulty with, confronting and resolving conflicts. They probably cause you some continuing pain. You would like that pain to go away, without much effort, if possible. As you experienced this session you will got some idea of how to do that. But, it is best if you confront, with some awareness of your own life situation, and explore how you can address a personal situation successfully.

Begin by finding a place you can be alone for a while. It can be in the den, in your work space (this will help you be more effective at work, so it is a good investment of time) or out in the park.

It helps to write this activity down, so bring a pad of paper and a pencil with you (I use 3 x 5 cards). This will help you to capture your thoughts and feelings. You will bring your unresolved conflicts out into the open where you can see them. You will be amazed how much that will help you. It is a way of acknowledging to yourself that these conflicts really exist, to get over denying them. You are also creating a sense of realness about them by making them visible.

The most important way to develop or build consensus is to ask the "RIGHT" questions. The consensus process has been designed to provide you with these "right" questions. We are going to focus on conflict and the ramification it has on your life, just as we will with the group you will read about in coming chapters.

So, begin by answering this question.

1. What are the unresolved conflicts that confront you in your life, and, how do you feel about them? List all the conflicts that are unresolved in your life. If you desire, you can break this into four areas: personal, family, work and community. The personal conflicts are those you have with yourself, that go on in your own mind.

Write the feelings you have as a result of these conflicts, again using complete sentences. Read through this when you finish.

2. What is conflict, and how do you feel about it? In your own words, define what conflict is. Write as many definitions as you want. The more definitions, the richer your collective statement will be.

Then write down how conflict makes you feel. Be thorough with this part of the question. Your feelings will generally disclose your old beliefs about conflict. You may want to refer to the situations you described in question 1.


3. What are the worst possible outcomes of confronting these conflicts? Refer to the situations you described earlier. You can answer this in a general way, because the statements will probably apply to more than one category. List as many worst outcomes as you can think of.

Do not hesitate to write the worst of the worst. Don't hide anything from yourself. Nobody else will see this. The more you disclose to yourself, the more likely you will learn how to resolve the situation.

4. What are the worst possible outcomes of NOT confronting these conflicts? You will not confront conflict because of the fears listed under question 3. This question lets you explore the worst possible outcomes if you don't confront the conflict. This is the opposite of the previous question. You know that at some level there is a cost for avoiding the confrontation.

Write down as many as you can think of. Don't be surprised if you have similar statements to question 3. That is part of your learning.

5. Pause: This is a good time to pause and rest. Read what you have written, and then reflect for a while. When you read the book, you will understand why you were asked to explore your worst possible outcomes. For now, just reflect. After 5 minutes or so, answer the next series of questions.

6. What are the best possible outcomes of confronting and resolving these conflicts? How would you feel if you did that? This question helps you decide what you want to have happen from confronting these conflicts that are causing you pain.

This is the question that you probably never ask yourself. You are trying to determine how to resolve them, instead of identifying your outcomes. This is defined as "Ready... Fire." You haven't aimed, and so you won't get what you want.

This question helps you determine the outcomes you want and the feelings that would be associated with those outcomes.. This is known as "Ready.... Aim..." We will do "Fire" in a the next question. Write down all the best possible outcomes you desire. Again, refer back to your question 1 list. Answer generally, because best outcomes will also apply to more than one issue.

Read the best possible outcomes. Become aware that these are just as possible as the worst outcomes. Since you have not confronted the conflicts yet, your worst fears are future imagined events. The fears that you have are merely possibilities. They haven't happened yet, there is NO assurance they will happen. Since it is a future event, it is just as possible that you can foster a best possible outcome.

By writing the best possible outcomes you have at least balanced yourself and added "Hope" in the equation. Read how you would feel if you were to be successful. Best Possible outcomes have entirely different feelings than worst possible outcomes.

Now lets explore how to make the best outcomes happen.


7. What new beliefs and behaviors will foster these best possible outcomes? If you have been avoiding conflicts in the past there are reasons for it. Avoidance is probably based on some old belief systems. If you want to be successful with conflict resolution, you may need some new beliefs and behaviors. What would these be? Give careful thought to this question, because your answers will help you move ahead.

Beliefs and behaviors are different than strategies and actions. You will learn in this book when to use each.

8. What resulting strategies and actions will foster these best outcomes? This question allows you to move beyond your new beliefs to putting them into action. You can establish specific strategies or actions for any of the unresolved conflicts you described under question.

9. How do you feel about this activity? What did you learn that will help you confront and resolve your conflicts? This last question will help you to learn from the experience. It is a closure for what you have done.

This is the basic process that you will read about in more detail in the following chapters. Applying it, however is more complex and rich than this simple activity. There are reasons for each of the questions. As you gain this insight, you will become more willing to create the conditions to confront your conflicts. As you read ahead, keep this pad of paper with you. It will allow you to connect what you read to what you learned. It will add richness to your experience of reading.


APPENDIX


* COLLECTIVE STATEMENTS

Collective statements are based on the belief that each of us sees the world from a different viewpoint. Our individual views are like pieces of a puzzle -- when we fit them all together we get the full picture.

In most meetings our views tend to be seen as competitive. When someone speaks, another person responds with a counter-statement, and the meeting progresses with each trying to convince the other of his or her rightness. This behavior is based on a belief in the "one right answer" to all questions. Only one of us can be right, so our intelligence is used to establish that rightness firmly. It becomes a competition in which each person's ego and intelligence are at stake.

This is either/or thinking -- either you are right or I am! Often, two or three people will capture all the time in a meeting with this either/or conflict, while others listen, get bored, and drop out. It is a time-consuming, ineffective process. The meeting ends with some vaguely worded compromise that relieves the participants. They leave with little commitment to it.

Collective thinking assumes we can all learn something from each other. We have different views of a situation, and all views are right.

This is done with many of the workshop tasks. The collective statements are the result of adding individual statements together, keeping each person's words to the best extent possible, creating a statement of the total group.


* DEVELOPING A COLLECTIVE STATEMENT

A collective statement process is based on the notion that we all have different views of a situation, and all views are right. Each of us perceives the world through our experiences, our values and beliefs and our desires.

In some tasks, statements made by each individual participant are recorded as accurately as possible. These statements are first segregated into common groups. The individual statements are then added together, keeping each person's words to the best extent possible, creating a statement of the total group.

At times it is necessary to add words to the brief recorded statements to clarify the intent. Or, a word might be added to bridge two or more statements together. This is kept to a minimum in order to retain the original recorded thought.

While some grammatical improvements may be made, the original statement and the original words are kept as close as possible.

As an example, these were the original recorded statements of the "Senior Citizens Worst Outcomes of the Situation":

SENIOR CITIZENS WORST OUTCOMES OF THE SITUATION:

1. Unsafe community to live in

2. Will regress, if no progress

3. Things fine, no higher taxes

4. Our senior programs will be cut--lack of funds

5. My needs as senior will not be considered and taxes rise--skyrocket

6. More leave town, higher crime, higher taxes, less facilities

7. Leads to collapse of government

8. If not forward, then backwards.

9. Become retirement community, kids leave, no industry,

10. Uncertain, unhappy future


The statements are segregated to become like groups of statements:

SENIOR CITIZENS WORST OUTCOMES OF THE SITUATION:

2. Will regress, if no progress

8. If not forward, then backwards.

3. Things fine, no higher taxes

9. Become retirement community, kids leave, no industry

5. My needs as senior will not be considered and taxes rise--skyrocket

4. Our senior programs will be cut--lack of funds

1. Unsafe community to live in.

6. More leave town, higher crime, higher taxes, less facilities

7. Leads to collapse of government

10. Uncertain, unhappy future

These statements are now linked together to form the final collective statement. Words that are added in the process are shown in parentheses:


THE SENIOR CITIZENS WORST OUTCOMES:

(The community) will regress, if (there is) no progress. If (we do) not (move) forward, then (we slide) backwards.

(We all think that) things (are) fine, (as long as there are) no higher taxes. (We) become (a) retirement community, (the) kids leave, (there is) no industry.

My needs as (a) senior will not be considered and taxes will rise, skyrocketing. Our senior programs will be cut (because) of (a) lack of funds.

(This will be an) unsafe community to live in. (More business and people) leave town, (because of) higher crime, higher taxes, less facilities. (This) leads to a collapse of government. (We face) an uncertain, unhappy future.


This is another example of the process. Begin with the original recorded statements:

PARENTS WORST OUTCOMES OF THE SITUATION:

1. Extremely large classrooms (40/50 room)

2. Children won't have educational background to get into college

3. If parenting skills not improved, what will it do to child's education?

4. If we can't solve drug problem, what is future of our children?

5. The children will never leave home.

6. My kids will waste their talents and be average like everybody else.

7. Dropping out!

8. The children won't be happy and won't be prepared for the next step after high school

9. Parents lack of concern will hinder ability of the child

10. Drugs and gangs will come into community

11. The lack of the best education and know-how to deal with life on their own.

Segregate them into the like statements:

PARENTS WORST OUTCOMES OF THE SITUATION:

11. The lack of the best education and know-how to deal with life on their own.

8. The children won't be happy and won't be prepared for the next step after high school

2. Children won't have educational background to get into college

6. My kids will waste their talents and be average like everybody else.

1. Extremely large classrooms (40/50 room)

7. Dropping out!

5. The children will never leave home.

9. Parents lack of concern will hinder ability of the child

3. If parenting skills not improved, what will it do to child's education?

10. Drugs and gangs will come into community

4. If we can't solve drug problem, what is future of our children?


PARENTS WORST OUTCOMES OF THE SITUATION:

Then put the statements together, adding words where absolutely necessary, keeping the original intent as much as possible.

THE PARENTS WORST OUTCOMES:

(The children will have a) lack of the best education and (the) know-how to deal with life on their own. (They) won't be happy and won't be prepared for the next step after high school. (Our) children won't have educational background to get into college. (Our) kids will waste their talents and be average like everybody else.

(We will have) extremely large classrooms (40/50 room). (The students are) dropping out (of school)! The children will never leave home!

(The) parents lack of concern will hinder ability of the child. If parenting skills (are) not improved, what will it do to the child's education?

Drugs and gangs will come into community. If we can't solve the drug problem, what is (the) future of our children?


THE COMMUNITY IS TELLING A STORY

For years I sought for a way to help people understand at an integrative, or organic level, the value of the collective statements, and all of the activities that lead up to it. It was the story telling approach of an Indian elder that helped me to see how to do this.

Everyone IS Telling a Story: I ask 6 to 8 people who are seated together in the circle to stand and move one step into the circle. I walk out into the center of the circle and act as the director of this story.

"I have learned, over time, that every conflict has a community of interest, that it brings together those who are influenced or impacted by the decision. I am asking these people to represent a community of interest.

Another thing I learned is that each community that is brought together around a conflict has a community story to tell, but the individual members do not understand that. They each come to the gathering believing that they have the entire story in themselves, and they are there to convince the others of the "truth" of what they know.

To demonstrate this, I am going to ask this group to tell a story. They are going to do this like we did when we were in kindergarten, and the teacher asked us to each tell a part of the story. We begin with Rob, who will repeat the first sentence that I give him. This is the beginning of the story. Then, Kathy will add her sentence to the story, followed by Laura adding a sentence, and so on, until Crista, the last person in the line, will create an ending for the story.

I state for Rob the first sentence for the story: "A porcupine walked into the meadow."

Rob: A porcupine walked into the meadow."


Kathy: (Thinking first) It was a warm and sunny day."


Laura: "He saw another animal in the meadow."


Jon: "It was a bear, an angry bear just waking up from a winter nap."


Debbie: The bear growled at the porcupine when he approached."


Dawn: "This frightened the porcupine, so he climbed a tree to get away from the bear.


Crista: There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life."



With the ending of this story the large group will normally laugh and applaud. The members of the story group are often nervous about speaking and really think, trying to come up with the "right" sentence that makes sense.

I repeat the learning I have had about communities of interest.

"I have learned that every conflict has a community of interest, and that community which is drawn together has a community story to tell. But, they don't know that. They each think they have the full story."


Everyone thinks they have the whole story: I have Rob and Crista step out in front of the story tellers, turning to face each other. I encourage them to repeat their sentence to each other, to let the other know what the "true" story is.

Rob: "The porcupine walked into the meadow."


Crista: There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life."

They both look at me, and I encourage them...... "The other person has not got it yet." Keep repeating it until he gets it.

Rob repeats to Crista: "The porcupine walked into the meadow."


Crista repeats: "There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life." with a tone of voice that is impatient.

Rob repeats with more vigor: "The porcupine walked into the meadow."


Crista, her hands on her hips leans forward and repeats firmly: "There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life!"

Rob: "NO!!! The porcupine walked into the meadow!!" He speaks with steely confidence.... this is the truth!


Crista, before he is done, loudly with emphasis and pointing her finger into his chest: "There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life."

Rob, leaning forward now, with more emphasis and a loud voice: "The porcupine walked into the meadow.... and that is all there is to it!!"


Crista, now leaning nose to nose with him, and just as loudly: "There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life."


The group laughs, often applauds, they recognize themselves, they have seen this in many meetings. I ask them, rhetorically, "Have you ever experienced this kind of argument before? They all nod their heads.

Everyone wants the group to repeat their story line: I have Rob and Crista return to the story teller group. I turn to the others:


"What Rob and Crista both want is to win this argument, and have everybody else repeat their sentence as the entire story line."


I ask Rob to repeat his sentence, and for the others to repeat it exactly as he said it.

Rob: A porcupine walked into the meadow."


Kathy: A porcupine walked into the meadow."


Laura: A porcupine walked into the meadow."


Jon: A porcupine walked into the meadow."


Debbie: A porcupine walked into the meadow."


Dawn: A porcupine walked into the meadow."


Crista (resisting): NO WAY! There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life."


Again, the community laughs. They understand the implications of this activity. Now, they know, Crista wants everyone to repeat her sentence, because she has the truth.


The story is all mixed up: In addition to everyone wanting to be right with their "story line," when the group meets, they are seated out of order. I move the standing participants around, mixing their order. Then I ask them to repeat their sentence:

Debbie: The bear growled at the porcupine when he approached."


Laura: "He saw another animal in the meadow."


Rob: A porcupine walked into the meadow."


Dawn: "This frightened the porcupine, so he climbed a tree to get away from the bear.


Kathy: "It was a warm and sunny day."


Crista: There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life."


Jon: "It was a bear, an angry bear just waking up from a winter nap."


Now, this discussion doesn't seem to make any sense, especially if you are the manager who needs to make the decision. These people all appear to be in conflict with what they are saying. There is no similarity. Who should you believe? What can you base your decision on?

In the consensus process, we encourage each person to express their view, and, we record as it is being expressed. These are the different perceptions of the entire community. Then we take that information from this group, and any other group, and write a collective statement. When we do that it sounds like this:

(I move the story tellers to their original position and have them repeat their sentences)

Rob: A porcupine walked into the meadow."


Kathy: "It was a warm and sunny day."


Laura: "He saw another animal in the meadow."


Jon: "It was a bear, an angry bear just waking up from a winter nap."


Debbie: The bear growled at the porcupine when he approached."


Dawn: "This frightened the porcupine, so he climbed a tree to get away from the bear.


Crista: There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life."

This collective statements tells the "whole story" and is inclusive of everyone views. Now that you know the whole story as a manager, you can begin to take action to do something about what is happening. "It sounds to me like we have an angry bear up in the meadow. We better tell other humans about this to keep them away. Or, better yet, have the bear removed to a safer place, so the porcupines can climb down the tree and return to their home."

If We Exclude Others, We Don't Get the Whole Story: I then remove 4 members of the group. Rob is removed because he looks like a hippie, and we certainly don't want to give him any recognition. Jon is always looking for the negative in things, so leave him out. Then, Deb is a member of the public, what does she know about these things? Finally, don't include Dawn, she is part of that rabid environmentalist group. So, we are left with this story:


Kathy: "It was a warm and sunny day."


Laura: "He saw another animal in the meadow."


Crista: There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life."


Now,... is that the same story? It is certainly a warm and positive story, but it is incomplete, and leaves out important information. If you made a decision to send a group of people up to this meadow, would they have all the information they need?


Coalitions Form and a Battle Begins: The four people who were excluded find they have a common purpose. They were not included, acknowledged, or their information listened to. They form a coalition to get the attention of those who make the decision. They form a line facing the "included group" and begin shouting their sentences at the same time to the others, wanting attention and acknowledgment of their views.

All Rob: A porcupine walked into the meadow."

Spoken Jon: "It was a bear, an angry bear just waking up from a winter nap."

At the Dawn: "This frightened the porcupine, so he climbed a tree to get away from the bear.

Same time Debbie: The bear growled at the porcupine when he approached."


This causes the "included" group to come together as a block, expressing their point of view just as loudly, and at the same time. No one listens, if they did it would just sound garbled.

All spoken Kathy: "It was a warm and sunny day."

At the Laura: "He saw another animal in the meadow."

Same time Crista: There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life."


Again, the message is visually and intellectually clear to the larger group. If you exclude people, do not hear or acknowledge their information, they will form coalitions and oppose you. In doing so, while all the needed information is expressed, little of it is actually heard.

Including everyone, hearing the whole story, results in community. I bring back the excluded members and they are integrated into the whole story. I remind them that the collective statement includes all words expressed by the individuals in the group. The purpose of the collective statement writer is to write the story.

A porcupine walked into the meadow. It was a warm and sunny day. He saw another animal in the meadow. It was a bear, an angry bear just waking up from a winter nap.


The bear growled at the porcupine when he approached. This frightened the porcupine, so he climbed a tree to get away from the bear. There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life.

When this is done, Kathy sees her statement is in the story. It is between Rob and Laura's statements (I have Kathy hold Robs hand and Laura's hand). She is part of the story connected with them. In like manner, Laura is connected by the story to Jon, and Jon to Debbie, etc. Soon, all the storytellers are connected.

"This," I emphasize, "is community." Everyone has had their say, been listened too and acknowledged. And, what they have said has been put into a collective statement, linking them together. Now, they can decide what to do about this story they have created."


I ask those standing to take a bow, still holding their hands, and then ask the members of the group to honor these people for helping them learn. They all stand and applaud.


I MATTER


"I didn't think I mattered..... until today."

Those words were spoken by a junior in high school, a young blond haired teenager. She spoke them at the end of the day, as the group of students were doing the closure. All eyes, and all attention were immediately upon her.

She spoke these words carefully and deliberately. Her head was up and her eyes focused on the group. She was looking at 55 other students from her high school, a multi-colored, multi-ethnic group. These would have been considered the at-risk children in the school, children with learning problems that were physical, emotional, intellectual. They would be considered problem children by most of us.

To their teachers who were present, and their Principal, who sponsored this day, they were an opportunity. The group of almost 60 adults and high school students was brought together to explore the learning environment they had created in their school, educators and students. Their purpose was to explore and establish a movement to create the kind of learning environment that would motivate them to learn, to grow into capable, growing human beings.

They had engaged themselves in this exploration, with great focus and intensity, surprising all the adults with their interest in creating a learning environment that was healthy and functional. They knew what the situation was, why it was, and they knew what they wanted, and how to get there.

At the end of the day, the whole group sat in a circle, and each adult and student answered the closure questions:

How do you feel about this session today?

What did you learn that will help us create that learning environment that you want?

When it was her turn to speak, the young woman thought for a moment before speaking, her head down slightly. A pause. Then, speaking softly, but purposefully;

"Before today, I didn't really think that I mattered. I didn't think I mattered to my family, to my classmates or teachers, or to anyone else. I often thought that it would make no difference to anyone or anything if I was even here." She paused.

"I knew I didn't matter. I often thought of not being here (sic alive), and if that happened, that nobody would even notice that I was gone."


The shocking nature of her statement was felt by the entire group. At this moment the entire attention of the group was focused on this young women, expressing herself truthfully, authentically. At this moment, she mattered to them, and it was obvious.

"Today has changed all that," she said as she continued. Her eyes were misted with tears now, as were the eyes of many of the group. "I realized today that I did make a difference, that what I had to say was important, because it was different than what others had to say. And..... I was listened to when I said it. Then I heard the statements (collective statements) that we read at the end of the day, and I could see what I said was in there. And, it made a difference..... I made a difference."

"That is what I learned," she said softly, but clearly, her voice catching somewhat, " that I make a difference, that I matter. After today I will never forget that. That is what I learned.

There was a pause, silence for a moment, then a few sounds of applause, then more, until all were applauding and standing. As they did this I sensed they were not only applauding this young person and what she said, what she learned. They were applauding the impact of the statement on them, adult and student, .... they realized they mattered, they made a difference, and she had expressed this for all of them.


* THE VIEW FROM MY MOUSE HOLE

This story is written to demonstrate a collective statement in the process of development. It underscores the fact that we all have our different views from our different mouse holes, or perceptions.

As in real life, it sometimes takes a crisis to move from the individual view to the community view. It means that all of us need to be willing to share the mouse hole view, or perception of the others. This means suspending our normal narrow mouse hole vision to see the new view.


* THE VIEW FROM MY MOUSE HOLE

class=Section4>

In the countryside

stood an old barn.

In the barn

lived six mice,

each with its own

mouse hole.

One mouse lived

in the south wall.

This mouse was young,

with soft fur, gentle eyes,

and an innocent, trusting way.

In the east wall

lived another young mouse

with shiny fur, bright eyes,

adventurous and intelligent.

An older mouse lived

in the west wall.

This was a quiet,

deep-thinking mouse

with dark fur, deep-set eyes,

and long whiskers.

Another mouse

long in the whiskers

and long in the tail

lived in the north wall.

This was a wise mouse

who had a cold, crisp manner

and fur tinged with gray.

In the floor, in the center

of the barn

lived a friendly mouse with

an earthy manner

whose way was grounded

in truth.

A mouse that loved life.


While high in the loft,

lived the oldest mouse of all,

with white fur,

gentle twinkling eyes.

A perceptive mouse

with much understanding.

Like other mice,

each of these had a

territory, or area,

which was its own,

which it protected and

which other mice

respected.

Like other mice,

these had short-sighted

vision.

They smelled or touched things

with their whiskers

but could only see that which

was in front of them.

And that is what this

tale is about.

One winter, the farmer

stabled a new animal

in the center of the barn.

An animal the mice had

never seen before.

They were discussing

this new animal one

afternoon while

eating in the grain bin

which was along the south wall.

This is the only area

they would come together

to talk and eat.

"That's such a strange

animal," south mouse said

quietly,

"with only two legs and

a tail, and black all over.

It doesn't even have a head."

"Doesn't have a head,"

west mouse said,

thoughtfully.

"Why, that can't be.

From my mouse hole,

the animal I see has

a head with one horn and

it has 2 legs, but it's black

all over with white spots."

"You have lived in the dark too long," squeaked east mouse. "I can see much clearer.

From my mouse hole,

the animal has two legs,

a head with one horn,

as you said,

but it's white all over

with black spots."

"Neither of you sees very well

nor speaks very wisely,"

said the north mouse,

twitching whiskers and tail.

"The animal has two legs,

I agree, but it has

a head with two horns

and it's white all over.

Without a head, it couldn't

even live."


"Strange,"

said the earth mouse,

"when I look up at the

new animal,

it appears to have 4 legs

and a soft, white underbelly."

"We all seem to have a view

of a different animal,"

said the rafter mouse, loftily

and with twinkling eyes.

"My animal has no legs,

but it does have a head

with 2 horns, and a tail."

"Surely this cannot be the

same animal,"

said east mouse,

"Since I have the

best view of all from the

sunshine in the window,

I think you should accept

my view."

"Well,"

said the north mouse,

"I can't see how

we can accept your view

without also accepting my view

which is closer to the animal."

The mice then began a discussion

which inevitably led

to an argument

as to who had the proper view

of the new animal.


"I think," said the rafter mouse,

"that we had better continue

our discussion somewhere else

as I can see

the cat

staring at us

from the top of the grain bin."

"Run to my mouse hole -- quick -- ,"

said south mouse, "you will have

protection there."

This they did with much haste.

The cat narrowly missed the slower

rafter mouse.

"That was close," said the

rafter mouse.

"It's a good thing we saw the cat

when we did."

"Hum..m!" said the west mouse

thoughtfully.

"Why is it that we all recognized

the cat?"

"Could it be,"

said the wise north mouse

"that what we have been

arguing about is

really the same animal?"

"Look," said the east mouse

excitedly,

"we can see the view of

the animal

from the south mouse's hole

and it is exactly as described

by south mouse!"


"I wonder if the view would be the

same from each mouse hole?"

asked the rafter mouse.

"If we really want to know what

the new animal looks like,"

said the earth mouse,

"perhaps we need to see the animal

from everyone's mouse hole."

"Surely," said the rafter mouse,

"if south mouse can trust us

in this mouse hole,

we would be willing to

allow everyone to visit

the other mouse holes."

And so --

that is what they did.

And they saw that the view from

the east mouse hole

was exactly as

the east mouse described it.

And the view from the

west mouse hole

was exactly as

the west mouse described it.

The views from

the north and the earth mouse holes

were exactly as

they described them.

And, finally, they had a view

from the rafter mouse hole

where they saw not only

the animal

but also

each of the mouse holes

along each of the walls

and in the floor.

They became very excited with

this new view of

the barn.

"What does it all mean?"

asked the south mouse,

innocently.

"It means that each of us

saw a different view of

the animal

from our mouse hole," said

the east mouse.

The west mouse

thought for a moment,

and then said,

"Is it possible that

all of these views

put together

would give us a description of

the animal?"

The north mouse said,

"If we really want to

know what the

animal looks like,

I think it would be wise

to do exactly that."


"Yes," said the earth mouse.

"I think it is important

to know the truth

about this animal."

"We would then

have a complete view

of this animal,"

said the rafter mouse,

"rather than

single views."

With that,

the mice began to put

together the different views

that they had

of the new animal.

What they came up with was

an animal that

had 4 legs, a head

and a tail,

with 2 horns on the head,

black in back and white in front,

with a black side,

and white spots to the west side,

and a white side

with black spots to the east side,

and a soft, white underbelly.

Just to be sure,

the east mouse

volunteered to venture

to the floor of the barn

and look at

the animal from all directions.


This he did

very carefully, and

running back to his comrades,

stated that, "Not only was

their description correct, but

he found out from the animal

that it was

a cow."

With happy hearts, the mice

returned to the grain bin.

"Perhaps," said the north mouse,

"the reason we know what the

cat looks like is

because we have all seen it

from different viewpoints."

"Why, that's right!" said

the south mouse,

"We have all seen the cat from

every side!"

"Not exactly," said

the rafter mouse.

"You don't have a view of

the cat from

the inside."

"And we can all be happy about that!"

said the earth mouse.


Part 1
Part 2