“Being an active, sensitive listener is a nourishing skill to enrich.” Ralph Segal – a self-styled ‘beachcomber’.
As we move into the second month of spring, unless there has been a sustained about-turn in the number of daily Covid-19 infections, then we will have been enacting the ‘new normal’ for close on two years. The quotation above, is a comment which Ralph Segal made after recently reading a poem which I wrote in 1968, the year I was introduced to Carl Rogers, the founding father of Client-Centred Therapy.
Ralph’s comment made me realise a connection between my poem – The Listener – and Carl Rogers’s emphasis on listening. Rogers’s ‘well-nourished skill’ was evident during the live demonstration in 1982 at the weekend conference, organised by Professor Len Holdstock, at the Hohenort Hotel in Cape Town.
During the live on-stage therapy session with Ingrid, the selected volunteer, Rogers said hardly a word. He seemed to be oblivious to his audience in the packed conference hall. Face to face with Ingrid he slipped quietly into her world – simply being with her where she was. As the session ended he asked her how she felt; “Seems like coming home,” she said, caught up in a deep peace.
At the core of the Rogers’ psychology is the empowering of the client. Rogers held steadfastly to the belief that no one knows better than the individual himself what would emerge as the most meaningful result of the session.
Today, Carl Rogers’s client-centred psychotherapy and group counselling has been adapted to suit the needs of a wide range of health practitioners, with or without academic training.
As individuals, we need to listen to that ‘still small voice’, be honest with ourselves and have the courage to acknowledge where we’re at. As we change our thoughts, perceptions and behaviour we’ll be able to contribute to a more humane, caring and environmentally friendly world.
The qualities envisioned by Carl Rogers in describing the New World Person, were akin to those of the New Age Movement ‘birthed’ in the ’70s and ’80s.
It was a time when several movements were taking shape in the west, possibly arising from the counter-cultural influence of the hippies in the ’60s, in which the prevalent social attitude of dog eat dog gave way to an alternative lifestyle of brotherly love and caring for each other and the environment (with or without the use of marijuana!).
In 1967 the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s introduction of Transcendental Meditation (TM) to the west was well received as a source of spiritual development. By the ’70s more and more people were choosing alternative lifestyles which fell broadly under the banner of New Age. The growth continues today and includes Yoga, alternative healing, the study of esoteric philosophies and eastern mysticism.
Carl Rogers, a New Ager at heart, even if he did not perceive himself as such, told me during our Odyssey interview in 1982, that the closest he had ever come to a mystical experience was when a whole sentence popped into his mind. It said: “I walk softly through life.” As he spoke I saw his life symbolised by a clear deep river flowing around the rocks which stood in its path, smoothing their edges as it continued on its course.
Professor Len Holdstock, whom we have to thank for introducing us to Rogers, drew the following analogy: “Oh so gently, so softly, the pebbles are thrown into the pool and even when there is only silence there is a listening that enfolds the other person in such a way that he can truly come into his own right and hear himself, perhaps for the first time”.
How, I ask, does a global pandemic relate to climate change and the environment?
In my previous Wavelength, I quoted Fritjof Capra as wondering whether the Covid pandemic could be seen as a valuable life-saving lesson for our planet. After reading a recent contribution to the New York Times by David Quammen, the author of Spill Over: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, published in 2012, my answer is “Yes”. Quammen wrote: “We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.”
Jerome Yazbek, CEO of Helix, endorses Quammen’s explanation. “We, as a species, have done enough harm to Nature. The pandemic is a wake-up call for humans to get back to a more eco-friendly life-style. The destruction of the rain forests, the pollution of the air, our rivers and oceans, is unsustainable.” Jerome points out that our world is in serious trouble, not only from future pandemics but from climate change. “Climate change is attributed to the long-term effects of our insatiable desire for fossil fuels, which has caused a major shift in the world’s finely balanced biosphere.”
Fortunately for South Africa, we will no longer be solely dependent on coal, oil and nuclear power for Eskom’s electricity supply. On the 12 August, Gwede Mantashe Minister of Mineral and Energy Resources, gazetted the amendments to Schedule 2 of the Electricity Act. The amendment permits new and established producers of alternative energy such as solar panels and wind and hydro turbines, to increase their output of electricity from 10 MW to 100 MW for their own use and sell their excess to the national grid.
Jerome’s company, Helix, is already registered and has obtained the southern Africa franchise for hydrokinetics. Hydrokinetic systems are cheap to run and can easily be installed in free-flowing rivers, canals, irrigation channels, or streams.
In 1984, Odyssey published an article submitted by Carl Rogers entitled The New World Person. It is as relevant today as it was then:
“The winds of scientific, social and cultural change are blowing strongly. The enormous perturbations of modern society will force a transformation into a new and more coherent order. And in that order relatedness, a renewed love for nature and for each person and a grasp of the Spiritual unity of the universe, seem to grow out of the new world view. It should be a more human world with more of a place for individuals who are integrated and whole. That at least is my informed hope.” Carl Rogers
Somewhere deep within us when our minds are turned to rest
We feel the presence of our God and know that we are blessed.
In the quiet of the ‘secret place’, listen when you can
To the silent voice of Life and Love thinking thoughts for Man.
Our consciousness relaxed in His, great words and deeds are born.
Sorrows fade; bright hopes rise – dark nights give way to dawn.
When troubles sting like desert sands and blind, we lose the way
Be still awhile and know your God . . . in listening do we pray.
Jill Iggulden Jankowitz, 1968