I have come to understand that we each have an natural sense for engagement within us operating in conjunction with our internal engine for engagement. This natural sense fuels the engine of Heartspace. When our Heartspace detects the Heartspace of another and we’re desiring connectivity, we gravitate towards their Heartspace. Not mushy, sentimental love, but authentic, holistic engagement. This holds true in relationships, education, gangs, jobs, and youth work; among generations; past race; and throughout humanity. Like attracts like.
Teddy Wright is a colleague/hero of mine. He’s a person who’s work I honestly admire, as his connection with the people he serves (youth, mostly) is authentic, and his attitude genuinely humble. I really appreciate Teddy. He sent me a beautiful response on Monday to my post about Perceptions of Heartspace, which I hope he posts to the blog soon. In the course of his writing, he concentrated on a complex proposition focused on measuring Heartspace, making engagement more apparent, “the evidence of things not seen”.
Following is an edited version of my response to Teddy.
Rather than being concerned about how we measure other peoples’ engagement, I suggest the we look for proof of how we individually know that we are engaged in our own lives. I am growing increasingly weary of work that is focused on engaging others, because I am not completely sure that is possible. I will not poo-poo anyone’s efforts to do that, and more so will support them as thoroughly as I can.
However, today I want people to concentrate individuals engaging themselves. All of the most powerful social workers I know don’t need to look for visual cues of involvement, because they know it when they see it. They know it because they experience it on their own. In this way, the same is true of those we seek to engage: Each person can sense when those who would engage them in something are or are not engaged. It’s what my friend Greg Williamson calls, “The Sniff Test”. Like attracts like.
There can come a point where our sense becomes dulled and our engine runs out of gas, and that’s where the best social work is done. However, I am not convinced there are measurable, tangible impacts for personal engagement that will ever satisfy a grant requirement or sociological assessment tool. It’s at that point that I become concerned that personal engagement simply sounds too contrived and too mechanistic. Seeking to do engagement to another person may not be the problem; seeking to quantify it may be.
There are two analogous experiences I can relate this situation to. The first is that of the scientist, who runs off the fumes of Newton and Darwin and Einstien and Hawking until somehow, someday something is proven. Until then it’s all theorem, no matter how widely accepted they are as facts. The other experience is that of the genuine spiritual teacher, who does not have faith their job is done, but does not have “proof” either- they simple know it is done.
I accept that I am not a technologist who sits in labs, but I do not believe that leaves me in the latter role, either. Maybe I am a hybrid of both, because my work focused on Heartspace sits squarely on the shoulders of many, many theorists before me, and yet, I believe that when we engage ourselves, the rest of it will simply work itself out, and that is not faith- it is knowledge. Maybe there is a fine line in between, but I have always been comfortable with border crossing.