The familiar line goes: “When you’re in a hole, what’s the first thing you do?”. And the follow-on is: “Stop diggin'”. I beg to differ.
“Stop diggin'” is the third thing you might do, contingent on circumstances.
The first thing one must do is to recognize that one is in a hole. Known in military and managerial jargon as ‘situational awareness’.
The second thing one must do is to ask “Why am I in this hole”. Call this contextual understanding, which ought to be an integral part of situational awareness, except too few leaders bother to get to this point before rushing to action.
The third thing one must do is to ask: “What am I going to do about it?” Strategy.
So let’s get back in the hole, and ask ourselves these questions:
What is my situation? Oh, I’m in a hole. And what kind of hole? Is it a fox hole? A grave? A sinkhole?
If I’m in a fox hole, why am I here? Heavy fire? Approaching tornado? Evading detection? I may want to keep digging.
If it’s a grave, and I’m still cognitive, I might want to ask the unlikely question of why I’m investing effort in digging a grave. For myself? For someone else? Just to have one handy?
If it’s a sinkhole, I’d better call for a rope or a ladder p.d.q.
The moral of the story is that not all holes are bad. Some are of necessity, Some are of circumstance. But how we need to deal with them depends on why we got there and what is the imperative to get out. A sinkhole poses more immediate need for action than a foxhole, and a grave may be beyond discretion.
Except for the grave, sooner or later we’re going to have to leave the hole, whatever it’s raison d’etre.
The relevance of this mental meandering is that we find ourselves in a number of holes today, apparently without situational awareness, contextual awareness, or strategy.
In race relations in the United States, and religious and ethnic strife around the world, we are apparently electing to dig ourselves graves, not only for the newly deceased, but for the society at large which refuses to confront the futility of its values.
In our economies, we are struggling to dig foxholes, unaware that our actions are really grounded in sinkholes. Greece, for some reason, comes rushing to mind, although I also have an uncomfortable feeling about the Chinese for much more complex reasons.
In Clim-Ergy, we are have achieved a curious dyslexia, creating sinkholes and believing they are safe ground, as in nuclear energy and fracking, and building higher on vulnerable seashore destined for sea level rise.
In the Middle East, we have created a sinkhole, and in a desperate effort to fill it with bodies and other resources, have managed to make it deeper. Everyone in the neighborhood is busily digger each other’s metaphorical graves, oblivious to the truth that the graveyard is itself a sinkhole of their own collective election.
An exploration of holes would not be complete without the most famous of holes: the black hole. It’s fame lies in its mystery. It is a construct about which we can speculate, but of which we do not definitively know. We can detect its dimensions, hypothesize its mass, but we remain largely clueless of its dynamics. Observing one from the outside, we can sense its power to draw matter into it with no apparent escape. We observe it with awe, as external observers, but with no apparent appreciation that it is our own ultimate destination and destiny.
Metaphorically, it reminds me of our economy, and perhaps our greater society.
There are a number of other holes we might ponder, physical and metaphorical, but with the benefit (or detriment) of this meditation, I leave it to the reader to continue his/her personal quest for enlightenment. However, I would advise proceeding with a shovel and ladder, just in case.