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From Passionate Process to Poetic and Playful Puzzle – Part III


Full Title: From Passionate Process to Poetic and Playful Puzzle – Part III: The Art of Reviving and Writing "The Reorg Rag" ™

by Mark Gorkin, LICSW

The latest imaginative arena-adventure involved writing a dark yet witty and wicked lyric about being caught in the web of workplace change in today's uncertain and unstable climate – from reorganizations and downsizings to regime transfers and mergers. The immediate trigger was working with several organizations in varying stages of reorganization and disorganization. "The Reorg Rag" is a product of transforming a passionate process and a long-lingering lyric into a poetic and playful puzzle. Here are the transformative strategies and steps from Parts I & II:

  1. Embrace the Compelling Process and Challenging Puzzle
  2. Take Time for the Pain and the Brain
  3. Go Back to the Future
  4. Thrive on "Thrustration" and Come Alive with Conflict
  5. Encourage both Short-Term Incubation and Long-Term Hibernation
  6. Shift the Cognitive Structure, Substance and Style: A Prose to Poetry Process


Let me continue to outline and analyze the social-psychological musings, interactions and working associations of a mind in creative heat. The objective of "The Reorg Rag" is to skewer both convention and dysfunction, while also constructing unusual or unexpected yet pointed analogies along with clever and comedic connections. The final six points (#7–12) capture key conceptual elements of the big picture framework as well as strategic steps for going with the creative ebb and flow, the frustration and forward progress in sharing, rethinking and reaching meaningful closure. Here are "Part III Pieces and Processes":

7. Engage the (Inter)-Personal, Cultural and Universal, the Paradoxical and Analogical. As much as possible, the foundation of a Stress Doc creative puzzle has two domains with accompanying dimensional dynamics. Definitions for these domains and dimensions primarily come from Dictionary.com:

A. Two Domains. a) "Contextual" domain, that is, the set of circumstances, facts, choice of words or images, etc., that surround or are relevant to a particular event, situation, culture, communication, etc.; for me, this is the "e-ther" or sphere of exploration-emotional environment-expectation-empathy – the (inter)personal, cultural and the universal dimensions that influence meaning or effect, e.g., generational differences, that is, historical-cultural markers affecting values and motivational meaning among Traditionals, Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials

b) "Cognitive" domain, that is, the mental process of knowing, including awareness, perception, relating, reasoning, and judgment; this is the sphere of information processing design – and regarding creative expression, specifically, the cognitive dynamics of paradox and analogy.

1. Three Contextual Dimensions a. "(Inter)-Personal": 1) personal – of, pertaining to, or coming as from a particular person; individual; private: a personal opinion, 2) interpersonal of or pertaining to the relations between persons; existing or occurring between persons in an encounter,

b. "Cultural": the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group: the youth culture; the drug culture; Anthropology – the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another, including organizational culture, c. "Universal": a trait, characteristic, or property, as distinguished from a particular individual or event, that can be possessed in common, as the care of a mother for her young; of, pertaining to, or characteristic of all or the whole; universal experience; or applicable everywhere or in all cases; general: a universal cure.

2. Two Cognitive Dynamics a. "Paradoxical": a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth, e.g., hot ice; any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an apparently contradictory nature, e.g., passive-aggressive personality; an opinion, statement or action contrary to commonly accepted opinion or practice, e.g., the following observation by the pioneering actor/comedian, Charlie Chaplin, on the value of the comic and its ironic relation to the tragic: The paradoxical thing about making comedy is that it is precisely the tragic which arouses the funny. We have to laugh due to our helplessness in the face of natural forces...and in order not to go crazy.

e. "Analogical": a similarity, resemblance or corresponding relationship between like features of two things (many times obvious, sometimes seemingly obscure), on which a comparison may be based: the analogy between the heart and a pump; Logic: a form of reasoning in which one thing is inferred to be similar to another thing in a certain respect, on the basis of the known similarity between the things in other respects.

8. Capture the Processes of Grief and of Tragedy-Comedy. A universal dynamic of human existence involves change and loss, separation and letting go...along with transition, the psychological response to change, that is, essential components of the grief process. And the process of grief inspired rebirth has fueled personal motivation and haiku-like mantras. To wit: For the Phoenix to rise from the ashes One must know the pain... To transform the fire to burning desire!

In the "The Reorg Rag" the refrains in particular capture the emotional-existential-transitional stages of the grief process. However, reflecting the ironic, if not cynical, spirit of the times and the song, there's no feel good, final heroic triumph of individual over system. Let me illustrate with the entire opening and closing refrains along with pertinent refrain lines, both depicting successive stages/components of grief:

a) Shock and Denial Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag, Why does it feel I've been fragged? Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag, Maybe I'm just on a jag. Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag, I'm still on the Reorg Rag!

b) Revulsion and Self-Doubt Why do I just want to gag? Whatever happened to my swag?

c) Depression and Contemplating Defeat Why has life become a drag? Should I raise that white flag?

d) Deception and Resignation Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag, Once again in a trick bag. Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag, Back into the old gulag Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag, I'm still on the Reorg Rag Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag Forever on the Reorg Rag!

[You may recall, our protagonist has won his job, but to keep it s/he must move to N. Dakota. Also note the divergent meanings of the word, "resignation," a component of the final grief stage: to be resigned to, that is, to reluctantly go along with, or to submit one's "resignation."]

Still, there's irony and absurdity as well as pointed and, hopefully, healing humor throughout the lyric. (For example, see the above cells, 4) Universal-Paradoxical" and 3) Universal-Analogical.) For as the pioneering comedic genius, Charlie Chaplin, wisely observed: A paradoxical thing is that in making comedy, the tragic is precisely that which arouses the funny...we have to laugh due to our helplessness in the face of natural forces and (in order) not to go crazy.

While for Freud, a noted student of humor and wit, the capacity for mature humor – by which he meant internalizing the parental encouragement of our efforts and the gentle tolerance of our failures – is perhaps the greatest gift parental figures can bestow upon a child (or a "psychohumorist" ™ upon a reader or listener.) To paraphrase Freud, the basic message of this highest defense mechanism in the face of danger is: What this crazy world amounts to is child's play...the very thing to jest about!

Finally, in step with Freud, fellow psychiatrist/analyst, Ernst Kris noted: "What was once feared and is now mastered is laughed at." And the Stress Doc could not resist inverting Kris' wise words: "What was once feared and is now laughed at is no longer a master." Hopefully, "The Reorg Rag" captures all of the above "from tragedy to comedy and mastery" healing humor perspectives.

9. Be Open to Diverse Input. As noted in Part I, the initial exploratory energy for "The Reorg Rag" was sparked by leading successive intense workshops with organizations in the throes of transition. However, a month before, the government association, Federally Employed Women (FEW), had asked me to do a webinar on post-holiday transitional stress, especially in light of the adversarial posturing between Congress and federal employees. (I wrote the "Rag" Christmas week; the FEW webinar was scheduled for Jan 2011, subsequently postponed to March. Email for more info.) While I was sketching out some early lyrics, I asked a colleague and FEW Communications Officer to highlight the proposed stress-inducing financial and job status threats. She did, and I was able to take her raw data and turn it into an edgy, pointed and powerful stanza:

Rejoice, you're employed...so they've frozen your pay And put on your backs the recovery. Two free weeks furlough to re-"leave" your stress What a friend you have in the 112th Congress!

This stanza boosted my confidence that there really was some meaning and merit to this latest iteration of "The Reorg Rag." (As noted before, the early '90s recession had also prompted a "Reorg Rag" verse, though it is mostly long forgotten; I still have not been able to put my hands on the lyric. Now I was attempting to update and upgrade my previous effort.)

10. Go with the Restless Flow. That night I slept fitfully and, in approach-avoidance fashion, finally decided at 3am to hit the computer. The machine and I warmed-up together. Now the juices were flowing. I worked till six, and came up with a completed first draft, including the best order of the various refrains. I was ready to risk exposing my baby.

11. Confront the Intimate FOE: Fear of Exposure. On Christmas Day, after volunteering in the morning at a homeless shelter, my girlfriend and I attended a Christmas Party. Before the party got too crowded, I screwed up my courage and read "The Reorg Rag" to about eight folks. The enthusiastic response and especially the group laughter at the appropriate punchlines, had me thinking my puzzle quest was over. But once again I learned not to accept premature closure.

I decided to ask a late arriving guest, an individual from the media industry, to read the lyric. He immediately associated to the impact automation is having in his work world – many staff/technicians are being replaced by computers/robots. The feedback helped me realize key issues were missing.

12. Jump into the "Liquid Network" and Swim with the Scientists. The party was turning into a "Liquid Network." Steven Johnson, in his new book, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, (Riverhead Group/Penguin Books, 2010), says that a major force for idea generation is an environment where good ideas can spill over from mind to mind. Johnson cites a model based on an analogy between states of matter and states of mind developed by computer scientist, Christopher Langston: "Innovative systems have a tendency to gravitate toward the 'edge of chaos': the fertile zone between too much order (the 'solid state' of matter; patterns have stability but are incapable of change) and too much anarchy (the 'gaseous state'; new configurations possible but are incapable of lasting). However, a "liquid environment," that flowing, transitional space between solid and gas, "(is) better able to explore the adjacent possible. New configurations can emerge through random connections formed between molecules, but the system isn't so wildly unstable that it instantly destroys its new creations."

And with respect to "liquid networks" and meaningful connection, Johnson makes another vital point: the isolated "Eureka" moment is rare. In a study of scientists, the most salient ideas emerged during informal gatherings where colleagues shared their latest undertakings. The ground zero of innovation was not the microscope. It was the conference table. Of course, once you've been given a jump start...what do you do with it?

13. Revisit and Rewire, Rework and Relief. Another semi-restless night's sleep...and upon awakening the conceptual gaps were obvious – automation and globalization – and their contribution to an angst-ridden work environment. And, according to Johnson, I now demonstrated "plasticity" by adopting new configurations without tearing up the existing structure. (My lyric wasn't all gaseous; maybe just a little hot air! ;-) But it also wasn't so "solid." My neural network wasn't rigidly stable or defended. A network loaded with neurons-information but incapable of forming new patterns (or making new neural connections), is "dense"...by definition, "incapable of change, incapable of probing at the edges of the adjacent possible."

And in fairly short order I penned most of the following; the paradoxical "Buddha-Computah" only recently replacing the phrase, "The computer decides" while transforming "who's pink slipping away" into a question:

Work's now a casino, a high tech RIF** RAFFle: When will we know? Why does management waffle? Buddha-Computah...who's pink slipping away? Here's your ticket to ride; uh, shopping's good in Bombay.

I had earlier thought about using the line, "The Wizard decides who's pink slipping away," with an obvious reference to The Wizard of Oz. It just didn't grab me; however, "Buddah-Computah" most certainly did.

So closure has finally been attained. "The Reorg Rag" is a creative process and product in which I take pride. Here are the transformative strategies and steps from Parts I–III:

  1. Embrace the Compelling Process and Challenging Puzzle
  2. Take Time for the Pain and the Brain
  3. Go Back to the Future
  4. Thrive on "Thrustration" and Come Alive with Conflict
  5. Encourage both Short-Term Incubation and Long-Term Hibernation
  6. Shift the Cognitive Structure, Substance and Style: A Prose to Poetry Process
  7. Engage the (Inter)-Personal, Cultural and Universal, the Paradoxical and Analogical
  8. Capture the Processes of Grief and of Tragedy-Comedy
  9. Be Open to Diverse Input
  10. Go with the Restless Flow
  11. Confront the Intimate FOE: Fear of Exposure
  12. Jump into the "Liquid Network" and Swim with the Scientists
  13. Revisit and Rewire, Rework and Relief

Hopefully, these words will fire your creative spirit and help one and all...Practice Safe Stress!

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" , a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is a one-of-a-kind "Motivational Humorist & Team Communication Catalyst." The "Doc" is an acclaimed keynote and kickoff speaker known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN speaking and workshop programs. The "Stress Doc" is also a team building and organizational development consultant for a variety of govt. agencies, corporations and non-profits. And he is AOL's "Online Psychohumorist" ™. A former Stress and Conflict Consultant for the US Postal Service, the Stress Doc is the author of Practice Safe Stress and of The Four Faces of Anger. See his award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com -- called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR). For more info on the Doc's "Practice Safe Stress" programs or to receive his free e-newsletter, email stressdoc@aol.com or call 01-875-2567.





Posted: 04/29/2011

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