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McGriff_switching

Looking back at the future

It is 2031. I am 80 years old. At this point in history, the only wars being fought
on this planet are being waged by what are now referred to as traditional cultures.
Most major countries have moved away from nationalism and to wards federated
unions with others with similar cultures. The use of oil as an energy source has
become obsolete in the face of advances in the development of zero point energy.
The transition to ZPE or "Zip" sources has enabled modern cultures to almost
eliminate hunger, and has reduced the cost of healthcare and affordable housing
for thousands of families. Quality of life issues have moved to the forefront, and
there is a worldwide cultural renaissance under way, the likes of which have not
been seen on this planet before.

On the American political front, the Green party has established itself as a serious
contender for the popular vote. There are now three political parties. The issues of
the day revolve around the equitable distribution of survival reso urces, such as
water, food, clean air and responsible waste disposal. The automobile industry,
which very nearly bankrupted itself in the first decade of the century, has found its
footing and expanded to include the development of airborne and interstella r
consumer vehicles.

With the advent of Artificial General Intelligence and Extraordinary Knowledge


Access, biotechnological breakthroughs have extended life spans by 50 years or
more. The infamous baby boomers of the last century are becoming
nonagenarians. As a result, the term "sage" has come into common usage to
denote an adult who is 75 years of age or older.

In 2025, the first confirmed contact with a non-terrestrial race occurred, swiftly
redirecting the collective focus toward planetary, as opposed to national, concerns.
Soon afterwards, leaders of the federated nations came together and drafted the
first Earth Charter. The final version was adopted in 2026. On the fifth anniversary
of the adoption of the Earth Charter, I am honored to be included in the upcoming
ceremonies as one of the keynote speakers. Recently, New Renaissance
Magazine recruited Rhonda Miller 1 to discuss my views on the connections
between leadership and art.

1
This piece is entirely speculative. The names “Rhonda Miller” and “New Renaissance Magazine” are fictitious
creations, along with the interview itself and the events herein described. Any resemblance to actual people,
entities, technologies or events are inadvertent and unintentional. tsm

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Switching on the light: an interview with Teryl McGriff


By Rhonda Miller

It is widely agreed that a new renaissance has been sweeping the planet. Teryl McGriff is
one of the innovators that are fueling this cultural conflagration. In an exclusive
interview, New Renaissance magazine contributor Rhonda Miller sat down with McGriff
to talk about what McGriff calls "the art of leadership." This is a transcript of their
conversation.

Rhonda: I'd like to begin by thanking you for spending this time with me. The Earth Charter
ceremony is happening this weekend, and I know that there are a lot of peripheral events going
on connected with that. Your schedule is probably pretty full, so I appreciate this interview.

Teryl: It’s my pleasure. I'm a big fan of yours!

Rhonda: I appreciate that, too! I’d like to begin by framing your perspective. In the realm of
leadership development, someone might ask, what's a leader like you doing in an artist's
enclave? Conversely, artists probably would ask: what's an artist like you doing involved in
leadership development? How would you answer them?

Teryl: Leadership art is very much like musical science. There is a dependable, reliable, even
mathematical core to the medium, around which you dance. Or fly. You take those elements
and integrate them into your way of being, and then you create on-the-fly. You try to go into
every situation with fresh eyes, fresh ears, with a willingness to be astonished by the ordinary.
You treat each element of your medium with love and respect, breathing life into it and then
letting it go to do what it does best. About 20 years ago, I realized that there was enough of a
correlation between leadership and art that I ought to spend some time learning more about
leadership. I felt there might be something I could bring to the development of leadership from
the world of artistic expression.

Rhonda: Here’s a group of questions for you. First, if you were to re-create your movement
through the realm of leadership and organizational development as a tableau, what would that
look like? Second, if it were possible to describe your leadership style using musical metaphors,
how would you describe it? Finally, is there an image that represents your universe now?

Teryl: What interesting questions! Let me see. For the tableau, envision a group of people
peering together at something in their midst, in a semi-dark room. See a disembodied hand
reach into the room and switch on the light by the door. That's me, switching on the light. As
far as the musical metaphors go, I would have to say that the situation dictates the form. The
more people that are involved, the more complex and precise the organization must become.
Improvisation doesn't generally happen on a symphony-wide scale. That tends to work best in
an intimate ensemble setting. So I'd have to say that the pendulum swings from an a cappella
solo to a symphonic concerto. Like any other medium, you look at your subject, and then you

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look at the materials at hand. And then you do what is called for at the time. You listen or
watch or speak (or all three) to all the elements, and then proceed from there.

Rhonda: I can totally relate to the switching-on-the-light tableau -- I feel the same way about
the work I do!

Teryl: You see? The image of my universe that immediately comes to mind is of a vast
tapestry. Underneath all the textures of creativity there are common threads. I find that
exciting!

Rhonda: Me too! Okay, I'm sure you've been asked many, many times about your
accomplishments. Can you name your greatest accomplishment? If so, is it something that you
are widely recognized for? Was it something you set out to do, or was it something that
developed from the circumstances?

Teryl: The word "greatest" is relative, isn't it? My greatest accomplishment as a Creative? I
would have to say it was the last time I forgave myself for not being able to do as much as I
wanted to do in that moment. My greatest accomplishment as a leader? It must have been an
occasion where the group decided to do something without any leadership from me at all. I
imagine that I am most like widely recognized for pulling in elements that the rest of the group
may not have considered. In fact, it's my belief that if a group is bogged down in their process,
what they might need to do is look for something that seems totally irrelevant to the subject at
hand, pull it in, and see how its presence changes the mix. Now, as far as setting out to do
something... when I think about it, I come up with the idea that, at the outset, I'm more
interested in reaching goals than in being recognized for my accomplishments. If your reach is
farther than your grasp, you don't start out with an idea of what you're going to accomplish,
because you don't know. You keep your eyes on the prize, as they say, and you can look back
later and see what you have accomplished. Sometimes it's a whole lot more than you reached
for. In that sense, every accomplishment is something that has developed from the
circumstances. At least, that's what I think.

Rhonda: Your answers are really thought-provoking. What is interesting to me is how


applicable your process is to different fields of endeavor, or realms as you like to call them. I'm
beginning to see that leadership and art really do have something in common. The terms
"leadership" and "art", as you use them, seem to have broader connotations than the average
person normally gives them.

Teryl: I believe that every person can learn to accept the leadership responsibilities that they
have in their lives. And, it’s important to understand why the world community needs the most
creative expression that each of us can muster: even if it's a private, personal expression, it
changes our energy and therefore changes whatever other kind of contribution we make. It
follows, then, that all of us can be creative leaders in one way or another, or at least, learn to
approach a situation in an artistic, leaderly way.

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Rhonda: Hmm, “leaderly”. I like the sound of that. From what you've been saying, it seems
that he you go into every situation expecting to learn something. Would you say that that's
true?

Teryl: Yes, definitely.

Rhonda: What is the most surprising thing you've learned recently?

Teryl: I've been following the political debates that have been going on about universal
sustenance. From what you and other political commentators have been saying, the various
viewpoints being brought to the discussion do not have a common basis in fact. It seems that
what we consider to be the "facts" are colored and over laden with such emotional energy that
people in the discussions are often arguing over totally different truths. Normally, one would
think that providing basic objective facts to all the parties concerned would squash that kind of
dissension. I was actually astonished to realize recently that some people do not want to know
objective facts. They thrive on subjective information, and are not interested in learning
anything new, or in approaching what they already know from a different angle, in order to
move things forward.

Rhonda: What do you think the remedy is for that?

Teryl: One, I don't know that there is one, and two, I don't know that there needs to be.

Rhonda: What do you mean?!

Teryl: A lot of art gets made by using your materials in a certain way, and seeing that they
don't work. All of us have wonderful creative ideas; as soon as you apply the first paint stroke,
or play the first note, or write the first sentence, the potential of the work changes from what
could be, to what is. When we make art, we don't sit back and envision something and then
execute it perfectly. We envision an ideal piece, and then we began to create it, and take it step
by step from there. We need the mistakes, we need the failures of materials, we need the
awkward notes, the wrong colors, the inappropriate words, in order to see what it is we do
want. It's like that sculptor from an earlier century, who claimed that a sculpture was trapped
inside the stone, and his only job was to eliminate all that was unnecessary. The reason why
democracy and cooperative leadership work is because they go through such a messy process.
We throw in all the viewpoints that we can, and shake them together. What falls out is what
most of us think we want. It still may not be the right thing, but we go into the process
agreeing that we will try it out and change it later if it doesn't work.

Rhonda: Can you describe an achievement that you didn't expect? If so, explain why?

Teryl: I honestly don't keep a running catalog in my mind of achievements and


accomplishments. To me those kinds of things are only relevant to the overarching
circumstances at the time. I'm an idealist and an optimist, and so I wrestle with bouts of
depression from time to time. During those times, it's a major achievement for me to keep

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making art, to keep meeting my responsibility to lead, to wash that sink full of dishes. But I will
say that there were times that I reached a kind of parallel pinnacle to what I thought I was
going for. Sometimes, that turns out to be the best outcome for the situation at hand.

Rhonda: You reached 80 years of age earlier this year; you have already achieved sagehood.
Looking at your professional life, is there anything you wish you had done differently?

Teryl: To say that I wish I had lived any aspect of my life differently would be to say that I'm
not happy with who I am. The person before you is the sum total of all her errors, her wrong
choices, her incomplete expressions, and her victories. I like the person I've become. And I love
the world I live in right now. I'm deeply grateful that I'm still here to witness all that is
happening now, and all that has happened in the last two decades. But I will say this: I wish I
had loved myself, and others, more unconditionally. I could have faced more uncertainties with
less fear. While the outcomes might not have been any different, the experiences might have
spoken to me more clearly.

Rhonda: One last question: I'm sure you encounter people all the time who listen to your
ideas, and all you get back are blank stares. You know, they just don't get where you're coming
from. The same thing must happen to you: you listen to someone else’s perspective on
something, and all you can do is shake your head. In your work, what worldviews do you
encounter that are most foreign to your own?

Teryl: The ones that assume that we've already achieved the best that we can achieve; that
we can't get any better at what we do. The ones based on fear of the Other. The ones that are
most narrow; that are in fact, not worldviews at all, but views based on blind assumptions,
limited to what one sees in front of them. Like I said before, in the very messy processes that
are politics, and leadership, and art, we need to have elements in there that ultimately won’t
work. We need to see them, we need to bump up against them, we need to try to understand
them. We also need to have faith that the highest and best outcome for the most people will
prevail. You know, you do need shadows so that you can appreciate light.

Rhonda Miller is one of the most provocative political and social commentators of our time. She
is a regular guest contributor to New Renaissance magazine. © August 2031

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