The Complete Rotarian: Communications and the Twelve Senses, Synopsis

Preface: Many have wondered why in the beginning of Rotary, Paul Harris did not become discouraged since any new venture has setbacks. History records that he had others around him who lifted up their collective spirits and continued the mission. We are in a similar time with the Internet and breaking down boundaries between peoples of the world. Therefore let us imagine that the situation is like an artist laying out his or her tools for creating a work of art: self, a team, the human senses, communications, and then service. The goal is to create the Complete Rotarian.

Start with Self and Communications: The Complete Rotarian is an incomplete human being, using all his or her talents, skills and abilities to serve other human beings through a team effort that makes up for any deficiencies in a single individual.   To build this team effort, we must understand some of the main ingredients for service, 1) building a team of dedicated individuals who have learned to use all their senses to communicate with each other; 2) add the dedication and passion of service; and 3) see with the vision that goes beyond surface to basic humanity. When human beings analyze the time that they spend attempting to communicate, it is not a simple addition of numbers but an examination of the process itself.

Exercise: Take two days in your life, record and examine every word that is said, every intended idea, and count up the time that you spend on this “communication.” You might find that if you add up all the words and the body language over these two days, not much which we call “words of substance” has been said, and much of what has been said did not scratch the surface of your reality. Now, in a separate exercise, write out all that you have said or intended to say or wanted to communicate.  

New Need for Communication: The second exercise underscores our need for the creation of Rotary eClubs, Fellowships and Internet Associations and how they might work today. Each Rotarian should look toward the Internet as a shift in history, the need to cross borders for fellowship and service, and how modern business practices across national lines has impacted the thinking and actions of the most innovative individuals in our world. These are the same individuals who look around for tools to expand their Rotary experience. They have found that attendance alone at weekly meetings does not translate into worldwide communication. Possible problem: forums and emails can become a closed circle of communication: self to self.

Unfolding Future History: First, a look to the past: One can see where the art of letter writing was important for centuries. It gave form to thoughts that then could be discussed further in small groups or replied to in another letter. Present: This is the kind of communication that is possible through electronic organizational forums. Communication is not a substitute for service but it is the essential tool to find partners in service in and to a world community. Benefits: It seems that over the Internet some of us open up more, expose our shared humanity more, and then find ways to serve our local communities and other communities “without borders.”  Challenge: No one really knows how this new tool of communication, the Internet, will impact one-on-one communication that should lead to collective service, but we do know that it does and has.

Creating The Complete Rotarian: To communicate with anyone, we must know the tools with which we have to work: our senses. The Greeks in the 5th century BCE discussed five senses: hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch, which they and early Christians connected with the universe around them: touch (or feeling) to the Earth, sound (or speech) to Water, taste to the Air, sight to Mists and smell to the South Winds (Ecclesiastes xvii.5). In the 1970s and 1980s, psychologists and educators recognized two other senses: kinesthesia (our sense of gravity, balance and animation which the ancient Greeks saw through fire- the awareness of our body, which can be seen in walking or dance) and intuition (a grouping of some of the original Greek senses mixed with “learning culture”). In the late 20th century, two more senses were added: a sense of humor (an ability to see beyond logic to the illogic of the world and smile at our “un-knowledge” and “un-explainable”) and a sense of time. At the beginning of the 21st century, we added: common sense and a sense of self/community (introspection and extrospection). This means at present we work with eleven senses of man when we attempt to communicate. The Complete Rotarian (who is less an individual that a collection of talents and abilities) should strive to use as many of these eleven senses as possible or at least know which ones he or she is lacking so they can be recruited to serve on a team. The Rotary team is ultimately the Complete Rotarian who communicates with the world. But to do this, we must create another sense to carry us into 2020: a world wise sense, one that embraces all the first eleven through a satellite and collage vision of our planet. 

Exercise: Take the Rotary Meeting and examine it in the light of all these senses (both a traditional luncheon meeting and a “virtual” eClub meeting).  A “terra” club meeting should be easy to dissect and analyze (working with the first seven senses) but a “virtual” meeting creates difficulties in terms of these twelve senses (but having an easier time with the last five senses). Note: Communication on the forum is the equivalent to attendance at “terra” Rotary club meetings. It is not fellowship but a tool toward that.

An Examination of the Senses Used for Communication: A.  Start with Ancient History: 1. Visual (or spatial/ sight): the Complete Rotarian sight is one of the important senses that get inside the individual faster than concepts or words (which have to go through a complex framework of translation, even when we know the language). The problem with visual education is that it is not taught in higher academic circles (except in rare instances). Our education system is built upon linguistic and logic skills (left brain thinking skills) whereas visualization comes from the culture (mostly relegated to right brain thinking).  2. Hearing (musical/poetry/speech): the Complete Rotarian has heard, for years, stories about service, about good deeds, about principles of Rotary, about “truth”, and the leaders of Rotary who have served the world. This must be continued at meetings so that historical continuity is kept. It is good to know where you have been so that you can move to a new plateau of service. Each “terra” meeting has voices raised in song that joins fellows in a special way that logic cannot do. But hearing goes to both halves of our brain: the logic side and the creative side. Some programs should be about how creative solutions were found to problems that seemed to have no answers. 3. Taste: the Complete Rotarian who goes to terra meetings has a shared taste session with fellow members but the “virtual” eClub member must arrange to have an imagined “eating session” with written descriptions of the foods. This cannot be part of the weekly meeting program but be a part of the mentoring process of getting to know each other in the eClub. Programs can describe how taste is important in some professions and how it can help enhance interpersonal relationships. 4. Touch (love, wisdom and feeling): the Complete Rotarian must find ways to “touch” fellow members and those who he or she wishes to serve. The touch is a gentle way to build “trust” (for without trust, there cannot be service). In today’s world where people can hide behind “false personas,” it is essential that we touch some aspect of that person which we know is true. Without touch, there cannot be passion; without passion, there cannot be commitment; without commitment, there cannot be “true service.” 5Smell (now, only good or bad for most people): the Complete Rotarian, as a civilized human being with an education of skills, knowledge and experience, has moved away from our need for smell to survive.  Smell (along with taste) may be the undiscovered country for Rotary meeting’s programs. The technology to do it is already with us.

B.  Senses Recognized in the 1970s/1980s:  6.  Kinesthesia (sense of gravity, balance, awareness of body and animation): the Complete Rotarian can learn from the Greeks who believed that a perfect body and mind were in union. New studies of data seem to bear this finding out as the “truth.” It is important for “terra” Rotary clubs and “virtual” eClubs and Fellowships to have a rule that each member attends an actual luncheon meeting, either in their local community or at district or Rotary International Conventions. The act of moving around and shaking hands is important to the Complete Rotarian. A sense of kinetics has many offshoots: thermoception (heat/cold/cool), nociception (pain/pleasure/numbness), equillbrioception (balance), and proprioception (body awareness/blood pressure/heartbeat/nerves). 7Intuition (a seemingly irrational revelation/combination of the first five senses): the Complete Rotarian, who has worked on the first five senses and begun to master them, needs to use this tool of intuition to take the mass of data that comes with the modern world and digest it quickly, coming up with accurate decisions. It is the ability to take a mountain of information, cut through its layers and see the truth of its existence. The Complete Rotarian must in some situations be able to understand something in his or her “gut” with accuracy for the team giving a service. 

C.  Senses Recognized in the late 20th Century:  8. Humor (a sense of humor is a rare ability to accept opposites as both “true”): the Complete Rotarian must have or learn to have a keen sense of humor because sometimes (‘in service above self” and “service without borders”) the seeming insanity of the world interacts with the logic that we expect from other human beings and nature’s happenings. Laughter is a rare medicine that can cure a situation and help a Rotary team move forward when logic mixed with emotion says, “Stop, go home!” Humor is the stepchild of the right brain functioning at its highest capacity.   9. Time (a sense of time is a universal ability): the Complete Rotarian knows instinctively the duration of an action, the pauses in a sentence, and where in the history of time they exist. Some questions, when a service project is underway, take historical thinking (living in a past that is happening now) or future thought (putting oneself in a time ahead, such as: creating a vision statement for a project). 

D.  Senses Recognized in the early 21st Century: 10. Common Sense (a sense of a “right decision” in a culture): the Complete Rotarian must be able to think as an “ordinary citizen,” called, “using your common sense.” It is a sense of “truth” in a specific community, while also using a universal truth that transcends borders.  11. Self/community (the sense of self and community are basic to a global perspective): the Complete Rotarian must “know thyself” (a precept of the Solon of Athens, 5th century BCE) and know that a community can do wonders when they work together- “nothing is impossible to industry” (Persander of Corinth, 5th century BCE). The Complete Rotarian must start with the inner circle of self and expand actions/ideas out to fill the community of a world.      

E.  Needed: A Future Sense for 2020:  12. World Wise (this is a growing 2007 sense that has consumed business, politics, some individuals and nations but it is still in its infancy): the Complete Rotarian, who lives part of his life on the Internet, who flies anywhere, who gives service across borders, who speaks through the airwaves with like-individuals, who uses technology as an extension of self, who is trained in peace and conflict resolution, and who see the world through a global vision is the Rotarian of the future, living in the present “now.” The Complete Rotarian, who is “world wise,” uses all eleven senses as if they were one.

Prologue: One may ask, “Is there an individual who is the Complete Rotarian?” The answer: “Maybe!” “Are there Rotary teams of individuals who could be called “the Complete Rotarian”?  The answer rings out loud and clear, “Certainly!” If you can use most of these senses already to their and your fullest measure, you can put your efforts to service, mission, fellowship and forget the means. Or as Rotary teaches: “Join, Say, Think, Do!”

RGHF Historian Joseph L. Kagle, Jr.,   23 May 2007