August 27, 2014
Williams College Class of ‘65 Bio for Torrey Orton
I am leading a life I have mostly chosen, missing some things on the way that being less devoted to choosing would have given me. Much of it has been composed of things I never thought of, nor knew of, at Williams - living in Melbourne (40yrs), Beijing (2yrs), Shanghai (1.5yrs) and Paris (1.5yrs) for starters. Some has been planned, like becoming a psychotherapist and organisation consultant in my 50’s. As a result of meeting Jane by chance on a smoggy July, 1970 NYC afternoon, I started learning deeply that there are other worlds than the American one(s), whence an eventual change of citizenship honouring the Melbourne home of my life.
Much of this life has been an exploration of different worlds, inner and outer, with a helping professions orientation which was emerging at Williams and confirmed in 5 years of HS teaching, and alternative school and commune building, in New Haven, moderated by 2 years of a Yale philosophy Masters over 1965-72. In the following 40 years I only once slipped outside the helping life to run a bank IT systems project 1989-91 – but even then it was an HR system help desk.
The bank was merged-over by a neighbour and I got an unexpected redundancy package jump start into consulting in 1991, which was where I meant to go next anyway. My consulting has always had an organisational focus and in intercultural flavour, with a personal development infrastructure (I started a small psychotherapy practice in tandem with consulting having gained licensing in 6 years of night school 1985-91). This combination produced my second biggest adult learning experience – partnering and coaching a Chinese partner in a start-up in Shanghai from 1998 til 2008. The third was living in Beijing in 1981-83. The fourth is a toss-up between fulltime therapist and part-time blogger for the last 5 years...taking both seriously, but not enough to step up or out a quantum jump. Aikido weapons work has been a background discipline for 10 years.
Jane has been accompanying me and being accompanied by me since that July afternoon in International House at Columbia Univ. The commitment to things Chinese has always been her lead. My following there has acquired its own momentum and valences, while adding my therapeutic and organisational tones to her linguistic ones. She stepped into the retiring time of life 5 years ago by launching a career-topping innovation in Chinese language teacher education, with about every complexity I can think of!
My first biggest learning will probably be what emerges from here on. One theme is rehabilitation of public life, which I have blogged for five years with special interest in ethics and public discourses about difficult issues – climate, science, thinking while in danger. Two mornings a week I have been a pro-choice witness to anti-abortionist harassment of patients at a local clinic for the last 3 years. It would be simpler if I could give up worrying about the world; I cannot.
The great unknown is resilience. I was reminded in January ’11 that I’m as prone as any to surprise attacks – that time acute pancreatitis and a year later a gangrenous gall bladder. 12 years ago a slow heart beat dropped me in a street. The beat has been picked up by a pacemaker since then. Along the way I enjoy more aspects of life than ever – many only accessible through the portals of age!