Author: Alex Wood

Read all articles by
Wednesday, August 11th, 2010 at 1:24 pm
Read similar articles:
Book Reviews

The Power of Three

Norman Drummond’s new book, The Power of Three (Hodder & Stoughton, £12.99) is about to hit the shelves at a time of dramatic social and economic change and uncertainty, when moral issues are back on the agenda.  Life for Norman Drummond himself has changed. He has been appointed to a visiting professorhsip. Columba 1400, the community leadership programme which he established, has opened its second leadership centre on Loch Lomondside.  His first grandson, Beau, was born.

Despite the uncertainties therefore, Norman Drummond’s experiences have been affirmative and his desire to live life to the full and support others to do the same, shines through his new book.

Drummond’s appeal has been his injection of a personal and ethical dimension into the debates on social change.  He argues passionately against the acquisitive society, against poverty, social and cultural, and against the hopelessness facing many contemporary young people.  He insists however that change has to start one-on-one, one-by-one, at the level of individual awareness and that values are central to change.

This book brings together countless examples of individual effort, courage and success as illustrations of human potential but it starts with the negatives.  Gaby Hinscliff, The Observer’s former political editor, resigned from her prestigious post, one she had sought and deserved by her skills and efforts, is salutary.  Hinscliff was overworked, stressed and never able to be ‘off the job’.  She had lost the time for the people she loved.  She resigned and was overwhelmed the flood of sympathetic messages she received, including many saying they wished they had her courage.

Overwork, stress and depression characterise the affluent west.  A lack of inner balance marks individual lives.  Politics are dominated by mediocrity, greed and self-seeking.  Norman Drummond insists that there is an alternative.

Life must have purpose beyond our media- and celebrity-driven age’s targets of being rich or famous or both.  Norman Drummond suggests that purpose will both be part of the essence of the individual but also something that will benefit mankind.  He quotes the Dalai Lama: ‘Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it.’  From purpose he moves to service.  There is no greater source of joy, fulfilment and meaning in life than through service to others.

He argues three principles as essential to improve the world: people before process, wisdom before knowledge and integrity before politics, and here he starts to sparkle.  Processes have come to dominate public life.  Health and safety has taken on the mantle of Big Brother and become the source of endless killjoy policies.  Endless testing, assessment and exams dominate education and he revels in Helena Kennedy’s desire to stop measuring everything in education.  The West has promoted knowledge at the expense of wisdom.  While knowledge can inform us of the details of a situation, wisdom allows us to see the bigger picture.

His assertions are illustrated by numerous stories, parables almost.  He recounts the story of Jean Vanier, the young Frenchman, so shocked by his experience of the holocaust that he established L’Arche, now a world-wide community of supports for people with developmental disorders.  He quotes Zen Buddhist Jew, Leonard Cohen, and he retells stories of his own father.  Norman Drummond has a sure feel for the power of narrative and The Power of Three reverberates with the real-life examples which illuminate the principle he seeks to assert.

Perhaps predictably, faith, hope and love are the three qualities ultimately offered as essential.  He defines faith as not exclusively religious but as the quality which marks out all those who believe in themselves and others and in rightness, goodness and justice.  With Vaclav Havel, he sees hope not as joy or optimism but as the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.  But the greatest of these is love and love of others is only possible by those who love themselves.

Norman Drummond has written another fine book, a trenchant critique of rampant consumerism and unprincipled practices in business and politics; an assertion that any response to these requires to be personal and ethical.  These however are his recurring themes but this book is much more.  It is a return to the role Norman Drummond loves most, as a chaplain and minister.  In the world he describes he meets countless individuals hungry for meaning and purpose.  He offers the life of Jesus of Nazareth as the supreme example of meaning and purpose.

By centring the work on his religious faith Norman Drummond may have blunted the force of his social critique and distanced his message from readers who do not share his religious perspective.  That would be regrettable.  The contemporary world requires a wider moral consensus than that.

The Power of Three: Discovering What Really Matters in Life is available from Amazon.

(Visited 3539 times)

line

Leave a Reply