From under the Philosopher's Tree, Bob MacKenzie invites you to nominate your Philosopher Leader of the Year and explain why. 

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My personal nomination in this category goes to Adrian Kohler, Basil Jones and their colleagues of the Handspring Puppet Company, of ‘War Horse’ fame. From relatively modest beginnings, Adrian and Basil created this phenomenal adult puppetry theatre design and performance company in 1981, and their work has now been performed in more than 30 countries.

My reasons for nominating them include:

  • Their unwavering determination to place their chosen enterprise, puppetry, firmly centre stage as an important art form
  • Their commitment to leading their public and private lives as an openly gay couple as authentically as possible
  • Their outstanding combination of artistic, technical and entrepreneurial nous
  • Their championing of diversity, multiculturalism and racial equality in the dangerous dying days of the apartheid era, and afterwards, in their native South Africa.
  • Their initiatives in offering training and employment opportunities profitably, especially to disadvantaged people from the Townships.
  • Their willingness, when the moment presented itself serendipitously, to reflect upon, articulate and share in writing and by other means, their unique theories and methods, e.g. (Jones 2009; Kohler 2009; Kohler 2009). I see this as a form of explication. Their chance to do this came when, for the first time ever not being directly involved as performers, they had the opportunity to articulate – make explicit - their ideas when coaching members of the ‘War Horse’ cast, and when observing rehearsals and performances from the wings.

You can make up your own mind by reading my article on 'The wisdom of philosopher-leaders' in e-Organisations and People, Vol 19, No 3, Autumn 2012, or by visiting the Handspring website www.handspringpuppet.co.za.

What's your choice?

(By the way, Bob, where is the Philosopher's Tree?  And who was the Philosopher?  Or were they many?)

Hi, David

I'm afraid I've been a bit playful here, and I've taken liberties with the original meaning, because I felt a bit mischievous on the day.

Strictly, the philosopher's tree is not a tree at all, but rather:

'(The), or Diana's tree. An amalgam of crystallised silver, obtained from mercury in a solution of silver; so called by the alchemists, with whom Diana stood for silver.'  Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. E. Cobham Brewer, 1894 retrieved on 10.8.12 from http://www.infoplease.com/dictionary/brewers/philosophers-tree.html. 
It's also the title of a book edited by Peter Day about Michael Faraday, the great 19th century British inventor and pioneer of electromagnetism and electrochemistry http://www.amazon.com/The-Philosophers-Tree-Michael-Faradays/dp/075...

*****
The photograph was taken by my wife on a beautiful sunny day on a walking holiday in the Peak District.  I just stood there in the shade of the tree with a cup of iced water, thinking my thoughts.  So I guess, for that moment, I was imagining myself as the philosopher!

David McAra said:

(By the way, Bob, where is the Philosopher's Tree?  And who was the Philosopher?  Or were they many?)

Lovely thread. I do like trees. If philosophy is "the love of knowledge" and trees are emblematic of the deepest knowledge and wisdom it seems natural that philosophers will have their favourite trees. What interests me are thoughts and musings why the the alchemical Diana Tree should be "The Philosopher's Tree".  

From the Cedar trees of Mesopotamanian myth and pictures, from the Greek myth of Heracles stealing the apples from the orchard of the Hesperides, the notion of philosophers and their trees seems to occur in so many cultures that the conjoined ideas of treeness, knowledge and wisdom seems truly universally human. That lovely picture, Bob, reminds me of Buddah and the Bo tree. The Bo is a kind of Indian fig. The ancient Egyptians' mythic tree was an Acacia.  The Kalvala suggests that Yggdrasil, the Norse tree at the centre of the world is a Rowan. All the Abrahamic cultures have a central image of the Tree of Knowledge at the very centre of the Garden of Eden.

The wonderful philosopher writer, Tolkien, uses trees (Ents) as emblems of ancient, ageless, knowledge and wisdom. He devised Entish for them, based on Chinese. Entish is a very tonal language that is always extremely slow and oblique because nothing important should be rushed and if it is not important, need not be said at all.

Trees produce substance, hard wood and sometimes tasty soft fruits and filling nuts year after year (mostly. They seem to do this ) essentially apparently from thin air, actually extracting carbon dioxide from the air and giving the oxygen back, keeping the carbon as wood. At the same time, through their roots, trees find water and cycle it back to the air. They predate people and many outlive generations (e.g yews and giant cedars may live hundreds to thousands of years). And trees are ecosystems, just like but more obviously so than people are (fascinating article in this week's Economist, (16/8) on people as ecosystems by the way). I am told that the Oak tree in our garden is host to 2000 different interdependent species. 

  

Lovely thoughts, Jonathan.  And who would you like to meet under your favourite philosopher's tree in 2012?

I enjoyed our conversations. on Friday.

Best wishes.  Bob

Jonathan Wilson said:

Lovely thread. I do like trees. If philosophy is "the love of knowledge" and trees are emblematic of the deepest knowledge and wisdom it seems natural that philosophers will have their favourite trees. What interests me are thoughts and musings why the the alchemical Diana Tree should be "The Philosopher's Tree".  

From the Cedar trees of Mesopotamanian myth and pictures, from the Greek myth of Heracles stealing the apples from the orchard of the Hesperides, the notion of philosophers and their trees seems to occur in so many cultures that the conjoined ideas of treeness, knowledge and wisdom seems truly universally human. That lovely picture, Bob, reminds me of Buddah and the Bo tree. The Bo is a kind of Indian fig. The ancient Egyptians' mythic tree was an Acacia.  The Kalvala suggests that Yggdrasil, the Norse tree at the centre of the world is a Rowan. All the Abrahamic cultures have a central image of the Tree of Knowledge at the very centre of the Garden of Eden.

The wonderful philosopher writer, Tolkien, uses trees (Ents) as emblems of ancient, ageless, knowledge and wisdom. He devised Entish for them, based on Chinese. Entish is a very tonal language that is always extremely slow and oblique because nothing important should be rushed and if it is not important, need not be said at all.

Trees produce substance, hard wood and sometimes tasty soft fruits and filling nuts year after year (mostly. They seem to do this ) essentially apparently from thin air, actually extracting carbon dioxide from the air and giving the oxygen back, keeping the carbon as wood. At the same time, through their roots, trees find water and cycle it back to the air. They predate people and many outlive generations (e.g yews and giant cedars may live hundreds to thousands of years). And trees are ecosystems, just like but more obviously so than people are (fascinating article in this week's Economist, (16/8) on people as ecosystems by the way). I am told that the Oak tree in our garden is host to 2000 different interdependent species. 

  

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