Society is the still face

Back in November, I worked with my mate Teresa Posakony on a two day gathering the object of which was to work to apply brain science to policy questions on the prevention of adverse childhood experiences.  On the first day I facilitated an Open Space event that brought together reserachers and brain scientists to discuss their findings and on the second day, we had panelists and Teresa ran a half day cafe to look at the implications of the research for policy making.  I composed a poem at the end of the day.

As a part of the experience, we were shown a powerful video of the still face experiment, a test to see how infants respond when their care givers break the connection with them.  It is very very powerful.  Here it is:

Later in the day one of the panelists, Jennifer Rodriguez, referred to this video by saying that collectively, “society is the still face” when it comes to our children and youth.

That was the hook I needed for the poem, which was also informed by the words I saw and heard during the cafe.  I read the poem and got a generous standing ovation.

Today I got an email from our clients which was sent by the researcher you see in the video, Dr. Ed. Tronick.  Dr. Tronick was responding to our client, who sent him the poem and the recording of me reading it:

I really am quite moved by the poem and your comment about how much impact it has.  When I began this work in my lab I had no idea that it might one day be so useful in getting children and families what they so desperately need.  I love the poem – I will get it up in my office somewhere, especially what it brings together and the rhythm of it.  Please tell Chris how much I appreciate it.  It is just amazing.  And more important than the SF or the poem is the work you and everyone at the conference are doing.

It is not enough to do work in the world without adding as much beauty as we can.  The power resides in the songs, the poems, the images that we use to capture our collective experiences and to throw a light on how important they are to us as human beings.

Enjoy the harvest.


  1. What a gift! Thanks Chris, this is another amazing example of what can come from conversations with purpose!

    The use of the video to illuminate the research is a great way to make it all real.

    The visual harvest and your poem can only help to carry this forward … way beyond the group.

    Merry Christmas

  2. Chris, what an active mind you have. Thank you for enlightening me. the still-face experiment is a very powerful snapshot of the capacity that is within children to communicate and move us. I had my mama, grandma tears working as I watched the tension grow in the baby.