“We can put a man on the moon, but …” has been the opening line for a long list of complaints about human failures such as, eliminating hunger, poverty and war. The technological spin-offs from scientific research that we enjoy with hardly any scientific knowledge on our part have contributed abundantly to our physical well being. But, there are no technological spin-offs from the social sciences that we can use mindlessly to achieve love, justice, friendship, peace, and many more human ideals. Although the social sciences have swelled the reservoir of knowledge with insights and techniques regarding the dynamics of human development, nevertheless, to flourish personally requires personal reflection to fit this advanced knowledge to our unique lives.
Human development is a story. Like all stories the chapters of our lives tell the tale of the human spirit faced with making life-changing decisions such as, a career choice, choosing a marriage partner, being true to our ideals, and constructing a belief system that will shape our attitude toward ourselves and the world. Just as the dialogues of the characters in novels contribute to the creation of great literature, so also personal and inter-personal dialogue in the stages of human development account in large measure for creating a person magnanimous in heart, mind and spirit.
It was a dull, grayish, wintry morning around 1990 when I knocked on the sixth grade classroom door to pick up Julio for a counseling session. As a staff psychologist on the school based team of the community mental health center I worked with grade school children at risk of being placed in special education. As we walked down the well-worn staircase of the seventy-year old school building in the south Bronx, I noticed the glum expression on Julio's face. When we arrived at the office situated off a landing of the staircase, I opened the door and asked Julio to click on the light. The switch was on the outside of the room next to the door. Julio, then, took a seat on the old wooden, straight-back chair, slouched and grunted, "Ugh .. this place is ugly too."