Tag Archives: communication


The English language is an exceptional way to communicate. While I am no linguist, it pleases me to be able to use a language rich in meaning. Malleable in ways that allow emotions to permeate the soul. A stretch from precisely defining something to painting connotative images in a human mind. Images that allow the message’s recipient to imagine and create.

So how can we examine the word “commune” as a root word for both supporting and, conversely, undermining the word “service.”

To commune is good when it is extended to mean interaction, connection, and meaningful collaboration. We commune with each other and God. We communicate to better understand each other. We take communion to cement our relationship with God through Jesus.

It is central to everything good about service.

On the other hand, to be a communist or one practicing communism is interpreted by Americans as being evil. Inappropriate and even disloyal. We have been taught appropriately to believe that way. To perform the correct kind of service, one that opposes both communism and those who practice it on an international scale.


In a previous blog post, I mentioned Dr. Zoya Malkova, a Russian citizen and educational leader. In World War II Zoya was a pursuit pilot for the USSR, shooting down Nazi planes. But she was much more than a national hero in the militaristic sense.

She became a marvelous public school teacher and education official in the nation’s bureaucracy.  

I became friends with Zoya after the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), when she made frequent visits to the United States. The purpose of her visits was to explain to Americans what happens when a governmental system with a strong secular and pragmatic core collapses.

Zoya’s best analogy for Americans was as if our Constitution and government were tossed out. That everything we had been taught to believe is now disparaged. That George Washington, like Stalin, was a despot to be forgotten.

Questions asked by citizens of the now defunct USSR were hard to answer. The foundation of education was in disarray.

What is left for schools to teach? What is left for our families to celebrate? To what do we belong as a culture?

Such questions were hard to answer even before the USSR’s demise. The basic core of communism is economic collectivism, which can seem soulless and rigidly practical. Drab in regulated ways.

Even during the highpoint of the USSR’s existence, the ruling bureaucracy only marginally recognized the uplifting achievements of the union’s member nations. Their contributions in the world of literature, music, dance, and even technology.

Economic collectivism emphasized production and distribution of wealth. Believing in and becoming inspired by a gearbox in a tractor. By the statistics of industrial output.

The center point of national pride had less to do with what was valued spiritually or esthetically. National pride was based on industrial strength, military prowess after defeating Nazi Germany, and the expanding territorial achievements. Gaining dominance in nuclear and rocket science.

After the demise of the USSR the once mighty Stalinist empire, built on what remained after World War II, was real estate chopped into ethnic parcels of land. Pieces of territory reinvigorated traditional cultures that lived there. Or formed totally new cultures and nation states.

Zoya had belonged to the Soviet Communist Party. Not because of its allegiance to the teachings of Vladimir Lenin, or the dictatorial rule of strongman Joseph Stalin, but because she knew no alternative.

The political state ruled by the dictatorship of the proletariat (working class) was based on collectivism, an economic principle established by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. German philosophers, political theorists, and economists who lived and worked in England.

Marx and Engels never thought their ideas would be co-opted by a massive empire like Russia, but Lenin did. Lenin sold the idea that those who do the work should reap the benefits of their labor. He created a political system based on that idea.

Starting with a strong central government (“temporary” dictatorship) to ensure the system was correctly established and maintained.

Communism took the idea of “commune” to new levels of economic principles and political infringement on a culture. Earlier communes like those established by indigenous people (and many American villages of the 18th and 19th centuries) were small and interactive. Often glued together with pervasive beliefs associated with things spiritual and life affirming.

Communism, as envisioned by Lenin in the context of a large nation’s needs, had to become both bureaucratic and rigidly based on uncompromising rules. It was and is a prescribed economic set of beliefs superimposed on a misguided political arrangement. Powerfully enforced rules. Rules that allowed Lenin’s successor Stalin to incarcerate or kill hundreds of thousands who did not comply as prescribed.

Living in that kind of culture makes service mandatory and without any kind of spiritual or altruistic base.

My friend Zoya intensely worried about that cultural mandate. The school curriculum, once supported by teachers and resources as training to be comrades in a collective system, had to be turned into something with no validity or overriding reason for existence.

Communism had corrupted the good connotations associated with communal human relations. It had changed our basic needs to commune with one another for the good of each person. Communistic thinking and acting had corrupted the good definition of communing with each other.


The word and function of service must be based on thoughtful introspection and an insight into how it will benefit others. Service has no meaning if it is designed to be obligatory. Forced on us by a bureaucracy or organization with dubious motives.

Service is neither valuable nor good if it is based solely on the strong proclamations issued by a self-proclaimed leader who appeals to our basest instincts and subliminal biases.

Vladimir Putin, an administrator who once served in the security branch of the USSR’s bureaucracy, finagled himself into gaining dictatorial power in Russia. Putin admired the USSR and achieved power as Russian’s current president. A position unlike the American presidency because it allows almost unlimited authority to the holder of that office.

Putin has used his position and the goal of regaining national pride to initiate aggression against nations that were once members of the USSR. To bring them back into the Soviet fold Stalin created after the upheaval caused by World War II. 

To serve Russia now is to serve Putin’s personally held ambitions to make Russia great again.

Putin’s way of unthinking and morally untethered service is an abomination in meeting the real needs of humankind. 

To authentically serve is to offer our ability to commune with each other in love and charity. To fulfill our life’s purpose in ways God intended.  

©2022 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved


In my opinion, writing is performing a service. Or a precursor to the offering of a service that is truly meaningful.

Because writing requires deep intellectual engagement before any action is started. A probe that goes deep into our selfhood and pulls out who and what we are, thereby giving us insights into the world in all its dimensions.

Writing causes a better understanding of our strengths, weaknesses, and potential.

Most of all, it makes our unique and beneficial leadership qualities come to the surface. And gives us courage to use them for the common good.

It is the reverse of the kind of service depicted in The Nun’s Story. Sister Luke was expected to disappear into a collective of those giving allegiance to a core set of beliefs. She was asked repeatedly to sacrifice everything she believed herself to be.

Her writing was limited to keeping medical notes used in nursing or a record of when she was too prideful. Or unable to comply with the rules of her order or proper living.

It worked somewhat, until that sacrifice became unbearable. Coping with the reality of war, the loss of her father, and trying to answer questions not provided by faith alone. To use her intellect and insights to confront evil and serve humanity in a creative way.

My experience in the military was similar. Allowing myself to buy into the military culture until I could not.

The tank is not an object that promotes warm feelings. Nor are its weapons, ammunition, and the human skills needed to make them work effectively. A tank is a death-dealing machine that can also cause massive destruction to buildings and infrastructure. No redeeming value except as a tool to kill and hurt other human beings. Those we identify as the enemy. People like us. Taught to identify us as the enemy.

During my time in the military I wrote letters. Often to my mother and father. Eventually to my fiancé, who later became my wife. Much of my writing focused on how I felt about my work.

That writing made me think about what I was doing at the time and how I felt about it.

By the time I left the Regular Army and National Guard, I had earned a master’s degree and begun a doctoral program in educational leadership. In the Guard, I was encouraged to attend the Advanced Armor Officer School at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

At age 26 I had already attained the rank of captain and was being groomed to become a field grade officer within a few years. Completing advanced combat courses, and later programs referred to as Command and General Staff Officers’ Courses. They pretty much assured promotion up to and through the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Those with advanced degrees who could also write, teach, and effectively manage a unit command were at a real advantage. Combat commanders, while often recognized for their courage and skills in leading successful campaigns under hostile fire, did not always achieve high rank.

As a student of history, it was evident that leaders like Dwight Eisenhower and Colin Powell were successful in the army because they communicated well. They accepted and succeeded in fulfilling difficult managerial responsibilities. Powell served as a small unit commander in Vietnam. But Eisenhower never had such an experience. His skills were both managerial and collaborative decision-making. Especially among diverse and domineering personalities such as those involved with the Allied War Effort in WW II.

And Eisenhower wrote very well.

I admired these men. But I often wondered if their accomplishments were more related to career success than selfless service. My ultimate conclusion was both.

As an 18-year-old private first class in an Army reserve unit, I was asked by a sergeant to conduct a short instructional program on how to use a particular piece of equipment. Since I had no idea how to use that equipment, I turned to the Army field manual. It soon became clear why the sergeant asked me to conduct the instruction.

The technical writing used in the manual was gobbledygook. Filled with military jargon and convoluted instructions. To develop a lesson plan, I rewrote the most critical part of the manual, creating a step-by-step visual for classroom use.

An officer who watched my instruction was critical of my rewriting the manual. But he admitted that the resultant lesson was more lucid and understandable. How insubordinate I was! To have the nerve to redo a document written by a college educated officer skilled in technical writing and use of that piece of equipment.

That experience taught me a valuable lesson. My initiative was a service to the Army and the men who participated in the class. To the disapproving officer, I was an insubordinate young soldier exercising an initiative that would hurt my chances for promotion.

Instead, I circumvented the system and became an officer. With the goal of serving competently, not to just advance my military career.

Eisenhower and Powell also circumvented the rigid “by the book” system. Eisenhower was the architect of the campaign to rid Europe of the Nazi scourge. His leadership often put him into conflict with politicians and subordinates. But his intelligence and communication skills overrode the opinions of those preoccupied with protocol and rigid strategies. Eisenhower became our president during the 1950s and applied those special skills.

Eisenhower’s fresh way of thinking and ability to communicate were more than career advantages. They were a genuine service to the nation.

Powell did much the same thing by reforming a dysfunctional Vietnam era military into the quality force it is today. A good career move. And a good service to his country.

After retirement from the military Powell became the founding Chairman of America’s Promise—The Alliance for Youth. A group meant to mobilize people from every sector to build the character and competence of our country’s youth. Service through communicating. Through speeches and the written word.

We read, reflect, AND write to become more effective human beings. Those actions make us more than robotically motivated creatures programmed with stimulus-response software. They allow us to serve with sensitivity and moral awareness.

©2022 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved