A Hartman Perspective on Thailand’s Rescue
C. Stephen Byrum, PhD
In a world so often filled with bad news, the unfolding of the rescue of the young soccer players and their coach from the mountain caves of Thailand was remarkably positive. Even with all of our joy in their rescue, I doubt that we could ever be able to fully appreciate the magnitude of what took place there. This may be one of—if not the—greatest rescue efforts of our lifetime. People have asked, “Was it a miracle or was it science?” It was probably something of both. How refreshing and constructive of hope when something turns out so well!
I have not been able to keep from seeing these events through the lens of the work of Robert Hartman; maybe I do that with everything, but I believe Hartman would have seen the events clearly through his three “value lenses.”
Without any question, we can see a powerful force of the Intrinsic—People Judgment—directed at these boys and their coach. There were all kinds of expressions of care, love, and concern directed at those trapped in the cave and those trying to help. This peaked, of course, in the loss of the life of the heroic Thai cave diver, Saman Gunan. The Intrinsic brings people together and focuses their concern in ways that provide powerful motivation and actions beyond the normal scope of human energy.
There was also plenty of evidence of the Extrinsic—Work/Task Judgment—in the equipment and processes that likely made the rescue possible. Without the hard and disciplined task competency and effectiveness, the story could never have turned out as well as it did. Skill sets and disciplined practice is always incredibly vital.
Yet, I am convinced that as important as these two aspects of the rescue were, the really significant dynamic was the Systemic—Big Picture Judgment—plan. This part of the process took longer, and I’m sure was exasperating to the families. However, if the rescuers would have rushed in with all kinds of Intrinsic love and Extrinsic equipment—without a detailed, comprehensive, and tested plan—the results could have been very different. We should forever see this moment as a primary example of how a well-developed Systemic plan allowed the Extrinsic efforts and Intrinsic care to be guided to a successful conclusion.
One of my greatest professors, a man named Rolf-Dieter Herrmann, always greeted people in what at first seemed to me to be a very strange way. Instead of saying “Hello” or “How are you doing?” he would ask, “What is your plan? What is your plan?” I am certain that he believed that action without a “plan” was likely to be well-intended (Intrinsic) and even well-executed (Extrinsic) at times, but—in lieu of the plan—was likely to be spasmodic or inadequately directed. The rescuers in Thailand certainly gave us a profound example of the integration of all three dimensions of Hartman’s axiology.
Thailand is culturally a place where meditation, deliberation, and reflection are honored and used with intention and high consciousness. We have even learned that the boys’ coach used priestly training in mediation to keep the boys calm and strengthened for their arduous experience. The rescue was a success thanks to a multitude of circumstances; it is almost as if the stars aligned, and what a great outcome for the boys and their coach to be able to reunite with their families when everything pointed towards an ominous ending. My old teacher was so right: “Do you have a plan?”