Systems produce feedback loops to regulate system stability and restore system balance.
For example, when you get sick your immune system produces antibodies that neutralize foreign objects like bacteria and viruses and restore balance to your body. If you get very sick, this process becomes very chaotic and sometimes you die.
The events unfolding around us are economic antibodies and the ecological economy is very sick. What we are witnessing is a system response to the imbalance we’ve created through our hyper-growth, limit-ignoring, buy-now-pay-later human economy.
This way of life has led to a host of problems and experts now say we must reduce our carbon emission by 80% in 20 years or life altering climate change and ecological collapse may be inevitable.
I think we’ll do it but I think there are two ways it could go – both extremely difficult.
The first option is that we do it. We completely redesign, rescale and localize our economies and our lives. Much has been written about this but it’s important and timely to mention that on a policy level, this would involve funding only infrastructure projects that 1) save energy, 2) generate energy sustainably and 3) have a worthwhile EROEI. There are many ways to do this but any project that does not meet this criteria is a misallocation of resources. Period.
The second option is that it’s done for us. We continue life as usual, watch the collapse of our economic, social and ecological systems, and simply destroy our capacity to emit carbon. Through some combination of crippling monetary inflation and energy resource scarcity our economy will be scaled down for us through a feedback loop which will restore balance to the Gaia system. After this balance is restored we’ll be lucky if we’re emitting 20% of the carbon we are now. No one knows what this eventual balance state will look like, but we’ve currently overshot the capacity of our current systems to the degree that it won’t be pretty.
We are now at the point, or perhaps even past the point, where we choose to do it or it’s done for us. It’s a choice between relative order and chaos. Between consciousness and ignorance. Between potential joy and certain pain.
Like the wise one told the confused king – turtles all the way down…
We retrospectively create stories to explain the events in our lives so that they confirm our self-organized sense of self. Ego. This just happens period. But it happens in healthy ways (more in line with the real nature of reality) and unhealthy ways (less in line with the real nature of reality – pathological scripts that weigh us down and hinder gift giving).
The whole point of traditional psychology – which I think is still pretty spot on although usually practiced though too limited a perspective – is to search out the unhealthy stories that lurk in our sub-conscious and rewrite the scripts to give them more reality.
I’m thinking about this right now for a whole host of reasons (turtles all the way down) but most recently because of this video and this blog. And because I’m from Cleveland – a city that arguably has the most collectively pathological script of any major metro area. In fact, I just heard that some academic recently coined the condition “Cleveland syndrome” which mostly infects young professionals and means something or another.
The point is, our stories completely shape our reality. In fact our reality is NOTHING BUT the stories we tell ourselves so the ones we choose and tell be better be damn good ones. More than that, we better be pretty damn concious of why and how we choose the ones we do.
But to live affirmatively and appreciatively through the power of our stories, we first need to understand that we actually create our stories. This seems like a no brainer but it bears endless repeating. I actually create my own stories. My stories shape my experience. My stories shape my suffering (huge one!). My stories shape my joy. My stories shape my relationships. My stories shape my self. And most importantly my stories shape my Self.
Like my friend Jack says:
“When we see that we create our own stories, we become more free to create meaning that makes us feel alive, that engages our best and the best of others, that allows for a future distinct from the past. New futures always began with new stories.”
New fucking futures always begin with new fucking stories. Amen Jack.
So the whole point right now is that the most powerful transformational capacity within and between us is the capacity to create a new story that reflects the good, true and beautiful reality that we already know beats in the stillness of hearts. There a new story is waiting to be told.
Do we really want to ensure future generations access to at least the life we have now when our present quantity of life is way out of line with the limits of our ecological reality and our quality of life pretty much sucks (whether the majority of Americans realize it or not) as far as wholeness and fulfillment go?
Even if I drove to the mall in a electric car powered by a local wind farm and brought home a shopping cart full of cradle-to-cradle products made in a Chinese factory powered by 100% renewable energy and shipped across the sea in a frigate that chugged along on sustainably produced bio-fuels, that still wouldn’t do it for me. Yet in theory I would be living in a sustainable world.
I don’t want a plug-and-play economy that magically substitutes renewable energy in order to keep our present day living arrangement and way of life chugging along as usual.
Now perhaps I’m problemetizing the dialectic, but I bring this up as a matter of language. Much like a practice can be green but not sustainable, can a practice also be sustainable yet not worth sustaining? This is a question that most folks don’t seem to be asking yet is crucial is deciding how we now want to collectively proceed, since we probably ought to know what it is that we want and don’t want to create before we go about creating it.
Take for instance the billions of dollars we’re currently spending in a high speed race to find a gasoline substitute that can power our autos when the oil’s gone. Looking just a little deeper, do we really want to sustain the automobile at this scale when the infrastructure (highways and horrible buildings) and living arrangement (isolation and suburbia) that it supports are economical infeasible, spiritually unsustainable and downright degrading?
Now I know that this plug-and-play economy is unlikely to materialize in time and that a near-term scarcity of energy resources will necessitate a large-scale restructuring of the way that we live and work. And hell, maybe this restructuring will even self-organize into a world which values that to which we need to return – locality, community, character and health to name a few – but when we use the word “sustainabilty” we are invoking a future inherently defined by the present and past rather than to the possibility of creating something distinctly new (granted it will transcend AND include the old models). The thing is, I think we are really missing an opportunity to use more appreciative language and champion important values and qualities of life which sadly have little to do with our present day reality.
More than sustain human life on earth (what an uninspiring dream) I want myself, my family, my community, my city and my world to thrive. And if we design this thrivancy consciously and with an intentional eye on the future, what we create will be sustainable by nature.
e4s events always remind of the two most powerful forces in life: love and purpose. as I understand those are the respective feminine and masculine essences but always come together in perfect harmony whenever things go to the next level.
my highlight from last night was a presentation by this guy mark who just quit his job as a partner at a big time national law firm and joined a local start-up that’s developing technology to transform waste heat from industrial processes into renewablish energy. he was talking about how liberating it for him to totally change direction, take a chance and do what he knew in his heart he had to do. he went to the next level. so inspiring.
also spoke with an old man in a long white beard who wore a long-brimmed country hat and a fine pair of mocassins. talked about gardening (he has 2,000 sq. ft. in akron) and composting (described how rich and fluffy his soil is after 20 years) and lamented the loss of culture and wisdom around food (kind of like the shit knife) but we both have hope for the future. he was just an attentive, gentle and sweet old dude. his breath smelled strongly of garlic and parsley and it was really real.
Have you ever had an experience where things became so clear and the maps fit into place and you just jumped into a completely higher pattern?
But… you then returned to your center of gravity.
I think those experiences are glimpses of the future.
Last night I had a nice glimpse into how much knowledge exists embodied in community and how much emerges with the right questions and what happens when you talk about values.
How to make that available to more people more often in different ways and using technology?
Those experiences are intensely emotional and spiritual but pretty fuzzy and to learn from those by reflection, experimentation and conversation is the practice of learning from the future.
The essence of that experience is what I work towards creating.
I have worked hard to be open to the future and not scared of how incomprehensibly enormous and powerful it is. I am proud of that.
Tonight at the zendog we talked about the different views of learning.
View #1 – Learning is the accumulation of knowledge which might be useful somewhere down the road.
View #2 – Learning is the capacity for listening deeply in the present.
I recently said to a new friend: “I’m pretty sure that getting to know someone and really knowing who they are are two different things.”
Then I told another friend about that thought and he said something like: “I know, isn’t that one of the most amazing things about being human?”
Same thing basically.
It is by listening deeply and gratefully with my whole self that I can realize a deep knowingness. It is life-affirming, spacious and joyful.
Now I will write a poem about this:
spacious and joyful learning
in the board room this morning
as the sun beams above the sash