Second Acts – birth first then something else

from a conversation on FB group Global Challenges Collaboration
link to FB post

No we shouldn’t condemn humankind for being out of control

Sam Hahn  April 23 at 11:05am

We must not condemn man because his inventiveness and patient conquest of the forces of nature are exploited for false and destructive purposes. – Albert Einstein

explosive growth as if out of control is what first began it,  …. a great second act to follow

Jessie Henshaw

 Sam, No we shouldn’t condemn humankind for being out of control, not even for betraying ourselves in failing to study it carefully. It’s sort of “over the top,” in all dimensions. What most matters may be just moving people to recognize that we truly need to gain some control of our future, that we have a future worth protecting, that if we study we can discover the error.

I’ve noticed a curiously deep problem with our remarkable talent for conceptual thinking.  Our great talent for recognizing patterns of control also comes with great ignorance of what we’re trying to control, as nature’s designs are actually beyond our understanding. So we regularly fail to see how our efforts to control things cause disruptions too, also leaving us relatively helpless in trying to heal them as well.  That our minds so often falsely label our opportunities this way is a serious handicap, making it dangerous to rush into what seem to be our greatest doors to success.  Recognizing that hazard is a useful pattern though, one I think you can see reflected in the great disaster prone themes of our culture, which seem associated with the bias of seeing the world through rules for control enabled by our talent for conceptual thinking.

There’s also a glowing opportunity to study it that people seem to shy away from, by looking closely at the natural creative processes by which things begin, the growth periods that bring about the transformation of natural systems in our everyday experience. How visible they are has been hidden from us, by how our whole society became organized around thinking about patterns of control, creating an economy using them to multiplying our control of anything profitable. Perhaps the most consequential problem with that way of life is just not having any second act.

Nature and our own experience are full of creative second acts for growth systems. Finding a second act for our economy is also rather necessary for our survival.  It would also go a long way to absolving us of our feelings of helplessness and guilt about it. That nature is full of second acts for growth, of course, means there are innumerable examples of natural systems that began much like our fateful world economy behaves.

From the view of a fertilized cell in the womb, the world seems like a limitless resource at first, as it multiplies furiously,

From the view of a fertilized cell in the womb, the world seems like a limitless resource at first, as it multiplies furiously, going from one cell to a trillion in the nine months. That is the work of a systematic process of a growing system taking ever greater control of its environment.  It has a surprise ending, though, that despite all the pain and danger involved often turns out magically well. That all successful lives seem to begin this general way, with a limited but highly creative burst of self-organization, followed by a period of developing successful roles in the world, is the general pattern, of successful growth in nature having a first and second act.

Our world economy seems to have gone through its great burst of self-organization, its first act.  It remains designed to multiply ever further its control of human and natural resources, though. I see that as a clear symptom of our blindness for what could come next. That’s where the close study of nature’s way of creating second acts, transforming initial growth processes into final ones to create new forms of life, could help.

Where it would start is with subjects we know very intimately, such as how good personal relationships begin. New relationships seem to always start with a period of contagious development.  If they’re to succeed that spontaneous wave of new connection is also graceful enough to hesitate, as it enters unfamiliar territory. That relaxation of the contagion permits a change from fitting together bigger and bigger changes in the relationship to fitting together smaller details at a finer level of attention.  It’s a way to bring the design to completion by making it whole. So in short, for the world economy, we need a “relaxation of the contagion” to allow it to turn toward becoming whole, permitting our second act of growth.

That same kind of succession seems present in the origins of other things, as part of a universal story of “how things begin.” The turning point in the middle often involves a crisis, but is often as smooth as can be too. Either way it involves a new way of thinking, from beginning to completing a grand design, having the potential for a wonderful outcome if the emerging life is both careful enough and perhaps lucky.

a way to bring the design to completion by making it whole



Stepwise improvisation to build useful knowledge

I’m pleased to announce long work now completed….

Apr 10 2018 a Springer journal, Systems Practice and Action Research, published:

Systems Thinking for Systems Making: Joining systems of thought and action
J L Henshaw  [Springer PDF here or Author’s here]


An exploration of what appears to be a new dimension and understanding of systems thinking; the stepwise learning and improvisation that evolves our thinking in the individual and collaborative processes of discovering how to make and do things in nature.  The paper provides an overview covering basics, some history, and advanced subjects.

A review of the new systems sciences that developed since 1940 displays both tremendously creative effort to better understand reality and some current stumbling blocks.  Variations on older tried and true techniques, like using models to help us study nature rather than represent nature, are suggested as perhaps pointing to a productive path forward.

Applying Rosen’s model of scientific knowledge for understanding the cultural basis of knowledge


Jessie Lydia Henshaw

Henshaw, J. L. (2018). Systems Thinking for Systems Making: Joining Systems of Thought and Action. Systemic Practice and Action Research, 1-29.
pub 4/10/2018