Steve asked on 11/16/09:
Dear Phil and Andy,
If we could choose in this moment to will one thing, that is to say, to take a single step along a new path to a sustainable future (recognizing that one step will be only the first of many more to come), what would that step be? Other ways of asking this question are, “How do we take the first step forward in a new direction? What does taking that initial step look like? Precisely what first step is required to begin anew?
Any new path appears to be a learning process, usually one we may have already taken many steps on but don’t see it. At the beginning of a learning process there’s a period when all you seem to have to show is your mistakes.
It’s those loose ends that you eventually find a way to connect. The path is through the unexpected connection of loose parts, so stay open to questioning . It would help things if more people were willing to question their own beliefs, though. Not knowing which ones are truly reliable, and which beliefs “just ain’t so”, is one of the main problems.
Everyone needs to deside what to believe for themselves, though, and find how to question beliefs that are not trustworthy. For me, testing things that are solid is no threat at all to them, and the shaky ones are better put in a box labeled “shaky ones”.
One need not discard unsure beliefs outright, but just begin sorting out what gives you hesitation about them. Being unable to question shaky beliefs is a big thing that keeps me from having good conversations with people about some of them, though.
There does seem to be a very long list of ancient cultural myths that contain deep flaws, so addressing them might seem daunting. More and more are being exposed with great drama it seems. like the faith that no matter what we use up on earth we’ll find ever better and more plentiful substitutes, for example.
The ‘tumult’ of only belatedly realizing the problem does help persuade us it’s worth addressing these things. There’s also the way our work ethic hides a rule of ever multiplying work, if we dare wonder about it. If willing, though, we may be at the turning point and able to discover how to begin completing our tasks, rather than multiply them, to find our common agenda with the earth.
One other “shaky belief” might be the idea that to change directions we’d need to “stop the world from spinning” as you suggested. To just wonder if it might spin the other way could be all it takes to begin the process of it doing so. Then there are the steps that become clearer as you go forward.
Another “shaky belief” seems to be thinking that working harder and better is “enough”. Exhausting yourself is not enough if your work keeps adding to your own tasks. What is enough effort then is only finding the “right task”, and the need to change tasks.
Working harder and better just doesn’t determine whether the circle of efforts goes somewhere or goes nowhere, or whether the circle needs closure. Our ancient work ethic actually seems to contains that flaw, creating ever more work, and missing the idea of yielding to our world as a way of completing our tasks.
The way natural systems develop demonstrates the change from exploding learning to closing the circle by allowing completion of the change that we need to learn. It’s visible in the basic “S” curve of growth that ends in a new state of organization. Natural systems do it right before our eyes, over and over, but we just don’t understand the learning going on inside the process.
We tend to see the transformations of nature in our minds as just an image following some of our rules. Real events are just not images following rules, is the catch. They’re local accumulative change processes that turn on local adaptations just like what we need to make.
Where we can observe the profound change of direction we need to take is where natural systems change their whole way of changing. That typically occurs in the straight line segment in the middle of the “S” shaped growth curve. That’s when there seems to be less happening than at any other time, a moment of calm actually.
What happens in that moment of calm is that they switch off their compound growth process, more or less abruptly, and turn to changing in relation to their environments. How it’s done in the biology may never be so well understood. That it does happen with the whole direction of development changing direction is very visible, though. In a growth curve you see it in how the direction of development reverses curvature.
Where we can view the details of and actually understand how it happens is in how we commony manage the same turn of events in our own lives. In our own personal relationships and work interests we go through the process of starting up ever more complex things, to then connect them with what else is going on, all the time actually.
With new business plans or personal relationship there’s that point when one has gotten things going and your need to stop pushing your own agenda and start yielding to the joint agenda. That is what lets the new relationship form, yielding to it at that point. That’s what we need to coax our whole society to do, to sense the open circles of increasing complication, like why we always seem to make profit only to multiply profit, and allow it to come to closure so our new relationships can become whole.
People have been focusing on being more efficient and using less, but ignoring how it’s a service helping others to do more. Decreasing water use results in a savings, but also removes a barrier and multiplies the things others can do with the resource. Could it be… we need to make a switch from providing ever more service to owning the whole product?
Does that help?