As I got out
of bed this morning, turned on the news, and started feeding the
cats, I received the phone call from my sister. Distraught and wanting
to talk with someone she loved, she told me of the horrendous events
occurring at the World Trade Towers, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.
Four airliners hijacked to be used as weapons of mass destruction.
Three apparently found their mark. As we talked, the second tower
all changed. My meetings in Santa Fe, New Mexico were rapidly cancelled.
Radio interview postponed; luncheon at Los Alamos National Laboratory
cancelled due to the Lab being closed and on highest alert, and
the NxLeveL entrepreneurship class
graduation at Santa Rosa Prison cancelled due to lock down there.
I turned off the news for a moment of reflection. The only thing
I could concentrate on was to continue editing this article. The
thoughts and intentions here are all the more relevant to me now.
With this horror in the past, it seemed even more important to think
about the future and how we can shape it.
What Prompted This Idea?
thinking of the time, about two years ago, when I was working under
contract to the New Mexico State Human Services Department (one
of seven participating New Mexico departments). My job was to form
a Welfare Reform Community Council to come up with a strategic plan
for implementation of welfare reform in Santa Fe County. As a Welfare
Reform “Encourager” in the State Capital’s county, I studied local
and statewide challenges around the issue of welfare reform. I found
myself knee-deep in understanding the need for “the fair and efficient
use of resources with respect to meeting human needs” as described
by the Natural Step. [See sidebar.] Taxpayers have come to realize
that paying welfare money is too expensive. It may look like we’re
helping those who are mandated to come off welfare, but it is really
for ourselves that we do it. We don’t want to pay for welfare anymore.
We want and need the former welfare recipients to become participating
members of society… and taxpayers!
I saw that
although getting people off welfare is federal law,
those in power are often very fearful about welfare reform. Some
members of the Santa Fe County Welfare Reform Community Council
even felt that some of those in power were purposefully stopping
or slowing welfare reform at every turn, in an apparent fear of
losing power or being proven that they’ve been wrong all these years.
If our changes were too successful, then what had gone before could
be easily interpreted as being wrong, despite our best efforts.
welfare reform is law, the fair and efficient use of resources (with
respect to meeting human needs) is still being stymied by some.
As a result, laws supporting those efforts are difficult to enforce
and much less graceful to deliver.
Another View: Your Wisdom
Is My Goal
Council’s conclusions led me to the possibility that for the hope
for sustainability on the planet to increase we must take certain
and group fear must not systematically increase. (Including fear
for safety, security, survival, and monitoring for the goodwill
of others when there is no actual threat to the individual.)
words: We must systematically promote the emotional health and spiritual
wisdom of every individual and group on the planet.
is sometimes hard to come by. If my family is going to freeze tonight,
I will chop down the last tree in order to keep the fire burning
and help them survive. It is in your best interest to be sure that
I don’t chop that tree down. Standing, that tree will metabolize
waste and utilize sunlight to produce oxygen and other benefits
for your family, my family, and many others.
looking more deeply, the fear
that my family won’t have enough firewood to keep them warm tonight
will ensure that I chop down that last tree, even if that is not the actual truth. It
is still in your best
interest to be sure that I don’t chop that tree down… no matter
what I may say!
who have overcome compulsive shopping, compulsive eating, and other
similar compulsive behaviors attest to the emotional
feeling of not having
that precedes their consumeristic behavior.
how people responded to the Y2K problem. , Many responses were obviously
more based on emotion than rationality. Some people moved out of
their homes, bought all kinds of equipment, hoarded supplies in
preparation, or started farms while others didn’t see it as a problem
at all, and did not prepare. Whether
it would actually be a problem or not was virtually immaterial to
the individual’s response. What I see as a far more accurate
indicator of what they did was their emotional
response to the potential problem. In other words, arguing
Y2K-facts was like monkeys arguing in the leaves of a dying tree.
hindsight, we see how little preparation was actually necessary!
How long did it take for you and your family to use up all the food,
water, batteries, and other materials and supplies you stored away?
When we see
people hoarding or those who are in fear for their position or job,
they are doing just the same as if they were cutting down that last
tree to keep their family warm tonight.
What This Means for Individuals
So what am
I promoting? What is my positive vision? I am supporting each person’s
fullness of self-expression.
of each individual’s self-expression is one definition for non-violence.
By promoting each other’s emotional and spiritual health, we are,
in fact promoting each other’s diversity.
initiating our children into adulthood can be seen as part of helping
to increase wisdom and emotional maturity. Rick Ramirez of Rites
of Passage quotes Malidoma
Somé, Initiation is remembering why we were born
of understanding a sense of ourselves... A person's greatest emotional
need is to feel appreciated and valued.” According to successful,
former welfare recipients, improving their self-esteem was key to
their success. How sorely lacking in rituals of positive initiation
is our western society! Instead, children flock to gangs for their
emotional belonging and sense of self.
goes on, “When we initiate children into adulthood, what are we
holding up to them as the values to which we all aspire? Trust,
safety, unconditional love, grace. We show them that, by practicing,
until improvisation is possible. Ultimately, there is no one,
right way. Only to listen well to myself—my calm, peaceful self.”
Each of us
has gifts or talents that, when fully expressed, provide greater
diversity to human creativity. And it is our human creativity that
offers the hope for the solutions we so desperately need to solve
our increasing global problems. Oren Lyons, Onondaga Elder asks,
“Are you raising your Elders? Do you know how to solve your problems?
If not, are you raising children who will?” If we don’t raise our
children to be good leaders and creative problem solvers, where
will solutions come from?
From the Individual to
religions, and therapies through the millennia have offered other
definitions of, and ways to, reach emotional maturity and spiritual
wisdom. They offer many philosophies and methods to cope with the
trials and challenges of life. Prayer, initiation, ritual, counseling,
meditation, and many more models exist for how humankind has moved
toward maturity and wisdom. Joseph
Campbell summarized many of them in his writing on “The Hero’s
describes how the hero takes the critical step in humankind’s move
toward maturity and wisdom by the ability to look at the dark side,
including death and rebirth rituals. We fear for survival when our
lives are not actually threatened. Is this hard wiring from millennia
past? Regardless, our fears—both real and imagined—are the threshold
we most pass on our own hero’s journey.
To heal our
fears, we ironically encourage each other to look at our dark side…
our deepest fears and pains. Like the Reevaluation Counseling model, where
we encourage each other to discharge pain while someone is paying
good attention to us, we can heal, like children who run to the
nearest adult. “Tommy took my toy.” The
child expresses that feeling until it is all gone… until it is healed.
When the child is finished discharging they are finished with the
pain and it is forgotten. The key element is that the child receives
good attention when it is expressing pain. Pain that is not healed
in this way festers and solidifies over a lifetime, becoming more
complex, more painful, and more likely to be expressed in uncontrolled
ways. When multiplied in a culture, the beautiful aspects of that
culture become so linked with the pain, as to be apparently inextricable.
In this model,
however, instead of moving away from the uncomfortable aspects of our lives, we are encouraging each
other to look at and express our dark, painful sides to each other.
What we come out on the other side with is healing and clearer thinking.
Paradoxically, by looking at our pain with someone paying good attention
to us, we can move toward sustainability.
when we shine the flashlights of conscious thinking into our closets
of emotions and fears, it is a very
scary thing. But for those who have systematically shone the flashlight
of attention into their scariest closets, they have found more dust-bunnies
and shadow monsters than real life-threatening occurrences. The
more we look, the smaller the problems get, and the better we are
able to think more clearly and less fearfully. The Reevaluation
Counseling model works. Ironically then, by encouraging each other
to look at and heal our violent/ugly/dark/painful sides,
we are actually promoting non-violence and … oh, by the way…helping
to promote sustainability and restore the planet.
On the other
hand, if we don’t, we know from our own experience that violence
creates more violence. Studies in the 1940’s and 1950’s concluded
that children who watched the 3 Stooges television show acted more
violently. Other studies show how domestic violence perpetuates
itself. Even the Bible talks of the sins of the fathers cursing
the third and fourth generations. The cycle of pain, acted out again
and again like a growing spiral, so easily increases with each act.
Instead of solving the problem, as the retaliation is meant to do,
it increases the cycle. And now, we see an escalation of terrorism
within U.S. borders.
of a quotation attributed to Albert Einstein, “The definition of
insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different
will the terrorist acts on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon
today beget? What did those who planned this, and those obviously
well-trained pilots who flew the suicide flights, see as harm that
had been done to them—or their fathers? What heinous crime did they
perceive against them that this was a reasonable punishment? No
one plans this complex and costly a premeditated act without intense
anger and fear. For those innocents who died today and their families—it
matters not whether the attackers’ fears and angers were imagined
of this terrorist act, beyond the cost of human life, stretches
beyond the imagination. It is truly mind-numbing to think of the
other consequences—rebuilding infrastructure, the cost of emergency
services, disruption of commerce and disruption of business as usual,
the challenges over time of falling dollar values against world
currencies, falling stock markets around the world, and all the
challenges we will face in the days, weeks and months to come.
What This Means for Cultures
On a group
level, confusion comes into play when cultures or religions codify
fear (and the accompanying oppressions) into their beliefs. Cross-cultural
trainer Lillian Roybal-Rose has done excellent work on helping us
to discern the difference between culture and oppression: What we
call culture often contains confusing portions that are really oppression.
For example: the oppression of women in many cultures is not cultural,
it is just oppression.
clearer thinking in cultures, her view supports the elimination
of all the “isms” in cultures: racism, sexism, ageism, heterosexism,
militarism, and so forth. She encourages us to see value in and
nurture the clarity of our cultures, and to identify, heal and release
all aspects of oppression—both individually and culturally. We should
also promote the creative depth of the parts of cultures that do not embody oppression.
we used to fear, Roybal-Rose shows us that we can identify virtually-
exterminated cultures (or species) by how we much we romanticize
or glorify them. Since they are no longer scary to us, we feel safe
enough to glorify them (for example, wolves, eagles, and portions
of cultures such as African-American or Hispanic where we now romanticize
parts of their culture such as their music or their food, or Native
American spiritualism). Some people, to reduce fear of war, would
say wars are a part of the sustainability of the planet: they help
eliminate members of populations when the planet gets overpopulated.
I would posit that just as in economics, wars may have a short-term
benefit, such as increased war-time manufacturing, or rallying a
country together. In the long-term, they drain the economies and
strain the emotional “keel” of those in them. So many Vietnam Veterans
struggle with their emotional demons—still lingering after decades.
Vision of a Sustainable
world, then, would have people thinking much more clearly about
what and how much they consume. They would be educated so they could
make good choices. They would find more respite and understanding
in the natural world. There would be less terrorism, fewer police,
fewer jails, fewer emergency rooms, fewer courts, fewer gated communities,
fewer locks on doors, fewer lawyers, less graffiti and less consumption.
even shown that more educated women have higher self-esteem so have
lower birth-rate. Over-population would no longer be as enormous
In this better
world, there would be more brilliant minds clear enough to think
well about excellent solutions to our problems, instead of worrying
about their school-mates shooting them.
of the world here is not prescriptive: it neither dictates how the wisdom is to be learned, nor what
the individual will do with their wisdom. It supports clearer thinking
among individuals and cultures. This view promotes re-framing events
that we once saw as judgmental, seeing them instead as informational.
It promotes diversity of thinking and each individual’s gifts. It
encourages a wide range of perspectives.
What if it
could actually be true that, by promoting and encouraging each other’s
wisdom and emotional well being, we could build a more sustainable
future? Welfare would not be a government program, but the well-being
of all. We could build a world, little by little, where acts of
terrorism become less likely to occur. Where people feel loved,
and have no desire to hurt another. Where we are restoring, rather
than terrorizing the people, the planet, and the biosphere upon
which we depend for our very lives.
May we make
is a Systems Change Coach and Facilitator working out of Santa Fe,
New Mexico. She specializes in entrepreneurship, environment, and
economic development. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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