Dave Pollard, of How to Save the World, again contributes a post that makes my heart thrill. He proposes Let-Self-Change a “theory, framework, approach and/or methodology” that flows from the integration of change agents and social activists with an appreciation of complex systems, and complex adaptive systems theorists. Pollard’s been working at piecing together tools such as Open Space Technology and notions like Collective Wisdom and systems thinking for some time, and this recent post uses the lessons of The Other Side of Eden: Hunters, Farmers, and the Shaping of the World as a point of inspiration.
Do go read his proposal. .
Again, as someone ridiculously in love with the challenge of systems thinking, I adore Pollard’s vision. Still, I can’t help but wonder at the way in which these net-dialogues tend to focus on tool-kits and methodologies and new languages and frameworks. It’s true that these are crucial, but I worry sometimes that they miss the point. I’ve been involved in a few Open Spaces, and I can’t help but think that a huge part of what makes the practice successful is the way in which it teaches – or demonstrates – a new way of being. How to put it? My thought is that it’s less the solutions and results that come out of these practices than it is the experience of being in a true community that makes the difference.
(I wanted to write that I thought that if the directions / paths that came from OST were merely imposed on the group from the outside, they wouldn’t be remotely as effective, but as I was thinking this I realized that such a separation is impossible, and that the mere existence of the outcome is dependent on it being literally birthed through the group.)
In any case, I do think it’s this embodied education that makes the difference in the success of many of these examples of collective wisdom. I’d venture that beyond the obvious benefits of intelligent collaboration, it’s the experience of trusting in oneself and in community that contributes to sustainable outcomes. It’s this, I think, that we could all stand to see more of; this felt-sense of being-in-a-collective.
It’s strange for me to say this. I myself (like Pollard, I imagine) tend towards being a loner. I appreciate solitude more than what passes for company in this society. I’m only just realizing that what I always mistook as a preference for isolation was more a preference for being, and that it wasn’t so much, growing up, that I didn’t like socializing, but that I didn’t care for the endless stream of entertainment and distraction that seemed always to accompany the experience of being together. As I become more skilled at holding to the present even in the midst of bustle and confusion, I’ve come to appreciate – and to love -being with others more and more, and the more this happens, the more passionate I feel about the heavy significance of communal projects like Let-Self-Change.
But I digress. Go read Dave’s post, or don’t. Please, though, be present with the next person you meet. Because connection, really, is all that there is.