So if we’re not in “Kansas”, where are we? Or where might we be?
You’ve no doubt noticed that this isn’t the same world we’ve been in, on some subtle, as well as the more obvious, levels. So if we’re not in “Kansas” anymore, where are we? Or where might we be?
As I see it, we’re in at least several “places” at once. Here are three possibilities:
#1: One “place” is that we are being called to “brave the wilderness”, as Brene’ Brown describes it in Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. She says that true belonging is “belonging to ourselves”, which means
“being called to stand alone—to brave the wilderness of uncertainty, vulnerability, and criticism. We seem to have forgotten that even when we’re utterly alone, we’re connected by something greater than group membership, politics, ideology—that we’re connected by love and the human spirit.”
Further, she says that people
“want to be part of something—to experience real connection with others—but not at the cost of their authenticity, freedom, or power. . . [with] cultures that create feelings of spiritual disconnection. . . a diminishing sense of shared humanity. . . concern that the only thing that binds us together now is shared fear and disdain, not common humanity, shared trust, respect, or love.”
She goes on to say that “a large part of the struggle for people seeking true belonging is spiritual,” and concludes that “our world is in a collective spiritual crisis” [emphasis mine] by her definition:
“Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Right now we are neither recognizing nor celebrating our inextricable connection.”
#2: A second “place” is the breaking down and breaking open of the cultural “compete, conquer, control, and dominate” paradigm we’ve lived by for 6,000 years.
Donella Meadows speaks powerfully to this in Dancing With Systems. She says,
“. . . the mindset of the industrial world assumes that there is a key to prediction and control” [emphasis is mine] . . . people assume that systems analysis is that key. . . this is a terrible mistake because we are exaggerating our ability to change the world.” [Emphasis mine].
“But self-organizing, nonlinear, feedback systems are inherently unpredictable. They are not controllable. [Emphasis mine]. They are understandable only in the most general way. The goal of foreseeing the future exactly and preparing for it perfectly is unrealizable. The idea of making a complex system do just what you want it to do can be achieved only temporarily, at best. We can never fully understand our world, not in the way our reductionistic science has led us to expect. Our science itself, from quantum theory to the mathematics of chaos, leads us into irreducible uncertainty. For any objective other than the most trivial, we can’t optimize; we don’t even know what to optimize. We can’t keep track of everything. We can’t find a proper, sustainable relationship to nature, each other, or the institutions we create, if we try to do it from the role of omniscient conqueror.” [Emphasis mine].
“For those who stake their identity on the role of omniscient conqueror, the uncertainty exposed by systems thinking is hard to take. If you can’t understand, predict, and control, what is there to do?” [Emphasis mine].
“As soon as we stop being blinded by the illusion of control, there is plenty to do, of a different sort of “doing.” [Emphasis mine]. The future can’t be predicted, but it can be envisioned and brought lovingly into being. Systems can’t be controlled, but they can be designed and redesigned. We can’t surge forward with certainty into a world of no surprises, but we can expect surprises and learn from them and even profit from them. We can’t impose our will upon a system. We can listen to what the system tells us, and discover how its properties and our values can work together to bring forth something much better than could ever be produced by our will alone.” [Emphasis mine].
“We can’t control systems or figure them out. But we can dance with them!” [Emphasis mine].
Did you notice her ideas of giving up our identity as omniscient conqueror, stopping being blinded by the illusion of control, and bringing the future “lovingly into being”? Radical, and challenging, right? And, I believe, totally necessary.
#3: A third “place” we are being faced with is realigning our relationship with ourselves, the earth and all other beings, with genuine humility as servant leaders for the good of the whole.
Robin Wall Kimmerer in her TED Talk “Reclaiming the Honorable Harvest”powerfully shares this perspective. She describes the indigenous way of being in right relationship with the earth and other beings, which means honoring each one (plant, animal, person, the earth itself) as a sovereign being, with its own intelligence, wisdom, gifts, and responsibilities.
Some excerpts from her talk:
“The natural world is a source of gifts—not commodities, but gifts given to us by the earth, plants, and animals themselves. What is our response to these gifts?
“The people in her culture abide by the Honorable Harvest, a philosophy and practice that governs consumption in a world made of gifts. It is a set of unwritten guidelines for taking from the earth:
- Never take the first one. Don’t grab the first one you see or take everything in sight.
- Ask permission. Since the plant is a sovereign being, talk to it respectfully, give it thanks, and ask if it would share some of its gifts.
- Listen for the answer. Genuinely listen. If the answer is “No”, we go home. They do not belong to us. Taking without permission is called stealing.
- Take only what you need. If you are granted permission, take only what you need.
- Use everything you take. Then use everything you take. It’s disrespectful to waste a life that has been given to you.
- Minimize harm. Take in such as way that it does the least harm and also benefits the growth of the plant.
- Be grateful. Gratitude is a radical act. Thankfulness makes you feel rich beyond measure when wealth is counted as having enough to share.
- Share what you’ve taken. Share with humans and more than humans alike.
- Reciprocate the gift. Reciprocate with a gift of your own–for example, a gift of honor or of care, and love them so much you will not let them be lost.
- Take only that which is given to you. As a society we take indiscriminately whatever we want from the earth. This is an ethical and practical challenge.
“The Honorable Harvest is a pathway to sustainability, but that is a slippery word. Algonquin elders asked what sustainability was. When they were given the standard definition “to consume the resources of the earth in such a way that we do not impair the ability of the earth to provide the same resources to future generations,” they were quiet. Finally one said “it sounds like humans just want to keep on taking from the earth. In the way of our people, the first thing we think of is ‘what can we give?’”
“Imagine social, political, economic decision-making based on the Honorable Harvest! The land is not broken. It’s our relationship to the land that’s broken, and we can heal that. It starts by asking ourselves, ‘What will I give in return for the gifts of earth?’”
Aldo Leopold, an early 20th century conservationist and environmentalist wrote, “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
I see this time as the liminal space between what has been and what is yet to come. This naturally carries feelings of loss, uncertainty, vulnerability, and discomfort with it.
From my perspective it means relinquishing our attachments to being “right”, being “certain”, being “superior”, and being “entitled”, and our belief that power means “power over”, control, and domination. It’s a strong opportunity (requirement?) to develop genuine humility. A huge, challenging paradigm shift, right?
With that, this liminal time and unraveling process also carries the life-giving possibility of real flourishing in harmony, balance, and integrity on this planet. As I see it, that’s its purpose.
In “The Wizard of Oz” movie, the first part was in black and white before the tornado lifted Dorothy and Toto off to the land of Oz. When they returned home to Kansas, the movie was in full color. What if we’re on a similar journey to “full-color” lives and world?
That’s what I see, that’s what I know, and that’s where I’m headed. Care to join me?
Elaine Cornick, Cultural Catalyst
Cultural Butterfly Project
Unity shares and listens to the opinions of others. This article is the opinion of the author:
I am a catalyst, mentor, and guide through the transformational process, leading people through the confusion of today's world and into the emerging culture, which I see as being about "right relationships" and harmonious abundance with all beings.
My work is inspiring new perspectives, seeing through illusions, re-framing perceptions, and reorienting our lives for more well-being to help make this transition as easily as possible.
I am an elder and a continuous life-long learner in the areas of personal, emotional, mental, and spiritual transformation, offering clarity and empowerment for people who want to live from an authentic way of being with deeper meaning and purpose.