It's my personal soapbox, a place for me to express thoughts and feelings, musings and rants, reflections and recollections; to have fun with words -- about things spiritual, environmental, social, political, economic, and, from time to time, personal. And of course about peace. Soapboxes are in public places (as London's legendary Hyde Park) on purpose, and so I invite conversations with you, for it is through civil discourse that we can gain some perspective on the seeming chaos of these changing times and learn together how to shape a positive future for ourselves, our communities, and the generations to come.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

From Separation to Interbeing: A Cultural Transmutation

The shift of humanity’s mindset or worldview from one of separation to one of interbeing will of necessity involve, accordingly, a transmutation of our whole cultural ethos, that is, our understanding of what’s the morally right way to behave and do things and what’s the morally wrong way to behave and do things.

The paradigm of separation is what has resulted in fear, scarcity, and zero-sum calculus being at the very foundation of the structures and rules of the game of our economic and financial institutions and transactions, of politics and government (as the way we make collective decisions), and of social organizations and relationships. A paradigm of interbeing, on the other hand, implies that love, abundance, and positive-sum calculus must perforce be foundational to a transmutational redesign of our political, economic, and social institutions as the old structures and rules of the game will no longer make any sense.

I refer to the shift as a transmutation rather than a transformation very intentionally. We’re looking at much more than a change in form, a transformation. Rather, what is required and will and must happen is a change in the very DNA of our culture, a transmutation. A caterpillar dissolves itself in the chrysalis to a gelatinous mass only to emerge in a new form as a butterfly (as does a maggot becoming a fly!). It’s the same animal with the same DNA, only it has a different shape and set of capabilities. Transmutation is a process of dissolution in an alchemical crucible whereby what comes out is a different being – at the level of its biochemical elemental makeup – of its DNA than what went in. In the way that lead becomes gold, economics of scarcity becomes economics of abundance, and politics of fear transmutes to politics of love.

An understanding of, movement toward, and practice of interbeing is already emerging and has been for a long time. Perhaps decades in the Western world, perhaps hundreds of decades in the Eastern world, and much longer in many indigenous cultures. The concept here is to launch a movement to support, catalyze, accelerate, and foster such a fundamental cultural transmutation at least in the United States and possibly globally. The immediate intention is to:

1.      Eradicate the root causes of the existential threat that is climate change. In his book Climate: A New Story, Charles Eisenstein says that the current focus on carbon and fossil fuels, while necessary, is not nearly sufficient in that it is limited to one symptom of a much larger underlying cause, which is the worldview of separation.
2.       Bring some healing to a nation beset by so much unhappiness (mass shootings, hate crimes, drug overdosing and other addictions, teen suicides, and on and on). Such afflictions are but symptoms of a deeper malady, the root cause of which lies deep within our cultural norms and values. Cultures are supposed to be the mediums for growing things, for nurturing life. Ours clearly is falling short.

The two are closely related in that not only do they have the same root cause but they even exacerbate one another. For example, climate change is a major driver of the global mass migrations that are making the relatively modern notion of national borders almost indefensible.

So, in outline form, the concept for a movement of cultural transmutation is based on the following four elements:

1.      Local communities networked globally
o   Resilient and adaptive with respect to climate change as well as possibly (likely?) dramatic reconfigurations of political, economic, and social systems.
§  For one example of resources available on what resilience is and how to build resilient communities, see the Post Carbon Institute’s course Think Resilience.
§  They also have guidelines on taking the course as a group, including discussion guides.
o   Community circles adhering to a set of principles and agreements (to be articulated), for example:
*  The guiding principles:
o   War is obsolete.
o   We are one on this planet.
o   The means are the ends in the making.
*  The core practices (personal agreements and commitments):
o   I will resolve conflict. I will not use violence.
o   I will maintain an attitude of good will. I will not preoccupy myself with an enemy.
o   I will work together with others to build a world beyond war.
*  “…seeks to inspire in all people a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the whole human family, the greater community of life, and future generations.”
*  Earth Charter definition of “peace”: “...peace is the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life, Earth, and the larger whole of which all are a part.” 
*  A set of commitments, values, and principlesfor a sustainable way of life as a common standard by which the conduct of all individuals, organizations, businesses, governments, and transnational institutions is to be guided and assessed.”
o   Among the activities of a community circle would be:
§  Working with the larger community to discover/design and implement ways to build local resilience and adaptiveness pertinent to the local historical and cultural context.
§  Initiating and supporting a local restorative circle process as part of advancing the national healing (see below).
§  Networking with other community circles to learn from and support one another for both micro and macro resilience and national healing.
2.      Restorative circles process for national healing
o   The first step in a national process of healing – literally, “making whole again” – is to “face the truth.”
§  A process of national healing would acknowledge the grace and the grief of:
*  The European colonies that founded and grew to be the United States of America
*  The Native American cultures and nations that have been on the land since way before, and were violated and decimated by, those colonies
*  The African slaves brought to this land against their will, and the heritage they brought with them
*  The waves of immigrants who came to this country seeking freedom and a better life, and the heritage they brought with them.
*  The living Earth that they have all become part and parcel of, and interdependent with – plains, forests, mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes, oceans, flora, and fauna.
§  All of them and all of their stories together comprise the national DNA that has made us who we are today and thereby set the stage for our future. Facing the truth of that history – both the grace and the grief – is essential for healing the wounds that have come with it so that we may then follow what President Jimmy Carter called for 40 years ago in his so-called “malaise” speech: a “path of common purpose and the restoration of American values…that…leads to true freedom for our nation and ourselves.”
o   Acknowledgement of responsibility
§  Not for purposes of shame or blame or guilt tripping, for such would just be perpetuating more of the same “us vs. them” dynamic and thus be inimical to “making whole.”
§  Rather it would be an open, frank, and honest acknowledgement of who we are as a nation, where we’ve come from, and how we’ve gotten to where we are today, with all the grace we’ve enjoyed and the grief we’ve suffered along the way.
o   Restitution/reparation and healing
§  To be determined as appropriate for each local situation and the nation as a whole and may include both monetary and non-monetary exchanges, services, and/or gestures/rituals.
3.      Schools and public education
o   Instilling in future generations the history and legacy of the culture of separation as well as the values, principles, and promise of the culture of interbeing is an absolutely critical and integral element in the return to and ongoing maintenance of wholeness.
o   This will involve the design and redesign of:
§  Curricula in many disciplines
§  Textbooks and other educational materials and exercises
§  Special programs – observances, celebrations, rituals, experiential learnings
§  Testing procedures and content
§  Teacher education programs
4.      Broad network of collaborative partnerships
o   There are dozens if not hundreds or thousands of others already engaged in one or more aspects of the shift to a culture of interbeing.
o   A critical source of creativity, energy, and resources will be working in collaborative partnerships in appropriate configurations of:
§  Academic teaching and research institutions
§  Faith-based and social service organizations
§  Local, state, national governments
§  Local and national businesses and business associations

This concept piece is but a seed for conversation. Does it make sense? Is it on the right track? Is it BHAG enough? Too much so? Is it something Elders Action Network and/or other organizations might want to take on as an initiator? If so, how do we proceed? If not, what other avenues might we consider?

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