"If you're in a bad situation, don't worry, it'll change. If you're in a good situation, don't worry, it'll change."
-- John A. Simone Jr.
Thought I’d share what is happening over at Abound. We’ve got a Facebook page, and Facebook Group and have started to collect stories that illustrate the “Abundance Affect“. Here’s an excerpt from the website:
…When we make this commitment surprising things begin to happen. Positive value begins to ripple and flow out from this intention and commitment. Happy accidents occur. Rather than creating collateral damage, collateral benefit begins to accrue. Formerly externalized costs are transformed into externalized value. It is the creation of unintended yet undeniably positive value in unexpected places. We call this the Abundance Affect.
…To understand more about how they are doing this, the challenges they face, and the tough choices they have to make please take some time with their stories. They are beautiful. They are real. They are happening now.
Apparently, we are not just what we eat. What we eat transforms us. Our bodies, brains–our whole system–organizes around what we choose to consume. A recent study has shown that rats fed a steady diet of Ding Dongs develop classic addiction symptoms and behaviors. These include withdrawal and the willingness to endure hardship (repeated shocks) to obtain those precious creme-filled treasures.
Think about what you eat. Vegetarian? A diet rich in meat? You have physiologically, psychologically and existentially organized your self around this choice and this choice now has become a habit, a way of life. This choice is now organizing you.
We are incredibly resilient creatures. Highly adaptive, the wholeness of our being adapts to and adapts us to the life conditions we choose and into we are embedded. And, what we eat seems to be one of the core organizing principles.
So, it’s kind of neat to think that we can choose our addictions. We can choose to overdose on Ding Dongs and their nefarious yellow cousins, Twinkies. We can choose to align our selves with Monsanto and Nestle and shovel down processed foods oozing genetically modified high fructose corn syrup. Or we can organize our lives around thriving and consuming and living locally. Literally, we can become one with land and, through the habits of mind, body and spirit this choice engenders, become closer to each other.
The choice, initially, belongs to you.
For hundreds of years we have been living, working, consuming and discarding without much concern for the consequences of our actions. The dominant paradigm has been one of individual, corporate and national profit making and taking. The costs of these pursuits has been consistently and conveniently “externalized”, meaning, simply, that we’ve been ignoring the systemic reverberations of our actions. If you haven’t done so already, watch The Story of Stuff, now.
Generally speaking this is resulting in largely unintended and increasing patterns of environmental degradation, 5 nation-sized gyres of plastic soup in our oceans, a growing number of extinctions or near extinctions, climate destabilization, crippling trade imbalances, the ongoing accumulation and concentration of wealth and health in small minorities, and the proliferation of re-enforcing systems and structures that, as populations increase, are accelerating these patterns. As populations grow and resources dwindle the consumptive force of this negative spiral is poised to increase exponentially. Accompanying this tsunami-like increase we’re already seeing rather undignified grabs for resources (think oil–and, more recently, tuna).We call this the scarcity dynamic. We all know how this works. We perceive (correctly or incorrectly) that there is not enough to go around, so we hoard, consume more quickly, things fall apart and we realize the tragedy of the commons.
Recently, though, new patterns have been emerging that demonstrate the transformative power of widening our scope of action, intention and awareness. When we do this consistently and systemically we begin taking ownership and accountability for the impacts and influences we exert beyond the immediate scope of our work, commerce and consumption. We begin to realize that, instead of contributing to the negative spiral outlined above, we can create ripples of positive value in the world around us. We call this the abundance dynamic. And, it begins with a shift from “me” to “we.”
Through our work facilitating leadership development and helping those leaders develop their organizations in sustainable directions we have realized that it is not enough to just learn a new set of tricks, skills or competencies.
In our work with individuals, teams and organizations, the best results emerge when we engender and embed holistic development and change. This means helping clients to “onboard” the skills they need while developing the capacity to sufficiently hold them and effectively employ them in their current and future work contexts.
This requires helping our clients actively cultivate a worldview that is highly inclusive and tolerant of the benefit that multiple perspectives bring and is capable of leveraging them. To accelerate this change, we work with our clients to create an adaptable sense of scope and context allowing them to see and understand patterns at play from the personal to global levels and begin looking at opportunities for leverage and synthesis.
Finally, for people to really engage the world of complexity around them they need similar development within them. Thus, a key element of our work is to generate and hold time and space for reflection that allows people to look within themselves at the changes taking place, and understand and appreciate their own inner complexity.
The shorthand version of this process is BE – SEE – DO – GET. To GET the results that will sustain your organization your need to be generating results that sustain that which sustains us. Simply, we need to DO differently. To DO differently means to SEE differently. We need to develop the capacity to SEE our selves and the world around us as interconnected, interpenetrating systems. To develop that capacity we have to BE differently. We need to become adept at embracing and understanding our inner complexity as well as the complexity that surrounds us and into which we are embedded.
This is hard work. It takes discipline. And, it is definitely not business as usual. Are you ready to…just be it?
Recently there is a lot of debate and derision around the science of climate change. As an example, a recent article in the Times Online lists numerous studies criticizing the validity of data gathered by weather stations around the world. The point: many of the readings of these stations have been compromised by changes in context. A taste:
Some are next to air- conditioning units or are on waste treatment plants. One of the most infamous shows a weather station next to a waste incinerator…the weather station at Rome airport…catches the hot exhaust fumes emitted by taxiing jets.
For a summary of other recent controversy read “How Wrong is the IPCC?” in Mother Jones. On the other side of the debate, I regularly receive urgent email from Repower America trying to enlist me in the fight against big oil and the fight for clean energy.
Fight, fight, fight, fight, FIGHT! We are at war with…our selves. The enemy is us and we are losing.
Are we affecting the climates that have supported and sustained civilization for the last few thousand years? Absolutely. How bad is it? I don’t know and, really, neither does anyone else. Why? We are dealing with complex, open, living systems influencing and interacting with other equally complex, open, living systems. In these relationships cause becomes effect, effect turns to cause. Nothing is fixed, change is utterly non-linear and notoriously unpredictable. We might as well walk outside and try punching air. It certainly feels good…
We are simply not designed for this struggle. In trying to comprehend climate change our senses fail us. We deal in immediacy. The building of our capacity to sense the long term is a work in progress desperately in need of more funding. Logic unravels. How do we build a useful proof when “A” and “B” are both and neither? Mathematic modeling is hopelessly inadequate. How do we construct a model for life?
So, what should we do? Stick with what we’re good at, agree on what we agree on, sprinkle in a liberal dose of common sense and top it all with a big ‘ol dollop of compassion.
What are we good at? Building stuff. Constructing civilizations. Creating profoundly moving art. Telling stories. Learning and adapting.
What do we agree on? I’m betting that we all want to live somewhere beautiful. We all want stimulating, inspiring work and lives. We all want good neighbors. We all want lives of prosperity and abundance.
What is common sense? Let’s listen to our senses. Let’s keep it simple. How would a house full of auto exhaust look, smell and feel? How would a plastic fish sandwich taste? Anyone for eau de landfill? How about a chocolate pesticide milkshake? Now, how about basking in the sun on a cool day? What is the feel of a cool breeze on a warm summer day? The feel and smell of cool, moist soil? The taste of a clear mountain stream? Listen to your senses, they’ve done a pretty dang good job of keeping us alive so far…
Compassion. C’mon people, like it or not we are in this–suffering and succeeding–together. Just because we disagree does not mean we have to dismiss, disengage and disintegrate. If we are going to fight, let’s stop beating the shit out of each other and find the common passion to design and implement ways of working and living together that create and sustain life, that create and sustain that which sustains us.
Let’s get really good at it.
Just to keep the record straight this is not a feel good appeal for a world of ponies and rainbows. This is hard work, a life’s work. And, yes, the devil is definitely in the details. And, yes, we are going to disagree, lose our tempers, maybe even throw some shoes. But, let’s keep our eyes on the prize. Climate change is not the enemy. It is a symptom and a growing cause of our collective dis-ease.
Let’s use a little more common sense and let’s stick with what we’re good at and let’s generate a lot more compassion. Resistance is futile.
Y is for Yes and the Power of Intention. Peter Gabriel: And the tears roll down my swollen cheek, I think I’m losing it, getting weaker…I hold the line, I hold the line. Record numbers of homeowners are walking away from mortgages that they are fully capable of paying. According to a Times Magazine article Their decision is strategic. It’s good business. As the writer says, “we are all economic pinballs, insensibly colliding for better or worse.” Financial services organizations routinely make such “strategic” decisions. Banks no longer own mortgages, why should we?
This is economic nihilism and it does make sense – if we view our lives as one thin transaction after another. If we believe we’re losing it we probably will. Disconnective thinking breeds disconnected action. It is a a symptom of withdrawal, collapse, contraction and fear. Mentally, physically, spiritually we grow weaker. We believe we can separate our “selves” from “the world.”
We hold the line. The line is a thread. A thread that connects and binds us together. We can ignore it. We can say “no” to it but the relationship won’t go away. We hold the line. We can turn our backs on responsibility. We can put our heads in the sand and refuse ownership and obligation. We remain connected, however, the quality of that connection is weakened, degraded, frayed. Or, we can say, “yes.” “Yes”, opens us to opportunity, possibility and abundance.
They hold the line. What would happen if a line of credit was also seen as a line of connection? What would happen if banks looked at us less as risks to be managed and more as opportunities to increase social and relational capital in the communities they serve?
We hold the line. What would happen if we said “yes” to spending strategically to build value in our cities and communities? What if our intention as consumers was to support and sustain the banks, businesses and services that sustain us?
Try it. Say “yes”, reach out and connect. Manifest the intention to support and sustain each other. Share what we share anyway to strengthen our connection. It is within our grasp. We hold the line, the line of strength that pulls us through the fear.
X is for “Exchange” Your Money for Action. George Bailey: …this rabble you’re talking about… they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. We do. 99.9% of businesses operating in the world are small to medium-sized businesses. In the US, small and medium-sized businesses employ over 60 million people. Currently, many of these businesses and their people are suffering. Cut off from sources of credit, capital and equity they are slowly, inexorably going broke.
…America’s Main Street community banks — the vast majority of which avoided the banquet of greed and corruption that created the toxic economic swamp we are still fighting to get ourselves out of — are struggling. Many of them have closed down (or been taken over by the FDIC) over the last 12 months. The government policy of protecting the Too Big and Politically Connected to Fail is badly hurting the small banks, which are having a much harder time competing in the financial marketplace. As a result, a system which was already dangerously concentrated at the top has only become more so.
So, what can we do? Three things:
- Continue to buy local. Small and medium-sized businesses are overwhelmingly local and regional businesses. Healthy cities and communities are sustained on a resilient web of local commerce and consumption.
- Start saving and investing locally. Put your money in local, community-focused institutions. The folks at the Huffington Post have started the Move Your Money campaign and website where you can get information about how and where you can make a difference just by opening a bank account. Community banks, savings and loans and credit unions have a much bigger interest and stake in maintaining and growing a healthy community.
- Check out this video. George Bailey or Mr. Potter? The choice is ours.
W is for Me, Becoming We. John Lennon: Instant Karma’s gonna get you, gonna knock you off your feet. Better recognize your brothers, ev’ryone you meet. Why in the world are we here – surely not to live in pain and fear. Why on earth are you there – when you’re ev’rywhere, Come and get your share.
I wonder if these were the words dancing through Obama’s mind and the collective consciousness of other heads of state as they watched, helpless, as China systematically eviscerated the Copenhagen accord. China played a key role in wrecking Copenhagen because they are still firmly rooted in a scarcity mindset – our scarcity mindset.
In a growing number of commodities and products including grains, meat, coal and steel China and the Chinese are the largest consumers in the world. And, to paraphrase the Carpenters, they’ve only just begun…China is also one of the largest producers of consumer goods in the world, a growing number of which are being consumed domestically.
In Copenhagen China, and to a lesser degree, India demonstrated that they do not intend to let limits on CO2 emissions hobble their rapid economic ascensions. The problem is their rise is linked to models of straight line consumer spending and growth. To clothe, feed and outfit the burgeoning consumer class of China and India in the “Western” tradition of the last 100 years, requires more resources than we have on this planet. Is this an argument against abundance? No. It is a demand for true abundance-oriented thinking and action.
China is adapting a model development pioneered and perfected by us. At Copenhagen they flatly and consistently refused to deviate from this model. There are other models available. Look at what was accomplished at Kalundborg. Look at how companies like Burgerville are reinventing the business of fast food. Look at what plants like hemp can do to disrupt and reorient agriculture, energy, nutrition, building and manufacturing. Look at how you can go from one can of trash a week, to one can a month, and maybe, to putting out only one can a year.
“Me” becoming “We” is not about putting on birkenstocks, joining hands and dancing in fairy circles in a pollyanna world of ponies and rainbows. It is about self-interest. Self-interest in which our sense of “self” includes and transcends the ways of doing and seeing and being that brought a disingenuous China to the Copenhagen summit.
How dare they deign to beat us at own game? How dare we become passively complicit to a future of scarcity and suffering for our children?
The words of Larry Gopnick the Job-like protaganist of A Serious Man come to mind here: “I’ve done nothing”, he says in limp resistance to the calamities that befall him. And, when he does move in a desperate act of scarcity-minded self-interest, the phone rings with ominous news from the doctor and black, funnel-shaped clouds appear on the horizon.
Instant karma, baby. Instant karma.
V is for Vision and What We Can See. Perry Farrell: We saw shadows of the morning light, shadows of the evening sun, till the shadows and the light were one. We act within the limits of our vision: what we perceive. From attention emerges intention, intention framing and directing attention. From Council Crest, a mountain top near our house I can see the valley where we do our shopping, downtown Portland, Mt. St. Helens, Rainier and Adams. I’ve seen the sun setting over the Coast Range and moon rising over Mt. Hood, shadow and light becoming one. From where I sit in my house, now, I see the Winter sun thawing the frost from the rhododendrons and hummingbirds hovering over their feeders. Mountains, valleys, sun and moon are mostly hidden from view. Yet, still they are here. Around me, in me, a part of me, in mind.
Deciding what, when and how to consume is a matter of vision. What do we perceive as our needs? What do we choose to see? To what are we blind? What is in our line of sight that we choose to ignore? From Council Crest some of us see mountains, some see the glittering lights of downtown Portland, some see power lines. For some people a home is family, for some shelter, for others – a prison.
If our vision is limited to “me”, my backyard, my needs then we act and consume accordingly. The world, essentially is perceived as a place that meets or threatens our well being. We take what we want. If, in seeking the larger view, we begin to include the people, plants, animals, environment and energy flow that create our community we will act and consume differently. Seeing the larger view, brings the world into mind.
Where we choose to direct our gaze depends on where we’re standing. Are you looking out a window? Staring at a wall? Commanding a view from Council Crest? Inspecting the bottom of your shoes?
U is for use and what we give back. Bono: And you give, and you give, and you give yourself away. 40% of all food produced in the US ends up in the trash. 32% of all municipal waste in the US is packaging. The percentage is nearly 50% in Japan. We consume for many reasons and most of what we consume we don’t use. Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs provides a tidy summary of these reasons. At the bottom of the pyramid is survival. At the top is self-fullfillment. In between there are things like status, belonging, recognition and reward. Nearly all of what we consume is tied to our sense of self, our identity. Like caddis fly larvae we accrete bits and pieces of the world around us to create a protective, self-gratifying shell. Except, then we do something funny. We throw away something like 80% of what we buy.
This Christmas pay attention to which pile is larger: the piles of paper and packaging or the presents. We are “recycling” more – which is good – except that most of what is “recycled” is actually down-cycled where it is used one more time and then discarded. We are throwing, wasting our selves away.
Instead of perpetuating this crazy samsara loop what can we do to give more of our selves back? Can we consume in a way that, rather than creating waste, actually adds value? Rather than consuming “stuff” can we spend our time and money in a way that not only enriches us but directly benefits our communities without all of the waste?