"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.
Time. We are very time sensitive these days. Blogs need updating. Twitter demands tweets. Our Facebook and other social networking clans compel us to post, respond, upload. We are deeply and diversely connected.
Last night, talking with friends, we talked about relationships, disciplines and discipline. We talked about exciting, inspiring vertical spikes and the lonely disorienting vistas of plateaus-the long, seemingly endless flat land of practice. George Leonard writes eloquently about this in Mastery.
Relationships and connection need time. They take commitment, practice. Discipline. They also need flexibility, variation, and forgiveness. Last night we also talked about over-commitment where single-mindedness takes over and all of our energy pours into one place.
Over-commitment, over-concentration leads to illness. Illness takes time, steals and hordes time, saps and pools energy. Illness disconnects us from that which sustains. That which sustains are the diverse and myriad relationships, the abundance around and within us.
As we commit, as we practice, as we deepen our capacity to live and contribute, we also must allow our selves distance from our disciplines without disconnection. Forgive the necessary wandering, exploration and reflection that emerges from wide open spaces. Walk the fine line between distance, reflection and neglect.
Vertical growth and Big Change is exciting, addictive in the disorienting rush and clarity it brings. It is also rare, fleeting. Most of our time is spent on the plateaus, gazing out at the horizons surrounding us. This is where our communities-virtual and visceral-and the web of relationships within them sustain us. This is where discipline serves us.
Update the blogs, tweet away, maintain and strengthen those Facebook connections. Call friends. Get together, break bread, grill salmon, let the kids run wild in the houseyardneighborhoodpark. Get back on the mat and do some aikido. Renew commitments.
Every once in a while it is OK to step away. Take a breath and slide off line. Tenkan-take a different perspective. Plateaus are truly vast. Exploring the territory within and around us takes practice, discipline. It needs time.
When you come back you’ve got stories to tell, maybe a little wisdom to pass around the fire with the wine. Your communities are curious. Your people want to know where you’ve been. Your children want to play. You are home.
Here’s a couple of perspectives from Bill McDonough and Michael Braungart taken from Cradle to Cradle:
If we were to have intentionally designed the industrial revolution here are some of the specs we would have needed to follow:
- put billions of pounds of toxic material into the air, water and soil every year
- produce some materials so dangerous they will require constant vigilance by future generations
- create gigantic amounts of waste
- put valuable materials in holes all over the planet, where they can never be retrieved
- require thousands of complex regulations-not to keep people and natural systems safe, but rather to keep them from being poisoned too quickly
- measure productivity by how few people are working
- create prosperity by digging up or cutting down natural resources and then burying them or burning them
- erode the diversity of species and cultural practices
Now, if we were to do a redesign around eco-efficiency and other current definitions of doing less harm the specs would look like this:
- release fewer pounds of toxic wastes into the air, soil and water every year
- measure prosperity by less activity
- meet the stipulations of thousands of complex regulations to keep people and natural systems from being poisoned too quickly
- produce fewer materials that are so dangerous that they will require future generations to maintain constant vigilance while living in terror
- create smaller amounts of useless waste
- put smaller amounts of valuable materials in holes all over the planet, where they can never be retrieved
A couple of key points here. No one designed the industrial revolution and, really, we aren’t doing a very good job of designing for a sustainable, much less an abundant future. No one intended to flood their communities with toxic compounds, create large whorls of plastic trash in our oceans, collapse the banking system and kick off a worldwide recession or alter the climate of the planet on which we depend for existence.
We, all of us, just drove on oblivious to the signs warning that a pretty precipitous cliff lay dead ahead. Now we are flailing around with a lot of our energy being expended on figuring out how to drive toward (and off) the cliff more slowly. Not good.
It’s hard. Just ask Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, the rest of the House of Representatives and legislators, policy makers and leaders all over the world as they wrestle with climate change legislation and regulations. Let’s face it, most of us, in some way, depend on the current state of things to get by.
Yet, the question I think we should be asking is not “How to we keep what we’ve got?” but “How do we give up what we’ve got in order to get more for all of us in the future?” In aikido (thanks to the late Terry Dobson) we call this “giving in to get your way”
So, what to do? We’ve got to get everyone involved. Less bad is still bad. Less bad is unsustainable. As we continue to meet the needs of the present we’ve got to come together and design for a future that is not less bad but more good. While meeting the needs of the present we need to collectively imagine, design and implement a future that gives us, our children and grandchildren our best shot at living lives of sustainable abundance.
This goes beyond ideology, industry and ego. It is at the heart of community and living and working together well. This is a game we all can play. The rules? Design, develop and implement for a sustainable present and abundant future. Do it together. Do it well. Be present, build resilience. Be disciplined. Do it ASAP. Have fun!
Tags: aikido, banking system, Bill McDonough, climate change, climate change legislation, collapse, Cradle to cradle, design, eco-efficiency, Ed Markey, Henry Waxman, Michael Braungart, recession, resilience, Terry Dobson, toxic material, waste
Over on David Byrne’s blog he’s got an interesting ditty about his recent trip to Vancouver. After what sounds like a great show:
I noticed a little old lady, in an usherette/security uniform, trying to get people to stop dancing — or at least stay in their seats — but after the 4th song she gave up. After that there was no stopping the crowd — they were dancing almost the entire rest of the set.
(Actually reminds me of a fantastic Chili Peppers show when we were dancing in the aisles next to our 12th row seats and an usher came down to us. We thought we were going to get hassled but instead he smiled and said he was there to make sure the other, roughly, 2000 people behind us stayed behind us.)
Anyway, after the show, the mayor, Gregor Robertson, is there and a group of Byrne’s folk and the mayors folk go out for a drink. They get on the subject of urban planning and:
Robertson said that there has been a radical transformation of the land and cityscape in a generation. Vancouver is no longer a small city, and having seen all the new condos and office buildings here, I wondered aloud if developers were simply unstoppable; if the city might lose some of its charm and character; that the human scale of the city will be lost if profit is left as the prime force determining urban texture. In Peñalosa’s terms this means that people with lots of money determine how everyone else lives, and what kind of city we all live in — which, he feels, is undemocratic.
Robertson responded,“I don’t really see them as unstoppable. I’m doing the aikido thing, moving that drive for building and profit into the most positive outcome possible for the community. Not a simple thing. But my hopes are high.”
Love it. My take on it is change is going to happen. Development is going to develop. This is neither good nor bad. It’s the movement of universe. We don’t want to fight it; we want to embrace it. Embrace it and encourage this energy to transform things in a way that provides “the most positive outcome possible for the community.” That is sustainable development.
Keep up the good work.
Here at the headwaters of 2009 and the backwaters of the first decade of the 21st century I’ve got the crashing power chords of Rush in my head singing: “Changes aren’t permanent but change is.” Da da Da dum. Da da da dum…
The Obama era is ushering itself in and with it a lot of hope and opportunity. However, what are we hoping for? Where is that opportunity going to take us? Is that even, really, an appropriate question anymore? Think about this. Meditate on this. Please.
I don’t think we’re “going” anywhere. “Going” is linear. “Going” is an illusion.
My sense of things is that we are “happening”. We and everything else is “emerging” just as we, along with everything else is “subsiding”. Change is the name of the game. Change is changing change.
My sense of things is we have to become better at working and playing well with others. By “others” I mean both the people we work and play with on a daily basis as well as the myriad host of sentient beings blessing this planet and universe with their presence. All of God’s creatures. Not just the ones we want on our team, on our plate and in our garden but the ghosts of the Baiji still swimming in the murky hell of the Yangtze River as well.
The Yangtze springs from snowmelt in Tibet, by the way, and may also become a haunting memory one day if the capricious dynamics of global warming have their way…
We need leaders who are more than achievers (although, now more than ever, we need them too.) We need leaders who can ride the wild flux wave creating wakes of opportunity. We need alchemists who can change the leaden, oppresive beat of the industrial, fossil-fueled dirge into glimmering gold sun-shining circles of slam dancing electrons.
We need to re-discover hope. Bask in the warm winter glow of what could be instead of the November drizzle of what can’t. Re-imagine our Selves as the inter-related jewels holding each other in the shimmering embrace of Indra’s net.
Love. Man do we need love. I’m talking about Big Love here (although ain’t nothing wrong with the little one either). The kind of love Morihei Ueshiba was talking about when he said “Aikido is love“. It is the realization of our capacity to open up to and embrace each other, becoming something bigger, transcendent, simultaneously many and one.
This quote is a good one as well “A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind.”
And, finally, for now, let’s forget about “sustaining” our selves. Let’s set our eyes on the prize of flourishing. Sustainability is sustainable when we are looking out for more than just me. Sustainability is sustainable when we are engaged and interwoven, breaking bread and doing good work with one another. The more we can do to benefit those around us, the more potential for us as well.
Forget green. Let’s go full spectrum.