Living Systems: Self-organizing or Self-integrating?

This discussion originated in a conference call around the Humanity 4.0 slideshow. The call was hosted by FourYears.Go.  It continued in a series of incredibly rich emails among participants, and I thought I’d move it here in the hope of sharing what we’re learning and inviting others into the conversation.

Recently, several people have asked whether I thought the term “self-organizing” was more appropriate than “self-integrating” (the term used in Humanity 4.0 to describe the role or activity of life within a living system).

“Self-organizing” is certainly more familiar and easier to grasp immediately. And it’s a term that I use in addition to “self-integrating,” though not interchangeably. To me, the concept of integration is key. The word “integrate” comes from ’intus-gerere’, which means ’to generate inside.’ A living system doesn’t simply _organize_ all its component parts. It _integrates_ them into an emergent whole, with properties of its own that can’t be understood by looking only at the behavior of the parts. It creates a new form of life from the parts, without abandoning their “partness.”

My sense is that this is an important paradox for us to grasp at this stage in human evolution: we can _be_ the convergent whole (of a family, or a community, or all humanity) without losing our divergent voice. I’m not sure that this point comes through clearly if we talk only of self-organizing.

What are your thoughts about this?

24 replies
  1. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Rob Wheeler:

    Regarding your question, self-integrating is definitely the right term. Plenty of things are self-organizing without being well integrated, which is exactly the problem we are facing on the planet today. It is the integration process that makes an organizing process work. Integration both internally and externally. Integration means I get it; I understand the various connections with the greater whole.

    This is really the value of your presentation. It seeks to explain the need for integration and the relationship between divergent parts and the convergent whole; and the value and worth of all three coming together then into an integrated whole.

    Once humanity understands this and can act on it, then we will probably be able to make the transition to a sustainable, just and thriving society fairly quickly. For example, all UN Member States have agreed that every country and community should develop and implement a national strategy for sustainability and local sustainability plans. About half the countries are already doing this; though the extent of integration is still uncertain. And maybe 20 or 25,000 communities (mostly large cities and ecovillage communities) are doing it (out of millions). And at least these whole systems processes are beginning. But what is not yet happening very well yet is the full integration. Almost no country is integrating the local sustainability planning with state and national planning.

    Similarly, all of the Member States have agreed to participate in the UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development and to take action at local and national levels; and to create local and national action plans on Sustainable Consumption and Production. But there is almost no integration between these three processes. Similarly, they have almost all agreed to implement the Rio Conventions and the Millennium Development Goals; but again there is very little mention of, much less, integration between these various self-organizing efforts. And I would bet you that almost no one that participated in the call yesterday, or in 4 Years Go, or on earth even knows that most of these commitments have been made; much less realizes that they now need to be integrated so that the parts can connect appropriately with each other dynamically throughout the whole system and with the whole.

    So, there is a lot of self-organizing going on; but it is the integration that is now needed in order to achieve the many goals that have been set and to make the transition to a viable future.

    Reply
  2. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Patrick Dufour:

    I second Rob’s comments: self-integration it is. Now I hope you will soon address the issue on how to get there. I assume individual and group development will be an important part! May be the mission of Fouryears.go?

    Reply
  3. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Diane MacDonald:

    I also think self-integration is the more powerful and helpful concept, and am hoping that self-healing may be a property of self-integrated systems.

    Reply
  4. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Sherrie Cameron:

    I’ve had some challenges wrapping my head around the self-integrating concept. I haven’t done any research in the field nor have I worked in any related field in the past. However, I have come to be very drawn to this topic over the last year or so. After reading both Michelle and Rob’s emails, I’m left with the thought that self-organizing feels somewhat more mechanical than self-integrating…maybe sort of being aware of the other parts and open to their influences and organizing with that in mind. However self-integrating feels more like really understanding, appreciating the individual parts but having a much stronger sense of the whole at all times and how important the actions of the individual can have on the whole. Does this make sense??? Thanks for sharing Michelle, Rob and Patrick. I, like you, Patrick am also left with the question how do we get there? Perhaps a good part of the answer is through having the conversations like the ones we had yesterday and are continuing to have today.

    Reply
  5. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Maya Bobrowska:

    Self-organizing brings to my mind of process of rearrangement of existing pieces in a different pattern. Often self-organizing helps to increase effectiveness, productivity, saves time, etc, etc.

    Self-integration, as Michelle pointed to, goes much deeper. Self-integration has an aspect of emergence of something new and often includes self-organization and it has other aspects unique to process of emergence.

    In emergence new qualities are created and also some old qualities are transformed or dismembered. I would go further then what Rob described about connection with the whole. I see what is emerging, it is a growing sense of, not just being connected, but recognition of being the whole – diverse aspects of the whole. So the self-integration possibly is a process in which parts recognize that they are a whole and from this understanding begin to self-organize themselves differently then before.

    Reply
  6. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Rob Wheeler:

    Thanks Maya. I agree with you completely. Very well said. Yes, we need this very real sense of integration and of being an important part of, united with, and even being the larger whole. The understanding and sense of emergence is also needed too.

    Reply
  7. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Peter Goldsbury:

    Playing with language is fun, so here is my take:

    When we involve diversity in the form of Biologists, Physicists, Mathematicians, Social Activists, Business People, Educators, Health Workers, Community Volunteers etc, all will answer this question differently,. All would be correct, appropriate and useful in their own contexts. The collective answer is however always ambiguous and definitely not black and white (the nature of complexity). Our aim I guess is to help these diverse PARTS ( people /ideas) interplay within a functioning higher WHOLE. Perhaps yesterday’s dialogue was all about forming new RELATIONSHIPS so we lever against each other. The resultant melting pot is boiling with diverse energy and full of new seeds waiting for the opportunity to grow . There we often find ourselves outside our comfort zones, frustrated that we can’t individually control progress, organize or even integrate things (the necessary language of mechanical / hierarchical organisations and de-construction) so we are forced to question our assumptions (internal disturbances). That is where and when life itself spontaneously nurtures the EMERGENCE of new forms, thqt constantly surprise us. We as thinking humans might be able to loosely describe this in retrospective stories that help underline patterns of behaviour that might allow us to help nature (life) nurture a vibrant, healthy, (sustainable) WHOLE

    From this you will probably see that like Maya I find the concept of EMERGENCE turns me on. But not so much of the complicated academic, de-constructed view of it that we find in the Wiki, but rather the self integrative property that underpins growth in nature. When you have a moment view and reflect on the video I posted of David Bellamy in the Whirinaki Rainforest. He reminds us in the ancient language and wisdom of the Forest (with a little common mans botany / biology) that this is not a linear process but rather a multi looped cyclic one that requires us to be operating in the PARTS ( diversity) , WHOLE (Interdependency) , RELATIONSHIP ( leverage) and EMERGING (growing new life / succession) dimensions simultaneously.

    http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/our-world-the-best-kept-secret—whirinaki-forest-1984

    Reply
  8. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Tom Gibbons:

    I would agree that self integration is a more appropriate term for what was discussed and for many of the same reasons others have mentioned.

    For me the bigger question is what might self integration in human interaction look like? What would the experience of it be like? It is very easy very common in discussions of some type of a system to get lost in intellectual banter around definitions that seem to go on endlessly (just investigate many forums on systems thinking or complexity!). I’m not saying this is happening here but we could be getting there. When this happens I think there is little integration going to happens since we are very much in ‘our heads’ and as biological humans I would think for any integration to have a hope of emerging it would need to involve our bodies as well.

    My work is founded on the idea that nothing happens outside of interaction, and human interaction is fundamentally uncertain and unpredictable. Given that, here is a link to a blog post that some might find interesting and positions the importance of interaction – http://tmsamericas.wordpress.com/2008/11/28/the-causality-of-hope-every-interaction-matters/ I don’t think the experience of integration is anything but a manifestation of differing interactions than what we are having now. What might that be like?

    Reply
  9. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Richard Hogan:

    I affirm the sense of this conversation regarding self integration, then on to community formation and w/holistic integration, everywhere as needed. That awareness flows out of and leads to the recognition of our deep connection and belonging to our larger self, Mother Earth/Pachamama and the cosmos. To enhance anything is to enhance everything, wholeness, well being, collaboration, co-creation, synergy…..or withdrawing or even neutrality, strengthens entropic processes and lower/diminishing frequency, and functioning of (biological and cultural diversity, stability, and resilience of qualitative energy flows of the living fabric of our larger self.
    In a direct practical sense, we need a wide diversity of new ecologically regenerative communities that will make up a bioregional, global network to reinhabit the Earth, deeply embedded in the local watersheds, foodsheds and (life) regions or bioregions in regenerative harmony within the practical carrying capacity of each place, while building up that same”inner” and “outer” landscape, memory, story and song…. capacity, toward sufficiency and on to abundance. This is involves a very long term comittment to becoming native to place and region….with a truly emergent living consciousness deeply integral with place, people and planet. Earth Family/Community, Balancing Life. This pattern includes population and climate stabilization, (350ppm of atmosphereic carbon)…., establishing food and water sovereignty and security for all in the new ancient forest gardens of the world, while realizing the Millenium Development Goals, as a civil society initiated and led, warm up exercise toward a very long term paradise for all. A slice of some of the possibilities….

    Reply
  10. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Maya Bobrowska:

    I think Tom asked crucial questions:

    “For me the bigger question is what might self integration in human interaction look like? What would the experience of it be like?”

    One of the best representation of the experience, for me, is Theory U. It is graphic representation of decision process and various depths of it that happen within everyone of us. I’ve attached a picture of it below, with my overlays of other aspects and theories.

    Any theory is a story we are telling to ourselves about ourselves. Like in any good story, it has protagonist and antagonists or knights and dragons. In this story “knights” are Open Mind, Open Heart and Open Will and dragons are Voice of Judgment, Voice of Cynicism and Voice of Fear.

    From my own experience and experience of my clients I observe, we are in a process of taming our “dragons” and in the process we are changing lenses through which we see the world. As a result “dragons” are becoming less of a factor in our individual and/or collective decision processes. Fear of unknown runs like an undercurrent and activates our limbic brain (fight/flight/freeze). The lesser the fear, the more possibilities for Open Mind, Open Heart and Open Will to embody what wants to emerge. And this changes our experience.

    Is what we call self-integration, an ability to be open and relaxed in face of uncertainty? There is a great book by Daniel Siegel “The Neurobiology of We”. Maybe we are in a process changing our reaction to uncertainty from fear to curiosity and wonder?

    On the end, we are just learning how to be more happy.

    Reply
  11. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Richard Hogan:

    Hi Maya,

    Thanks! Very encouraging! Beautifully presented re accessing, and strengthening primary presence/ing processes, in the all spacetime/eternal now, and supporting what can be called deep centering (integrative, synergistic) outreach. (love your neighbors–all beings)… . Emergence is present! Sharing is compassion in action.

    Reply
  12. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Michelle Holliday:

    Great discussion! How wonderful. I’ll throw in my thoughts, as well.

    Tom’s question was about what self-integration might look like in human systems. And I think he was observing that we’re experiencing it to some degree within our group. And, as he said, it is our interactions – our conversation – that make that self-integration possible. But not only our interactions. That’s only one of the necessary ingredients, right? Self-integration is also enabled by our diverse contributions and by our shared (convergent) intention to learn together and to contribute to a shift in human consciousness and activity. If we really pumped up any or all of these three ingredients, our experience of self-integration would be magnified. For example:

    * We might enhance the quality and depth of our interactions by gathering together in person, or by building trust, or by creating a website or software system or procedures that support this conversation. We might also introduce reflection about the quality of our interactions so that we are continually learning and improving. In the practical version of the living systems model, these are the organizational competencies of Structure, Systems and Sustainability.
    * We might also enhance the quality and depth of our divergence by understanding and honoring our diversity more intentionally and maybe inviting other perspectives into the conversation. Within the practical model, we might ask: how can each of us find Mastery, Membership and Meaning through this conversation?
    * We might enhance the quality and depth of our convergence by identifying a customer or community we want to serve in specific ways, and then by engaging them in the conversation, as well. The more powerfully we can engage that customer or community, the more powerful the convergence of our group. Here, the practical model identifies the competencies of Contribution, Connection and Heroic Cause.

    (The practical model is called The Engagement Competency Model – I’ll have to open a separate discussion about that specifically. What’s being engaged is life. There’s significant depth within each of the competencies, though I’ve found that it’s useful even at a superficial level.)

    The more fertile the conditions we create – the more we allow life to flow vibrantly through our group – the more self-integration we would experience. And that includes the flow of money, which I’m coming to see as a manifestation of life energy. (And that’s another interesting conversation to have!)

    Our group would then start to take on a life of its own, even as it would still be made up of us and the life we bring. So, for example, the group would hold steady even as some of us left and new people joined. We would start to see dynamics at a level above us as individuals. Ideas would be generated that couldn’t be truly attributed to any one of us because all of us had contributed in some way. A certain culture would emerge that would either support our individual actions, making us feel more alive and enabling us to work smarter and faster than we ever could individually, or that would drain us of energy and drive us to counter-productive behavior like political maneuvering. We could use techniques like Theory U or World Cafe or Circle to listen for the voice of the whole, and we could articulate it in a manifesto that would then guide our actions together.

    And that would be the experience of self-integration. Ben or I wouldn’t be managing the process, though we might be most responsible for creating fertile conditions. If there isn’t enough life there to begin with – enough passion on your part, enough interest on the part of those we’d choose to serve – then the conditions could be absolutely perfect but nothing would come of it. It would be like a telephone system connecting people who have nothing to say to each other. And if there is enough life and the conditions are fertile, Ben and I wouldn’t be able to control how our group would evolve (or at least we’d be wise not to try). We’d be wisest to follow the energy of yes, as a friend of mine says, stewarding rather than controlling.

    How does that sit with you all?

    Reply
  13. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Sharon Joy Kleitsch:

    Rob,

    Seeing your email is an example of the flow consciousness I’ve been experiencing more rapidly recently. I’d questioned Michelle about her description of consciousness in her outstanding piece, as it doesn’t fit with my research. I sent the group a link to conversations between Duane Elgin and Peter Russell about conscious evolution.

    Besides consciousness as an key component of living systems, what about autopoesis (‘self producing’ mechanisms which maintain their particular form despite material inflow and outflow, through self-regulation and self-reference)? Check out Maturana and Sahtouris

    You make many excellent points here. It deepens my appreciation of the difference between self-organizing and self-integrating. We are facing real paradigm shifting challenges, including how we see the world we live in. It reminds me of our journeys from alternative medicine to complementary and now intergral medicine. For awhile it felt that we were not on the “main highway” with the rest of health and wellness.

    I’m drawn to a couple of ways that are helping me make sense with others:

    The permaculture design and principles show that everything is connected. See attached. I often take this drawing to demonstrate our need to stay alert to the whole. I challenge us all to come up with pictures to express the interconnectedness of the whole to include organizations (the over 2 million Paul Hawken lists) and the 55 million or so cultural creatives as described by Paul Ray.
    The science of networks, addressed in the books Linked and Connected, has given me a better understanding the essential connections of hubs to other hubs, recognizing the signals in the noise of data. Perhaps that’s a trail of the self-organizing you describe, on it’s way to integration and coherence.

    You’re right. I’ve not been plugged into the initiatives you include below while I’ve been an advocate for the Earth Charter since 1991.

    Reply
  14. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Maya Bobrowska:

    Who are we and what are we integrating? Our discussion reflects a larger sense of emergence and emergency that permeates many discussions.

    Here is a tongue-in-cheek story. If we could step back 3.5 billion years ago, when some smart bacteria figured out how to get rid of the toxic byproduct of their metabolism – oxygen, we would see that it created a huge crisis in the environment at that time. All anaerobs had to run for cover. And if we could get access to their conversations about integration at that time we would see similar sense of urgency – however on somewhat different level. At that time no system-thinking bacteria could foresee how much oxygen-triggered disaster would enable blossoming of life on this planet far in the future. The story about Whirinaki Rainforest linked for us by Peter, also shows that destruction is a part of emergence and creation.

    Consciousness expressed in a human form is like first aerobic bacteria – new kid on the block that showed up in the last five minutes of the Cosmos existence, on the tiny little planet and creates havoc – because it can. We are a little more complex than our havoc-creating bacterial ancestors, and the mayhem looks different too.
    A question came to me after re-reading again the whole conversation – what are we trying to integrate?

    Some compare us to “imaginal” cells in a caterpillar – destroyers of old self. Many, like Duane Elgin and Peter Russell, see the crisis and blame variety of aspects of our behaviour and have a yearning to go back to some qualities that were or would be more nature friendly. “Imaginal” cells are not friendly to a caterpillar.

    Who are we? Emerging integral perspective enables us to recognize and see through a variety of lenses. We are the lenses of consciousness looking from various levels and seeing many different (fractal) worlds.
    http://www.stevemcintosh.com/Integral_Consciousness_TOC.php

    So what we are here to integrate? It seems to me we are in a process of creating a new being – an integral being – brand new, didn’t exist before. That being will amalgamate all abilities that emerged in us since our beginnings as human species: to deeply connect with nature (Tribal Consciousness), have a sense of self empowerment (Warrior Consciousness), have a sense of humility in front of greatness (Traditional Consciousness), have a sense of possibility in complexity (Modernist Consciousness), have a sense of belonging (Postmodern Consciousness) and love all these lenses and recognize for what they are capable to see. And, like our bacterial ancestors, we have no idea what we are creating this havoc for.

    Happily creating havoc,
    Maya

    Reply
  15. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Bart Gijsbertsen:

    Hi Michelle & Co. Just had a nice sleep-in, and I thought I might check in here for a few minutes, and maybe share some of my thoughts with you. As a facilitator, understanding the dynamics of building community (‘communitas’) between people, is always my concern. This is a very interesting topic, because we know next to nothing about the deeper dimensions of group dynamics. Not when we compare it with other disciplines. Therefore, my understanding is very limited, and evolving slowly through study and experience. I believe that ignorance is often false knowledge, rather than lack of knowledge. My ignorance doesn’t stop me from having an opinion or from acting accordingly. Hence this reply…

    I find this discussion about organization or integration or both very problematic. It is very complex and very easy to get lost in concepts and models. In between the lines of all the talk about what happens in a living system (which is a conceptualization), there seems to be a quest for understanding the essence of a living system. Or not, but that’s how I read it.

    This would require an understanding of the essence of life, and that uncomplicates things, if that’s a word. As far as I know, nobody on the planet knows what life actually is. A biologist may be able to explain something about the functions of life to me, but about the essence of life, we all remain completely and utterly ignorant. More importantly, function and essence are separate categories. I cannot derive essence from function. Moreover, I don’t believe, nor have I ever experienced, that it is possible to comprehend one impulse separately, disregarding the interdependence of all impulses within the wholeness of any system.

    On top of that, humanity is, I suspect, very unlike any other system. More to the point, regarding humanity as a system would reduce it to a herd of non-descripts, whereas I believe that every individual man is a problem intrinsically, and under all circumstances. Many individuals together do not make a generality, which makes it both difficult and hazardous to theorize about people. Doing so accounts for many of my failures.

    Perhaps the evolution of humanity is depending more on looking for questions than answers. For instance, wouldn’t asking the question “Why should humanity evolve?” lead me to very different insights, then asking the question “How does humanity evolve?” I mean that asking for the what and how will, by default, lead to things and concepts, whereas asking for why would sooner lead to meaning, purpose, and therefore guidance. And with that, I conclude my morning meditation. Thank you all for inspiring me. @bartjetweet

    Reply
  16. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Bart Gijsbertsen:

    I love your analogy Maya. All of us together, finding ourselves almost waking up to our own consciousness, and not having a clue what we’re doing. There is definitely something infantile about our ways. Looking at my own attempts at life, I know I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever grow up. Anyway, you reminded me of this thing I read once, that man in search of ultimate meaning is like kind of like a captain who is in full control of his ship, but has forgotten his destination. Still, it beats being shipwrecked. With regard to Theory U, in terms of the personal experience, I think ‘remembrance’ is almost as good a term as ‘presence’. Becoming aware of a Presence, individually or collectively, is much like remembering where we come from. Like coming home. @bartjetweet

    Reply
  17. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Michelle Holliday:

    Thanks so much, Bart, for such a lengthy and thoughtful comment. That sleep-in of yours led to some rich thinking! I’m pretty envious – my 5- and 7-year-olds don’t let me sleep in.

    I love that you bring up the inherent mystery surrounding the essence of life. That self-integrative property I talk about is undefinable and impossible to understand…but we _can_ observe which conditions seem to be most fertile for it to work its “magic.” And even though we can’t understand the essence of life, I believe that it’s critically important to name it and honor it. If we don’t, then we’re left with the current mechanistic worldview and all the problems that have come with it. (You might find it interesting that I consulted with a team of biologists for several years and they were extremely uncomfortable with the concept of “life,” preferring instead to talk about “nature” – if _biologists_ can’t talk about life, we’re in big trouble!)

    And regarding your point that regarding humanity as a system would reduce it to a herd of non-descripts, nothing could be further from the truth (to me). That’s the beauty of integrality – parts come together to form an integral whole without losing their inherent partness. We can still be part of an emergent level of life, even as we each remain infinitely diverse. And we shape the whole even as it shapes us. Have you had that experience as part of a family or organization?

    Finally, I love your focus on questions more than answers. I think this is a big part of my desire to host conversation rather than to pronounce my opinions as fact. Still, I can’t resist offering a thought about your question, “Why should humanity evolve?” If we recognize the pattern of living systems as present in ourselves (individually and collectively), then we can also recognize the urge to connect with other forms of life in order to create novel forms of contribution to the whole of life. I believe that this is the impetus behind our evolution.

    Would love to know your thoughts about all of this!

    Reply
  18. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Michelle Holliday:

    I’m amazed at how much the theme of “home” keeps coming up again and again. It’s so powerful.

    Reply
  19. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Richard Hogan:

    Home Sweet Home, Earth Family at Home Balancing Life, Being well At Home, within the re/generative powers of the Earth. There are endless sacred journey queries within, to nurture wholeness, “World as Lover, World as Self”, in both the inner and outer landscapes of our one and only Home, our bodies, our Earth and Cosmos as a primary manifestation of the divine and sacred. Brings up the lyrics of “Love Me Tender”, love me sweet….” applied to, All Our Relations, with terra madre, Mother Earth and the multiverse…… . What is the role and potential fruit of our authentic unity with nature in deep openness and listening practices with each other, in this time of healing, rooting and transformational blossoming in our families, neighborhoods, and communities/ecosystems/economys, everywhere?

    Every Blessing All,
    RE Hogan
    Raccoon Creek Watershed,
    Ohio River Basin Bioregion

    Reply
  20. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Bart Gijsbertsen:

    No kids here, so I got peace and quiet. Got a dog though, so there’s some justice for you… Yeah, okay Michelle, let’s see where this takes us. Obviously, we are all pretty much on the same wavelength here. Or so it seems, at first glance. We are still at stage one. I would propose to deepen the dialogue at this stage, and to try to explore further where we all differ in our opinions. Where is the conflict, the chaos, that we might need to overcome, in order to arrive at a stage where this community can become truly generative? Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress, Gandhi once said. So let’s create havoc, as Maya says. On purpose, that is. Let’s not only look for dissensus, but also be aware of the stage of connection that we are experiencing, as we share our thoughts and feelings about this topic. Let’s indeed all speak our own truths for a moment, our own Voice. Thanks for sharing!

    I guess what bugs me about you Michelle (in a good way), is that what you say seems right, but also too much of a construct. I mean, you don’t really have a clue about what the impetus is behind our evolution, do you? That’s just your mind creating havoc ;). You talk about processes and patterns, about timelines and systems. And these constructs are useful, because they offer a framework in which it becomes easier to explore what is a very complex topic. But all the while I’m thinking: yeah, okay… but my life really isn’t about process, but about purpose. Not about a horizontal dimension, but about a vertical dimension. Let me give you an example. I am a forester, or used to be years ago. Now, if you were to describe the life of a redwood forest as an evolutionary process, from germination to old growth forest today, you would pretty much miss everything that has happened in the world since the human population reached 200 million! You would even miss the moment when a whole village was dancing together on it’s stump. Likewise, if you were to ask me to describe my life to you in a minute or so, you wouldn’t hear me speak about breathing, or eating, or brushing my teeth. Life is about purpose, about moments, about singularity. Not about regular patterns and processes, even though I do also brush my teeth. Any genuine problem relates to a very real situation, from which I feel that you are extracting it, see? It becomes too much of a laboratory experiment. I have now become detached from the problem. Words become artificial signs, they become empty, rather than a reality. There is too much distance between the language and reality, for true understanding. I can’t relate to it, because I cannot pour my heart into a vacuum. People rarely fall in love in a laboratory, do they? And unless we are in love, what do we understand about love? Therefore, language has to mean something real. What is the point of speaking about life, if it leaves me standing in awe of many things, but also standing alone, detached, not knowing what I myself stand for within this system? Because that is what the reality of life speaks to me about. It is about love. I would say that love is the creative force in the world. The impetus behind evolution. Love. Ultimate concern. Not ours. But ultimate concern FOR US. Not for what we do, but for what we mean, for who we are. I don’t believe in a ‘self-integrating property in the universe’ as some impersonal construction. To me, God, life, love, is not just a name, but a reality. I am capable of love, only because I am loved. I can be concerned with life, only because life is highly concerned with me. In moments of meditation, of peace and quiet, I can sometimes become aware of His presence, only because I am in His awareness. We don’t initiate, we can only respond, or we can of course ignore. And my capacity to respond depends on my sensitivity to the question.

    Alright, I’m calling it..

    Reply
  21. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Michelle Holliday:

    Wow….. Wow. This is beautiful and inspiring. I can find nothing to disagree with in what you’ve written. I absolutely love every word – well, maybe not the part where you tell me that I bug you. 😉 And I’m grateful that you’re pushing the conversation further.

    My only response is that I’ve made the choice to create a simple construct as a point of entry into the conversation. I’m speaking the language of the dominant paradigm as an invitation to move from the machine story to one that speaks of love as the creative force in the world. It’s a bridge from the story that guides our daily lives (especially our economic lives) to the one that lives in our hearts. To switch metaphors: sometimes a simple map is exactly what’s needed.

    Still, when I host in-person workshops or conversations, it gets much more personal and real. But it seems that we need the simple construct to make that OK. It gives people something to hang on to.

    My vision for the global conversation is somehow to offer progressive levels of depth so that people can dig deeper according to their comfort, interests and readiness. I’ll create a separate post with my vision for the global conversation so you (and others) can see how much richness and depth I hope to invoke.

    Be sure that there’s more to me and my intentions than this simple construct.

    So where does that leave us?

    Reply
  22. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Ben Roberts:

    Michelle asks: “So where does that leave us?”

    Loving that this has turned to love, and to the sacred.

    The original FOUR YEARS.GO call was for a just, sustainable and SPIRITUALLY FULFILLING world for all. The latter phrase has been replaced by “thriving.” A worthy term to be sure. And no doubt less “controversial.” But is avoiding controversy the goal? Do we not need to guard against packaging our ideas in ways that “sell” them? Peter Block distinguishes an invitation, which has power because its acceptance is not only voluntary but actually carries a price (and this carries risk for the inviter and invitee), from persuasion or coercion, which are the means by which the status quo resists change.

    Are we selling our ideas, or inviting others to explore them only if they are interested enough to pay something (even attention!) in return?

    Cheers,
    Ben

    Reply
  23. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Maya Bobrowska:

    Michelle asks: “So where does that leave us?”

    Bart beautiful deepening of our conversation opened up for me a greater dimension. Many of us are awakening to a sense that the creative power, force is love – not the personal one – a love of what is (as Byron Katie put it). Our evolution seems to be vertical and horizontal. Ever more sophisticated maps of reality such as AQAL or TheoryU are enabling us manipulation of reality on ever more subtle levels. Maps are not territory, and they are only to orient us and eventually launch us into choiceless awareness where are no questions or answers. What arises is a certainty in the moment that is valid only for that moment.

    Yasuhiko Genku Kimura talks about omnicentric human http://www.via-visioninaction.org/html/yasuhiko_genku_kimura.html.
    Can an organization be able to create context for itself to enable unfolding of our vertical and horizontal growth and foster operation that comes from the choiceless awareness and be effective, tangible leader in a community?

    “So where does that leave us?” – I experienced being in groups when the same thought arose in many heads at the same time. It was powerful and clarity was unquestionable. Is it possible to create a group coherence that would manifest like flock of birds, flying (acting, deciding, creating) in unison? Kevin Kelly (former Wired editor) in his book Out of Control (http://www.kk.org/outofcontrol/reviews.php) had story how large symposium of people was was divided into two sections and presented with a flight simulator to fly jumbo jet – and they did land the plain together – with out previous training. We are at the verge of tapping into collective consciousness and….it is very exciting. Clarity of intention in a group can manifest wonders.

    Reply
  24. Michelle Holliday
    Michelle Holliday says:

    From Jim:

    Michelle-
    When I saw your chart of stages, I was reminded of a similar chart from page 156 of Judith Herman’s book Trauma & Recovery (beginning of chapter VII [7])
    http://books.google.com/books?id=3cn2R0KenN0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=jud

    Here’s an image of it:
    http://thegreatconvergence.blogspot.com/2011/02/stages-of-healing-from-j

    I was struck by this notion of growth, a LifeForce towards health and healing,
    common to both charts, yours and hers.

    I like the added plus of the two sentences you can see, about the need for comprehensive healing; and the notion that a method that might be good at one stage might not be good at another.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%BCbler-Ross_model

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply to Michelle Holliday Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *