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If No One Wants This, Why Are We Doing It?
A vision for a better world: How do we get there? What do we need to do? Have we come to limit ourselves by what we believe is possible?
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I remember being maybe 11 or 12 years old and watching the 6:00 news with my parents. Sometimes I’d see people with no food or water. Financial problems and pollution problems. Countries with people deeply suffering while I was in the comfort of my own home.
At school, I’d learn about the billions suffering to get their basic needs around the world. At Halloween, we’d walk around with UNICEF boxes to collect small donations for people who were in need in those countries.
My childhood signalled to me that many people in our world are suffering, and those around me wanted to help.
As I would see these problems occur I’d ask my parents:
“Why can’t the world just help those people and give them food and water for good? People made our world this way, so why can’t we just make it another way?”
The response from them (and my teachers) was something to the effect of:
“Unfortunately that’s not the way the world works, it’s sad, but it’s complicated.”
When I was in high school and started to learn more about the world and began generating more of my own opinions I began to realize we are living in a world that is producing results almost no one truly wants, yet we keep doing it.
Think about that… year after year, socioeconomic despair, war, no food, water or shelter for billions of people, significantly stressed out and sick humans, and a global mental health crisis - all remain or get worse.
When was the last time you came across someone who told you they wanted these things for people? Probably never (or maybe once?) So why do we have them so prominently in our world? Why are they are outcome of our existing systems if no one wants them?
This leads to the conclusion that our social system design is not only producing bad results but it’s so rigid that we cannot solve those problems easily even when they are in our awareness.
As I got even older, I began to see that many of us often fight to protect the insanity of our systems, and it’s mainly because we don’t know what else is possible or what to do.
It was around this time that I began feeling anxious and mildly depressed. But that dark night of the soul in my late teens led me to develop skills, contemplative practices, and stillness that brought not only peace but curiosity and ideas about what might be a solution to this collective challenge.
I want to add here that I’m well aware of the fact that a big layer of why our world functions the way it does is through the unelected capturing of our institutions by what is often called the deep state. By nature of this capture, the agendas and desires of a few are carried out, giving as little as possible away to the masses in order for them to be pacified enough so as not to revolt. (The amount is culturally determined geographically.)
Nonetheless, to take a systems view here we still must observe where we play into and uphold this system as a people. Even pointing full blame toward the deep state would not provide a clear picture of the issue at hand.
A Different Approach
Many of you kindly commented on the iceberg image I offered in a couple of previous pieces. Like I said then, this model is pretty common in systems thinking, but I wanted to provide more of a social context so we can explore the underlying drivers of our society.
When we ask questions on this level we are taking a different approach. Instead of looking at singular symptoms (problems) within our society and trying to fix them, we seek to understand how they came to be and what they are interconnected with.
In episode 1 of my podcast, I discuss the current predicament we are facing. It involves a whole systems crisis, including meta-crises and a meaning/purpose crisis. This is to say we are in a moment where so much of what is falling apart or collapsing right now, whether environment, institutions or mental health, are all interconnected.
To attempt to fix one on a surface level without truly understanding where and how we are applying pressure leaves much of the problem unaddressed. This is why mainstream thinking and policy is often failing to provide any meaningful change. It’s missing the bigger picture.
This is also why it is often said that a new level of consciousness has to be brought to the picture to effectively meet the challenges of our current moment. What we are aware of, how we think, how we feel, what we sense, and what our underlying stories are must shift to address the problems at a more complete level.
In my view, a full system overhaul is necessary, but this of course can’t happen overnight. It will take time, requires transition steps, and has to be built on a shift in the collective consciousness. Ideas around this were laid out in a 2010 project we released, and I’m going to be re-releasing those frameworks soon, so stay tuned!
Over the years, our discussions about whole systems change often led to responses like:
“Socialism, communisim and Marxism is bad! We can’t have that!”
But, no one is saying we have to go from where we are to those. In fact, the emergence of a future solution is not about going BACK to something in our past but emerging something new.
This is best achieved by exploring ideas of what is possible, getting into a place of embodied presence and stillness and co-creating solutions in community. We must move from a purely knowledge driven way of thinking, (primary knowledge of the past), to an integration of heart-centered and creative knowing as well.
This is the type of creativity that emerges from what is often called the Flow state. It seems to come from a field or a potential outside of our existing limited framing.
To get to these places of solution is obviously a process, but one I believe we must place some of our attention on.
Why Are We Doing It?
I believe we are “still doing it” (creating systems the way we are) for many reasons. I also want to note things ARE changing. But to touch on a couple of immediate thoughts, we are still doing it because:
Very little time is spent stepping outside of our current knowledge and ways of knowing to explore what else is possible. We typically are just creating from our past and the cynicism of being ‘realistic.’ We are also stuck in combative thinking, attempting to point blame everywhere we look.
Very little attention is paid to new and emerging possibilities. This is sort of a paradox because attention is being hijacked by more dramatic, polarizing, or distracting content. Thus there is little incentive for content creators to create this content as it is downgraded in social feeds, plus people don’t engage with it as much.
This lack of incentive to create this content then becomes culture. The “top thinkers” out there are constantly coming up with clever debates, gotchas and arguments that come in Instagram clips and YouTube shorts, all designed to grab attention instead of provide deeper thought.
We often then grant legitimacy to these bigger voices as if they must be right because they have gone viral. But that’s just it, they often go viral because they are polarizing, defeating and dominating someone else - hallmark symptoms of our disconnected and hyper-individualistic society that is incentivizing more of the same.
We aren’t seeking to come together, deeply listen, deeply feel one another and co-create a world. Instead, we are often standing in our ideologies seeking to debate and destroy other people’s ideas. It’s not co-creation, it’s “my way or the highway.”
Summary: with little incentive in the marketplace to come forward with this type of content, less will focus on it, leaving people unaware of what’s possible.
There isn’t enough collective time being spent building our skills and capacity to sense and feel into new and emerging possibilities. We are often reacting to what’s happening, getting burnt out by it, and then retreating for a while. Only to repeat the cycle again.
To me, to become the changemakers and society creators we can be we must build the skills of awareness, heart connection, presence, communication, and effective listening. With these skills, conversations stuck in debate and ideology take a back seat as creative and collaborative conversation begins to drive.
It’s up to us to show up and play a role, even if it starts small and moves in the right direction slowly. We must hold the vision and potential for a new world, not rely on our existing systems to produce it.
I do believe there are many more reasons I have not discussed here, but the general spirit of what I was trying to get across is that much of what stops us from moving forward is our current level of consciousness.
It informs where we pay our attention, both internally and externally, and how we think about what is possible. There certainly is some truth to being ‘realistic’, but I think we often judge and shoot down good ideas much too quickly, primarily because we are afraid.
This is why building our capacity to be strong, resilient and well-regulated mentally and emotionally is important at this time. It keeps our ability to be curious turned on.
The other thing I hope this essay does is invite you to be curious, to believe, to explore and be wonderous about what is possible. It’s easy to set our sights only on the world in front of us, but what can we do daily to feel and see our potential even if just for 10 minutes?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. And if you haven’t checked it out yet, I invite you to listen to episodes 1 - 7 of my podcast where I dive into some overviews of what I believe are important themes right now.
I will also be releasing a course very soon on the frameworks and practices I’ve played with for the last 15 years that I believe are essential in building self-awareness, intuition, embodiment and resilience.