The past month has been immense. Seeing ‘life as usual’ move into ‘unprecedented times’ is confronting.
Yet this immensity, for me, hasn't felt like overwhelm or breakdown. It has felt like paying attention. Watching. Observing. Seeing what’s happening and responding with the next most appropriate action.
In some ways, I'm not surprised by this situation of global lock-down catalysed by the COVID-19 viral pandemic. Big things were bound to happen in 2020 - the planets were gearing up for this and astrologers have been talking about 2020 for a long time. The archetypal experience they saw coming was major transformative work on the world’s structures and institutions. 'Brutal' and 'brilliant' are the theme words I use a lens to interpret.
To be honest, I'm glad we're at this point.
As complex living adaptive systems, life's emergent nature simply hasn't been attended to by the status quo. The modus operandi of the industrial zeitgeist has been operating counter to the living systems principles we know sustain life. The situation has been winding up like a rubber band being pulled tighter and tighter. It was bound to break.
I refuse to scapegoat the virus. Like any illness or disease, it prospers in conditions that allow it. The virus highlights any fragility, vulnerability, and corruption within the systems we engage and rely upon. As brutal as the impacts of the virus are, it is the conditions allowing it to proliferate requiring scrutiny. This is a time of healing crisis.
Likewise as with any illness or disease, the virus also presents the polarity - breakdown leading to breakthrough. We see highlighted the opportunity, resiliency, maturity, and creativity built into our systems as individuals and collectives.
Where we focus is our choice. The process isn't linear and we need to lean into all the sense-making frameworks we've got.
So often in the past month I've thought of CYNEFIN (pron. kin-ef-fin) - a sense-making model describing modes of response for a variety of contexts.
We are very much in the Complex response mode in these times of pandemic. The most sound way forward in complex times happens by PROBE-SENSE-RESPOND. This means answers aren't laid out for us, and the 'experts' don't necessarily have clear pathways to guide us along. The ‘Complicated’ systems and ‘Obvious’ procedures continue to be active, supporting a largely functional society despite the changes. Yet, the dominant essence is Complex.
And we must be ready to respond within the ‘Complex’ realm. We must be willing to progress and probe, step by step, without knowing where the path will take us, and without projecting fears upon it.
Being aware of this type of response can make the world of difference to our mental well-being and effectiveness of action. Not expecting a saviour to sweep in to 'make it all better' immediately can ground-truth our thoughts, emotions and actions. In particular, this can help us get real and get active.
We - you and I, our local communities and nation states - are being asked to lean into our living systems foundations. The emergent edge of life is where some of the most fulfilling and gratifying spaces can be found.
Emergency = Emerge and See. These are the spaces of magic.
Yet, so many of us are terrified to even walk close to the edge. It's like we've lost most of our capacity to be response-able. Like a cat who can't land on its feet, this is a sad state for humans to find themselves. Thus, this pandemic period is one bound with opportunity for recalibration to our deeper instincts and wisdoms as regenerative, responsible beings of life on Earth.
A lot demands to be reconsidered, redesigned, and realigned.
While we see shortages of toilet paper in supermarket aisles, we also see alternative toilet accessories like ‘family cloths’ becoming more accessible and understood. Likewise, we see a gardening revolution, where big-box conventional hardware stores are selling out of seeds and seedlings as people sweep in to develop a distributed and home-based sense of food security.
This is an exciting time.
In particular, I feel excitement and relief that the climate crisis has a sense of reprieve as the global machine slows down. We’ve got a lot of work to do bring integrity to the many systems facilitating modern life. This is only just the beginning and we need to be ready for the next stages and phases of this transformation.
Let’s learn our lessons, do the work, and radically transform so we can all live in better world our hearts know is possible.
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