Posted in Structural Transformation

May 7, 2009

Where Is the Wildness?

“Shhh!  What was that?!”  I barely heard my wife over my concentrated efforts to keep my marshmallow from falling into the fire.  “Curtis!  Did you hear that?  Something’s out there!”  I looked in Em’s silhouetted direction and saw that she, my daughter Annabel, and my mother-in-law were all peering into the darkness and at the bushes on the edge of the pond.  “What is it, Daddy?” Annabel asked.  I got to my feet, grabbed a flashlight and slowly walked towards the now clearly audible rustling, my daughter right behind me.  “There it is!” I heard someone say.  I saw it too.  I gradually moved the light onto the shadow moving across our line of view, and had the glint of two beady eyes return the beam.  Annabel’s hands clenched my calf.  “A porcupine!”  A very big slow moving porcupine.  After a few seconds’ stare-down, the creature turned and went lumbering into the woods and out of view. “That was cool!” cried Annabel, still clutching my leg.

Cool indeed.  An adrenaline rush, a mystery uncovered, a dramatic stand-off.  Everything any child, or adult, might want on an excursion to the woods.  Our weekend in Vermont was filled with moments of exciting encounter like that, from having tussling and territorial woodpeckers dart over our heads, to finding crayfish under rocks, to hearing and deciphering the distant whistle of a black bear; much of this done in bare feet (or sandals), with dirt under our fingernails.  I find our forays into the wilderness to be liberating and invigorating, and as much about wildness as wilderness.  In the North Country I feel certain veils drop, inhibitions lift, and an inner aliveness bubble up.  I see this palpably in my daughter, and it makes me long for more of this in my life overall.

Wildness is something that often seems to get cast as chaotic and “uncultured”.  And yet I know from experience that it can be a gateway to something wonderful and powerful.  I think about those times when, as a trainer or speaker, I have been unleashed, more uncontrolled and less measured, when unbridled passion took hold.  I think about the impact that this has had on me and those around me.  As scary as it can be to let go, these moments have given me a glimpse of something profound and true that may be overlooked in a more buttoned up existence.  And so I’ve been thinking about bringing more Vermont to Cambridge.

What would it mean to be wild in the work we do?  What would this look like and what might it achieve?  For a humorous peek at a possible answer, check out professor and nature writer David Gessner’s “transformative” performance . . .

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May 5, 2009

Change You Can Believe In

“Change you can believe in”, “Be the change”, “Yes we can”…words to live by but what about the how? As I work with so many diverse groups across so many issues I’ m struck by the similarity of the struggles. It all centers around trying to bring their system into more coherence for greater impact. Whether it’s bridging the so-called divide between grassroots and advocacy organizations, public and private foundations or the larger more recalcitrant divide across the public, private and nonprofit sectors. And, what kind of change are we seeking? Let’s start there.

In an article written by Don Beck, founder of the Spiral Dynamics Group, he articulates the many dimensions of change in the following way

First Order Change has several variations: make minor adjustments or tweak the system; re-align the elements within the system; upgrade the givens within the present modis operandi; adjust by hunkering down and going back to basics; push the envelope.

Second Order Change: attack the barriers, remove the status quo (revolutionary rather than evolutionary); transform to the next level of complexity (subsume the old into the new); quantum shifts of epochal proportions i.e. modern to post-modern -integral, change across the entire landscape.

Important, it seems, for all of us working for transformational change to locate the specific change efforts with which we’re involved to be clear on the kind of change they are seeking. Assuming there is no right way, but what is right at this time is for this system to move forward toward greater health and wholeness.

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