Posted in Sustainability

July 2, 2014

Mind the Lines in the Mind

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The other day I was working with an emerging inter-institutional collaboration of universities looking to move the needle on “transitioning to sustainability.”  Like so many other conversations that I am a part of these days, there were bold visions tempered by structural realities, including robust conversation about internal constraints to the kind of progress people are striving to realize.  These constraints are not simply internal to our organizations in the form of protocols and politics, but also to our thinking.  As David Bohm once wrote,

“Thought is creating divisions out of itself and then saying that they are there naturally.”

And so there is a call to constantly “mind the lines” that are not simply “out there,” but that are conscious and unconscious projections of our thoughts, and that do not serve our intensions. Perhaps no one says it better than the late Donella Meadows in a piece from which I read the other day and have pulled extracts below.  For the entire essay, visit the Donella Meadows Institute.

From “Lines in the Mind, Not in the World” by Donella Meadows (December 24, 1987)

The earth was formed whole and continuous in the universe, without lines.

The human mind arose in the universe needing lines, boundaries, distinctions. Here and not there. This and not that. Mine and not yours.

That is sea and this is land, the mind thinks, and here is the line between them. See? It’s very clear on the map.

But, as the linguists say, the map is not the territory. The line on the map is not to be found at the edge of the sea. . . .

Between me and not-me there is surely a line, a clear distinction, or so it seems. But, now that I look, where is that line?

This fresh apple, still cold and crisp from the morning dew, is not-me only until I eat it. When I eat, I eat the soil that nourished the apple. When I drink, the waters of the earth become me. With every breath I take in I draw in not-me and make it me. With every breath out I exhale me into not-me. . . .

Between you and me, now there is a line. No other line feels more certain than that one. Sometimes it seems not a line but a canyon, a yawning empty space, across which I cannot reach.

Yet you keep reappearing in my awareness. Even when you are far away, something of you surfaces constantly in my wandering thoughts. When you are nearby, I feel your presence, I sense your mood. Even when I try not to. Especially when I try not to. . . .

I have to work hard not to pay attention to you. When I succeed, when I have closed my mind to you with walls of indifference, then the presence of those walls, which constrain my own aliveness, are reminders of you.

And when I do pay attention, very close attention, when I open myself fully to your humanity, your complexity, your reality, then I find, always, under every other feeling and judgment and emotion, that I love you.

Even between you and me, even there, the lines are only of our own making.

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April 9, 2014

Re-Thinking Progress: Getting Cyclical

What if the goods of today became the resources of tomorrow?

Regular readers of this blog know that I am particularly interested in living systems and networks and how they can inform how we approach our change work so that it is more in synch with how life works. This video is very much in alignment with my interests and ongoing inquiry, and while focused primarily on the economy and production, IMHO it has implications for all areas of focus for social change.  Some of the provocative questions it raises include the following: Read More

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April 1, 2014

Re-Imagining Cities

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At IISC we often talk about three hugely important pieces of context for social change work these days:

  1. We are in the middle of a paradigm shift, from the Industrial Age into an age that doesn’t have a name yet
  2. By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas
  3. In 2042 the U.S. will become a majority people of color nation

In this context, as a nation and a globe we are choosing to face or ignore urgent questions about climate change, racism, wealth distribution, violence (the types we condone, penalize, and ignore), and the quality of life that we are willing or unwilling to insist upon for every human being on this planet. It’s quite overwhelming…

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December 30, 2013

Long-Term Trend in Nonprofit Funding

The following post has been reblogged from our friend Kim Klien. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

“I would love to give to the Film Festival, but I really have to devote all my giving to my children’s public school.” This sentence, said by a long-time donor in response to a request for funding renewal from a board member at a local Film Festival, helped to start a project called “Nonprofits Talking Taxes.” Starting about 10 years ago, many of us started to hear things like this from our donors.  Read More

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December 3, 2013

Culture and selfishness

The following post has been reblogged from Seth’s Blog. He is a genius and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

One person selfishly drops a piece of litter on the ground, the other selfishly picks it up.

Everything we do is done because it’s better than not doing it. “Better” is the complicated term. Better might mean, “gives me physical pleasure right now,” for some people, while better might mean, “the story I tell myself about the contribution I just made gives me joy and satisfaction.”

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August 14, 2012

Future Perfect

From a world where words like “strategy” and “planning” still convey an air of seriousness and rigor, it can be hard to transition to a world defined by emergence.  But VUCA is here to stay – volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity will continue to define our age.

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April 5, 2012

In Transition 2.0

This past weekend, I attended our local Eco-Festival in Arlington, MA and connected with members of the nascent Transition Town group.  They, and now we, are evidence of a growing movement of people interested in grounding solutions to climate change and natural resource depletion in local community.  The above trailer is for a film from the Transition Network that captures inspiring stories of Transition initiatives around the world, “responding to uncertain times with creativity, solutions and ‘engaged optimism’.”

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March 26, 2012

Fierce Love, Contagious Joy

“We are all called to be warriors of love for transformation.” That’s how Billy Wimsatt closed the Transforming Race conference. “If we’re transforming race, gender, America, we’re doing it from the place of fiercest love.” This is a love for one’s community, oneself, one’s planet and all people that can’t stand idle while people are suffering. A love that won’t tolerate the exclusion or marginalization or degradation of others.

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March 1, 2012

“Forward With,” Not “Back To”

Last weekend, while on school vacation with my family, my wife Emily and I went to hear Richard Louv speak at McKee Gardens in Vero Beach, Florida.  If you don’t know him, Louv wrote the books The Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle and is a big advocate for getting kids and adults outdoors to overcome what we calls “nature deficit disorder.”  I have heard him speak in the past, and very much appreciate his work. That said, I was a bit troubled by the public comment session and conversation after his talk.  Read More

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March 1, 2012

"Forward With," Not "Back To"

Last weekend, while on school vacation with my family, my wife Emily and I went to hear Richard Louv speak at McKee Gardens in Vero Beach, Florida.  If you don’t know him, Louv wrote the books The Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle and is a big advocate for getting kids and adults outdoors to overcome what we calls “nature deficit disorder.”  I have heard him speak in the past, and very much appreciate his work. That said, I was a bit troubled by the public comment session and conversation after his talk.  Read More

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February 23, 2012

Macy on Uncertainty

Eco-philosopher Joanna Macy PhD, is a scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. She is a respected voice in the movements for peace, justice, and ecology, and interweaves her scholarship with five decades of activism. As the root teacher of the Work That Reconnects, she has created a ground-breaking theoretical framework for personal and social change, as well as a powerful workshop methodology for its application. The Great Turning, to which she refers in this clip, is a name for the “adventure of our time: the shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization.”

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