Pulling Threads from Small Arcs: Reflections on Complexity, Living Systems and Leadership

July 25, 2017 4 Comments

“The difficulty we face is that the ecology of the biosphere is at odds with the ecology of our institutions.”

– Nora Bateson

In the past couple of posts, I have referenced Nora Bateson’s book Small Arcs of Larger Circles: Framing Through Other Patternsa collection of essays, poetry, personal stories and excerpts of talks focused on systems theory and complexity thinking. I just finished the book and have underlined and tweeted a number of provocative lines that resonated and gave me pause (in a good way). Here are a few gems from the book that I continue to contemplate in different contexts:

“The problem with problem-solving is the idea that a solution is an endpoint.”

“Systems theory is struggling inside a system that doesn’t actually accommodate it.”

“We cannot know the systems, but we can know more. We cannot perfect the systems, but we can do better.”

“What does it mean to be healthy in an unhealthy system?”

“No living thing exists in just one context.” 

“It takes a great deal of change to keep things the same.”

“Evolution is what happens when patterns that used to define survival become deadly.”

“To lock down the filigree of life in explanation is to lose it, but not to see it is disastrous.”

“Unity is not about oneness, it requires the process of uniting, which requires relationality.”

“We are all as fragmented as a Picasso. And we are also as whole as life.”

Image by Pilottage, shared under provisions of Creative Common Attribution license 2.0.

“Biology, culture and society are dependent at all levels upon the vitality of interaction they produce internally and externally.”

“Leadership for this era is not a role or a set of traits; it is a zone of interrelational process. Step in, step out.”

“It is reasonable and responsible to ask if life, love and culture can really be described with words.” 

“Apocalypse is a linear idea, and we do not live in a linear world.”

“The ultimate act of love is to allow ourselves and others to be complex.”

Image from Kevin Dooley, shared under provisions of Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.


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