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Okay, Now What?
I recently wrote about my personal experience in reconnecting with the human family after several weeks of feeling very disconnected from my country's foreign policy and many of my fellow citizens. I now feel reunited with the human family - one "imaginal cell" swimming in the muck of a future still-in-the-making, just like all the other imaginal cells that make up "the goop" in the chrysalis before the butterfly emerges.
There are now six billion "cells" occupying Mother Earth, swimming about in what is seemingly a sea of chaos, insecurity, uncertainty and purposelessness. Some of us are acting weirdly - rogue dictators, empire builders, egoistic politicians, extreme fundamentalists of all varieties - with some people and institutions doing really insane things. Some of these cells are very preoccupied with their day-to-day survival and aren't very concerned about the future of the world or grand visions for a better future. There are others who feel called to help the human family through service and some others who see themselves as champions of the downtrodden. There is a wide diversity of types among all us human beings - just as I imagine those imaginal cells swimming in the muck inside that chrysalis.
I wonder if these cells worry and fret about what the future holds or how all this transitional goop will serve them. After all, it was pretty cool being parts of a caterpillar. Things were organized, they knew what was expected of them, they felt secure in the form they occupied, and they had a sense of purpose.
Do they now swim around and long for the "good old days" like some humans do? Do they pine away about how things used to be?
Or do they surrender to some sort of destiny, and welcome the decay of the old, the muck of the in-between, and the vision of the new? After all, transformation requires the death of old forms before new ones can be born.
Nature is full of examples of this. Leaves die and fall to the ground, decompose, and then fertilize the soil so the host plant can grow new leaves. Compost is messy. It stinks and looks terrible - hardly as beautiful as the form it came from or the form it will ultimately give birth to. In this in-between stage, Nature is using the past to create a new future.
Humanity is going through a similar transformation - many of us have been talking and writing about this for a couple of decades now. Most of us who have been aware of this global transformation are also aware that transformations are usually messy. Yet, when we get into the mess, we act surprised, even outraged because it isn't pretty and clean and orderly as we had hoped it would be. In contrast, it is messy, just like Nature.
The political conflict going on around the world, along with the economic hardships and military conflicts, may seem like a throw-back to a less "civilized" world but, if we take lessons from Nature, it is all very "natural."
We are living through a mucky time - a time of uncertainty, chaos, and insecurity - conditions that most people avoid and fear. Fear motivates people to do some strange and unpredictable things. Some react and assert their power in an attempt to control things. Others deny what is going on because it doesn't fit with their ideas of how things should be. Still others deny anything is happening, and go about their lives pretending nothing is new. Some grab a beer or a whisky or turn on the TV. All sorts of coping mechanisms are employed by people in an effort to rationalize, deny or attempt to control what's going on.
Like I point out in my book Getting to the Better Future, we are between paradigms - in the cleavage between the failing of one paradigm (the one we've come to know and found comfort in) and the emergence of a new paradigm (one which is completely unknown to us and not yet fully recognizable, despite the pundits who claim to know what it will look like). In this cleavage of uncertainty, nothing looks familiar or certain or secure. Nothing works the way things used to.
So, what's next? For those of us who are prone to wanting to be proactive in this transition, what is there to do in all this muck? Human emotions are a great indicator of where our passions are, and each of us will be moved to respond in different ways - just like the imaginal cells. If we respond where our passions lead us rather than react out of fear, each of us will be drawn toward some action that fulfills our contribution to the transformation.
Some might be motivated by fear to do one thing. Some may be motivated by anger to do another. Some may write about this, or sit around and talk with people about it while others may feel compelled to take to the streets and protest policies and injustices. Some may seemingly be doing nothing at all, other than going about their daily lives wrapped up in their own immediate busy-ness. Each of us is playing a role in this transformation.
Paradoxically, we have no choice - yet we do. The transformation is underway. We have no choice in this, so attempting to hold back the inevitable will be exasperating. The choice we do have is how we engage this transformation.
We can engage it consciously or unconsciously, knowing some of us will appear to be more proactive than others yet all of us will be doing our part.
I'm choosing to be proactive in the transformation, welcoming the new paradigm like a baby about to be born. Like the mid-wife who assists in the delivery of a newborn, I do what I can to make the delivery as easy as possible, knowing that some deliveries are more difficult than others. Not everyone feels called to be a mid-wife. Some would rather wait outside the birthing room. Others may choose to remain working at their jobs, sending good thoughts to the mother and the child for an easy delivery. Still others may be oblivious about what is transpiring and go about their lives, trying as best they can to survive in the world.
And then there are some who fear what is happening so much that they'd rather the baby wasn't born. They like things the way they are and don't want to see things change. They don't want to admit that the existing paradigm is dying. "Why can't we go back to the way things were?" they cry. They see all this muck as a complete threat to their way of life - a threat to the values they have always held dear and sacred. But this shift has a mind of its own and, ready or not, it is coming! So why not hospice the old paradigm? Thank it for all that it gave us. Be grateful for how it has served us to this point in our evolution, but recognize it is now time to let it go. Like when a loved one is dying, we need to let them go with love and compassion, not try to cheer them up by giving them deceitful assurances that they will live. Letting them pass in dignity demonstrates our appreciation for who they were and what they contributed in their lifetime.
While the world may not be going through this shift from one worldview to another the way we would have scripted it, it is nonetheless going through it. Like in a hospice situation, we help our loved one pass on by easing their transition.
What will this new paradigm look like? What will its values be and what priorities will it hold sacred? Like the midwife who watches the infant emerge from the womb and soothes both baby and mother during the process, we cannot make this new paradigm into our own likeness. We can only welcome him or her, help both mother and child in the birthing process with a minimum of pain and then embrace the new paradigm like we would a newborn who is now vibrantly alive in the world, ready to grow, learn and live - another generation taking us to the next level in our evolution. Welcome to the brave new world!
Many more articles in Insight & Commentary in The CEO Refresher Archives