When our old ways of living and thinking die they need to be replaced by new ways. New ways that help us thrive.

 

Otherwise people just insist on the old ways more strongly.

  • Neo-liberalism,
  • Eighteenth century science and philosophy, and,
  • Religious fundamentalism

being the popular options in my culture at the moment.

 

And all of us understand the appeal.

 

“To die and be reborn, is not an easy thing” – Fritz Perls.

 

But if we are to thrive as individuals, groups and a planetary civilisation we need new ways. And they can only grow out of the old (the modernist fantasy of being able to start over is delusional and leads to environmental devastation and personal disaster).

 

The new will satisfy the needs we have always had – but in new ways. And hopefully better ones – our current arrangements have many millions living in appalling conditions. Perpetuating current ways of doing things simply isn’t worth the effort (any effort) in my view.

 

I don’t think it is possible to come up with a grand plan. But it is easy enough to come up with some rules of thumb and values to guide us:

  • Prefer wholism to violence.
  • Understand that people’s behaviour usually makes sense to them in their situation.
  • Creativity is better than tedium and destruction.
  • Deep personal growth means integration of the shadow.
  • Sharing and collaboration is usually preferable to competition for essentials. (For play it may be different.)
  • People learn most of what is ‘natural’ to them.
  • It is possible to have environments where loving and intelligent guidance is encouraged.

[Please add your own rough and ready guides to a good life in the comments at the end of this post.]

 

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive or systematic list. It is just to show that it is pretty easy to come up with things that people will mostly agree with and that can form the basis for mutually beneficial collaboration.

 

But how? What could this mean in practice? Glad you asked.

 

  1. Individual

Most of us, most of the time are ruled by an eight year old. (i.e. us at that age).

 

By age eight most of us have felt-beliefs about:

  • Who am I?
  • Who are these others?
  • What do I need to do to thrive (or, sadly, more usually survive)?

 

What we learn tends to fit into and reinforce our early felt-beliefs. To change these really can feel like dying (I’m not exaggerating).

 

Imagine that you were badly abused repeatedly as a child. You felt bad in yourself and the others around you were unreliable and untrustworthy (routinely promising they would do things & then not doing them; and then denying they had made the promise in the first place); and you needed to be cautious and self-reliant to survive, let alone thrive.

 

Then a new-age influenced blogger comes along and says: everything is beautiful in it’s own way. You need to trust more. Just let go, everything will be fine!

 

Imagine you are born with considerable natural gifts. Your parents are loving and supportive and reasonably well off, even if not wealthy, so that they can pay for some lessons and equipment for you to develop your gifts. You feel quite good about yourself, know that others can be relied on to mostly like you and take care of you, and that you need to put in the work to get good results.

 

Then you attend the church service of a fire and brimstone preacher. He (it is likely to be a he) tells you that you are evil to the core, as is everyone else. And society is but ‘a mess of perdition’!

 

None of the beliefs in these imagined examples is right or wrong. Not the abused child. Not the fortunate child. Not the new-agey blogger. Not the fire and brimstone preacher. Each of them would likely experience great difficulty if they were to give up there basic felt-beliefs.

 

When we meet a challenge to our core felt-beliefs it is usual to stick with our felt-beliefs. Sometimes we change and adopt the challenging set of beliefs. Either may be right. But, and I want to emphasise this: either may be wrong. We may feel that we have to choose; but we may not need to.

 

When you are on the horns of a dilemma; they may supported by bull.

 

From the clash of the old and the challenge to it, a new way may emerge. Sometimes it will be embarrassingly easy (“Oh, why didn’t I see that before – I’ve wasted all that time, all that energy, so many years . . .”) and other times so difficult we wouldn’t have believed we could get through it.

 

And the new will need nurturing and require learning. It can take time for a new way of living to be worked out in the many circumstances that make up our lives.

 

A person with lots of abuse can learn that it is possible to trust close friends. But what about others, how much are they trustworthy – and how to know? And how come they got it wrong and they ended up trusting someone who betrayed them? And how do they recover from this?

 

A person with a fortunate background can learn that they don’t always get the reward that their effort merits and that injustice is very real. But, how to recover from being the victim of injustice? Is it worth persevering with their discipline, and how to know?

 

Making a new life can take years of effort.

 

 

 

  1. Collective

We don’t want to know that our myths, which are so precious to us, are causing our own misery and killing the planet. But they are.

 

They have brought us so far, surely they will take us forward. But where we are is living on a dying planet, and a step forward when you are on the edge of a cliff is not progress in a human sense.

 

And we want to adjust the current way, just a little, to achieve a better life for all. And a really new way is sheer utopianism, is not best practise, hasn’t been done, is unsupported by any evidence whatsoever. The new is untried. And it needs time to mature and adapt and grow. And why should we put any time, effort or money into this risky, untried thing? Because we know the current way of doing things is miserable and lethal. And we need lots of experiments in new ways to learn from. We need room to fail safely and learn and refine.

 

Seeing the cynicism of politics and the psychopathic way corporate organisation behave (even non-profits and those in the ‘human services’) it is easy to become hopeless and withdraw. Or set up an alternative isolated from social and commercial pressures. Neither will bring the changes needed.

 

For me the new integration is: we need to live at the human scale. This has implications for human settlements and the way services are delivered. To take this seriously would completely alter our social organisation – and it is happening.

 

What does new life mean for corporate life?

  • Mondragon is a whole region based on co-op’s.
  • Bill McDonough has an integration of business and ecology. The vision is set out in Cradle to Cradle.
  • There are democratic and other forms of schooling that respect people.
  • The web2.0 allows collaboration and dialogue in an unprecedented and incredibly useful way.
  • Ethical investments grow apace and often perform better than the market average.
  • There are designs for housing and settlements that can produce resources and energy.

 

The new life is already present with us – and growing. And it is fragile and imperfect and needs feeding. And it is already a reality.

 

But we want to stick with the old myths. Like that economic growth is necessary for a good life. We know the pursuit of money causes us misery individually. We know that an ‘unregulated market’ will kill our planet. And we want our planet to thrive.  (A market is a set of regulations – e.g. the fulfilment of contracts – an ‘unregulated market’ has never existed and never can.)

 

But to think ‘economic contraction = more life’ is almost impossible for us. We live in our old myths, even when we know they are killing us.

 

And new life is here. It is among us, growing already. I invite you to live a new and better way. It won’t be perfect, it will require learning, it will require dying to our old way of living, and it will be better.

 

It is possible to live with a joy that is with us through most of our ups and downs. It is possible to find a way to live that nurtures others as well as ourselves. We can find a way of living that honours our limitations and feeds our gifts and supports our potentials. There are no technical impediments to everyone on our planet having enough to thrive. And this new life is already growing among us.

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