“The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.”
~ Pablo Picasso
“Dysfunctional systems will fall under their own weight. Let them.”
These are dangerous quotes. Dangerous in the sense that they can be interpreted in different ways by people with different perspectives (or even by the same person on different days). Quotes such as these need to be seen from a relatively balanced perspective, meaning that one may believe one way or another, but has an open mind to other possibilities. The Picasso quote I use to suggest that sometimes, what we call “good sense” is only leftover prejudices from the past; of course, sometimes, “good sense” actually is good sense, so we must allow for that possibility. And “dysfunctional systems” are often in the eye of the beholder, so to speak. But it is healthy to note when something’s time has passed so that something new can be encouraged, or at least allowed, to emerge.
The times in which we find ourselves are growing ever more complex at ever faster rates. Old solutions increasingly fail to resolve current challenges; old leadership is increasingly ineffective. It is time to learn new ways of being. What is needed is a whole system change, and spiritual organization is not exempt. We are called to adapt by changing at depth.
“There can be no doubt that we are in a change of eras, as systems crumble around us struggling to hold onto their old ways and new ones seek the patterns and practices that will take us into a future that we can feel emerging but not yet describe in words. We are in what systems thinkers would call a chaos point, a moment where the old systems no longer work but the new are not mature enough to take over the helm. Painful on many fronts.”
~ Peter Merry, Blog Post (LINK)
The old ways of seeing organization are no longer adequate. Our spiritual communities are living systems, with all the complexity that implies. And we do not know what will work in the emerging future – there are no examples for us to follow; we are in uncharted territory. This is both comforting and terrifying: exhilarating!
We might begin with understanding the difference between complexity and being complicated.
“I want to say that short circuiting complexity is never a good idea. It makes life complicated. Complicated and complex are not the same thing. Complex looks like an ocean; whole and alive with a vitality that is generated through interrelational, interdependent processes.”
~ Nora Bateson
My work as a blogger, author, speaker, coach, and consultant has been focused on the issue of complexity for some time now. I have been urging spiritual leaders of every kind to recognize the increasing complexity which is a result of cultural evolution – the tendency of human culture to grow more complex, necessitating that individuals and groups adapt internally, through the emergence of greater capacities, to come into coherence with increasingly complex living conditions. Some of this emergence is natural and some will come into conflict with our attachments to old and existing structures and forms which cannot continue forward.
In other words – our world, our human world, grows more complex, mostly because of our own doing, and the evolution of greater capacities already within us. When we adapt, we can successfully navigate our newly complex surroundings. When we fail to adapt, life gets more complicated. Spiral Dynamics (LINK) is a good model to use in understanding this process. As new levels of complexity unfold, we must adapt and change. If we do not, we suffer due to our inability to successfully navigate new living conditions of greater complexity.
“Whatever leadership used to be — it used to be. Now, it has to be something different. Now, we all have to be more than we were. The kind of leadership that I want to explore may not be identifiable as leadership at all. I am interested in a kind of mutually alert care and attention to the well-being of all people and ecological systems. This kind of leadership cannot be found in individuals, but rather between them. It cannot be found in organizations, nations, religions or institutions, but rather between them. I have called it Liminal Leadership to highlight the relational characteristics.”
~ Nora Bateson
I have blogged about liminal spaces (LINK) before – the spaces in-between the places where we feel grounded in the known. The chaos point described above by Peter Merry is an example of a liminal space. Newly emerging leadership must be systemically different than what came before. In other words, trying to imitate your teacher(s) who successfully built a spiritual community in the past is futile. If they were here today, and did the same things they did then, they would not be successful the way they were in their time. It is a different world now. Nora Bateson describes growing complexity beautifully, recognizing that a poetic approach is the only way to begin to grasp what is unfolding.
“Part of the problem is that, globally, nationally and personally, we face crises that can be described as ‘complex’ or ‘wicked’ problems. Complexity is recognizable in situations which have multiple variables in ever shifting contexts of interdependency. Some examples of complex living systems are oceans, cities, families, economic systems, culture, the health of our own bodies, and the medical systems we expect to support them. In each of these systems, vitality is produced by multiple processes in contextual interaction. To study a jungle is to recognize that the jungle itself is not an isolated “thing” but instead exists in the interrelationship between soil, foliage, animals, weather patterns, bacteria and so on. The same contextual linkings can be found in all living systems; approaching the system without an understanding of this holism will create short circuits in the complexity and countless unintended consequences. Making sense of the vitality of a complex system is an inquiry into its way of making contact. A study of the relational patterns gives entirely different understanding of the way in which a system is cohering.”
~ Nora Bateson from her blog (LINK)
A spiritual community is more than an organization; it is a living system which can only be partially understood at best. There are too many aspects, most invisible, which are instrumental it its expression. Nora Bateson mentions “short circuits in the complexity and countless unintended consequences”; how many of those have shown up in your ministry? Yet, we will never grasp it all – we are, at best, able to comprehend a sense of direction and somehow, steer the living system forward toward its highest expression. This, of course, requires much more than a skillset – it involves a well-developed intuitive sense, along with a capacity for living in the mystery. Control freaks need not apply!
“Do not adopt the letter of my teaching, but the spirit, and you will find, as I did, that you will begin to formulate a system that is true for you. I learned for me, and you must learn for yourself that you must develop your own faith and confidence in your own interpretation of God, humanity, and the universe.”
~ Ernest Holmes
Here, Dr. Holmes encourages us to absorb the principles of The Science of Mind™ and then, think for ourselves. An important thing to know here is the degree of your own willingness to be dishonest with yourself. Are you holding yourself to a sufficiently high standard of practice and self-honesty? That is a high bar, and many of us fail to reach it. We must develop a clear connection with our intuitive knowing – our heart-wisdom – and be radically self-honest if we are to achieve the level of self-mastery needed for these times and the future.
“One of the greatest stumbling blocks in (anyone’s) spiritual advancement is dishonesty; the refusal to honestly face an idea if that idea happens not to please (them). This comes in part from the human tendency to take the line of least resistance, whether it be in our physical endeavors or in the operation of our mind. Confronted with an idea that repudiates one we have held for years, we go far out of our way, entirely around the idea, to keep from being compelled to analyze and possibly to absorb it.”
~ Ernest Holmes, “It’s Up to You!”
This is neither an easy nor a casual undertaking. It is a whole-self endeavor, but isn’t that the fullest way to live? To be fully engaged with developing yourself to face big challenges and to bring the highest and best of yourself to creating #aworldthatworksforeveryone and #TheBelovedCommunity?
“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
If you are incarnated on Earth at this time, you are faced with huge challenges and huge opportunities. You are called to bring forth the best of yourself, over and over again. You are called to find ways of doing this and still living a rewarding life! You are called to step up to a daily spiritual practice which allows the emergence of your hidden splendor into actualized expression. Your spiritual community can be a vehicle for supporting its members in doing just that – for we are more likely to express our inner greatness with the support of a strong spiritual community – a living system of beings interconnected for a higher purpose, each bringing his or her unique genius to the process of becoming. But we must realize that there is no finish line in this work. Complexity is here, it is growing, and it is speeding up. We are called to bring our best selves to all the challenges this brings. New Thought gives us the tools and the perspective to do this – we must study and practice daily to be the fullest possible expression of our spiritual potential. And, we must release what no longer serves the realization of these aims. That is our work – we are the generation.
“The generation that breaks the cycle will be tasked with tending to the generations that couldn’t. It doesn’t seem fair to give that kind of love and care to those who withheld the nourishment we needed. But who are we if we don’t? So, we do.”
~ Nora Bateson
As always, your comments are welcomed below. Thank you for reading! Feel free to share this post with others who may find it of value.
Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard
NOTE: I am very gratified to have begun a relationship with AGNT as a guest blogger on a semi-monthly basis. Here is the link to my first post: https://www.agnt.today/blog
And grateful to Harv Bishop of HarvBishom.com for having me as a guest blogger last week. Here is the link to that post: http://www.harvbishop.com/?p=1378