Monday, October 26, 2009

Where Are The Solutions?

I had an interesting thought last night. I haven't had time to work with it, so I'm not even sure it makes sense, but let me try to flesh it out a little bit here.

As should be obvious from my other posts, I've been learning a lot about the power of place. This is something that seems to be virtually ignored in our time, but an idea that has kept popping up over and over again throughout the ages. Most recently, in the 20th century, it went by the name of environmental determinism. Environmental determinism got a very bad reputation (and rightly so because it was often used to justify racism) and the whole concept of environmental determinism was just dismissed, which was really tossing the baby out with the bath water.

Now, I don't like the term "environmental determinism". I think the land influences us (and dramatically so) but not in a deterministic fashion. I prefer to think instead about propensities or potentialities held in the land, or even personality held in the land. What wants to express itself in one locale is different from what wants to express itself in a different locale. And what gets expressed is not only a region's unique flora and fauna and weather patterns and geological features, but also human culture, the collective "personality" of a local population, its unique cuisine, dialect, art, technology, products, wisdom, etc. The collective human "personality" of a region is just as much a product of the land as is its plantlife and wildlife. It springs forth from the local conditions.

A few years back I read Jared Diamond's book, Guns, Germs, and Steel. While Diamond seemed very concerned he might be accused of environmental determinism, what he proposed was really just that. His thesis was that specific geographical features of the land, in specific places in the world, gave rise to the domestication of animals, the rise of agriculture and settlements, the first city-states, etc. The lands which were conducive to the development of these things gave rise to successful empires which could then raid and maraud and colonize those other lands which were at a disadvantage. Those disadvantaged lands lacked many of the necessary features that Diamond believes gave rise to modern culture; they may have lacked domesticable species of animals, or lacked annual grains, or had geological barriers that prevented the spread of new technologies, etc.

So the spread of Western culture and the destruction of so many non-Western cultures, languages, histories, environmental resources, etc.--essentially the plundering of the rest of the world--looks like a natural process of the earth. The land gave rise to this sorry phenomenon. That's basically the take-away message from this book. Not a happy message at all, yet I absolutely believe it.

This of course gets me into hot water, and here the subject of environmental determinism becomes a very dangerous one again. So, the implication is that all of this decimation is okay because it's just a natural process of the earth?

It's not okay with me, let me make that clear. If we could have travelled down some different and more harmonious path I dearly wish we would have. And I understand how obnoxious an idea it might be at first blush to claim that all of this human folly and madness is really not our fault at all because it's simply a process of the earth. What a convenient way to absolve ourselves of responsibility!

But let's look at this as broadly as we can. First, let's realize that we're not at the end point of history (or let's assume, at least, that we're not). What seems like a cancerous spread of Western destructiveness is a process, and that process is ongoing and may yet turn around into something constructive. Maybe this destructiveness has swept across the globe in preparation for something constructive to sweep back over it.

This period of time in which we've been globalizing and destroying is also the same period of time in which we've been evolving our consciousness and also evolving our individual egos. It's a terribly dangerous time. Once you separate out from your unconscious fusion with the environment into an isolated dot of awareness you begin to objectify all that is outside of yourself. You can't recognize that all that is seemingly Other is really a part of you, so you maraud and plunder and conquer and decimate. And it's all quite inevitable. Ego means believing the self is discrete, not connected with the rest of creation. This phase of human evolution--when we've just woken up and we still believe we are only isolated dots--is so dangerous and destructive because it's literally every man for himself. We can't yet focus on the collective, only on our individual survival and comfort, so we maraud and pillage in order to gain individual advantage.

But simultaneously as we've been awakening and marauding our way around the globe, a positive trend has developed. We've connected. We've manifested technology that can help us evolve to the next phase, a phase of conscious reintegration back into Oneness. Globalization has been horrible in so many ways, but the rise of the internet and other technologies that connect us couldn't have come about otherwise.

So here we stand at a point of transition. We've been Self and Other for so long that some of us have actually begun to see through it. When everything outside of us is Other, there are infinite opportunities for us to See. We can see the devastation our sense of separateness causes (and now on a global scale) and we can begin to see how everything is interconnected. The damage we cause to one part of the earth causes a huge web of effects. It becomes more and more obvious the more dire our situation gets.

So now I finally get to the thought that occurred to me last night. What if just as there were places on this earth which possessed the unique properties which gave rise to our destructive modern world, might there not also be places out there now ready to birth the next paradigm? I titled this post "Where Are The Solutions?" because I think the solutions are literally out there. One thing I've been discovering lately is that there's no such thing as metaphor. We talk about finding solutions, looking for solutions, locating solutions--all these metaphors that suggest solutions are out there in some physical place. Maybe they really are!

Are there geographical locales with the right set of properties to birth a new paradigm? A post-consumer, post-ego paradigm? How would we find those places and how would we work with them to encourage their solutions to spread? The first thing would be to take an inventory of the places where viable solutions are arising.

For some reason Curitiba came to mind, although I don't really believe that Curitiba's solutions are enough. But anyway, let's use that as an example. We would want to examine everything about that locale to try to figure out what unique qualities of that locale allowed these solutions to arise. And from there, maybe we would try to identify other locations possessing similar features as likely places to further incubate and spread the solutions.

With technology that connects us globally now, once we have a few of these prime new-paradigm incubator places the changes could spread contagiously even to less-ideal locales.

An additional way to approach this would be to have everyone inventory their own locale for its strengths and weaknesses and then try to figure out what part of the solution could be birthed in that spot. A global solution will be made up of millions or billions of local solutions. We could each ask ourselves, "What solution wants to be birthed here through me?"

Wouldn't it be great to see a wave of change sweeping over the globe, as the gift of each locale is discovered and offered up?

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