Sunday, May 5, 2019

A Fresh Perspective

                                                                                                  written 28 April 2019
                                                                                                 published 5 May 2019

            Individuals, and cultures, operate within a story that frames perspective and shapes responses.  Changing the story, or perspective, changes the response. Picture a backyard where high fences block the view, and imagine rising up in a balloon.  The limitation of the fences fall away by adding a new dimension of awareness.  The Presencing Institute, investigating the "intersection of science, consciousness, and social change" at MIT's Sloan School of Management, recently released a paper called "Axial Shift", describing an additional perspective for examining the political, economic, and educational issues of the 21st century. The following is excerpted from that paper.
            The traditional 20th century political division of left versus right is expanded with an orthogonal axis of open versus closed. We are familiar with the closed model, now dominant in countries such as America and Brazil (although election of Trump and Bolsonaro are symptoms of the closed problem, not the cause).  "The closed model amplifies Fear (closed will), Hate (closed heart), and Ignorance (closed mind) through five behaviors: blinding (not seeing reality); de-sensing (not empathizing with others); absencing (losing the connection to one’s highest future); blaming others (an inability to reflect); and destroying (destruction of nature, relationships, and self)".
            One example is mass shootings: "not looking at the real issues, such as gun laws (blinding); not empathizing with the real victims (de-sensing); claiming that the student activists are paid actors (absencing); blaming the victims for not defending themselves (blaming others); and putting the community on a path toward civil war (self-destruction)".
            Another example is climate change: "not accepting scientific evidence (blinding); not empathizing with the increasing number of victims, particularly in the global South (de-sensing); dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency (absencing); actively undermining the credibility of climate science and climate scientists (blaming others); and pulling out of the Paris Agreement (putting civilization on a path toward self-destruction)".
            The lesser practiced open model amplifies Courage (open will), Compassion (open heart), and Curiosity (open mind) with five complementary behaviors: seeing,sensingpresencing (capacity to connect with deep sources within)crystallizing (group commitment), and co-creating.
            "Open versus closed is not new.  What’s new today are three conditions: that the issue is now playing out globally; that we have only one decade left to transform our economies and societies in line with the planetary boundaries for sustainable development; and that social media are amplifying the toxic behaviors (i.e., the cycle of absencing) on levels not seen before".
            Economic discussion traditionally focuses on growth, with debate between government intervention on one side and free market private processes on the other. But mushrooming debt limits government intervention and the 2008 crash showed limitations of the market process. The deeper question is "growth of what?"  The convenience of financial quantification made growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) easy to monitor.
But GDP measures output, not outcome, and social well-being is not the same as more goods and services.  Rising health care costs increases GDP, but reflects increased social misery, and increasing consumption on a finite planet is suicidal.  
            An alternative to the material growth paradigm is a focus on well-being for all. Some examples are Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness indicator or the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (no poverty, zero hunger, good health, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable clean energy, decent work, innovative industry, reduced inequality, sustainable cities, responsible consumption, climate action, and peace).
            The old left/right discourse in education debated public versus private schools .  "The new discourse focuses on the type of learning: memorizing facts vs. whole child approaches to learning that integrates head, heart, hand.  The Montessori school system is a good example, as is the Finnish education system. Automation and the artificial intelligence revolution are already reshaping society, replacing jobs based on skills learned by memorizing figures, formulas, and facts, challenging humanity to cultivate human compassion, empathic human services, collective creativity, deep listening, generative dialogue, and collective presence."
            "The difference is not ideology, it is consciousness, the quality of how we connect: shifting from ego-system awareness to eco-system awareness, from me to we.  The Presencing Institute is an effort to transform our old civilizational structures through bridging the ecological, social, and spiritual divides."  To read the whole article, go to