Monday, August 4, 2014

If Tomorrow Never Comes

In the past several days, I've been too busy to write a blog post.  "I'll try to get to it tomorrow," I've said as I lay down in bed a night too tired to open up my computer.  Were it not for a late night flight to South Texas tonight, I wouldn't be writing now.  I'd be sleeping.  In my mobile office at 35,000' over somewhere dark the pale glow of my computer screen is beckoning to me and so, game on!

I had the honor of experiencing a four dimensional socioeconomic interaction in the past few days.  I couldn't help but see how much of what we tend to bring to our impulse to enter into enterprise is shaped by tacit perspectives that represent assent to volitional projections of others - sometimes across centuries or millenia.  Allow me to grossly simplify the dimensions for the purpose of elucidating some insight.

We were joined by stewards of North American First Nation, African American, Euro-American, and Asian Fusion heritage.  In our gathering, a number of energies were explicitly manifest in a rather ironic literal sense.  And, to be clear, we were assembled around a few common convergent impulses - the proliferation of meaningful and complete financial and economic literacy, ethical and transparent social impact, and, a shared sense that we could make a difference in the world.  As a participant-observer-orchestrator, I had the curious perspective informed by relationships with each of the assembled while many of them did not have a prior common link.

A couple observations.

There's a quantum difference between reacting to vs. conscripting engagement with perceived opportunity and challenge.  What did seem to define how people engaged in our collaborative weekend was the degree to which people felt capable of marshalling others into their sense of possibility.  When the convening impulse was presented as a response to a crisis or injustice, engagement foundered.  When the convening impulse was presented as an opportunity for an impactful contribution to the effort (not necessarily the outcome), engagement was immediate.  In short, if people were specifically equipped with knowing what they were asked to contribute based on their known capacity, enterprise flowed.  If people were presented with a potentially less consequential "cause", regardless of it's complexity, little emerged at all.  Conscription - the capacity to discern the specific contributions that individuals can make to an undertaking - outperforms conviction that something "should be done."

The currency of abuse is subject to counterfeit.  With modest perception, one can readily see massive social dislocation in each of the heritages represented.  Whether it's dislocation from homelands, dissolution of constructive familial ecosystems, susceptibility to environmental and political capriciousness or any of the myriad of challenges, each of the groups named above have experienced all or most of them.  However, when a perception of injustice or harm to a community with which one affiliates infects the capacity to engage with others, a strange dynamic emerges.  On the surface one could conclude that communities with the apparent longest exposure to persistent oppression should have the greatest sense of reactivity.  The casual reader could imagine, from the list above, the relative sense of reactivity vs. structural engagement represented in the societal classifications I used to describe the gathered above.  But such a projection would be in error.  Explicit first person experience of abuse (a more rational argument for reactivity) did not correlate with reaction vs. thoughtful engagement.  Let's face it: my ancestors who were imprisoned, tortured and, burned at the stake for their religious beliefs in Europe were no less displaced than North American First Nations.  When I hear ethnographers speak of "indigenous" or "aboriginal" knowing from land, sky, and flora and fauna, my heart yearns for the knowledge that was exterminated when my ancestors were driven from their homelands.  Is the remembrance of lost culture more painful than its temporal remote amnesia?  Of course not.  But invoking abuse as a means to alter present or future outcomes is empty.  The pain of separation and loss is a phenomenal opportunity to shun carelessness and expediency in unconsidered neglect today and a resoluteness to avoid repetition of callousness in the future. 

Our myths are broken.  With the aid of time machines travelling in any directional illusion, we'd likely find a distribution of decent people acting decently and a minority of bad actors acting badly.  And, I'd hazard to guess that in each period of any cycle, there'd be a complacent set for whom systems are working fairly well and for whom incumbency preservation is the mandate.  I suspect there'd equally be a large set operating under some imposed (self or other) subjugation for whom "change" would be the prayer.  Idyllic pasts are infused with as much revisionism as prophetic heavens.  And neither exist outside of escapist delusions.  From the Eden and Babel stories of a god that fears the created aspiration of his alleged own creation to the transcendental narcissism of sublimated auto-enlightenment, it's time that we discard the illusion of "creating a better" anything.  Our challenges do not arise from an absolute absence of anything other than our capacity and discipline to perceive and discern.  And when we organize our impulse towards a "better" outcome, it would be pretty helpful to accurately define the condition we seek to leave and the metrics used to discern arrival.  I'm getting dangerously close to a nut allergy around the "change for better" clamoring that I hear.  I'm far more interested in repurposing, co-opting, and inviting the system that is in place to consider its own self-interest in making things work with greater persistence and generative sustainability.

You can't see "diversity".  None of the social descriptors I used to introduce the assembled were effective at describing the life-force stewarded by each individual.  The more explicitly grounded to purpose and productive experience, the more effective the contribution; the more dissociated, the less effective.  And you'll notice that I referred to all the gathered as stewards of heritage.  None of them "were" the labels that can be irresponsibly applied.  The diversity that matters is that derived from assimilated experience and is manifest in receptivity to impulses to and from self and to and from others.  Our phenotypic profile is meaningless if we cannot enlist it to reintroduce our native self in engagement with the collaborating ecosystem.

Today was a great day.  The last several days were amazing and filled with productivity infused with fellowship.  I'm better for it and I trust, in its sharing, you picked up a little taste of what went down in our neighborhood.  But what really hit home was my resolution to live with all I've got now; make an impact; be stunning; be brilliant.  In that way, I'll continue to avoid the procrastinator paradox of piling into tomorrow what I should have engaged today.  Best of all, I'll be working with great people - as I was this weekend - with whom I'll get to celebrate the delicacy of each cumulative moment.

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Thank you for your comment. I look forward to considering this in the expanding dialogue. Dave