Man is a seed and the world is his apple; and just as the seed
fares in the apple, so does man fare in the world, which surrounds him.
What is a code? In law, it’s a corpus containing several laws or provisions. In informatics, it’s a system of signs and rules enabling the transmission of a message. Code is law, cryptographic developers say. A jurist would smile and nod in agreement.
Coding, in biochemistry, is the set of rules whereby living cells translate the information encrypted in genetic material. The backbone of DNA interpreted and laid out for us. Used for the right purposes, the process of coding unlocks powerful tools we may employ in our struggle for survival as a species.
Imagine. Just think about it — coding the DNA of life. Eccentric and fantastical as this might sound, the idea of harnessing and applying nature’s laws and patterns of systemic health, renewal, and organization to the design of socio-economic systems is neither new nor farfetched — and, now, the emergence of crypto as a new language is offering us our best chance of success.
Laws are, by definition, universal. The laws of life, the patterns, and principles of regenerative vitality are no exception. And, by this tenet, it would be possible to design a better organizational system by which to lead our lives — a system that is regenerative in and with nature. Understanding life’s principles –its “DNA”– could allow us to craft a new socioeconomic order, shaped in the mold of living systems.
Just imagine prospering without struggle, thriving without violence, “untroubling and untroubled”, as the peasant poet John Clare yearned to live — “the grass below, above the vaulted sky”. A commons of life’s abundance.
Not Cockaigne, though, or a gift — but the result of looking to nature, of deploying hitherto neglected resources, of subjecting ourselves to a strict rule of respect and humility to reach our goal. And the rewards are huge, generous, and all-encompassing. In the words of Percy Bysshe Shelley, we can be “made one with Nature” — not through death, as in his haunting work Adonais, but through its very opposite. A world, enhanced and magnified, coming to us even as we go forth to meet it.
Consider again. A seed that has found fallow ground, the right place in which to thrive. After a winter buried in darkness and unknowing, spring has given its permission — the womb in which the little seed lies may trigger the latter’s full potential. A fragile stem peeks out of the earth, then reaches upwards tentatively. Life.
The challenge, then –and let me not deceive you, it can feel like a daunting one–, is to foster growth and create a healthy ecosystem for life to prosper. Animals, vegetables, fungi — all are needed and all are to be nurtured. The code instructions (some would say “algorithms”) for this are simple and rely on the principles of regenerative vitality. Let us take a look at them, as laid out by John Fullerton several years ago.
The first principle requires us to be innovative, adaptive, and responsive. The path towards sunlight is not easy, coming, as we do, from the damp darkness of the earth. Life, if it is to take hold, must twist and contort itself through the cracks, squeeze between stone and clod, grope towards the warmth it senses but cannot see. It needs to shape its rhythms to the humidity of the ground, growing resilient to floods and dry periods.
As per the second principle, our system must honor community and place, be these ever so humble. It must acknowledge its origins in the blind earth where it will unfold its roots, braiding the earth below it, creating space for insects and mycelia and fungi to develop too. This is the ancient notion of entelechy — from the Greek entelécheia, a term coined by Aristotle and transliterated into Latin as entelechia. According to Oliver Sachs, the word combines entelēs (ἐντελής, “complete, full-grown”) and echein (hexis, meaning “to be a certain way by the continuing effort of holding on in that condition”) — with perhaps also a pun on endelecheia (ἐνδελέχεια, “persistence”) by inserting telos (τέλος, “completion”). Is this Greek to you? It shouldn’t be.
Following the third principle, the system we are envisioning should respect holistic wealth creation — heeding and remembering its ambition to bring forth life, but doing so in a healthy manner, by filling the plains and slopes of this valley with fellow trees, all of them the fruit of its seeds. The hubristic and irresponsible seeking of individual goals has no place in a harmonious society structured around the vital principle, as countless legends and myths from all times and cultures will tell you.
Fourthly, the growth of the stem, later a trunk, that seeks the sky is a quest for balance — our system feeds on harmony and respect for natural rhythms. The sap of our plant is a perpetual search for balance, for the concord and unity that interconnect every part of an ecosystem. This plant knows it is a portion of something bigger and instinctively plays its part in the whole. Mind you do not fail to see the forest for this one tree.
Dancing with the wind, finding its own kind of balance between roots and canopy, our living system –this plant or tree we are so lovingly nurturing– needs robust circulation of CO2, nutrients, and the humidity its roots capture. This is the fifth principle and it relates to interaction and the back-and-forth movement between elements.
The sixth principle, empowered participation, sets the conditions for life by engaging in a meaningful involvement with the whole. Through photosynthesis, our plant converts light into oxygen and chemical energy. This plant is not passive, but an agent in its own transformation and continued hold on life. To quote again from Shelley’s beautiful words, “Through wood and stream and field and hill and ocean / A quickening life from Earth’s heart has burst / As it has ever done, with change and motion”.
Seventhly, this blossoming plant, the new socioeconomic order in which we put all our trust for a sustainable future, needs to be in right relationship with others of its kind. In our example, trees communicate with each other, exchanging nutrients and information through their roots and sending messages to each other via the secretion of chemicals. In Shelley’s poem, this complex involvement is a form of energy, “bursting in its beauty and its might / From trees and beasts and men into the Heaven’s light”. The virtuous interaction of all the system’s elements create a sustainable environment, thus ensuring our survival as a species and that of our planet — “Heaven’s light” shining at last on humankind and its embattled abode.
The eighth and last principle of regenerative vitality, edge effect abundance, involves the good consequences that arise and spread whenever the system functions correctly. In the case of our fictional plant, its beautiful flowers will attract insects and birds that will pollinate them or feed on them, thus setting in motion a cycle of endless possibility. The plant’s seeds will travel enormous distances to bring life to other valleys, eventually creating whole forests, coded at the core to ensure continuity and nourishment. In the same manner, a non-predatory economy allows different agents to thrive and “pay it forward”, creating a golden cycle of positive enabling and improvement.
These eight principles work in an interdependent, comprehensive combination to create conditions for emergence. It is easy to see how a system built around such a code would be capable of reproducing and sustaining itself by creating its own parts and, eventually, further components. This is what Nora Bateson has called aphanipoiesis (from aphanis, Greek for “obscure” or “unseen”, and poiesis, Greek for “to bring forth” or “to make”, which is also where the word “poetry” comes from). From the darkness –the earth, but also our own inner serenity, responsibility and lack of selfish turmoil– harmony is bound to come.
This aphanipoiesis is also an autopoiesis, given that the seed’s code triggers this continuous cycle of life, rebirth, and emergence — an ever-evolving syntropy, but not exactly “breaking news”, since nature has been doing it forever.
Biologist and Nobel laureate Albert Szent-Gyorgyi refers to syntropy as an “innate drive in living matter to perfect itself”. It is this tendency towards life that, we posit, can and should be applied to human economy and social organization structures.
The opposite of syntropy is entropy, which involves energy dissipation and disorder and is also at play in living systems and other forms of organization. In a balanced organization (such as the dual-energy solution first described by mathematician Luigi Fantappiè), entropy could be controlled as well as harnessed towards better human structures, minimizing crises and enhancing cohesion, unity, and order. Synchronicity between syntropy and entropy is key, and, most relevantly, attainable.
“As mentioned in an earlier post, a new language, crypto, is stemming from the previously unseen and demanding that we deploy all our capacity for coding, building on our resilience and drive for regeneration, in alignment with the DNA of life”.
Our way of life is at a crossroads. This fork in the road involves a choice, and the choice we make will have a direct impact on our future and our very ability to remain on this planet. It is imperative that we turn to the eight principles of regenerative vitality and apply these very ancient and at the same time very real rules to the systems around which humans build their societies and economies. Nature is showing us the way to be free from “that unrest which men miscall delight” and to shed predatory and loot-based systems in favor of “that Power … Which wields the world with never-wearied love, / Sustains it from beneath, and kindles it above”.
According to Charles Darwin, it is not the strongest or the most intelligent who survive, but those who are most responsive to change. Humankind as a species could do worse than remember this famous quote and embrace its underlying notions, as it hurtles towards an unprecedented, staggering change of the type our minds can barely make sense of.
Humankind hurtles towards a staggering change of the type our minds can barely make sense of.
I have often addressed the nature of these mutations, which are picking up speed like never before and involve the kind of leap that used to take many centuries to coalesce into a new kind of civilization. I have discussed –and will discuss again– the newest global language, represented (as I have argued) by cryptocurrencies and other virtual phenomena which are replacing traditional forms of interaction, including the ways in which we trade, invest, and produce. I have held that in the intricacy and complexity of modern life, together with the very real risk of overstepping our planetary boundaries beyond repair, a hitherto unknown paradigm has begun to emerge and that the relevant knowledge and unfolding cultural patterns can’t be jumpstarted, but will have to be learned — and lived.
Also, in previous articles and blog entries, I have tried to map our groping progress, as we try to grapple with the exponential growth of social and ecological uncertainty and wrap our tongues around this latest language, which is beginning to take shape just beyond the borders of catalytic transformation.
Now I will steer our vessel towards deeper waters, and attempt to describe the accompanying developments — not the global, mind-boggling ones taking place throughout the planet, but the inner transformation happening inside each human being as he or she realizes, whether consciously or intuitively, that regeneration is required at the profoundest level. And I will tell you something about my vision of the basic principles and ideas on which this transformation, this making-anew, should run.
The astounding shifts which the human species is currently experiencing do not only happen “out there”, in what I like to define as an “adjacent possible” — rather, they are mirrored by a swelling, vivid transition of equal magnitude happening inside of us and across our multi-layered, variegated consciousness.
As well as having to learn a paradigm-shattering new language, we are being required to align ourselves to a common, all-encompassing purpose involving an evolved consciousness. This consciousness has become poignantly aware of its own entropy (for example, the impossibility of continuing to grow in an extractive and destructive manner in a finite planet) and understands that the coming paradigm is, of necessity, regenerative.
This is humanity at its best — evolving, shape-shifting, wrestling with seismic change, and turning, deliberately or not, to the regenerative, holistic patterns formerly cast aside in our feverish race towards self-annihilation.
We are in the presence of incredible novelty and of the breakdown of forms and habits that have been with us for so long, life without them can seem scary and brittle. Like animals before an earthquake, most people can sense that something momentous is happening, even if few have the desire or ability to stop in their tracks and ascertain what it is. What we all share is the capacity of drawing from our common, holistic inner resources to strengthen ourselves towards this unheard-of journey.
Several years ago, in 2015, John Fullerton laid out the eight principles of a regenerative economy, which are of use to us now, in our attempt to explain the transformation taking place within and without us and strive to align ourselves and our fragmented, harried lives with the shifts our world is undergoing:
These principles enable us to view the world, and our lives taking place within it, in a systemic, holistic, and interdependent way that encourages the flow and circulation of resources. Crucially, this includes viewing wealth holistically, as opposed to wielding it predatorily, in the ravaging and exploitative manner in which it has been used so far.
Explaining how these principles will shape the world’s new economy, Fullerton has said: “What remains [ahead of us] is the immense challenge to spur a broad awakening to the profound social and economic transition it implies. […] This quest’s most important discovery was that universal principles and patterns of systemic health and development actually do exist, and are known to guide behavior in: living systems from bacteria to human beings; nonliving systems from hurricanes to transportation systems and the Internet; and societal systems including monetary systems and yes, economies”.
His principles can be applied to our current dilemmas and to the fraught complexity of our times, helping us to “craft a coherent narrative around [this paradigm] so that it may be applied to defuse today’s global threats, particularly those arising from outdated and at-times-misguided beliefs in business, finance, and economics” (the words, which I wholly endorse, are again Fullerton’s).
Not by mere coincidence, these principles are also aligned with the patterns and axioms of open source. Originally referring to software codes made freely available for use, modification, and redistribution, the phrase’s meaning has come to include other decentralized models and systems encouraging open collaboration. In this spirit of community, sharing, purpose, and accountability, it is my and my fellow thinkers’ intention to facilitate our inner shifting towards awareness and evolution by creating a DARE (Decentralized Autonomous Regenerative Enterprise) that runs on both the protocols of open source and the patterns and principles of living systems.
The aim and ultimate objective of this ecosystem is to unleash the new syntropic forces at our disposal and to harness the regenerative powers that will make our life on this planet sustainable. In this context and scheme, wealth is, to borrow Buckminster Fuller’s ideas, the ability to sustain ourselves in the long run — as opposed, I may add, to humankind sizzling and spluttering out like a candle, lost forever into the vast darkness of a dark universe.
Not strong, then, or even intelligent (though both strength and intelligence will play a large part in survival) — but, rather, responsive to change. Humans invented writing, math, sailing, the wheel, the Internet — all these allowed us to change the form of our lives and societies, making shape-shifters of us. We are now faced with unthinkable danger as well as unthinkable opportunity, and the question is — how will the shape-shifters respond?
By Ernesto van Peborgh
We live in moments of dramatic change, we’ve entered into an era that intertwines complexity with exponentially, and it seems that our current frameworks of reference, our logic, our systems of organization, of coherence and decision-making mechanisms are inadequate to deal with the challenges we face.
This also makes us innately conservative and defensive of our current circumstances — what cognitive psychologists call the status quo. Thus, they argue, we become relatively mediocre or foolish when faced with big issues and can relate to a question only partially, by addressing tasks or seeking tools for each particular matter. Like a Swiss penknife, the brain has things it never needs and does not even know the use of.
Ernst F. Schumacher argues that we human beings are prepared to solve “convergent” type problems.
Convergent problems are those that can be approached via solutions which converge little by little and in a growing manner, until at last one of them consolidates itself as the stable and most appropriate answer for a relatively long time. There are solved convergent problems, but also convergent problems that have yet to be solved. The latter are those that require even more time, research, development, and skill in order to be solved, but that we may suppose shall be answered at some point.
However, it also often happens that, faced with certain problems, numerous groups of highly specialized and competent persons propose alternative solutions that are contradictory. Not only do these answers not converge but, on the contrary, “the more they are clarified and logically developed, the more they diverge, until one group seems to be the exact contrary of the other” (see A Guide for the Perplexed). We are thus facing divergent problems.
Schumacher points out that, in the terrain of politics, the contraries most often pitched against each other are liberty and equality. Liberty favors the strongest, those able to thrive on their own means, while the weak suffer. In this scenario, there is no trace of equality. On the other hand, an equitable policy requires a decrease in freedom, unless there is intervention from a higher level. “We do not know who invented the French Revolution’s motto, but it must have been someone of extraordinary discernment. To those two contraries, liberty and equality, irreconcilable in ordinary logic, he or she added a third factor or strength, fraternity, coming from a higher transcendent level. Liberty and equality can be established through legislative action supported by force, but fraternity is a human quality.”
The resolution of divergent problems requires the intervention of self-awareness, the human factor par excellence. We cannot expect to have an accurate formula providing a valid and enduring answer to contradictory pairs that are part of the human experience. Divergent problems have no final answers: they require us to put into play superior strengths, such as love and compassion, understanding and empathy — not as occasional drives but as regular and safe resources. For Schumacher, divergent problems bring tension into the world, enhancing man’s sensitivity and increasing his self-awareness.
The awareness we refer to is, on one hand, the one enabling us to distinguish good from evil, but also that which refers to the accurate perception of a situation or fact. Biologist Edward O. Wilson applies the name “consilience” to the knowledge unit that takes place when sciences and humanities meet for the resolution of a problem. This requires developing a holistic –or network, as we shall hereinafter call it– vision for problem-solving.
What role is our culture playing in this? Terence McKenna –who was, among many other things, a writer, philosopher, historian, and faithful representative of the ’60s generation– said that culture is our operational system — not something we learn but a psycho-geographical environment penetrating us, an information layer, a sort of suit of clothes we inhabit in order to live in a specific part of this planet. It is ultimately a program, a common understanding shared by a majority of individuals. This also implies that whatever is alien to that shared system finds it difficult to seep in. This reaction is still a part of our strategies for survival: to reject the unknown, to take refuge in the status quo before investigating the new and standing up to that which does not even rank as a threat. Culture is modified through interaction, and changes are often very slow to arrive, until an evolutional, Copernican leap takes place.
Now is the time when we need to download an update of our culture, to overhaul our operating system.
We need to implement new organizational systems that replace those that are obsolete today.
Our underlying logic, our habits, the processes and the protocols under which we operate are part of an old and obsolete operating system unable to respond to current changes and challenges.
So how do we really prepare ourselves to respond to the changes and disruptions we are experiencing? The technologies to do this are just emerging, but they are still in an embryonic period. We need to activate “consilience”.
As Enrique Valiente Noailles so inspiringly challenges. “How do we go through the mental challenge to which this situation exposes us? The mother of containment and resolution is in this capacity. If humanity loses its final relative calm in the face of this catastrophe, it loses the only thing that is really in its hands… ”
Understanding the foundations of the system under which we currently operate, most probably unconsciously, will allow us to stand on the foundational stone from which we can design a new operating system to discern and understand changes, and find much smarter ways to activate our decision-making mechanisms and sovereignty.
Sovereignty is a term that both Jordan (Green)Hall and Daniel Schmachtenberger have brought into our agenda and define as: “the capacity to take responsibility. It is the ability to be present to the world and to respond to the world — rather than to be overwhelmed or merely reactive. Sovereignty is to be a conscious agent.”
Sovereignty can be understood as consisting of six distinguishable capacities.
We must activate discernment when we enter situations where we have no idea if we are doing right or wrong.
Discernment is the ability to feel whether we should go more in one direction, or less in that direction. It is like when we balance on a railing, we raise the right arm more and the left less or vice-versa in order to maintain equilibrium.
For attunement first, we need coherence.
But to have an idea attunement is like tuning an old radio, we set the dial to one side or the other of the static until we just synchronized the channel. Attunement is to know where exactly we should center our focus.
Coherence is the ability to coordinate a series of related senses and actions and integrate them into a whole.
It is the coherent phenomenon that emerges from the interrelation of different actions or senses that operate in coordination.
Attunement is the bridging relationship between discernment and coherence. As the “tunning” improves, it empowers the integration between them.
Clarity arises when a system or organization enters a state of total coherence.
5) Insight. Then insights emerge.
Insight is an emergent of that interactive whole and allows crises and changes and complexity to be understood in a clear and coherent way.
Mastering these basic abilities allows us to perceive signals and respond with actions with less and less effort. Once these capabilities are mastered and embodied in a coherent whole, that works systemically, it enables us to respond to any possible set of circumstances.
It is my belief, however, that certain requirements need to be in place for this to really work.
The first is Trust.
Trust is necessary, both at the core of the individual that exercises sovereignty, but also among the members and their relationships, within an organization or system that looks to exercise it.
Trust enables collaboration and reciprocity.
Sovereignty also requires Purpose, again, both at the individual and collective levels. Everyone must be aligned under a common purpose, further still, the common purpose must be in alignment with each of the individual purposes of the members that structure that whole.
If this happens, then collaboration is spontaneous, and the aforementioned capabilities automatically kick in.
“Consilience” and sovereignty are activated and emerging higher forces come into play allowing for the resolution of divergent and complex problems.
Language as witness to change. As a consequence of it, driven by complexity and chaos. As a catalyst, at the same time, for a new order. As a phenomenon triggered by crisis, by systemic interaction, by the point of no return humankind currently finds itself at. As plates shift and our comfortable paradigms teeter on the brink of collapse, current languages fail us, and we grope for new systems of communication that can give voice to this startling reality.
Our paradigm teetes on the brink of collapseAccording to Robert K. Logan, language first appeared among our earliest human-like ancestors, or hominids, when the increasing complexity of life became such that percept-based (as opposed to concept-based) thought processes were not enough to explain the world. In this more sophisticated, enhanced existence, which could no longer be handled “based solely on [a] perceptual sensorium”, it can be conjectured that “a new abstract level of order emerged in the form of verbal language and conceptual thinking”.
Fast forward to one of the earliest forms of urban organization as we know it — more specifically, to the Sumerian civilization flourishing in Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq, where, as a consequence of increasingly advanced economies, including new forms of trade, commerce, and taxation, the old pictorial signs were gradually substituted by a set of characters representing the sounds of the spoken language. Writing had been invented.
In both these cases, the intricacy of life, as lived by our forebears, made the current communications systems insufficient, and brought forth new ones — first, a language in which to interpret and expound on a world which could not be grasped by mere perception, but required abstraction and conceptual thought processes; and, much later, a set of symbols to accompany the blossoming of a wholly new urban and social order, which more primitive signs could not serve adequately.
Change and evolution brought about the arguably most important landmarks in human history — the oral and, later, the written language. Mathematics, a language in itself, drove the emergence of other relevant landmarks, such as the wheel, the sail, double-digit accounting, and many more. All of these arose as a consequence of turning points in human civilization — turning points which these landmarks also embodied, drove, and catalyzed.
Like the ancient Sumerians or medieval tradesmen, we are now feeling the pressure of dizzying, mind-numbing change. Our world is mutating faster than we can grapple with, the challenges deeper and more perplexing than ever before, and way beyond our ability to respond.
To quote Charles Dickens’ opening lines to A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair”.
Anguish, uncertainty, and very real danger (of overstepping our planetary boundaries beyond remedy, and of irreversible systemic collapse) coexist with heightened levels of wisdom, determination, and strength. These two dimensions live side by side and sometimes overlap.
Like in the rapidly developing ancient world, the rich tapestry of the Middle Ages, or the heady days of the birth of computing science, tradition and innovation are enmeshed in each other. The difference is that these processes are now much faster, overwhelming, and interwoven with an awareness of the peril humankind is facing as its beleaguered home. The Earth nears a watershed beyond which our survival will be impossible.
In this best and worst of times, fraught with despair and at the same time soaring with hope –for our lives are all of this at the same time–, it is hardly surprising that a new language should begin to emerge, or that those who have the ability, compassion, and commitment should adopt it in all its richness and promise.
There is no way to jumpstart this knowledge — it has to be learned, even as we are galvanized into action, fully and consciously embracing this new paradigm in all its potential, without shunning its dark side, which is the fact that our world is spinning out of control even as we speak.
And, while the new language now emerging will be governed –like any other system– by a set of rules and principles, and organized around patterns and connections (what Jeremy Lent would call a culture’s “patterning instinct”), these rules and principles will have to be learned, espoused and taken to heart in order for the arising paradigm to fulfill its function.
But what is this new language, called for by hitherto unknown complexities, stemming from of the chaos of our twenty-first-century world and demanding that we deploy all our capacity for resilience and regeneration?
I posit that our current times are giving birth to a crypto-language, where Blockchain, Holochain and other technologies will arise as a new accounting system, as decentralized economic fulcrums which may sooner than later replace some of the most crucial –and seemingly unchangeable– models of the collapsing paradigm.
This newly emerged system will be based on a decentralization of the trust, accountability and transparency commonly associated with governments and other “official” institutions, with self-executing “smart contracts” –supported by this new, non-institutional kind of backing– gaining increasing traction on the financial transaction scene.
I further posit that, while it can be predicted that this latest of languages –born out of the unprecedented shifts, challenges, and transitions of our time– will behave according to the patterns and principles long identified by John Fullerton for all living systems, it will be up to each and every one of us to call on our deepest resources of discernment, empathy, and competence to make it thrive, driving the emergence of a new economic and financial paradigm.
Thus, modern-day disquiet, anxiety, and apprehension, as well as the certainty of being at a critical crossroads in our common journey, may be, to quote the visionary poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, “graves from which a glorious Phantom may / Burst, to illumine our tempestuous day”.
The old paradigm is burning out like a candle.
I’m sure you perceive it — if you don’t in your mind, you do in your heart.
An ancient instinct has kicked in to draw meaning from seemingly disconnected facts — your ancient immune system sparking into action.
You sense something has gone awry. Difficult to explain — a vibration that seems to come from the future, similar to an animal’s skill in anticipating events.
You sense the change. The chasm. The abyss.
A paradigm shift is occurring within a single human psychological timeframe — or perhaps, what’s even worse, within a single decade.
Photo: 1FreeWallpaperEverything is changing at a pace greater than we can react to. The world’s prevalent economic and cultural ethos today is one of demise, extraction, and depredation of resources — and that it’s inexorably self-terminating.
If we continue to deploy our system of reckless growth in a finite system, we will destabilize our planet’s limited resources. We are already waist-deep in destabilization.
Current assumptions, attitudes, and procedures are no longer adequate for our times. What we are facing is a paradigm breakdown, where making sense of reality and of our surroundings becomes a new capacity, preparing us for the leap.
Our greatest challenge involves a dual effort — of understanding what is emerging as new and of deconstructing and freeing ourselves from the constraints of the model we have believed until now.
The current paradigm is collapsing to give away to a new, emergent way of thinking, like a flower opens up and then withers to give way to the seed. The natural regenerative decay of nature that yields its place to the new. An element is born, serves its time, and lets go when it has run its course. As the modern-day approach to life on this planet clearly has.
So, how does this process start? It starts with that awry feeling.
In attempting to convey these notions, I can only narrate my own experience — how I reached the frontiers of the current paradigm on a quest of self-discovery.
I’m a man on a quest. I realize, even as I write these words, that they aren’t too original — many of us are embarked on similar processes, striving towards self-discovery. Quest can sound clichéd. So can self-discovery. This age has afforded us an unprecedented opportunity for introspection, for an inquiry into the deepest recesses of our minds, and this very bounty can be a kind of surfeit, making us wary of words like those. Until we share our true stories and understand how they are as varied as our own selves.
My true story, then — shall we call it that? — is one of agency and intention. It’s the story of an ongoing journey that started with a thin crack, a hairline crack. And, because the crack was small and the surface glossy and polished, at first I didn’t notice that something was changing — that my system of beliefs was breaking down and I was starting to question the assumptions and dogmas I had built my whole life around.
The crack widened into a hole. I only realized this when the breeze of change rushed in — and, by the time I began to understand that a paradigm, my paradigm, had been irreversibly altered, the hairline that had become a hole was already a chasm, requiring a leap of faith.
I was on a bus. This true story — we’ve decided to call it that — that is my own could thus be said to begin on a bus I rode in the city of Montevideo. It was January of 2013. In that sea-facing town, open to the wind, a novel feeling came upon me, ruffling my mind. I thought, zephyr. This zephyr moment was triggered by a podcast by economist and philosopher John Fullerton, called The Conversation.
The podcast in question told about a senior director of JP Morgan who had had the courage to go beyond the threshold of established beliefs to construct the basis of a new story and to challenge mainstream finance with conviction and resolve. His tale was mesmerizing, and his story had me following in his footsteps as soon as I could struggle to my feet. An unexpected window had opened, one I could look through if I dared. His courage, clarity, and purposefulness enabled me to travel deep into uncharted territory, to discover fresh perspectives, and, most importantly, to realize that I was walled in by a stagnant and crippling set of cultural constructs and beliefs.
Before I even got off that Montevidean bus, I had understood that I needed to shed my paradigms — that overarching set of constraints, protocols, constructions, and inter-operability systems that regulated my life without my even realizing the extent to which my mind was shackled.
As soon as I got my hands on paper and pen, I wrote down these words. Zephyr. Hole. Wall. Paradigm. Change. I tried to make sense of them. And here is the sense I’ve made, and the ideas I’m attempting to convey: we’ve gone all wrong.
My notions and mindset, I saw then, were those of many — widely shared in modern-day society. And they had gone wrong, led us down the wrong path. The way this particular set of views and cultural dogmas has unfolded is both harmful and dangerous.
For me, the greatest effort was to remove the very thick armor of what had hitherto been my approach to living in this world; and this is a whole story in itself.
Once I felt this awakening, this call, I wanted more — I was activated, on the move, and started developing sense-making capabilities in order to better understand this new paradigm. We could say that sense-making is this new capacity to look through the wall and start understanding how a new meta-construct is emerging — and then look back and compare it to our current narrative.
I started to walk along the wall, treading this no man’s land between two paradigms, looking for and discovering more cracks. What I found was that the current construct was breaking down, as new holes kept opening in the wall and the new paradigm flowed in through them, like the wind that had shaken my notions on that bus in Montevideo. The old paradigm, I realized, was burning out like a candle.
Then came the realization that there is no wall but only a man-made narrative — Manomaya, Sanskrit for “composed by the mind”. Our chains, our shackles are a “mind-sheath” only.
The beauty of this idea is that, since the wall is man-made, it can be torn down by the mind. So the challenge becomes to dismantle this wall so that we can all see the other side and build the bridges to this new dimension.
Bridges are needed because of the chasm I mentioned above.
First, there is uncertainty.
What is unfolding is a future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things — the many possibilities in which the present can reinvent itself.
Then there is exponentiality. Things are happening on an unprecedented scale.
Lastly, there is a time constraint. We need to act fast before it is too late — take a leap which we hope will land us, steadily if not wholly safely, on the other side. Because before we as a species, as a worldwide community, take the leap, we need to find the foundational grounds, the solid basis on top of which these new constructs –our new narrative and structures– can be built. And it’s only with a new consciousness that these grounds can be found.
With this search comes the realization that we are no longer alone, that not only are we joining forces with people whose values we share, but we also partake of their intentions, feelings, and commitment. Indeed, a collective dimension is developing outside of the current worldview.
We are able to cross, intellectually at least, through this opening into a new sphere where a trail seems to unroll that gets wider and clearer as more and more people follow through.
Alas, the crossing is not smooth, but rather turbulent. There are doubts, uncertainty, breakdown of beliefs — you lose the shield you unconsciously built for yourself in order to protect an old identity,
As Marshall McLuhan said, when we are overwhelmed, we fall into simpler patterns of recognition. We fall into the profoundly ingrained knowledge that has preserved us the longest in our evolution as a species — the beliefs which held us together in times even more challenging than these and which are buried deep under the silt of dangerous and damaging modes of operating as a society.
For me, that knowledge includes the following:
Sense-making, then, into these four dimensions — and I stress the word sense because what empowers and informs the capacity for that sense-making is not only knowing, but embodying.
We embody that sense-making in the process that combines discernment and clarity, leading us to understand that we are the interdependent parts of an overall phenomenon — that everything is interrelated — that we are only one part of a complex system.
A system that now needs us in our purest version of ourselves, at full capacity to integrate, regenerate, reconcile.
In this medium I will try to record, as in a journal, the great transition unfolding as my story and yours, diving deep into the emergent universal and ancient guiding coordinates that come to structure the bridges for the transition. I hope this expedition journal leaves a breadcrumb trail for you to follow and join.
This is the challenge and my story. I hope it will be yours.
Ernesto van Peborgh
Entrepreneur, writer, filmmaker, Harvard MBA. Builder of systemic interactive networks for knowledge management.
Unconventional economist, impact investor, writer, and some have said philosopher..