Monday, September 23, 2013

The Multiplicity and 'Me': Sliding Down the Intellect to the Heart

For weeks, this blog space was focused on the literacy of reframing reality and what it takes. Much of the beginning work of reframing can be done in the head, applying the intellect to looking from a different vantage point, shifting perspective to at least try on a new way of thinking.  But acting on new insights to change habits of thought takes intention, discipline and practice.  It also takes tuning into our feelings and sliding down the chute from our heads to our hearts [probably along the Vagus nerve]. So does managing multiplicity,

You can’t really manage the whole and the Multiplicity externally, out in the world of interactions, unless you are managing it internally.  And, that can only be done at the level of the heart, opening the heart.  It's one thing to intellectually understand the opportunity of so many minds and talents and perspectives coming together; it's another to actually open to what that looks like day-to-day.

Day-to-day, it looks like extending invitations to those around us--continuous invitations that takes us from I + Other to I + We. This goes way past the terms that I see in leadership books and leadership courses, where we are exhorted to offer:
  • ·       Respect
  • ·       Tolerance
  • ·       Listening
We throw these terms around like they are the answer. These terms in action may be a good start, but they’re not sufficient to the world we are living in now or the solutions we are stalking to big issues.

How do we move to a place of real invitation for others to come to our tables and work with us?

In the 1990s, I read Starhawk’s provocative novel, The Fifth Sacred Thing, proposing a possible future in a post-apocalyptic world. In the novel, a small enclave of people has escaped the [typical] society of militarized, enslaved repression to create an integrated ecosystem of belonging, earth-honoring, and non-violence.

I have reread the book at least five times over the years.  It’s not my favorite work stylistically, and the themes of the very different cultures and governance structures feel stereotypical by now, but the book still inspires me every time I pick it up.
I have carried one particular piece of it with me every time I facilitate a dialogue or a summit or a strategic planning session or a community encounter: in the story, when the soldiers from the oppressive regime invade the militarily defenseless eco-community, the ‘citizens’ continuously invite the soldiers to sit down with them and to join them in a meal, using the phrase,  “There is a place set for you at our table.”*

It’s their form of non-violent resistance, offering a clear image of 
the opportunity of human connection.  Think of it: In our megaworld community, we are constantly engaged in planetary meal making and consuming and replanting and reharvesting at the global table.  We are all called on to manage multiplicity and to find ways to sit down together, over and over again.

I am coming to the conclusion that MANAGING MULTIPLICITY probably has the highest learning curve and the highest stakes of the literacies I've been exploring.

Why?  Because it takes deeply integrating and practicing at least two of the assumptions that underlie all six literacies:
  • ·       We are interdependent and we all long to belong, [in fact, we all do belong.]
  • ·       We are both self-interested and capable of great compassion and empathy. 
Managing multiplicity is our greatest leadership challenge.  It is our work. And our Earth home is giving us lots of opportunities to see what working with wholeness feels like, to practice everyday, right now, to become literate, whether we want to or not. 

My long-time good friend, Ravi Pradhan, wrote the following comment on my Facebook page after reading the first post on Multiplicity—he writes about how we find the path and practices to manage multiplicity:

“The challenge is how do we actually generate it within our own mind/heart? Without a real "practice" it is not possible to do it just with intellectual understanding. Yet, many of us continue to believe in the superstition that an intellectual understanding will generate it…intellectual understanding can put you on a path, whatever tradition it may be. However, without a real practice, one cannot progress too far on the path.”

Yes, how do we generate the compassion and curiosity necessary to offer continuous invitation to one another?

Here's a question to consider and share your insights, if you wish, in the Comments section below:

What are your most vivid experiences of real invitation, extended or received? What are those experiences teaching you about how to live in a state of invitation?

*By the way, a film is being made now of The Fifth Sacred Thing, and they are looking for more funding.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Multiplicity and Interdependence

When I was in graduate school in international relations, I remember being struck by the varieties of bi-lateral and multi-lateral international, regional and global relations.  The idea of international interdependence was gaining traction in the 1980s, but as we looked at the nature of interdependence, professors talked about some countries being more dependent on other nations; countries were sometimes described as ‘center’ or ‘periphery’ nations, with center countries having more resources, stature and power.

In the early 1990s, I heard Dr. James Rosenau, then professor of International Affairs at George Washington University, shed welcome light on nation-state relations by talking about the turbulence of complex systems, creating an international system of ‘cascading, complex, asymmetrical interdependence.’  It seemed to me the best description of the layered relations that countries had to navigate. Within those relations were the issues brought on by absolutely essential resource needs, such as oil, that influenced all other commercial trade relations, plus immigration issues, educational exchanges, defense systems, foreign aid, political alliances, and issues of sovereignty infringements. The list goes on. 

Think about the complexity of the global conversation on Syria right now.

Being a head of state these days turns a person’s hair gray and adds lines to the face. Just grasping the edge of the complex implications of nation-state level decision-making seems to take a cast of experts, and the picture is still hard to see. Too many moving pieces.

Rosenau died in 2011. Interestingly, his last book, published in 2007, was PEOPLE COUNT! THE NETWORKED INDIVIDUAL IN ‘WORLD POLITICS.

In it, he made the leap from the power dynamics of nation-states to the emergent power of connected individuals.

Quoting from the Amazon book description,  “People Count! rests on a single but important premise: As the world shrinks and becomes ever more complex, so have people as networked individuals become ever more central to the course of events. The age of the nation-state has yielded to the age of the individual…”

Networked individuals—multi-faceted, multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multi-local, multi-committed, multi-believing, multi-generational, multi-incomed, multi-habituated, multi-believing, multi-framed, multi-valued, multi-spiritual and multi-religious, multi-gendered, multi-political, multi-techno, multi-networked, multi-desiring….. what other ‘multis’ might you add here?

The multiplicity in action.

And, It’s not just the interdependence and interconnectedness among humans but also with other species.

Managing multiplicity includes thinking about and connecting to not only our impacts on other species and plant life on earth but also their impact on us.

We are hearing that the ways we manage our chemicals and pesticides look like they have killed somewhere up to 60% of all honeybees and that the die-off has enormous implications for our crops and ecosystem balance, no small thing.

Just when, as leaders, we think that we can’t deal with one more variable, perspective or connected impact, another set surfaces.  That’s what managing multiplicity is about—we’re not able to be successful with a linear, incremental, partial inclusion approach.  It’s coming at us, whole cloth, all the time, in all its complex beauty.

The Multiplicity.

I’ll be commenting on some ways to think about and get more literate in managing multiplicity in the next posts.