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.

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