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Thoughts on New Culture

The following was submitted to the NFNC event attendee's discussion list by Patricia Diehl shortly after Summer Camp 2005.

9-16 to 10-6-05

My head is spinning with thoughts inspired by Meg Wheatley's talk and by Bud Pullman's question: what do we mean by "New Culture"?

What is Culture?

Culture is the expression in collective institutions and behavior of the prevailing World View -- i.e. the prevailing beliefs and values which come from our collective assumptions about Reality, about how the world is, how it works, and what is important in the world.

How does a World View evolve?

Our collective assumptions about Reality, like an iceberg, are mostly submerged underwater in the unconscious; we absorb them with our mother's milk. They can and do change as we bring them into consciousness and examine them in the light of our constantly changing experience, both individual and collective.

As assumptions change individually (perhaps as "Aha!'s") that individual wants to share the new experience -- which may lead to the next person examining his/her own experience and assumptions -- and on and on. We also have collective experiences that can change our point of view (extreme examples are 9/11 and Katrina). A cultural shift comes about only as underlying beliefs and values change in the collective psyche -- and I believe that the individual and the collective work on each other in the process of constantly evolving experience and interpretation of experience (i.e. beliefs/values).

How does a Culture evolve?

A New Culture evolves as our collective beliefs about Reality change and we collectively re-assess (re-value) what is most important (i.e. what we care about most). Our World View must change. This is not a straightforward process. As a prerequisite, deeply (often unconsciously) held assumptions must be challenged, questioned and found wanting. New beliefs must be articulated and accepted. And, even more difficult, we must then change the behavior and institutions which reflect the old beliefs and values.

"And Your Point Is"

As I see it, a new World View is in the making, simply because new knowledge, new levels of communication, new contacts, new experience is happening. The question then becomes in what direction will our collective perceptions and common agreements take us? Will we arrive at these consciously? Will we articulate them coherently and effectively? And to what extent can/will we, as individuals, influence the direction of our culture? Will this World View be created consciously, or will it simply come about in reaction to what we perceive as outside forces?

One choice we will be making (consciously or not) is whether we will make the intention to step into the larger dialogue or whether we will be content to talk among ourselves and become a (possibly insular) subculture.

How do we consciously create (or become aware of) a new World View?

I believe there are two essential questions that we must constantly ask:

1. What are my assumptions about the world (really)?

2. What do I want to see in the world?

The first, questioning my assumptions, means at bottom examining my behavior. How did I act/react in that situation? What does that say about what I really think/believe?

The second means visioning and re-visioning the world I want to live in. How does it look? Who does it include? How and for whom does it "work"? For the poor? For the uneducated? For the children? For the elderly? For those of different races, cultures, For those who are physically/mentally challenged? For those who think differently from me? For those who want different things that I want?

Where am I?

So, I am only just beginning to learn what a "new culture" can be. This process started for me 10 years ago (1995) after the first Summer Camp when I set an intention to become a person who could live in a new paradigm (I translate that as "World View") based on an assumption of the One-ness of all Being. That is, everything is an expression of One Reality (I have since heard this termed a World Centric or Integral world view -- that everything/everyone affects everything/everyone else). And, further, -- that Reality is essentially good -- and therefore Love, and that behavior which expresses love, is more important, and indeed is stronger than fear.

At this point my head accepts that we are all One -- yet I more often experience feeling cut off and isolated (mostly by feeling not understood and by feeling not able to understand others).

A second assumption that I hold (at least at the mental level) is that despite all evidence to the contrary and despite what I (and we all) have been taught in the Western world -- at least since the Greek philosophers -- this is not an either/or world. No one viewpoint holds "the answer" and opposites are really contrasts which need one another to even be seen (e.g. good/evil). I do not hold that all viewpoints are equally valid, but that all hold some aspect of truth which contributes to an understanding of the whole, depicted by the yin/yang symbol.

This "aha" came into my "field" when I was 30 (I am now 67), and I have been struggling to incorporate its implications ever since. One of my favorite questions of myself is: "Is this and either/or question?" If not, how do I hold the tension in some sort of balance? Using this simple question, I have come to appreciate how very deeply ingrained the either/or assumption is in my psyche (as well as in the collective).

Don't get me wrong, either/or is a useful mental tool, especially for moving to take action (we must make decisions/choices). It simply is not the underlying principle on which Reality is based. My choice does not have to be pitted against the wrongness of some other possibility. (Although, I do have to admit that I like to be "right").

What do I want/envision in a new culture?

If love is the bottom-line value that I wish to bring forward into the culture-in-the-making, how can I go about it? What are some of its expressions? I can name: openness, appreciation, understanding, empathy, acceptance, curiosity, listening, presence, mindfulness. In my experience, these are easier to articulate than to live. But I can adopt as a practice the cultivation of these behaviors.

A world without violence:
The bottom-line principle expressed by ZEGG is the creation of a world without violence -- i.e. a world at peace. In addition to the SC at ZEGG, which was the inspiration for our own SC, the community in Portugal has created a Peace Camp.

So how do I/we create a world that values peace so much that it actually lives it (a culture of peace), takes it as an assumption of the way to behave in the world? Such a world would:

  • value cooperation more than competition (does not mean excluding competition as a creative incentive)
  • value a harmony, a rich chorus of perspectives, more than "being right."
  • truly value diversity -- not simply tolerate but delight in diversity -- and therefore:
  • truly value choice, both for myself and for others
  • and would delight in a diversity of choice as an indication of the richness of Life.


The valuing of Truth seems to me the foundation of a world without violence. It is a prerequisite of Trust and therefore of an internal sense of safety. It creates the field in which cooperation is possible. And Transparency also creates an environment for acceptance of a diversity of opinions and of choices.

Where Truth and Love are in evidence, Fear dissipates. And fear is the underlying cause of violence and mistrust in the world.


An attitude of curiosity, it seems to me, could mitigate much of the tendency to be judgmental about the choices of others -- or even about my own choices. A habit of asking "What's that all about?" could reduce the tendency to make assumptions and jump to conclusions, to create stories and project them onto others. A self-questioning "Is that true?" could also help bring to mind the possibility that there is more than one way (and perhaps many) to look at a question or situation -- that perhaps an either/or assumption is not valid here.


I want to live in an environment where the emphasis is on what's possible to do here, what alternatives can we create, whether the alternatives are to a situation that is unsatisfactory or simply to add richness to something already wonderful.

Creation is much more satisfactory than fighting against a situation -- and in the end, I believe, more effective. Who can support a vacuum -- a loss of an institution, even a bad one -- unless there is something more appealing, more imaginative, to replace it. This is one of the incentives to continue supporting Summer Camp -- as a place to experiment with alternatives to some of the cultural attitudes and behaviors in which we have been indoctrinated, and which we may now be questioning.

How do we get there from here?

It seems to me that as a beginning, adopting the belief (even if only at the mental level) in the Oneness of all Being, the interconnection of all Life, is basic. Delving into the implications of that belief can lead to a lot of "Aha!'s." And "acting as if" this is true could be quite enlightening.

What is the evolutionary edge of our current world view?

A world-centric worldview is a radical shift in the evolution of human consciousness.

-- In tribal cultures the name for an individual tribe generally seemed to mean "the humans." Within the tribe there was close connection and recognition of interdependence, but everything outside the tribe was often considered "other" (especially people) -- to be respected and treated with caution (ritual fear).

-- Later came raiding and imposing of one people upon another -- a value of "might makes right."

-- In the Middle Ages of "God and King" (really Church and king) there was a premium placed on the values of obedience and duty, as a reflection of an order of life that comes from "out there" -- expressed in the maxim "As above, so below." The collective was more important; the individual was not so much valued. Therefore laws were seen as external rules imposed by "authority." These assumptions are still very much in play in the world.

-- The "scientific" worldview (not necessarily view of scientists -- simply arising from the collective adoption of the theory of evolution) is probably best summed in that view of evolution stated as "the survival of the fittest." One of the most radical aspects is the emphasis on the individual. This view emphasizes the values of competition and control (at the same time as encouraging conformity of behavior by those being controlled, paradoxically). Internal law and will are stressed, as expression of the "laws of nature."

These two essentially incompatible worldviews are now prevailing -- no wonder the world often feel schizophrenic.

A World-Centric view, I believe, must become a synergetic synthesis, balancing the needs and valuing of the individual with the requirements of the collective. I believe this requires a stretching of insight and imagination to see the world in terms embracing both/and values rather than setting up a competitive either/or field. In my view, this can only happen through emphasizing the value of love from which flow the related values of understanding, appreciation, acceptance, listening (taking in the other -- being present to...), as well as fostering transparency, curiosity and creativity. And these values will flow when we truly experience the belief that we are all one -- not just my family, my tribe, my country, even my species -- but all Life.

"Love is much more demanding than law" -- Archbishop Tutu


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