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
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
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
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
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
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
- value cooperation
more than competition (does not mean excluding competition as a creative
- 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
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
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
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