But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change. With the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. Thomas Jefferson
This piece is the second of two posts on worldviews. The first was The Mechanistic Worldview.
The mechanistic worldview has exhausted its ability to solve our most complex and urgent problems. This worldview has been eclipsed by a more encompassing worldview, which I call the ecological worldview that offers new knowledge and understanding for solving the severe threats we face. The mechanistic worldview works for space travel, accounting systems, and other linear processes but not for living systems.
The destructiveness of the dark side of the incomplete mechanistic worldview is apparent. We watch climate change evolve and worsen before our eyes: species go extinct, and forests burn. Mass migrations begin and are met with violence. Droughts make life unlivable. People die. Republican politics and politicians regress: separating children from their parents at the Southern border: That’s not America. We see the decline of our institutions and the lack of integrity in many of our leaders. Corruption is the culture of the White House. Images of these things break our hearts. We live in fear and anxiety. Aggression surrounds us. And our president and Republicans in Congress deny or justify it.
America’s president is the personification of the dark side of the failed mechanistic worldview. Those who want to guzzle, raze, and reduce much of our world to ashes and wastelands for ego, money, power, and greed resist change mightily. When a worldview is in deep decline, and nothing can renew it, those invested in it eventually lie, cheat, and steal to maintain their power.
A significant minority of Americans support this destruction, somehow thinking that they will benefit from it. They are not thinking straight, and their ignorance, blindness, and false beliefs drag the country and their communities down. Robert Greenleaf wrote in The Servant Leader that the real enemy is fuzzy thinking of the part of good, intelligent, vital people…
We still have time to change our thinking and take dramatic actions to save the planet as we know it, but time is growing shorter faster than anticipated. Millions do think clearly and want transformative change. But we need more urgency. Every day of delay leads to enormous suffering, more annihilation, and makes transformation more unlikely.
Patterns of thinking hold us in their grip. If then, we want to change society, we must begin by changing the way that we think — Danah Zohar in the Quantum Society.
Our worldview will not be changed by those who cling to the problems we face. As long as they make money and hold power, the scoundrels will continue doing things they know are wrong. Our view of how life works most optimally will be changed by new thinking from new people.
America needs fresh people with new minds in power. This year’s elections allow us to elect new leaders who are younger, diverse, and with more women at all levels of government.
Changes in how we relate to the world.
Sit down before nature like a little child, and be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abyss Nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.
The ecological worldview began to form with the discoveries of quantum theory early in the last century, followed by the learnings from the study of living systems. This worldview focuses on life itself and the relationships that connect all living things. The ecological worldview is striking in its similarity to the organic worldview of indigenous cultures, most of which were destroyed by the mechanical thinkers of our industrial world. Science is discovering what nonmoderns have known for thousands of years.
When we look through the lens of an ecological worldview, we see the world differently than when we look through a mechanical lens. Ethics, spirit, values, quality, deep awareness, and the five senses again matter. We have new thoughts, feelings, and will see transformative creative possibilities. We speak and write differently.
The universe is alive: a network of dynamic relationships that are interconnected and interdependent–not dead and mechanical. Betterment flows from the totality as the diverse elements interact and self-organize together in patterns that optimize and sustain the essence of the whole. We see life organically rather than mechanically. Change is not linear or mechanistic.
We need to think exponentially. We see networks, processes, patterns, beliefs, and relationships. We can influence events but cannot have total control, accurate prediction of distant events, or certainty. We must shift from unawareness to mindfulness of ourselves and the world around us. Chaos, paradox, and discontinuous change happen faster and faster. They require us to be mindful. Margaret Wheatley wrote, Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful. Absent awareness, we are lost.
The mechanistic worldview is an either/or world. Either/or thinking gives the illusion of control and stability. Dualistic thinking creates enemies, simplifies relationships unrealistically, and establishes boundaries to defend. Either/or thinking is not helpful in the world of quantum physics and living systems.
The ecological worldview is primarily a both/and world. We transcend fragmented parts with rigid boundaries and identify with a more inclusive whole, often with permeable boundaries. Both/and thinking provide space for our creative abilities and relationship skills. Humans are a presence in nature, just like the species of plants and animals. People are part of the unbroken whole–not separate, detached, and superior. This world is the alive and creative world of choices–a world of gray–a both/and world where little is certain.
This world was never as self-evident to me as the day I sat in a small boat in the Baja of California bobbing in light waves. I watched as a 40 foot long and 40-ton great gray whale surfaced beneath the boat and introduced her new child to the boat’s elated occupants. I peered into the large, serene eye of the mother and tried to imagine her life. Her gentle and knowing return of my enthusiastic reaction linked us in a mystical moment. I realized that in one slight movement, she could destroy the boat and kill its occupants. Instead, she chose to form a relationship with us. The mother and child floated with the boat for a few minutes. They allowed the exhilarated people to touch them and to lean over and kiss the barnacle-covered parent before mother and child submerged and disappeared. For a few short moments, the sky, the ocean, the people, the bobbing boat, and the whale and her child were one interconnected living system.
An ecological thinker’s purpose is sustainability. In the subatomic world, elements are life-like, in a relationship, exchange information always, and transform based on these dynamics. Humans are alive and meant to be in a relationship with one another and with the life around them. We develop through our relations with all of life.
We cooperate with our environment rather than be at war with nature in our insane rush to consume her. Living in monocultures is not sustainable; diversity is our strength. To be sustainable requires that growth must be limited, and our economic systems transformed. These “rules” are how life works optimally.
Institutions aren’t the only things that have to stay current with new knowledge. We, people, do too. We would be wise to examine our assumptions and change how we think to adapt ourselves to the insights and illumination that emerge from Quantum Physics and the New Sciences. Life calls us to evolve our awareness and creativity, to engage with others and learn together, lead differently, and transform how we live on the planet, Then we will develop ourselves and live sustainably.
If we refuse this call, we do so at our peril.
From 1991-94, I was privileged to lead a business unit that, I later learned, embraced the concepts of Quantum Physics and Chaos Theory. My first learning about the science merging with leadership and organizations came from author and consultant Meg Wheatley. I recommend her book, Leadership and the New Science (Third Edition).
My eBooks at Amazon.com offer more insight into my learning: Learning to Live: Essays on Life & Leadership and Value Driven Leadership: A Story of Personal & Organizational Transformation.