Crisis as Opportunity

“What talents may be dormant in you, and just waiting for these circumstances to call them forth?”

There will be a recurring theme through this series of blogs on social dynamics. That theme is complexity. Integral and Spiral Dynamics approaches both portray our time as one of major transition, driven in large measure by an evolutionary crisis. Our ways of thinking and being are challenged to attain a new level in order to manage a global society characterised by huge and potentially unsustainable cities, ecological pressure, political imbalance and terrorism, economic breakdown, cultural complexity and a sloppy mix of anti-religious scientism with eclectic and holistic spirituality.

Each of these topics impacts our lives and those of our families and friends. This blog will focus on the issues that are close to home. It can be tempting to focus on the inner journey. Many people are now persuaded that there is some form of “field”, a pervading consciousness that both surrounds and inhabits us. It may be labelled “quantum” or characterised as Divine, but the traditional human impulse towards prayer now generalises through multiple approaches of visualisation, attunement, meditation and creative engagement. It can seem that we are being told that if we harmonise ourselves sufficiently, the world will take care of itself.

I am a great believer in the importance of the inner journey. At the same time, one of my favourite sayings comes from the prophet Mohammed, who said “Trust in Allah, but first tether thy camel”. And from oriental traditions of enlightenment comes another such saying, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” Hence these commentaries on the state of the UK and the world. Once we might have said “no man is an island”. No island is an island any more either; air travel has made the physical image redundant and global connectedness has made it obsolete at an informational and emotional level too. This morning’s news makes me simultaneously aware of 14 million souls affected by Pakistan flooding, 700 separate drought-induced fires wiping out Russian grain-harvests and a 10 square mile piece of ice that yesterday was called Greenland now floating free in the North Atlantic.

So we have many camels in need of tethering. They are big and small, young and old, short-term and long, local and distant. It can be hard to have a sense of proportion. Even to consider them all threatens overwhelm and one response might be to undertake our spiritual preparation for the end of days. The view through these blogs is that there are patterns to be found and that there is a simplicity that emerges beyond the complexity which will equip us to make the connections and find solutions. We do not each need to do everything and we can find our own individual acupressure point to massage. We can look at 6 billion people as a problem, or as 6 billion problem-solvers.

This is a time of conscious evolution. Ken Wilber speaks of our special position as the first species to be consciously aware of its part in an evolutionary process, and exhorts us to take Divine Pride in ourselves that we are here now, aware of the time and actively engaged in its unfolding. Amen to that. But evolution is a co-creative process. When one species changes it alters the environment for other species, influencing their change in turn. Evolution is not driven simply by genetic code change. Actions are involved.

So at a time of unprecedented pressure, of complexity compounded by diversity compounded by urgency we have a choice in how we look at our surroundings and at the process of social change. Is it a crisis or an opportunity? Well, of course it is both. We could fail to do what is needed. But according to Roman poet Horace, “Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant”.

Over the coming weeks we will look at the opportunities being presented to us – the “Big Society” agenda that accompanies government cutbacks, the new relationships with money demanded by a system which is beyond redemption and at whatever themes present themselves from the many touched on in this introduction. This journey can start with some personal questions:-

Are you a problem, or a problem-solver?

To what extent do you perceive the need for action?

Do you see yourself as empowered to make a difference, or is all the power with governments and corporate interests?

What talents may be dormant in you, and just waiting for these circumstances to call them forth?

A few things to ponder as we embark on this journey together. Never waste a good crisis!

Jon