I was talking with a girlfriend today and she asked me that question. When I was teaching, I ask that question of my students. They most often decided that ethics were ‘rules’ designed to help people manage their relationships and morals had to do with life and death decisions. That’s OK, as far as it goes, but let’s take a deeper inquiry.
One of my big ‘ah ha’s’ is that most of our ethical and moral structures are focused on humans – how we live and if we live. This way of thinking, however, leads to some logical difficulties from a moral stance, take death, for instance.
We believe that we shouldn’t die. Our entire medical system is predicated on that. We do everything we can to prevent our dying. What happens to animals who dare to kill us? We exterminate them! Even in death we prevent anything from eating us by burying our dead in concrete vaults holding massive, wooded caskets of embalmed bodies. On the other hand, we cheerfully kill each other if we disagree about something. We dedicate ourselves to killing others who want our stuff, who want our land, or who want our spouses. We kill animals just for the fun of it. What’s up with that? We’ve worked for centuries to try and create a logical system that will allow these disparities, but without much luck.
If ethics are ‘rules’ then we run into the differences in cultures about how to best interact. This inconvenient difficulty has been addressed using ‘situational ethics’ but that has not been very satisfactory and raises more problems than it answers. We kinda’ believe there should be some way of understanding how to live in our world that would allow for differences that would be foundational for everyone, but so far no luck. Maybe we’ve been looking in the wrong places and asking the wrong questions.
Actually, the world seems to work pretty well. For the past 3.4 billion years life has increased in complexity. Life forms have become more complex, and the number of species has increased as ecosystems have become more complex. Obviously, something understands how to keep life thriving and robust, why don’t we?
WE have been trying to figure things out all by ourselves. Holding ourselves as separate and ‘better’ than the wildness of nature so we rarely look at nature to see how she manages. As we became citified, we stopped interacting with nature – except when she gets in our way, so we don’t really know or understand her. Maybe it’s time to change that.
Indigenous people have always lived in better harmony with nature than we have. Their stories and culture were designed to maintain that harmony. Their goal was to live well for generations and they did that. The Ohlone lived for 2,000 years without war. The Iroquois learned to live together by forming the first democratic government. Our cultures are designed for self-expression and for wealth – we have achieved that, but at the expense of future generations and even our own existence on a sick and dying planet.
What might happen if we used what science is now learning about how nature is able to create and maintain such a robust and vibrant ecosystem to shift our culture to mimic nature? Books like The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben have shown us how wonderfully complex the forest really is. The film Fantastic Fungi explores how the forest communicates so we now know that cooperation is the key to a healthy ecosystem. It certainly helps human communities too!
What humans have not been too good at is understanding the implications of their actions. We don’t think about how our actions will impact future generations or even how they will impact our own near future. Even with risk management, strategic planning, and insurance companies we do not seem to understand how to predict the consequences of our actions. What if, what if we had a road map that contained instructions for how to make decisions, but not what decisions to make?
Jane Jacobs took 12 years to research the criteria that people used to determine what made an action wrong. She discovered two systems of values, one that focused on protection and the other that is focused on exchange between cultures or business. Each system has about 15 values. Why is this important? There are several reasons: we see all values as separate and distinct and not as forming systems, and we do not recognize how our emotions impact our choice of these value systems.
Living systems have certain characteristics, first is that they are wholes even though they are comprised of parts. This is as true of an ecosystem as it is of these value sets. Second the parts are not interchangeable from one system to another. Plants that live in a forest will not do well in the desert. The values from one system will corrupt another system and prevent the intent and purpose of the systems from being realized. I have three workbooks on Amazon that deal just with these two aspects of systems, for individuals/families, organizations, and teams. We are often slapped by the unintended consequences or our actions – even when we think we have adhered to our most prized values, and a reason why is we’ve mixed values from different systems and, unwittingly, created a mess.
From neuroscience we now know a lot more about how our emotions impact our bodies and brains. We ignore this science at our peril yet ignore it we do. Taking the systems Jacobs discovered it is easy to see that fear is what drives the protective value set. Fear shuts down our ability to both connect and learn. That would suggest that fear limits our ability to innovate and narrows the possible number of solutions we might discover in a crisis. Fear and its relatives, stress and anxiety, are not our friends unless our life is immediately in peril, a situation that is rather rare these days. This indicates that the use of the Protective Value Set™ limits our ability to be successful even though it feels like the right choice when we are afraid. Here the key value of loyalty comes into play and holds people captive in a relationship space that seems safe.
The Effective Value Set,™ on-the-other-hand is stimulated in business when we want to make a sale. These values, honesty in particular, help to create a trusting environment so that deals can be made not just once, but over and over again. When this desire is attached to either ego, as proof of competency or personal value, or to greed, or to the desire to win and win at all costs, then fear enters the picture and when that happens these values get mixed with the Protective Value Set™ and things often don’t go as planned. I’m willing to bet that the tension between loyalty and honesty is not too hard to imagine. This is a common issue in many organizations for just the reasons mentioned above. Mixing these two value sets means that it becomes very difficult to achieve either, both safety and success become elusive.
As we go forward there are two clear strategies for dealing with a sick and dying planet. One is to beat it harder. Here we have the doubling down on technology as the path forward. Artificial Intelligence and climate engineering are two strong contenders on the path of trying to subdue or manipulate nature. This is a continuation of what we have been doing for centuries. So far it hasn’t turned our too well. The road less traveled is to mimic nature. One thing nature seems to do well is to create and support life. What if that was our job too?
So many people, philosophers, poets, and scientists have been engaged in trying to discover just how nature works. I’ve worked to distill from their work, as Jacob’s did, the criteria, the values, that nature uses to ensure a healthy and robust planet. The Resilient Values Set™ is the result of that work. These values show the dynamics nature uses to manage life – for life. They form a set of guidelines for consideration when making big impactful decisions and small everyday ones. They help us think through the implications of our actions.
There are two resilient values I’ll share for you to contemplate applying in your own life: the first is to maintain the integrity of the whole, and the second is to ensure that ALL actions create the conditions that support LIFE (thanks to Janine Benyus of biomimicry fame). The first can be applied at every level from relationships and family to nation states. The second applies to every decision and action that happens between living beings.
So, back to the initial question, what is the difference between ethics and morals? Is there actually a difference? Isn’t that the wrong question? Isn’t the point to live good and full lives? The path to a ‘good’ life is paved with interactions with others that should make that possible for them too. In reality the path to LIFE is paved with the interactions we have with ALL life that makes LIFE possible for them too – we have had too small a circle of care. If we enlarge that circle to take in all the LIFE we interact with and depend upon, then maybe we will find the meaning that seems to elude so many of us. In this context all our choices are life and death choices. All our choices are moral choices and only choices that support a healthy and robust planet are ethical choices.
The only good and ethical choices are those that strengthen, in partnership with nature, the ability of LiFE to thrive on this big, beautiful planet of ours. It becomes our responsibility and duty to fulfill our own unique destiny and to do that in a way that allows everyone else to do so as well. That means that trees and rivers, waterfalls and meadows need to be supported to fulfill their destinies as well. If we stand on the side of LIFE then everything else falls into place. Yes, there might be some hardships and difficult sacrifices, but learning to balance our desires for comfort and convenience with the needs of a thriving Earth might just be the growing pains we need to make us adults.
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben on Amazon
Fantastic Fungi - website, also available on Netflicks
Systems of Survival by Jane Jacobs on Amazon
For the Values and Unintended Consequences books on Amazon
For more on the Value Sets go here
I think we can do the energy piece to stop pushing the temperature by 2050. All that takes is will and I’m seeing enough push from business and some government to think we can and will do that. The need to sink carbon, however, is more complex.
The two biggest levers in making that happen are: planting trees and shifting agriculture. Many people are planting trees. You might question if they are actually creating forests because it is forests, we need, not just trees. I do not believe that we will have the time to establish thriving forests by 2050, but I do believe that we will have shifted in that direction by 2050.
Shifting agriculture is another matter altogether. The monetary dynamics involved in large scale farming will not shift unless government steps up and mandates change. That is a tall order, and that change would have to be focused on farming technologies like no-till and biochar in order to make enough difference. If the government did step in, then, yes, we could make that shift and Paul Hawkin thinks we can do it in that time frame.
For me, right now, I’m focusing on agriculture. Making that shift would address so many issues – all at the same time. No-till and biochar in particular, would create a tremendously large carbon sink. At the same time, it would refresh our soils and stimulate new soil life and perhaps slow down some of our species’ loss. Shifting agriculture this way would also improve our food system and thus human health and nutrition. That’s a huge impact for just a few changes.
This change would have to be government driven, I think, in order to rise about individual doubt and disagreement and to speed implementation. Whiteout that stimulus, I’m not optimistic.
Please share your thoughts below.
We all seek power and some of us are interested in #learning to use it well, with finesse and skill, others, not so much. For most of us power was learned when some one grabbed an ear and said go, or commanded us to our room, or beat our backside. The, and maybe even now, power, means power over. The ability to make someone do something.
Over the years #leadership has changed moving into transformational leadership, instead of transactional, or shifting to servant leadership. The changes are all predicted on working better with others; respecting them, appreciating them, and even teaching them.
That's not enough. Regenerative Leadership is about leading without fear, working to thrive not grow or 'succeed,' and mimicking nature not manipulating her or controlling her. This is a tall order!
Leading with out fear does not mean the leader is not afraid. It means his or her people are not afraid. And they are not afraid because they don't know to be afraid, but because they and their leader have learned to transform fear and fear is not used as a tool for obedience, or a tool for manipulation, fear is managed, it does not lead!
This type of #leadershipdevelopment is very different. The role of Regenerative Leaders is to keep people open to learning, creative, and engaged. The task of mimicking nature is challenging and rewarding, so fear becomes a distraction and time suck.
If you are ready to invest in the future, to be a first responder to the climate crisis by using the gigantic opportunity we have as our systems collapse, then get in touch. Our Group Resilience Coaching or our Regenerative Leadership Training maybe just the ticket.
We all want to make a difference. We come from our hearts yet we still find it hard to see the heart in others. We believe ourselves, but we don't believe in others. this means we are all going in slightly different ways just because we don't know, don't trust others. If we can all act in concert, then we can have a bigger and faster impact to make the needed shift.
I'm not advocating blind trust. to trust we have to be willing to ask hard questions, but what if we could agree on a platform of values/principles that would get us all working in the same way? In the past we have used religion as a focusing tool, but that doesn't seem to work for all of us. Is there something else we could use where talking about the possible differences in understanding would not be so threatening?
I think there is and I'm excited about the potential. I'm talking about nature. Mother nature has a loooooong history of supporting life! She's bee able to go from simple organisms to very complex ones. She's gone from simple systems to complex ones. She seems to be getting better and better at supporting life.
We, on the other hand, don't seem to get it. We get in her way and try and block her at every turn. We don't like her 'telling' us what to do or what not to do, and while we see the results, we keep on keepin on. Maybe it's time to think differently.
Listening to her and following her directives has worked for millennia, I'm betting it will continue to work now. She's fine, it's us that needs to change. Join me as I explore the values and principles she lives by and how they might impact how we live, if we so choose
Every Friday at 10:30 am PDT on Facebook (http://facebook.com/bridgetopartnership) I explore a value/principle developed by both indigenous thinking and supported by science that showcases the subtle but significant shift we need t make to keep life thriving on the planet. I'd love to have you join me.
So sorry folks, but the ‘people’ are any wiser or emotionally healthy than the ‘elites’ and maybe quite at bit less educated, so no I don’t trust the ‘people’ to make any better decisions than anyone else. Given the choice of a ‘strong’ man for president, one who had only his own interest at heart, one who made it ‘OK’ to be misogynistic and colonialistic, I don’t see enough wisdom and compassion there to be trustworthy.
I get it! It’s frustrating to feel left behind, to feel voiceless (hey, I’m a woman after all) but the utter lack of compassion and empathy will simply not work, in the long run, no matter who is professing such behavior. From a systems perspective bottoms can look up and see what’s not working and how things might be structured differently – something tops can rarely see on their own but seeing something as not working and doing something about it are two different things.
Discernment is something that seems to come with age. Some people are old from the beginning and I believe discernment can be taught, but it’s a rare commodity. Religion, philosophy, and education of all kinds have tried to teach it without much success. Instead of taking agency we seem to choose obedience even though it’s been proven time and time again that obedience doesn’t work. The army has a term for that ‘malicious compliance.’ That’s what you do to get back at officialdom when they discipline you for ‘breaking’ the rules that aren’t working in the first place.
We often can see what’s not working but knowing how to fix it is another story altogether. The Greeks chose philosophy as the method for discernment, and while useful, that hasn’t gotten us very far either. Understanding the ‘other’ is always a barrier to both respect and caring. Intuiting the experience of someone else is an unusual skill indeed and one few have and few even see as needed. We expect everyone to ‘be like us.’
A big part of living a long life, I believe, is learning about people and being able to see things from another’s perspective. Still the wide variety in human understanding and creativity has led me to believe that you just never really know what someone else is going to think or how they will understand the same experience we both just had. The key, I think, is openness.
Systems thinking suggests that all living systems determine who they are by the boundaries they create. As babies we are constantly trying to decipher who we are and who our parents think we are or want us to be. As we get older society and our friends become the sources of new perspectives about who we might be. One of the insights from this kind of thinking is that there is actually a relationship between an entity and its environment. There is an openness that allows for ‘fit.’ For some, and for others as they age, keeping that relationship fluid is more difficult. For me, a Scorpio – a fixed sign, I’ve learned to keep my boundaries open through curiosity and a strong desire to learn. I’ve also learned to NOT make decisions. Once I’ve decided, I’m quite unmovable, or said another way, moving is painful. I simply take the action that seems best under the circumstances and so far, that’s worked well.
Ah discernment, what works well? How do you know? I’ve spent over 70 years trying to understand how I know that, and it was only in looking at the Earth and nature that I got it. The yardstick I use to measure is life. What brings, allows, engenders the most life into any situation is a good measure of its long-term success. It also is a step into the kind of world I want to live in – one where life is joyous, vibrant and robust!
Things are bad, no work, businesses closing, unemployment insurance is not long enough to meet the need, nothing’s working right, and on it goes, and all of this is true. Lack and scarcity stimulates fear, self-protection, defensiveness, and withholding, these things are not true and not even necessary. We are so used to thinking this way we seldom question not only the veracity, but the usefulness.
Things DO ebb and flow, things come and go, things die and are reborn, this understanding of cycles is a good prospective to hold as we watch things change. Holding on to what we have known and experienced as ‘the way it is’ just makes the natural changes we are experiencing more painful. It is the resistance to the power of flow that often causes pain.
This is a lesson I learned in childbirth. My third birth was natural. As I paid attention to my body it was clear to me that me resistance to the contractions only made it hurt more. My body understood what it was doing and it was moving fiercely. When I was able to detach enough to be in awe and wonder, then I was able to partner with my body in helping it do what it needed to do, and pain disappeared. I became so focused in syncing to the rhythm that my mind/attention had no room for pain.
In order to partner with the contractions of a dying/regenerating society we need to understand the birthing contractions for what they are. As the contractions increase and the only home known begins to disintegrate can you imagine the thoughts of the fetus at that time? Hope and joy or fear and dread? We are all fetuses at this time. We watch in…fear and dread or hope and curiosity? to see what will the future bring.
Focusing on the horribleness of our current reality and resisting what we see is characteristic of a society in collapse. But the other truth – the hidden truth is that when we only see what is happening we lose sight of the future. This myopic vision cannot prevent the cycle from happening, but it does prevent us from seeing and partnering with the new vision, the new possibilities reaching out – asking to be born. Without conscious partnership that new future can be still born, as it has been in the past. Our chance now is to change that.
What if, what if, lack is really a change in flow? If we hold that view, then the task becomes one of managing the flow. Taking a page from permaculture what happens if we look at the land, the culture, the community, the market to see how it lies, what are the hills and valleys through which flows happens, or doesn’t? What can we do to partner with that geography to allow flow to happen instead of impeding it?
Let those old structures, habits, ways of being fall knowing they are not working and instead seek to understand what needs to happen to manage the flow that does exist to materialize more fully. If the flow of one thing is drying up then what is the flow that can replace it? How can we partner with the new to support its vibrant existence? Nature is continually moving and gently shifting things until resistance is met and then that gentleness shifts to one of mighty powerful contractions until the flow is reborn into a new configuration.
We are in the ‘end times’ when nature seeks to destroy the old un-useful structures and shift the flow to address the new dynamics that are arising. Our job is to let her do what she needs to do OR help her manage those dynamics by paying attention. We can do this! WE can do this! Never before have we know enough to be able to know what to pay attention to – now we do. Partner with each other and mimic nature, simple really, but there’s no place for fear. If we can shift lack, scarcity, fear, self-protection, defensiveness, and withholding into flow, change curiosity, self-care and partnership we will make it through to a new and yes, very different future. It may not be the future we are holding in our heads, but if we see, instead of resist it may, just may be better!
I’m motivated to do whatever I can to get us through this planetary shift in the best possible way! That’s why I’m doing training on what it means to be ‘regenerative’ and what can we do to help others get on board. I’m quite excited about the new training and there will be a couple of webinars in January to go over that in more detail – so keep tuned.
Knowing about the earth and how to keep her healthy is one thing, but being or becoming adaptable – open to change, is quite another. That is why I chose to get certified in AQai, an assessment that shines alight on what it means to be adaptable and how you can actually improve your ability to move easily through crisis and change.
One key aspect is Grit. Grit is the purpose you cling to when the going gets rough. What really motivates you. I think being clear on that is vital, especially when our culture trains us to think that either money or family is really the purpose of life. Where do you stand on these two? How big are they for you?
We all know about greed, but scarcity can also be a driver for money over life. So much of the scarcity we experience is artificial. The underlying belief that people should pull themselves up by their bootstraps plays into a justification for policies in both governance and finance that ensure scarcity. What is ugly about scarcity is that it engenders fear. Fear mobilizes our Amygdala and stimulates cortisol, diminishing our ability to either think deeply or learn.
If we are to get through this with anything even approaching style fear won’t do it. So what is Grit to you? What is YOUR motivating force? Fear works against being regenerative as it triggers survival angst and works against serving or helping others.
How about family? More importantly how about YOUR family? Are they nurturing or dismissive? Are they supportive or disparaging? Are they… you get the picture. Love them? Sure, but being very tightly tied to something that evaporates any desire to live of any feelings of self-confidence might no be the best strategy if you want to thrive and if you what to help the planet thrive.
What is underneath everything for you? What gives you joy at being alive? What makes LIFE meaningful, robust and vital? Answer that and you are on your way to being strong enough, flexible enough to find your path through this mess.
If you are interested in taking the AQai Assessment or in learning more about the Resilience Coaching and Regenerative Coach Training please get in touch.
Ten years, the United Nations gives just ten years to make enough changes to mitigate the worst impact. The world has already changed as we all know, so is there really hope? I CAN say is that every change we make makes it more likely there will be human life for a longer time after those ten years have passed. The changes are SO profound that it is certainly a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) to make it happen. We are buying time.
The good news is that if we can buy enough time we will have a rocky road, but we, as humans, can survive and everything we learn and do now will be needed then. It took us decades to create the habits and lifestyle that is cooking our goose and if we are still here decades later is will be because we took the steps now that we need to take.
OK, so what can I do, you ask? What you can do is learn how to work with your own clients, employees, boss to help them make the changes they can make by learning what’s needed. On the one hand the shift is very simple – care about the planet and each other. On the other hand that’s a tall order. It’s not like this is new information. What IS new is the grounding in science, neuroscience, psychology and systems theory that will help make the right decisions at the right time.
Join me on the third Thursday of the month at 4-5 pm PST for playful practice in decision-making as if life mattered. Get the Zoom link by signing up on my website; https://BridgeToPartnership.com/Events. You can also sign up for one of my courses or sign up to be coached. You can also read books, watch Youtube and do a host of other things, but please, DO something.
We need to think differently to get out of this mess. That’s why you need to get educated. You need to learn how nature really works so you can emulate it. You need to understand systems to better leverage change and to better understand why everyone is so concerned. No one can tell anyone else what they need to do. Every decision you make impacts the end result and the rate at which those results will become noticeable. For each person and each company to make the right choice you have to start now to learn to think differently – you cannot start too soon!
In discussions with Terri Mollner I was struck by his emphasis on power. He was very firm in that one of the biggest challenges in maturing to be a full human consisted in holding onto, as I understand it, the power for discernment.
Now what first raised questions was his insistence that people need to hang on to power. In my experience with the spiritual life power is the least of my concerns. I see power as a characteristic, an illusion even, of differentiation from source and if there is an attachment, then that desire can lead to an actual fragmentation from the whole.
My experience of higher levels of consciousness is that the concept of power fades away. That word no longer applies. If anything the aspects of the other end of the continuum – influence and appreciation – become more real, more true. Truth, for me is more about coherence than being ‘right.’ The concept of having to maintain and express power when in high states of consciousness speaks to a kind of dissonance that doesn’t feel correct.
If Terri means that as humans mature while maintaining their differentiation from source they need to be sure to ensure their ability to discern what is ‘true/resonant’ from that which is not, then that makes sense to me, and one area of discernment that is key is to be clear that the goal of a mature, differentiated human is to become as coherent as possible while still remaining differentiated. Doing this is possible, as he said, because we all know what oneness is and as long as we are ‘resting’ in that awareness then we can play at differentiation with integrity.
I hope I’m understanding him correctly. If I’m correct, then his book, The Love Skill, is a recipe for living into the fullness of humanity – while consciously maintaining differentiation. I see that as the desire to bring spirit down into creation, and that’s a wonderful thing to do. My minds eye sees stories from the Mahabharata about Arjuna, and these stories speak to the dawning realization that we are infinite souls. These stories speak to the shifting of the Kali Yuga and maybe even the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Love is that which recognizes coherence.
A friend asked me this question. What is real and true about this country? There was a small group of us. One member of the group suggested it was our land. We have a beautiful country and surely nature is waiting to refresh and regenerate and our land will bloom again. And this is true.
My answer is the graphic above. The spiral is the heart of our country. We were founded to be something special, something different. That is what we were, at the time. No one had seen an experiment in governance like the one we created with the help of the Iroquois Nation. Our constitution was modeled, in part, from the Iroquois Constitution, also known as the Great Law of Peace. The spiral is an important Iroquois symbol. It shines at the heart of our nation too. The butterflies and the new experiments coming into being as the imaginal cells that organize the goo of the old caterpillar begin to re –enchant the contents of the chrysalis and create the vibrant and spectacular butterfly of the future.
We are in a liminal time, neither here nor there. We are seeing a new flag at the current presidents rallies so perhaps it is time for a new symbolic representative of the new world that is being released in to birth as we speak. All systems are sensitive to the initial conditions with which they start. Each experiment is the very best it can be, at the time. Over time the cracks of the original dissonance start to show. Those cracks are the seeds of the new experiment as the evolution that is learning takes note and does it differently this time.
We do not know what will be birthed. Just as the seeds of this systems destruction were sown centuries ago so the seeds of this new birth were sown long ago. We know much more now than we did then. We have learned from our own experience and from the experiments of others. We are much more cognizant of nature and much more willing to learn from her. This is not a time to ‘go back’ but a time to move richly forward integrating new and old wisdom. For the first time in centuries we have discovered our home, the planet Earth, and now we see it for the first time.
Another member of group offered up that we are kind. May it be so.
Kathryn Alexander, MA
Regenerative approaches require a deep integration with nature. Collaboration requires different structures and ways of working together. If we want different results we have to do things differently!