Relationships

I have been reading Nora Bateson’s Small Arcs of Larger Cycles. It is a collection of short essays she has written over the last 5 years or so. She also made a film about her father, the scientist Gregory Bateson, which I promptly ordered. It should be waiting for me at my return.

The essays are of the kind that make you think and that change you. Much like the tree book (The Hidden Life of Trees), I am changed by this one again. I am changing my vocabulary. I have become suspicious of words like ‘solutions.’  We ought to know by now that the problems that catapult poverty in our living room are not solvable from the mindset we have. It was Einstein who observed that problems cannot be solved from the same mindset that produced them. This quote is often cited but the deep meaning of it seems to be lost.

The mechanical, engineering mindset (every problem has a solution) is deeply anchored in our culture and it is easy to be sucked into its promises of engineering a better world. Yet I know that a better world cannot be created using an engineering framework simply because we are not made of steel and bolts.

Our world can only change when the relationships change, which is exactly what we found when touring this far flung area and visiting the teams that participated in the leadership program. Here is what Nora Bateson has to say about this:

“Within the great whirl of life there is culture; in culture there is language; in language there is conversation; in conversation there are two beings; in the beings there are frames of perception and, in their communication, a kaleidoscope of unpredictable repatterning.”

Although our challenge model, a kind of logical model, is a tad too mechanistic for me, it has served as a vehicle for people to establish, renew or fix relationships that make trust possible where mistrust was rampant. It is the only thing, in my mind, that can save us.

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