22 April 2007

2040 AD

“Tell me again, grandpa.”
“Oh, it’s such an embarrassing story. We were so slow to see the obvious.”
“Yeah, but I like the story.”
“What part do you want to hear?”
“I want to hear again about how negative you all felt even though you lived in a time with more people, affluence, and knowledge than had ever been had in history.”
“Yeah, that was weird.”
“Why, grandpa?”
“Why? Why did we all feel so poor and powerless?”
“Well, we had jobs, we voted, we were free to speak our minds. The problem was, the whole world was disconnected – everything was disconnected from everything else. Sometimes it felt like we were all locked in the trunk looking for the steering wheel. What you were told to do at work wasn’t necessarily something that created value for customers or stockholder. Your vote didn’t seem connected with creating the world you wanted. And what you learned in school might be disconnected from what was going on in business or politics.”
“Didn’t you know that all these things were connected?”
“We did. Well no, I guess we didn’t. We believed that if only politicians were honest and if only we all worked hard, the world would turn out fine.”
“Hadn’t you heard Deming say, ‘We are being ruined by best efforts?’”
“Well, yeah. Some of us had heard that. It didn’t make any sense though. We didn’t have a perspective on the world that allowed us to connect it all together. We didn’t understand that we could do so well with the pieces and have the whole slowly erode. That just didn’t make sense from our perspective. So, we all worked hard, all tried to make a difference in our own little roles, and all our attempts to make beautiful music sounded like a cacophony. Everyone playing a different solo, all playing over top of each other.”
“You didn’t know you lived on one planet?”
“We knew that. But all our institutions and all of our roles – society and the place you had in it – they were all geared on the old, analytic models, the perspective that pieces added up to the whole.”
“That’s why Douglas Adams quipped, ‘If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a non-working cat.’”
“I guess. But you have to remember that this was before the revolution. We still thought that finance and business, politics and education were problems that could be solved in isolation from one another.”
“Nobody was killed in the revolution, were they?”
“No. Nobody was killed. It was an intellectual revolution.”
“When did it finally start?”
“It turns out that when Copernicus discovered we were circling around the sun, the first time the term ‘revolution’ was used, we had actually been revolving around the sun the entire time. Same thing with the systems thinking revolution. Turns out that everything had been connected anyway, and people had been creating institutions – schools, businesses, government organizations and non-governmental organizations – for decades, for centuries. We had just never put business formation and social revolution together under the heading of entrepreneurship. We had always treated that process of entrepreneurship as something that stood outside of life rather than defined the process of life. All we did in the revolution was subordinate society to reality.”
“What reality?”
“The reality that history has a force you need to work with. The reality that you have to harmonize rather than clash with nature. And the reality that the individual experience needs an individual context, needs institutions that customize to that individual. We finally learned not to let our institutions force us to ignore reality but forced our institutions to continuously adapt to reality.”
“How did you do it?”
“We changed how we saw the world.”
“If it was that easy, why didn’t you do it earlier?”
“It’s hard to see your glasses, son.”
“So how did it start?”
“From lots of places. But it’s probably simplest to trace back the transformation of how we saw life to when we first saw the earth from space. Saw that it was one place, not lots of places. Saw that it was all connected. We could see what was real. This was one planet – we had just overlaid a bunch of countries and ideas on top of it.
“With that kind of a picture we had to adopt a different kind of worldview. From that point on, the rest was only a matter of time.”
“And it worked out great, didn’t it?”
“It did indeed have a happy ending.”
“Happy Earth Day, grandpa!”
“Happy Earth Day.”


Anonymous said...

Well it may be one world, but God likes my spot best.

cce said...

"It's hard to see your glasses, son."
Ain't that the truth.

The Daily Show did a great send up on global warming and The Rapture last week. For those who didn't see it... evangelical Christians hasten the end of days by ignoring Al Gore, littering and buying coal burning toasters.

I admire your optimism, Ron. Clearly you hold out hope that we humans will someday overcome our inherently self absorbed natures.
I'm not sure I believe we can do it but here's hoping!

Ron Davison said...

the older I get, the more I think that optimism is the only reasonable response to life.

That's not what God told me, but maybe we can work out our honest difference of opinion with a steel cage asylum match.

Chrlane said...

I agree with Ron about optimism It's the one path that ever got me anywhere worth being. Essentially, it is the manifestation of a desire for life.

Ron Davison said...

"Essentially, it is the manifestation of a desire for life."
I don't know if that's an optimistic statement or a profound one. In any case it's a good one. Thanks.

Cody McKibben said...

Wow Ron, great post! I love the cat and the glasses analogies. You're spot on with your analysis and I hope we can all work together to make this intellectual revolution a success...

exskindiver said...

wow ron.
you did it again.
very impressive.
who ARE you?