Dare Drive

Normal-Rockwell-Boy-on-High-DiveBless the drive
that compels you over
the great divide.
The faith
by which you take
the great leap.

You don’t need to know how to fly.
You never dive into wide open sky.
You can’t see,
yet,
the unexpected
astonishing
weaving
that will emerge beneath and before you,
a net
work
of new openings
and surprising ways forward.

 

Practising Joy (through the festive season of long nights)

Shortly before we entered into ‘the festive season’ I put out a couple of questions to the members of the Centre for Social Innovation: “What is Joy? And how do you ‘Practise Joy’?”. What followed was a generous flood of insight and wisdom, both on-list and off-list. I continued to reflect on ‘Joy’[1] through the holiday and it only seems right that I share/reflect back that collective wisdom.

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Cultivating Competence in Curiosity – 2 Day Workshop

REGISTER NOW FOR OUR FEB 11 – 12 WORKSHOP
Curiosity is the key to innovation, productivity, agility, well-being and fulfillment but curiosity is commonly suppressed in the workplace.

Curiosity Culture offers an integrated program, underpinned by a competency framework, to cultivate curiosity. From discovery talks and labs, to intensive workshops, change coaching and community development, we facilitate a journey which awakens the inquisitive spirit, brings it to life, and embeds it in the DNA of a thriving organisational culture.

Curiosity & Vulnerability

Curiosity is a dynamic of ongoing inquiry requiring that you reveal that you don’t know something.  Your seeking to know something reveals the limits of what you know: that’s what real questioning is.

openheartopenmindCuriosity may also require that you reveal that others don’t know something, and we all know folks who are pretty attached to having all the answers.  They may not like the feeling they get when they don’t have the answers; they may feel challenged, and they may react in an unpleasant way.

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Curiosity & Disruption Workshop

Marvels & Miracles

The odds of my birth.

That single sperm cell, out of the initial millions of genetically diverse cells, is the one and the only that makes it into the egg.

SupermanChristAnd that this conceptional unlikelihood – the odds already so rare and outrageously far-fetched that even a gambler in despair would shun them – has been repeated in every generation of my lineage for thousands and thousands of years, each new generation multiplying the unlikelihood.

And then the impossibly complex myriad of circumstances, strokes of luck, synchronicities, close calls – unbroken from the beginning of time – that witnesses my father meeting my mother, my grandfathers meeting my grandmothers, great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers, generations and generations of arrangements, accidents, illicit trysts, seductions, violations, – back and back and back through time in a stupefyingly magnificent and improbable sequential river…

The odds of my birth seems so outrageously absurdly unlikely as to border on the miraculous.

But there’s nothing miraculous there.
There’s nothing in it that is unnatural, or beyond the scope of possibility.
It is truly a marvel… but it’s not a miracle.

I’ve never seen a miracle.
I’ve seen, and participated in, things and events that seem astonishingly unlikely but, nonetheless, possible.
But a miracle? No… no miracles.

Miracles are for the weak and the meek.
Unable to bear the cross of chaos they’ll line up to get a fix of ‘deus ex machina’, robbing the truly awe-inspiring courage and improbability of marvels and replacing them with the symmetrically sculpted supernatural action figure of miracles.

According to the story, Satan tempted Jesus with miracles but he refused.
But the authors of the story wrote them in nonetheless, burying the courageous bloody and enmired flesh of Jesus under the sleek, shiny and squeaky clean miracle of Christ, perpetuating a most awe-inspiring lie, an opiate for the pain of existential angst, for the cross of uncertainty, that generations and empires have been hooked on ever since.

‘Ten Questions on DIVE’ from BarczaBlog

Fascism & ‘The Wild’ in ‘DIVE: Odes for Lighea’

Throughout the composition of DIVE I was very conscious of, and sensitive to, the relationship between the mermaid, and Mussolini. In the opening Prelude the mermaid vanquishes Mussolini and his fascist crowd with a mighty roar. Later the mermaid plays directly with Mussolini’s speech by improvising over a distorted and stretched out version of it, exaggerating it and distorting it, but also really digging into it and almost becoming a part of it.

‘DIVE’ is based on Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s short story ‘The Professor & the Siren’, set as Mussolini reaches the pinnacle of his totalitarian power, and the mermaid [1], at the core of the story, and who is so vividly and sensually described by Lampedusa, is a wild feminine divine being.

As I told you Corbera, she was a beast but at the same instant also an Immortal, and it is a pity that no speech can express this synthesis continually, with such utter simplicity, as she expressed it in her own body… Not for nothing is she the daughter of Calliope: ignorant of all culture, unaware of all wisdom, contemptuous of any moral inhibitions, she belonged, even so, to the fountainhead of all culture, of all wisdom, of all ethics...”
– Giuseppe di Lampedusa: ‘The Professor and the Siren

Giuseppe di Lampedusa

Giuseppe di Lampedusa

 

Is the tale a premise for the struggle between ‘fascism’ and ‘the wild’? Is fascism a polarity to the wild? Or is the tension between the two more complex? What do we mean by ‘fascism’? And what do we mean by ‘the wild’?

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Fascism & Utopia

a poem for extremists everywhere

Blacktop Mountaintop

 

Fascism is a hair’s breadth from Utopia.

Those who try to force funnel the hard grit gravity ground of everyday into Utopia,
to compel it across the great divide,
turn into extremists, slavemasters, witchhunters.
Naiively they set out to purify the strain, exorcise the demons, exterminate the wrong thinking, abolish the Mixolydians.
They wind up razing the terrain,
sterilising the DNA,
creating mutants and monsters,
which they,
and subsequent generations,
spend their lives chasing,
or running away from.

Pure seeds are so fragile.
Little trees planted in the scarification after the burn.
Acres upon acres,
hectares upon hectares,
kilometres upon kilometres of burn…
God the heat,
the scorching heat on the mountains of burn,
blacktop mountaintops as far as the eye can see.

Here we plant the little tree, the pure seed, the clean gene, the clear clean code,
and wait,
utterly simple single-minded, mono,
for the perfect shoot to grow.

 

 

 

* In my youth I spent summers planting trees.  One season I was in the mountains around Prince George, BC. The mountains had been completely clearcut and then razed by fire, an endeavor so grand in scale that it was, at the time, the only human project significantly visible from space. We planted only one species – one believed to be most profitable 60 years hence when it would be harvested –  to replace the grand diversity that had previously dwelt there for millenium, and returned home each day, head to toe, black in ashes.

 

What is Translibrium?

 QUEST-IONING HOMEOSTASIS


The object of the pilgrimage turned out to be a pilgrim.

– Jorge Luis Borges


 

cloudstorm

In 1986 I was involved in a reconnaissance of evolutionary biology. I was doing an undergrad at Trent University with a focus on the origins of consciousness (!?). I had been buried in grand speculators on the history of civilisation; Oswald Spengler, Pitrim Sorokin and Arnold Toynbee, with a nascent sprinkling of Teilhard DeChardin.

Amongst the historians Toynbee stood out for me, in large part because he was reviewed in an obscure book called ‘Experiment in Depth: A Study of the Work of Jung, Eliot and Toynbee’ by a Quaker, PW Martin, which I had stumbled on in a second-hand bookstore. Martin’s premise from reading the three authors was that cultural transformation and renewal were realised by individuals going through a quest-like ‘creative withdrawal’ from society, initiated and guided (called out) by an intrinsic creative source that Martin called ‘the deep centre’, followed by a ‘return’ to society now informed and inspired by a rejuvenated and compelling symbolic language and imperative.

Toynbee’s contribution was through his encyclopaedic survey, briefed in ‘A Study of History’, of the rise and fall of multiple civilisations, by which he derived a theory of ‘challenge and response’ to explain how and why some societies thrive and others don’t. For Toynbee the success of a civilisations was dependent on its capacity to respond to grand challenges. Civilisations succeed “not as a result of superior biological endowment or geographical environment, but as a response to a challenge in a situation of special difficulty which raises [it] to make unprecedented effort.”

From the grand historical syntheses I drifted over to Systems Theory and Cybernetics, and then from there over to evolutionary biology. And it was a first reconnaissance of that field that turned up the central thesis and nom de plume for much of the field, ‘homeostasis’.

The concept of ‘homeostasis’ was first described by Claude Bernard in 1865. Bernard held that the basis of organic survival is ‘internal fixity’. Organisms respond to challenges by returning to their original state; the ‘fixity of the internal milieu’, as he called it.   “The constancy of the internal environment” wrote Bernard, “is the condition for free and independent life.” More than half a century later, following on Bernard, the American physiologist Walter Cannon coined the term ‘homeostasis’ in 1930 to describe the ‘steady-state’ that any system requires to “maintain a constancy necessary for survival.” Internal homeostatic processes resist external pressures to maintain internal fixity. This notion quickly spread out of biology to find applications in the world of social sciences in general, and particularly Systems Theory and Cybernetics.

I had a problem with this notion of ‘homeostasis’ as a description of health.  I was an etymology junky and knew that ‘homeo’ is from the Greek meaning ‘same’ or ‘similar’, and ‘stasis’ means, you guessed it, ‘stasis’.  There was nothing that I had ever observed that could survive by staying the same or static.  So from my perspective, the notion of ‘homeostasis’ – a return to an internal fixity – was an excellent descriptor for the conditions leading to death.

Philosopher/Biologist Henri Atlan provided me with an alternate model and language.  Atlan understood organisms to have the capacity for self-organization; for emergence and newness.  In the language of biology he called ‘challenges’ ‘perturbations’. ‘Random perturbations’ are temporary disturbances to which an organism can react, neutralise, and then return to it’s original state. ‘Structural perturbations’ however are persistent, even terminal, disturbances through which an organism can survive only by elaborating a new structure.  Returning to the original state would result in obliteration.

Organisms need to continuously evolve, and their evolution creates stresses – challenges – for surrounding organisms, which must also evolve. Challenges require responses which will normally require subtle shifts in behaviour.  Greater challenges will require significant modifications, permanent structural shifts, or even full-scale migrations of identity.  Health is not the maintenance of fixity: fixity, and fixation, are fatal.  Health is a dynamic feedback requiring constant alteration, and renovation as well as periodic bouts of drastic innovation and structural transformation to respond to potentially catastrophic disruption.

As Heraclitus (is said to have) said, “You never step into the same river twice.”
And, I would add, we are all rivers.

Translibrium’ is a word I invented as a counter to ‘homeostasis’.
Trans’ comes from the Greek ‘across’, and ‘librium’ is from the Greek ‘libra’ which connotes both balance (equilibrium) and freedom (‘libre’, liberty).  Whereas ‘homeostasis’ assumes a return to an initial state as a descriptor of health, ‘translibrium’ assumes continuous adaptation as a requisite for survival.  Whereas ‘homeostasis’ emphasises returning to ‘fixity’, ‘translibrium’ emphasises a perpetual path of transformation, in response to a basic milieu of emergence and feedback, requiring novel strategies frequently characterised by an increase in complexity.