The Jewish High Holidays always offer me an opportunity for deep and often meaningful reflection, on both my personal path and the journey we’re all on together. (Happy New Year to all who observe!) Here’s some of what’s on my mind these days.
WHEN SENSE-MAKING MAKES NO SENSE
The current popularity of “sense-making” puzzles and amuses me; it seems an impulse toward something clear and settled…something that may not be available to us right now. (Reminds me of the old joke about the city slicker asking the country bumpkin for directions, only to be told, “You can’t get there from here.”)
In this time of what Aviva Zornberg calls “spiritual vertigo,” of what Simone Biles calls “the twisties”—”when your brain and body disconnect,” when you’re spinning in mid-air, not sure how or if you’ll be able to land—I’m making a point of listening to more varied voices, both old and new, than what the mediators feed us. A remarkable conversation last week between Nora Bateson and Daniel Schmachtenberger, joined by Nate Hagens of the Post Carbon Institute). Indigenous and anti-colonial voices like Lyla June Johnston and Indy Johan at R3.0’s conference on “activating restorative norms.” The resounding Torah interpretation from Rabbi Alan Lew (peace be unto him) of Moses’ five word exhortation to the Israelites, trapped in terror between the sea and the approaching Egyptian army: “Fear not. Stand firm. Look and see. Be still. Get moving.”
DOES PROTEST WORK? WHAT DOES?
“Let’s be careful,” I wrote, “with ‘it hasn’t worked.’ Clearly we’re not where we need to be. But to peg that to the failure or inadequacy of specific tactics implies a knowledge of the workings of cause and effect that we just don’t have; change emerges from many actions on many fronts.”
It sometimes feels as if nothing’s happening. But impact builds, like drops of water dripping through solid rock, like small streams merging into mighty rivers and raging seas.
Too much Sunday sermon? Maybe. But in the wake of Greta Thunberg’s school strikes a third of Swiss citizens have changed their daily habits. In the wake of 50 years of activism, innonvation, and policy leadership, the California legislature has passed two groundbreaking climate disclosure laws, one (SB 253) requiring disclosure of Scope 3 emissions and the other (SB 261) requiring disclosure of climate-related financial risk and actions. Governor Newsom declared yesterday that he intends to sign them—probably during Climate Week in New York this week.
Oh, and California (poised to become the world’s fourth largest economy) has become the biggest jurisdiction in the world to sue the fossil fuel industry for its ‘decades-long campaign of deception’ about climate change.
Good stuff? You bet! Good enough? Not by a long shot. Which may be why Vanessa de Oliveira Andreotti called on us at r3.0 to expand our collective capacity to “hold space for what is difficult”…without demanding quick fixes and rescue from the discomfort.
Hold the complexity, she said, without throwing in the towel. Act and improve.
“You don’t dance to finish the dance, but to dance.”
WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE YOU AND YOUR COMPANY?
Between a rock and a hard place? With your backs to the wall while chaos looms? Or ready to take Rabbi Lew’s advice: “Fear not. Stand firm. Look and see. Be still. Get moving.”?
As I asked two years ago (and no doubt many times before and since):
Is your company coasting on incrementalism, happy talk and feel good-ratings? Are you?
Or is it —and you—hard at work reinventing everything—which is what it will take to lead, contribute, survive, and thrive in a world that will be very different than the one we’ve known?