A Call to Action for Our Time
The essential responsibility of anyone living today, especially those privileged with societal power of any kind, is to fully activate the truth of our human condition – that being our inherent interdependence and implicit connection to each other, other beings and the planet we call home.
Accepting this responsibility, and changing one’s habits, behaviors and daily life practices is the highest form of generosity, the foundation for a new kind of leadership, and the great shared purpose of our time.
A person with this awareness of interdependence speaks, reflects, relates, collaborates, acts and decides with an embodied knowledge and clear-minded confidence that we are not separate from anything in our environment, animate or inanimate. We are at once whole, woven, and intimately bound with the destiny of each other, wherein our neighbors’ loss is truly our loss.
The burning Amazon rainforest, the disappearing tigers, whales and elephants, the 65 million of us displaced from our homelands, our isolated elders, those of us incarcerated, all representations of the broken fabric of ourselves - these are real losses for us as well as the life we find it increasingly impossible to sustain.
To live from the belief that we are viscerally connected and inseparably part of a whole shapes everything and everyone we touch and has the power to change any personal or professional culture we inhabit, as well as the long-term trajectory of the global culture we find ourselves in. The work required to live from this belief is essential, foundational, and immediate for it is work to examine the beliefs we live from and excavate those that perpetuate separation.
While it’s true that this commitment to a belief in our interdependence is for all of us to claim, those of us with the most power and access are uniquely responsible for activating the paradigm shift, starting today and going forward.
To be clear, it is white people, men of any race, people holding positional authority within a family, group or organization, people with access to available financial resources, people with educational credentials of any kind, people with the gift of stable emotional, mental and physical health, even individuals with the courage to stand publicly for what they believe – it is we who are granted the most urgent responsibility to ‘rewire.’
If you are one of these, or perhaps all of these, you’ve been gifted with the privileges as well as the inherent capacity to ‘go first’ and share the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual resources available to you with others by modeling your conviction of the foundational reality that is our implicit connection to everything else.
When we remain wedded to our belief in separation, our thoughts include ones like:
· I am afraid of not having enough.
· I must compete with others for resources, relevance and status in a closed system.
· My comfort is primary regardless of the impacts it has on life around me.
· My negative thoughts only ‘soil my own nest’ but don’t affect the wider world.
· I must protect what I have.
· I need to be right.
· I need to focus more on what I can control, certify, validate, quantify, order, categorize, measure, and count.
Any of these thoughts, even if they run in the background of other, more altruistic ones, will exacerbate the destructive aspects of our world. For those of us with more power and influence, these thoughts cause even greater harm.
Consequently, we must accept the responsibility that is ours to learn a new language—the language of interdependence--on behalf of the whole. Learning a new language can be slow and difficult and we will struggle to understand each other. We have such a long history with and comfortable lexicon for the old language of separation.
We’ll do better when we commit to learn the language of interdependence with others, immerse ourselves in communities of others who speak it as a first language, practice with beginners, extend ourselves, lose faith, fall down and try again.
At some point, these new ideas and the language they influence will become a fluency. Over time these ideas will shape our experience, assuring our nervous systems of their truth. We’ll begin to see ourselves living from ideas like:
· I have enough.
· I may have more than enough.
· My thoughts shape my experience and the culture around me.
· The quality of my relationship to all things is a primary measure of my health.
· My well-being depends on the well-being of the wider world.
· Questing to learn nourishes and sustains all of us while questing to win depletes all of us.
· When I create space for reflection, connection, and stillness, the culture of myself heals the culture of the whole.
· I am a single wave amidst an endless ocean.
· I am also the ocean.
In many ways I have spent my whole life inquiring into the concept and practice of leadership. I studied the power dynamics in my own family, those of every group I ever joined, every institution I was a member of. I majored in political science and sought jobs with elected officials who attempt to lead. I’ve accepted offers for positional authority and tried, and often failed, to share that power more consciously. I’ve founded organizations, coached other leaders, and sought new ways to inspire collective leadership. I’ve even long struggled to become the sovereign of my own life.
What I can see from this 52-year old perspective is that leadership is up for reinvention. What we think of it now, what we witness of it in the world, is but a meager shadow of what we need to renew the world. The truth is we don’t know yet what leadership will look like in its more evolved expression, but I feel confident it will be grounded in a belief of our implicit connectedness. So let’s start there. Let each of us imagine ourselves as the seed for a new kind of leadership. Let us accept the responsibility of caring for its fragile new beginning. Take the work seriously. Tend to it generously. Trust. Be patient. Be committed. And watch what happens.