This is a long one, so I recommend sitting down with a good cup of coffee or tea first; I’ve got a bit of territory to cover, and I don’t know about you but I live in a world that I often struggle to reconcile myself with.
One such recent challenge came as I searched the web for resiliency related blogs and came across one by The Resilient Corporation. As they will tell you, they appear in a Fortune Special Feature titled: Weathering Any Storm: In today’s volatile world, corporations have to be resilient. That takes a smart risk-management strategy….
Excitedly I followed a search link to their blog post, “Levels of Resiliency;” and there I saw a model of levels of resilience that I find personally and professionally… deficient: not for what it includes-but for what it excludes.
The model’s shadow, or exclusion and thus danger as I see it (Resiliency’s Shadow – Domestication), includes three critical levels of exclusion: 1) the Earth herself, 2) the local ecology, in which any human identity construct always exists, and 3) and the international human domains.
And therein lies the challenge of my reconciliation with the world I live in that sparked this post: How do I engage with folks of differing perspectives and worldviews so as to encourage and invite openness and learning and dialog… on all sides, rather than provoking hostility or resistance or dismissal… from any of us?
Provoking the resilience of an existing attitude or belief system is as easy as attacking it. (Witness the escalation of our “Crusade” or War Against Terrorism, or try insulting your neighbor. That said, I am also sure the folks at The Resilient Corporation love nature too, and so I do not intend this as an attack, but as an invitation.) Creating an invitation and holding the space for mutual growth and even for transformation is… well, that requires a different engagement of our capacity for imagination… for thinking outside of the corral, so to speak.
Stephen Flynn (author of The Edge of Disaster: Rebuilding a Resilient Nation) demonstrates a level of this “unconventionality” of thinking in his Special to CNN: Flynn: U.S. Not Prepared for the Next Big One.
Americans have failed to learn the most important lesson of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina: We need to make building resiliency from within our borders as urgent a priority as confronting dangers from without…
…More importantly, Americans are far more likely to be caught in the cross hairs of a major natural disaster such as an earthquake, flood, forest fire or a hurricane than an attack by terrorists.
…Acts of terror and disasters cannot always be prevented, but they do not have to be catastrophic. The key is being willing to invest in things that are not particularly sexy, such as public health, emergency planning and community preparedness.
I first encountered Flynn’s article at The Resilient Blog. The Levels of Resiliency model presented there supports Flynn’s encouragement to strengthen our inner resilience pro-actively. The model, as briefly presented, is essentially one of scales. The levels noted are: National, Regional, State, Community and Personal. It is a good and useful model of thinking such as it is, and I believe it is also human species-centric enough so as to contain dangers.
How is it possible, I ask, to model human scale resilience without placing on the map the environment and context all human activity occurs within? Speaking of intelligent risk management strategies, the eight page Special Advertising Feature, Weathering Any Storm, states:
It’s also crucial to consider the resiliency of all the partners and suppliers with whom you work….
Yet never in the Special Feature, or in the model of Levels of Resiliency, is there any acknowledgment that we are completely dependent upon the Earth and her life systems as the partnering source of our physical well-being and ultimately all economic activity.
Human Beings are a subsystem of the Cosmos and Earth systems, not the other way around; and human system resilience is intimately and reciprocally hitched to the larger ecosystems we are embedded within. Business models of resilience which fail to acknowledge this dependency are delusional in their thinking, disembodied in their risk taking, and unintelligent in their strategic planning; they will not survive the publics ecological awakening into the Languages of Life we are now entering into: relationship and reciprocity.
Words mean things, and being resilient calls for close attention to the lexicon we use in debating and making public policy about preparing for, responding to, and mitigating against threats, from whatever source.
From my accord with the spirit of that post I offer these invitations and challenges to… The Resilient Corporation and to any interested parties.
1. To embed our working models of resilience within an ecological frame that is also inclusive of local ecosystems, international human dynamics, and of the encompassing Earth system herself-in which each of the others are embedded. Our failure to language and think in such organic and living systems terms is reflective of the fragmenting wound modern humans share: our experience of separation, of isolation, and of impotence-too often expressed in the business and political worlds as a compensatory self-inflating egoic virility.
2. The second challenge is this one of language, to shift it from the mechanistic and rubber ball ‘bouncing back’ model of human resilience to one of learning, one oriented toward ‘bouncing forward,’ at the least. But hopefully, ultimately, we can shift to a developmental language that incorporates the evolutionary transformational, transcendent, and homeostatic and living systems nature of all human domain resilience.
So how can I be wildly resilient in the face of my challenges to reconcile with the world I find myself in, one dominated by worldviews often at odds with my own? It is a question larger than this post, and here is a summation:
Through orienting by the innate biotropism within, through ‘turning toward Life,’ my love of life, which then leads me to this reflective writing and the sharing of it, and by offering, in the spirit of inclusion and learning and growing, these invitations and challenges. It is such actions for me that help transform energies that might otherwise lead me into despair and a sense of impotence-into an experience and sense of creative engagement and beauty.
And how can we be prepared for the next Big One, whether from our enemies or more likely from Mother Nature? It will happen as we are willing to model and live our personal, community, corporate and national… lives as belonging within the larger global and local community of life we are part of. It will happen through the opening of one heart and one mind at a time.
Therein lies the wisdom of knowing that our social security and our community resilience is revealed in our willingness to, as Stephen Flynn says, “invest in things that are not particularly sexy, such as public health, emergency planning and community preparedness.” And I would include in this list of investments: in the education of our children as participants within the community of life, and in the care of our old as elders in the Circle of Life.
In this spirit rests the grounding, the vision and the hope of human system resilience, on global, national, regional, community, personal, and interspecies levels.
As you might hear in South Africa, in the spirit of the Nguni word Ubuntu, when asked: “Did you sleep well last night?”
The answer, incorporating relationship and reciprocity is: “I did if you did.”
Notes— A few resources on my mind as I wrote this:
For a systems model of community resilience that incorporates Environmental Stewardship, see: International Consortium of Organizational Resilience (ICOR) http://www.theicor.org/pages/rescomm.html
For a view on where the business world is headed in relationship to the natural world, though sorting pr from reality here is yet beyond me, see Dow Chemical’s Human Element pr campaign on You Tube.
For a view on Natural Enterprise, see How to Save the World post here: http://blogs.salon.com/0002007/2007/08/27.html#a1964