“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do next.” I said to the pixelated Japanese face at the other end of my Skype call. I could feel the strain in my voice as I struggled to mask the restlessness and frustration inside of me.
He looked back at me with an expression of compassionate amusement.
“You need to learn to live with the reality that you don’t know what to do next. And that you don’t know why you don’t know. Be with the not knowing. Make yourself the quest.” Continue reading
A Kickstarter for A New Civilization
A few days ago, my friend Liam Sharp sent me this video from the British Television program Charlie Brooker’s Wipe.
The gist is this: there are profound powers of control out there that have enormous influence over the Narrative — the stories that we tell in order to make sense out of the world. As a result, we can’t make sense of what is going on. Who are the bad guys? Who are the good guys? Who did what to whom and why? What is important and what is a distraction? Its become nearly impossible to have any real confidence in the answers to any of these questions.
If you’ve looked at my foundational assumptions, you will remember that I believe that the only viable path forward for humanity is a “hard reboot” of our total social architecture. As a consequence, this video does not strike me as odd or even challenging. In fact, I find it a bit refreshing. So — we can no longer trust any of our institutions of authority? Our organs of political, journalistic and even scientific truth-formation are fatally suspect. What are we to do? Clearly — reinvent new ones.
This will, of course, be difficult. And if you believe that it is possible to simply muddle along under our current architecture, perhaps with some modifications or reforms, my approach will feel (far) too risky and you might want to stop reading here.
2014 has been a year of reinvention. A new outlook, new behaviors, new friendships. And exploring a new style. Transitioning from a cozy three bedroom colonial in upstate New York to a modern beach condo in southern California gave me a chance to reimagine how I’d like my environment to look and feel. Here’s a list of 10 sources that gave me inspiration as I’ve been nesting into my new home, and some top picks from each.
This content is an excerpt from a book I’ll be publishing soon, documenting my journey of personal transformation and experiments in life design over the past year. If you’re interested in knowing more about that, feel free to send me an email at emergentbydesign [at] gmail.com.
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In my last essay, I looked at the coming “Great Transition” which, I believe, is the kind of event that happens every 1,000 or 10,000 years. In such a disruption, we must understand that most of our “civilization toolkit” will have to be entirely re-invented. I find that it can often be difficult to process this level of reinvention. Even when we consciously try to hold ourselves to a high standard, our habits of mind inevitably impose themselves on what we envision — and we unconsciously smuggle much of our current world into our imagined future. We look to the future and imagine flying cars.
The approach that I’ve learned to take when tasked with a deeply disruptive imagination is to tear contemporary institutions down to their baseline fundamentals. “Boil off” the medium and mechanism and get to the core social or human-level functions that these institutions are attempting to satisfy. From here, we can dip into our provisional “toolkit from the future” and invent new institutional architectures that satisfy the fundamental needs — but in an entirely rethought fashion.
Friend and co-conspirator Jordan Greenhall has just begun releasing a series of essays to his Medium blog, unfolding a perspective on the great transition we’re facing as a global civilization, and how we might get through it gracefully. I’ve invited him to cross-post them here to kick off a broader conversation around these topics, which many people have been thinking about and working on for a long time. The hope is that together we can articulate a new cultural narrative, and launch ourselves into practical action to make our visions a reality. Below is the first installment. Please share your view!
Our global civilization is currently undergoing a tremendous set of transitions that will ultimately result in the dismantling of much of the way that we currently live and the construction of a new “civilization model”. Over the next several months, I will be laying out many of the major challenges that we will face during this transition and propose solutions. I will then outline a practical plan that could enable us to actively make that transition in an elegant bottoms-up fashion (i.e. without requiring any willing participation from existing social and political institutions).
A very good way of framing the transition is a movement from a social system that is fundamentally organized around solving the problems of “scarcity” to a social system that is fundamentally organized around solving the problems of “abundance”. In this essay, I will discuss that transition and introduce some of the more important aspects of scarcity and abundance.
In response to the last post on mediocrity, style, and exquisiteness, philosopher and Zen Buddhist priest Yasuhiko Genku Kimura shared this passage he wrote on the causes of mediocrity, excerpted from his essay Self-Responsibility, Self-Integrity, and Freedom from the Guru.
He proposes the notion that mediocrity is not about being average, but about conforming to the average, and genius is not about living up to an external comparative standard, but about cultivating self-responsibility and self-integrity. This presents an empowering narrative that geniushood is about bestowment rather than endowment, leaving the matter of embodying it a choice solely ours to make. Reprinted with permission.
THE CAUSE OF MEDIOCRITY
What are the reasons for this sorry state of affairs? There are several different ways in which to answer this question. First, we will approach this question from the point of view of the conspiracy for mediocrity, as this sorry state of affairs is an exemplary case of the all-pervasive conspiracy for mediocrity existing in the world. Continue reading
you might say our society suffers from a conspiracy of mediocrity.
it conditions us for sameness, instead of supporting the blossoming of individuality.
in principle, it celebrates heroism, creativity, and genius – but in practice, it actively discourages these things, either through subtle disincentivization, or downright punishment.
while it claims to offer structured systems designed as tools to serve us, the unspoken tradeoff is that it captures our sense of inner authority, masterfully externalizing it into itself.
society’s eyes watch us, tell us what to want, what to deem meaningful, how we ‘should’ live, and what we need to do in order to achieve a particular state, or become a particular thing.
how little room this leaves for free thinkers, or for the spontaneity of creativity!
society likes mediocrity.
in fact, it thrives on it. to keep itself running, it requires us to propagate the norm, to follow the well-trodden paths.
but maintenance is different than evolution.
and we did not arrive here to live as machines.
we came to express our true nature, to cultivate our style, to be exquisite.
be yourself. the greatest quest. follow your unique rebellious spirit out into the world.
in mediocrity, we fear believing we are capable of being distinct, or the repercussions that might follow as a result. we capitulate, taking all our cues for how to be from outside ourselves.
but there is no need to be victim to this unfortunate circumstance. the gift of style is self-bestowed.
Like nature, style is given shape by a wild, organic and unpredictable energy.
what does true style look like?
you, at your most natural, your individual uniqueness shining brightly and freely. no hiding or faking.
it’s the creative process itself, expressing itself through you.
the mind will try to control it, tame it, direct it, label it. it will look for repeatability. it will try to create models to neatly structure and package it. it will try to tell you how to do it, how to be. if you listen, you are lost.
ruthlessly cut away every creeping trap that wants to trick you into imitation. don’t look anywhere outside yourself. even not (or especially not!) to the comfort of your own mind. if it’s simulation, or even emulation, it’s mediocrity.
stop trying to be something and just be! how frustratingly simple.
tuning to the creative source is not a doing so much as an allowing. a letting go, a surrendering to a process that is beyond the control of your mind, yet is somehow the essence of yourself. more you than the you you typically associate with. more you than the roles and identities and stories and shoulds and expectations.
pure, wild, unadulterated. love this expression you are. how could you not? when it comes out of you, you cannot help but be awed and surprised by yourself. the truth of you is vast.
you are incomparable.
there is nothing you ‘should’ do. there is nothing you ‘should’ be. there is no one outside yourself who holds the answer. don’t be fooled into simulating your life instead of living it.
you are exquisite, and the world needs your light.
meditations on the 8th gene key, by richard rudd
quote on style also by richard rudd.
i was first introduced to the phrase “conspiracy of mediocrity” by Yasuhiko Kimura
it’s exactly a year ago today since i started a new life.
on this morning, i said goodbye to my soon-to-be ex-husband, climbed into my yaris amongst the possessions i considered most cherished, and began my journey across the country to an unknown future in california.
i went mostly silent on social media. it seemed a time to honor reflection and contemplation over broadcast and interaction.
the themes of self-authorship, integrity, and responsibility have been fundamental for the redesign of my life.
as have creativity, playfulness, openness to discovery, and love.
i feel a yearning to re-engage here now, though the content will likely be different, as will the voice.
this note is mostly to give myself permission to celebrate that.
onward and upward.