The Commons, Individuality, Fundamentalism And Our Evolutionary Challenge
The Commons is everything that a community shares.
Usually it refers to natural resources like land, air and water. But it is most usefully extended to all things we share, from culture to ideas to security to DNA.
It can be viewed as including our common past and our even more shared future.
The Commons is what we hold in common -- or perhaps what we need to steward together if we are going to survive and thrive as a community, country and world.
The less conscious we become of The Commons, the less real it becomes, the less we care about it and for it, the more threatened our lives become.
As The Commons degrades, individual suffering begins to increase, but we may only see that as INDIVIDUAL suffering, instead of in its larger meaning: as a symptom of the suffering of the community, the eco-system, the world.
As Chellis Glendenning has noted, "Woe is me" might often be better stated as "Woe is us." The personal is, in the end, collective, social, political, ecological.
The progressive whittling of our identities from living beings in a living world, to humans, citizens, workers, consumers leaves us with progressively less power, less vision, less meaning, less context.
Individually tied into the vast machinery of political economy -- the vast production and consumption of goods and services, ideas and entertainment, power and frivolity -- we become focused on the details of pleasure, comfort, security and income -- and anxious about losing them. Money looms large in individual and familiar lives, and time disappears into schedules. We mistake pleasure and fun for happiness, and lose touch with each other, the real world, and our own hearts and kin.
Fundamentalists of all types resist that powerful alienating force of modern culture.
They have stories and religious communities which are full of meaning and co-creative activity, ritual, mutual aid. Their primary shortcoming seems to be their tendency to exclude others from the Family of the Worthy; they are the chosen ones. Sometimes that is a benign belief, and sometimes -- especially in the hands of manipulative demagogues -- it produces the most vicious human catastrophes. In any case, most of us harbor some similar sense of "us" and "them" that the presence of fundamentalism invites us to reflect upon, I think.
In reflecting on all this, it seems to me that evolution calls us to find new ways to connect with ourselves, each other and the world that preserve the most important and powerful aspects of our individuality while being grounded in our Commons. We need approaches to life which have comparable levels of meaning and co-creative engagement to what we find among fundamentalists, but which also welcome the Other, the Dissident, the Novel, and the Still Emerging. Strands of this vision are cropping up here and there. We may get them woven together in time.
In the meantime, we still have to care for our Commons.
I invite you to consider the role of high quality dialogue and deliberation in helping us collectively SEE our Commons, and to co-creatively and continually find good ways to nurture it.
Powerful conversation helps us deepen into our internal Commons -- what I call "our core commons" -- where we are all connected as spirits, life forms, humans.
From there we can find our way together.
Perhaps most significantly, this fact invites us to create forms of politics and governance grounded in that power.
For more information on the Commons please see:
* The Co-Intelligence Institute *
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