In her recent post, A world without answers, Gail expounds on one of the effects of increasing rates of change and growth in complexity: Answers aren't what they used to be. So how then, as we venture into panarchy, can we utilize the incredible expertise time has accumulated, if not for answers?
An effective process through which to put "expertise" is a syntopical reading. Most often (in my experience), this is done in groups, with each person having different books or source material, and taking an hour or 90 minutes to scan and note. However, it can also be an enlightening way of thinking and engaging with ideas as an individual.
Create a dialogue with and among the authors. Don't limit them to analysis and critique - let them imagine and galumph with each other's thoughts. Use syntopical reading as a means of getting familiar with someone's ideas and the all important context and situations they rest upon... and then carrying them forward. Engage both imaginative, play-of-mind thinking as well as analytical and critical thinking.
Don't set your sights on answers. Rather, seek out clues, and explore the relationships that connect them.
I'm using syntopical reading and conversing in this way in a current exploration of paradigm shifts and other kinds of phase transitions. Gail and I recently crafted a paper touching on paradigm shifts in general but more particularly, exploring current history for compelling signs that a significant shift is unfolding, and may be on the verging on a global upcreation to borrow a term from Kevin Kelly.
The impetus for the paper was a request from a professional colleague, who was looking for a way to engage his clients in a meaningful exploration of how the fundamental assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that facilitated the emergence of the modern, industrialized world are failing, fading, fighting and giving way to something new and deeply different.
The paper became a vehicle for us to
1) add a difference that makes a difference to the blessed unrest movement in terms of how it synthesizes various accounts and views and offers a design pattern to influence and accelerate the shift; and
2) express leading ideas that we are just beginning to grow into and come toward knowing, fully aware that our thinking and how we express it will change and evolve, perhaps even reverse itself, as we swim deeper into these waters.
Over this time, I've collected a variety of people/works to have a conversation with:
- Brian Walker & David Salt, through their work Resilience thinking: sustaining ecosystems and people in a changing world
- Steven Johnson, through his work The invention of air: a story of science, faith, revolution, and the birth of America
- The interviewers and -viewees of A World of Possibilities, radio/podcasts
- Clay Shirky through his blog and his work, Here Comes Everybody: the power of organizing without organizations
- Stuart Kauffman, through his work Reinventing the Sacred: a new view of science, reason and religion
- Kevin Kelly, through his blog, The Technium, and his work, Out of Control: the new biology of machines, social systems, and the economic world
- The Long Now Foundation seminars
With three iterations of the paper complete, this syntopical conversation is around the question "what is the upside of a shift to a panarchial paradigm and what is the scaffolding to get us there?" I am also looking to better my understanding of resilience and its significance in transitional times.
Upcoming journals will chronicle the conversation as it unfolds.
Who would you invite into this conversation?