"If you did not do what you did today, for example, the entire world would be in some way different.
Your acts ripple outward in ways that you do not understand, interacting with the experience of others, and hence, forming world events. The most famous and the most anonymous person are connected through such a fabric, and an action seemingly small and innocuous can end up changing history."
The Nature of the Psyche: It's human Expression, 1979
This is a quote I have used so many times. I think about it often ... but more or less as an abstract. Lately, I find myself trying to sense the ripples I have sent outwards because of my smallest and largest thoughts and actions. This statement has become personal. I can remember being in 8th grade the first time I thought about my actions in the world. That was 60 years ago! I wonder what my balance is for changing history ... for the better or for the worse?
I think of Buckminister Fuller who asked himself if one human being could make a difference. He documented his life calling himself, Guinea Pig Bucky. It's interesting to appraise another's life. Bucky's life was as full of "failures" as it was of success. How do events ripple out? How do they get woven into the larger fabric?
I think of my Mom's Mom. She was always there for my brothers and me and our friends. We spent summers with my grandparents and she worked tirelessly to make things work for us while never hesitating to scold and teach. Yes, she lives still. She is part of my fabric.
I recall several things that have helped me understand how non-linear actions are ... how things I have done ripple out and perturb the universe in strange and delightful ways. In 1972, I created the Learning Exchange in Kansas City Missouri. I left the Exchange and the city in 1979 believing I had completed a cycle and that the Exchange was in good hands. In 1997, I was invited to return to KC and help celebrate 25 years of success with the Exchange. I got a call from a reporter asking if she could interview me while I was in the city. As we sat and talked over coffee she told me her story: One of the premier programs that I started just before leaving was Exchange City, a program for 5th graders to come to know the workings of a city. Students would come from all over the city to take part in running a town for a few days. Students would vie for being Mayor, or banker, doctor, baker, etc. This young women interviewing me told me her Exchange City story. She wanted to be Mayor or banker but was not selected to be either. In fact, she got her last choice ... that of being a reporter. Now here she was 15 years after her City experience interviewing me as a reporter. She said that week in Exchange City changed her life. What part did I play in that? I was long gone before she entered the program. Ripples ...
Another moment was in 2004 when I met a group of knowledge workers in Europe who were part of the CapGemini ASE. They were all strangers to me, but they knew the process and methods that Matt and I had created. These were second and third generation practitioners in our process. While they did not know much of the systemic thoughts behind our work, they were knowledgeable, skilled and eager to learn more. This is when I realized that Matt and I though our ways of working and teaching had succeeded in creating a long now with our work. Our work was transferable without degradation. The core of the practice traveled from one person/team to another.
There have been other moments of good reflection ... the phone call I got from a Mom when her son graduated first in his high school class. He came to me in second grade already classified as a slow learner. Our school had not tracking system. At that time all kids were mixed together (and still should be) and in my classroom and way of teaching Johnny thrived. Before the end of the year, he could keep up with the best.
50 years from now, long after 2012 and the singularity moment, long after my ripples have intertwined with others' ripples, what will form that has a semblance of my years on Earth? What is the fabric I weave?