In light of the recent difficulties we’ve been experiencing (e.g. Big Bank Failure, Big Oil Spill) there can be little doubt that we live in very interesting times. Though we may have experienced similar challenges in the past, today’s challenges are surely bigger and more far-reaching than ever before. Our technology has afforded us far-reaching capability, but unfortunately the development of our system of orientation and corresponding sense of responsibility has not kept pace.
While we may have different opinions about how to respond, there can be little disagreement that reality forever outruns experience. That is, reality presents us with circumstances that test the validity of our assumptions/beliefs—our system of orientation—that underlie how we make sense of our world.
Do those in authority (a.k.a. our leadership) see patterns or just separate events? Do they see each as an independent problem to be fixed or do they see the interrelatedness among them? Do they see these problems as caused by the same system of thought that is woven throughout our institutions? Are those with the authority to change things systems thinkers or reductionist thinkers?
The question then is are those in authority approaching each of these circumstances as opportunity or threat? That is to say, do those in authority have the will to learn or the will to hold onto belief? If the latter then the recognition of the errors in our assumptions/beliefs will not occur until it is experienced at the extreme—taken to its inevitable conclusion. In this case, we may be unable to successfully respond—it will be too late.
Moreover, if those in authority try to solve these problems by holding onto the very assumptions/beliefs that underlie and cause the problem, then they would be ignoring Einstein’s advice—we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them! Making small adjustments to the system (i.e. tweaking) rather than transforming the system is representative of this approach. Unless the assumptions/beliefs are subjected to critical thinking—double loop learning—then all actions in response will be governed by the error in our system of thought.
The importance of being an unceasing learner when living in interesting times can’t be understated. Our ability to successfully meet the challenges reality thrusts upon us is dependent upon our willingness to learn anew. Since learning is foundational to viability, having the will to learn is absolutely crucial—progress is not possible otherwise.
What we have is a (self-imposed) crisis of will. We participate in the creation of our reality and until we fully understand that how we think (or don’t think) has a lot to do with what we experience—over and over again. Having the will to change enables our ability to change. The saying may you live in interesting times can be thought of as a blessing, as an opportunity to learn, and not a curse. Have we the will to seize the opportunity before it is too late?