Friday, August 5, 2011

Consensus, Community and Addiction

Our ability to cultivate the reality we seek is determined by our ability to communicate constructively. Community is the result of a conversation and, by the very nature of this conversation, community is inherently multi-dimensional. We all have different stories to tell and we all see reality through a different set of lenses. The variety of these perspectives is both the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity for the cultivation of CommUnity. In this way, 'Community' can be seen as the 'Communicational Unity', otherwise know as consensus.

The complexities of communicational unity increases with each additional perspective. Thus the inherent challenges of consensus decision making. At the same time, each new perspective brings new opportunities to make decisions based on a more clear and holistic interpretation of our collective reality.
"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes." - Walt Whitman
In this way, new perspectives add value and build better models for our collective reality. Now let us consider, we are approaching a world population of 7 billion people. Furthermore, many of us are beginning to recognize our interdependence, not only with 6.9 billion other people but with the vast diversity of organisms in our environment as well. Indeed, even our own bodies are made up of more bacteria than human cells. Taken further, what we consider to be our cells are actually a cooperative union of a verity of different bacteria. How then can we hope to make decisions that are considerate of such vast diverse perspectives?

Often we find it difficult to even consider ourselves completely. That pint of ice cream sure tastes good! But the impacts it has on our body is rarely taken into consideration, that is... until that perspective is illuminated through a visit to our doctor or a shameful moment on the bathroom scale. "Ugh, how did we let ourselves get so out of control?"
"Earth provides enough for everyones need, but not everyones greed" - Mahatma Gandhi
Ecologically, we find ourselves in a similar state to one who's "let themselves go". At first it tasted so sweet, how were we to know these indulgences would result in ecological dis-ease? Sure, there have been cells of the body along the way that were warning us to put down the ice cream or, at the very least, to moderate our consumption. But the perspective that our choices were leading toward self-destructive abuse were not illuminated or heeded in time to avert the onset of what now amounts to a compulsive addiction.

Today, with the conditions of our global dis-ease becoming so apparent we can no longer turn a blind eye, our collective challenge is to put down the ice cream and motivate the rest of our body to get off the couch and exercise, before it's too late.
"A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
This is where we have to make a choice about how we make decisions. Are we going to yield to and continue enabling those parts of us that just want one more bite while other parts of this figurative body are screaming for a return to a more healthy lifestyle? Apparently, there are enough cells left in our crucial nerve centers that crave the continuation of our consumption, irrespective of the result. And, just as with any new exercise routine, the desires of our addiction only become louder as we struggle for remedy.

In time, the parts of us that are addicted to unhealthy behavior can be re-trained to appreciate and even encourage healthy behavior. But that reality may still be some ways off. For now, it's going to take a serious amount of motivation to convince our addicted cells that it is time to get off the couch and shape up.
"We may think there is willpower involved, but more likely... change is due to want-power. Wanting the new addiction more than the old one. Wanting the new me in preference to the person I am now." - George A. Sheehan
With the behaviors of addiction, we often find ourselves in what can only be described as a pattern circular communication. The conversation spins around, no conclusions are reached, no decisions made, and little action is taken other than to continue to satisfy our craving for that which we are addicted. For the health of our collective body, it's important that we recognize when these patterns are occurring and cut them short. There is no need to waste any more time trying to convince the addicted part of ourselves what needs to happen. We will be thanking ourselves later. In the meantime, we can expect to throw a violent fit in protest of the initial discomfort of this dramatic redirection of our energies.

As a result, some might conclude that we can never find consensus with the irrational parts of ourselves however, with this I must disagree. Through constructive communication and the conviction (as well as clear evidence) that what we are doing, however painful, is part of the process of healing, consensus can eventually be restored.
"There are no bosses, only coordinators of information" - Helen Samuels
It's starts with small circles of community like Tierra Viva in Mexico City that reach consensus, even on a small scale, and move in a constructive direction, despite the enormity of obstacles and challenges they face. Empowered with the knowledge that they are providing a service that is creating real and tangible benefits for their community, they do not look to leaders to guide their decisions. They merely allow their actions to speak for them, and the proof is in the preverbal pudding (not to be confused with that tasty ice cream - if you can excuse my over use of this analogy).

Tierra Viva is not alone. There are several other examples of the successful application of motivated and informed action followed by inclusive communication. The City Repair Project in Portland, Oregon is perhaps one of the most direct illustrations of how this approach can produce positive outcomes and even result in a consensus with the less than rational parts of our culture.

Community is cultivated through Communicational Unity (i.e. consensus). A consensus typically begins on small scale (just a few pushups to get started). If the outcome of the community's actions result in clear benefit, and the conversation remains constructive and inclusive, the community has the opportunity to broaden not only the scope of its impact but also its perspective. And, as our perspectives increase, our decisions become more informed. Before we know it, we've developed a rigorous workout that is challenging, invigorating and healthful.

We can't wait for someone else to do this work for us. We have an obligation to get off the couch and take control of our future. Don't waste time looking for consensus... cultivate it. The new you awaits!


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