Wicked Problems

A troubled Spirit of late had not given me words to share. Following are some notes along the way of trying to understand where we are today, and how we can move through an increasingly chaotic time.

Whether or not we are acting soon enough to mitigate disasters, act we must. Celebrants have an important part to play in the legacy humanity caries into the future. I suggest that our responsibility as ceremonialists, as humans who help other humans meaningfully connect with the web of life, is to find ways now to help people connect with the story of this world’s beauty, even as the world we love recedes. I believe there is a gift we can bring to our communities, to help people learn the art of losing. To help us all to meet the rising tides.

Celebrants & Ceremony in Response to Climate Grieving, Dina Stander, July 26, 2019
  • How is Earth’s story calling to you in this time of great change?
  • What opportunities are you offering your community to address the Earth’s (and all earthlings’) current existential predicament?
  • And how are you coping with more immediate losses from climate change close to home?
  • Are your people recovering from fire or flood?
  • Are the plants you love best to grow no longer suitable for your climate zone?

Celebrants & Ceremony in Response to Climate Grieving, Dina Stander, July 26, 2019


Most of us lack the stories that help imagine a future where we thrive in the midst of unstoppable ecological catastrophe. James Allen

…there remains the most existential risk of them all: our diminishing capacity for collective sensemaking. Sensemaking is the ability to generate an understanding of world around us so that we may decide how to respond effectively to it. When this breaks down within the individual, it creates an ineffective human at best and a dangerous one at worst. At the collective level, a loss of sensemaking erodes shared cultural and value structures and renders us incapable of generating the collective wisdom necessary to solve complex societal problems like those described above. When that happens the centre cannot hold.

Even after it became clear we were devouring the very substrate upon which our own livelihood depends, we continued just the same. With each mouthful, each purchase, each flight or road-trip and each delayed remedial effort and externalised environmental cost, we collectively and gradually shaved away a host of better futures. Somewhere along the line, we slipped into the orbit of a terrible mass of our own making.

Some of us still grasp for levers to pull, but they are now mostly beyond reach now. We may have been originally responsible for putting the flame to the tinder, but now we are contending with a bushfire beyond our control. The problems before us are emergent phenomena with a life of their own, and the causes requiring treatment are obscure. They are what systems scientists call wicked problems: problems that harbour so many complex non-linear interdependencies that they not only seem impossible to understand and solve, but tend to resist our attempts to do so. For such wicked problems, our conventional toolkits — advocacy, activism, conscientious consumerism, and ballot casting — are grossly inadequate and their primary utility may be the self-soothing effect it has on the well-meaning souls who use them.

If we are to find a new kind of good life amid the catastrophes these myths have spawned, then we need to radically rethink the stories we tell ourselves. We need to dig deep into old stories and reveal their wisdom, as well as lovingly nurture the emergence of new stories into being. This will not be easy. The myths of this age are deeply rooted in our culture.

Pontoon Archipelago or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Collapse. By James Allen, originally published by Medium
June 18, 2019

Everywhere people ask, “what can we do?”
The question, what can we do, is the second question.
The first question is “what can we be?”
Because what you can do is a consequence of who you are.
Once you know what you can be, you know what you can do.

Arkan Lushwala

What has risen to the surface at Standing Rock is a physical/spiritual movement. Learn how to quiet your mind. To find the silent receptive space to receive guidance. To learn to adapt and follow the pull of synchronicity to guide you to where you will find your greatest support and strength.
What I have found in my time praying in the indigenous earth based ways, is that it’s not about putting your hands together and talking to god…. It’s about quieting and connecting with the baseline of creation, of nature. Tuning into the frequency and vibration of the natural world, the nature spirits. The beings and entities that have been in existence, for all of existence, the examples and realities of sustainability and harmony.
It’s about becoming receptive to these things. Being open and flowing with them. The spirit guides us, but we have to make ourselves receptive to feel, sense, and respond to this guidance.

Joshua Taflinger

I believe we need to radically rethink the stories we tell ourselves.

There once was a frame of reference in this country that said, “Slavery is a reality.  The best we can do is hope to regulate it and work for the just treatment of slaves.”  John Woolman stepped out of that frame of reference and said, “Slavery is wrong.” His vision was to end slavery. Today there is a frame of reference in this country that says, “Illegal immigration is a reality.  The best we can do is regulate immigration. We step out of that frame of reference to say, “All are worthy of a decent life.” Our vision is the recognition of migration as a human right.” 

Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) 2016
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