Transformation: A Process, Not a Pill
If you want to affect change in the world it is this simple: Change your beliefs. Every time you hear yourself saying “Why try? The way things are now is just the way they will always be,” change your words and say “Anything is possible.” It is possible for humans to live and behave differently – we have/did, for thousands of years, in many different cultures around the world. It is only in the last 10,000 years that one cultural strain of humanity has adopted an imbalanced approach and spread across the earth. Try to match your actions to the possibility of change. You can also kindly mention it in conversation when you witness defeatism in people’s conversations or actions. Words and actions are the way to spread ideas and encourage broader values shift.
Change is a gradual process requiring vision, patient persistence, and support. Building a bridge of ideas to a different way of living may become at times frustrating. You may at times want to go back to old familiar ways of being and forget what else might be possible. It may seem at times like you move backwards despite your efforts. That is a natural part of trying to change – the vision of what is possible expands as fast or faster than you can actualize a shift. When you embark upon a transformative journey, you become like a young salmon whose body shifts from freshwater to saltwater capability while traveling downstream toward the ocean. Once you begin to transform, you can’t go back, and there is a sense of urgency that you need to reach new waters. But you also cannot expect to change everything overnight. There is no magic transformation pill. It is the process itself which yields the benefits of making a shift. A young caterpillar emerging as a butterfly from its cocoon will likely die if assisted in hatching, but when left to its own devices will be strengthened by its struggle. The journey demands of each person a great deal of patience, creativity, strength, and trust in the process if we are to walk together into a new way of being. And of course, the process of change never ends. We cannot expect to arrive at last at a perfectly balanced and healthy way of life, for the true work of change is not to reach a destination but to change our way of walking. Just when we think we’re getting somewhere, we will likely find new opportunities to learn and grow.
What follows is a “toolkit” for cultural change, beginning with the self and extending into new ways of structuring human communities within the constraints of our current time and culture. These tools can help us navigate toward the life we want to live while balancing the constraints of the current predominant cultural norms. Most of these tools involve one of 3 major shifts:
1. Simplifying our desires;
2. Appreciating and striving for personal growth; and
3. Valuing and developing people skills so that we can share more joy and resources with others
We cannot expect individuals to live in balance and healthy relationship within the current context of cutthroat competition, private ownership, and widespread trauma. Many visionary people have dreams of self-sufficient living in the woods or on a farm, but find it hard to achieve the life they seek when faced with the challenges of accessing and financing land, taxes, building permits and costs, and transportation. The promise of future relaxation, freedom, and security remains for most people in our current culture a promise. Most of all, it is extremely challenging to embark upon such a project alone or with few companions to share the journey and the expenses. If we want to live self-sufficiently but must spend most of our time working a job to pay for a place to live, then how will we find time to grow our food or make our clothing? The lifestyle shift must, therefore, include cultivating skills in communication and cooperation so that we can pool our resources with other people, allowing ourselves more free time to live our dreams and bringing the benefit of accelerated personal growth through mirroring for each other. Even those who begin the journey with community in mind often run into many social and emotional challenges when working with other people. That is why Chapter 6 provides tools which assist us on our personal journey of healing and growth while Chapter 7 is devoted entirely to tools for creating tribe.
A Vision of Cooperative Living
As we choose to value people and harmony over productivity and possessions, a natural first shift (within the context of our current money-driven culture) is for people to start banding together in groups of ten or 20 centered around like livelihood and philosophy, remembering that we all want birth-to-death security. It is naturally beneficial for, say, the heavy equipment operators to live in the same community where they share shop space, train apprentices, and can wholesale order supplies and tools. This way they can each pitch in money toward a living space and also fill in for each other when sick or injured or needing vacation time. As a working community, each person can labor the right amount each day for their needs without forcing themselves to pull 12-hour days regularly. This makes space in each person’s life for personal growth, family and social time, and overall health. With community support, each person could strive to balance their time each day equally between work, service, and play. This would be a strong guideline understood by all in the community. The shop would be able to compete with other businesses by getting everything done as usual, but the work would be divided so that each person could live in balance. That way, the output of each worker would likely be higher quality since exhaustion and attitude play a large part in productivity.