Wednesday, October 19, 2011

clarity - and avoidance

Us Quakers like to talk about the miraculous power of the 'light' - as in, the Light will set you free.

Buddhists say something along the lines of, if you shine enough light onto a problem, the solution will present itself.

And in my experience, real clarity quickly translates into 'action' (or, on ocasion, non-action as a form of action), which would imply that freedom is a combination of the two.

There's some great experiences out there about how groups, when they collectively achieve clarity, have no need for 'leadership' - they simply move. Indeed, that seems to be one of the things we look for in a 'movement' - enough shared clarity that action is taken.

Of course, we can take a lot of action without clarity. Often, that action leads nowhere - fast.

Clarity - real clarity - is something I find precious. There was the clarity when I chose my first job. There was the clarity when I said 'yes' to going to Africa without knowing where the finances would come from.There was the clarity when I ended my 6 year relationship: a clarity so sharp and profound that it shook me to my core. In each of those cases, I took immediate, swift action leaving no room for doubt. All those who have known me in those times saw me as decisive - and with that came strength, power and abundance.

Recently, clarity has been harder to reach. This evening, I had an honest discussion about this, and distinguished for myself two things around clarity. One, that clarity enables responsibility. Not being clear means you don't have to be responsible. And two, because clarity leads to action, and action leads to commitment and fully being in the world, it can be terrifying.

Of course, there is a more difficult, in between space - the space between people. How do we find clarity in inherently muddy and messy situations? Most of social science literature, especially around climate change adaptation, encourages us to embrace the 'messy' solutions that are not black and white but instead shades of grey. Politics is filled with a lack of clear-cut, easy solutions - its a hodgepodge of different ideas and personalities, histories, ideas, and values coming together. Does it even make sense to attempt clarity? Or is that just avoiding responsibility - and action?

For now, today, I'm going to say yes. First we can be clear about what we are unclear about, and discern if it is 'ok' to be unclear. And then - and then often the really important things we really can reach collective clarity around. It might take time - and a lot of trust and honesty. But even though the world is filled with wicked, complex problems, and humans are seething creatures of complications, contradictions and paradoxes, today, I'm going to say, we are also continually striving for simplicity. Not the simplicity of blue print designs or of winner-takes-all answers that leave too many people poor and disenfranchised and too few becoming too fat on too much. Yes, it is possible to find collective responses. It is possible to find collective clarity - and with it, responsibility and action. And do we, collectively, avoid it? All the time. As if by avoiding it, we are going to get anywhere.

Avoiding clarity may lead to survival. Maybe. In a changing climate, I'm not sure. It won't lead to human development - much less human flourishing.

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