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Living Systems, Jung’s Archetypes, and the Fullness of What’s Needed to Cultivate Regenerative Community

Curator's Note: Our friend and colleague Michelle Holliday entwines diverse threads to create a rich tapestry of insight on the key to effecting positive and lasting change for us as a species. Below, we repost Part 2 of a two-part series. Michelle picks up after a reflection on the possibilities in moving from an archetype-based perspective. To read Part 1, click here.

The Law of Regenerativity

With this, we reimagined the Law of Three diagram as something that might be called The Law of Regenerativity. Warrior and Weaver energy are brought together in shared service to a Sovereign purpose, enabling the realization of emergent potential. This process is enlivened and made regenerative by the will and Enchantment of life itself.

  What more could it mean at this moment in time for each of us, individually, to be able to bring the best of ourselves? To feel deeply at home in this place, in this work and in our own bodies? And what could support that?
   

This set of patterns helped us recognize the need to be very thoughtful about where we direct our attention. For example, is the point of our efforts to be anti-rivalrous? If that is our goal, then our focus will be on the Weaving. And truly, this is important work. But isn’t the larger goal to enable life to thrive in our own unique, collective way, with the understanding that this will require us to design generative structures and systems of (anti-rivalrous) interaction, along with other requirements? Focusing on “preventing rivalry” as our goal risks quashing the diversity of individual expression that is also needed for life to thrive. It doesn’t raise our sights to why we might come together and what potential we might manifest. And it likely blocks us from the inspiration and celebration that a focus on thriving can bring.

This same caution might be offered for methods like blockchain technology, Lean, Holacracy, and “Teal paradigm” structures and systems (Warrior-driven approaches to Weaving, if ever there were any). Each is useful, but incomplete in important ways.

We also noticed that Warrior and Weaver archetypes are both instrumental, lending themselves to easy validity. But to get to harmonization and integration — and to full regenerativity and thriving — we also need the other two archetypes. And though Sovereign and Enchanter archetypes have less direct connection to the action, they tend to bring transformative, rather than instrumental, impact.

Regenerativity in Action

Fortunately, our 3½-day gathering featured a beautiful example of all four elements being brought together in over 700 projects, with powerful and lasting impact. Mark Lakeman of The City Repair Project in Portland, Oregon, did his own version of the rapid-fire intellectual overview of the history of humanity. He explained how — with its origins in ancient Greece’s warring, colonizing campaigns — the now-ubiquitous urban grid structure is intended to isolate, homogenize and control. “Don’t leave without understanding that we live in a coercive landscape,” Lakeman implored. Within this structure, public space has become dead, unable to accommodate connection, conversation and co-creation.

In response, City Repair works to “bring back the village,” full of potential and vibrant, organic aliveness. Their focus is street intersections, where Weaving might naturally take place with a bit of thoughtful cultivation. The process he described involves a series of convivial, multigenerational neighborhood potlucks, in which people sense their shared story and identity.

“Who are we? What do we care about right now? What kind of world do we want to live in together, starting right here in our neighborhood?” At some point, a sub-group takes on the task of sketching out how these sentiments might be expressed in a painting that spans the entire surface of a local intersection. The image is refined with feedback from the community, and then it is brought to life in a burst of collective creation and celebration. This Sovereign process is intentionally enlivened by the creative energy of the multi-family potluck, along with art, beauty and play. “When men are with their kids,” Lakeman explained, “they go back into villager mode and it’s easier to get to shared decisions.” Children are natural Enchanters.

Beyond whimsically decorated intersections, the impacts are personal as well as public. The community projects offer a fertile practice ground in which people learn that they can come together in collective, inspired action in service of something larger than themselves, even as they are personally nourished in the process. They learn to think systemically. They open up to being surprised. As Lakeman said, they learn “to speak together into a commons.”

At a larger level, it turns out that they also end up changing things like governance structures and systems. “People didn’t think they were going to change the political process. But that’s what happens when you mess with public space.”

Lessons to Carry Forward

And here is where we must caution the Warrior and the Weaver in us all: the lesson is not that every community must copy and paste the potluck-to-painted-intersection model, in a rapid pursuit of “scale.” This is not a call to become “anti-grid.” As Lakeman explained: “The point is not to create the things. It’s to create the conditions for the Life-Force.” The point is that we must each cultivate our own practice grounds for stewarding life, wherever we find it — and we find it everywhere.

What we can take away from the City Repair example is that certain conditions will be particularly fertile. Whether your practice ground is your organization or your neighborhood or a 3½-day gathering of well-intentioned people, it seems that the following conditions would support you well:

  • A field of action — something to steward, something bounded and purposeful and larger than yourself.
  • Rootedness in the mythic story and geography of place; like plants, we and our projects require the soil of a particular place.
  • A community of fellow action-learners: (1) each of whom has a commitment to developing their own capacity to steward life, to listen for what is needed and to be of service; (2) with a shared commitment to being in healthy, open relationship and communication; (3) ideally, united by love of a place and its community, which opens the door to the creation of shared fields of action.
  • A regular, repeated rhythm of ample blocks of time for reflection and renewal. We need not to accelerate but to expand our experience of time, so within it we can develop our ability to sense what is needed and to feel our own aliveness.
  • Practices for hosting participatory, generative conversations.
  • The necessary nourishment of nature, movement, creativity, beauty, music and play.

Within such fertile practice grounds, you will be well supported as you respond to stewardship’s “four callings,” engaging in any or all of these conversations, or variations of them that seem relevant and timely to you:

  • What more could it mean at this moment in time for each of us, individually, to be able to bring the best of ourselves? To feel deeply at home in this place, in this work and in our own bodies? And what could support that?
  • What more could it mean at this moment in time for our infrastructure and interactions to support not only information sharing, decision-making, effective action and trust but playfulness, learning and joy? For our patterns of belonging with colleagues, customers and community to be infused with a sense of dedication, earnestness, perhaps even sacredness? And what could support that?
  • What more do we understand at this moment in time about the calling or purpose — the emergent, unifying story — that propels us into transformative action together, as citizens, employees, customers, community members? What new possibilities are now apparent for how we will craft and live into that story of wholeness and wonder? What are we called to express and create together, in service of life? What is the wisdom that is needed now?
  • What would bring the most life to this situation? How can we be inspired, nourished, renewed and even surprised by nature, beauty, art, music, movement and celebration? How can we allow life to flow through us so that we can truly savor this experience of being alive?

For several decades now, there has been widespread awareness that humanity is perched at the edge of a cliff, one step away from a plummet into global catastrophe. The responses have been many. But here we are, still teetering ever more precariously at the edge. The sustainability and corporate social responsibility movements have been characterized by useful Warrior energy, appealing to each of us to do things differently. The social and organizational innovation movements have guided us in exploring new structures and methods for Weaving our actions together, inviting us to do different things. But none of these has fully invited us to see differently. None has invited us into a story of healing, wholeness and inspiration. What is still needed is the transformative presence of both Sovereign and Enchanter. What is needed is skilful integration of all four archetypes, in the intentional and collective practice of stewarding life. That seems to be the key to regenerative living.

[Much gratitude to Bill Reed and Zanette Johnson for contributions to the thinking behind this article.]

[Some segments of this article first appeared in The Age of Thrivability: Vital Perspectives and Practices for a Better World.]

This blog was originally posted to michelleholliday.com, and appears here with permission.

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Michelle
Holliday

Michelle is a writer, speaker, researcher and facilitator. Her work centers around “thrivability” — a set of perspectives and practices based on a view of organizations and communities as dynamic, self-organizing living systems. With this understanding, we recognize that we can create the fertile conditions for life to thrive at every level – for individuals, for organizations as living ecosystems, for customers, community and biosphere. To that end, she brings people together and helps them discover ways they can feel more alive, connect more meaningfully with each other, and serve life more powerfully and effectively through their collective action. In other words, she invites people into the informed intention and practice of stewarding life. She is also the author of The Age of Thrivability: Vital Perspectves and Practices for a Better World. Visit her website at www.michelleholliday.com.