horizons of possibility

13 take a step

‘A “horizon of possibilities” means the entire spectrum of beliefs, practices and experiences that are open before a particular society, given its ecological, technological and cultural limitations.  Each society and  each individual usually explore only a tiny fraction of their horizon of possibilities.’*

There’s something tragic when an individual, group, or tribe stop short of what they can be and do.  When curiosity, inquiry, and exploration are truncated because of some imagined limit.

In a conversation recently, I was trying to encourage people to bring their ideas for a joint venture.  I was told nothing had come from such initiatives before.  So I tried again to describe the commitment involved this time, and was told I was wrong.

I am not right yet, but I am not wrong.  Wrong in this context says, Stop this, nothing will come of it.

Take a step, the horizon changes, take another and it changes again.

Some words from Edgar Schein caught my attention alongside all of this. Schein was describing three ways of understanding humility, towards encouraging humble inquiry.  There’s basic cultural humility, optional humility (when we place ourselves in the presence of someone who’s achieved more than us), and here-and-now humility, which means we’re dependent on someone else at some time or other because they can do something better than us.**

We’re in a time of raising the bar for basic dignity – everyone has something significant to bring; when a person believes this they need only be themselves in the presence of someone who’s achieved what they haven’t; and, when a person brings their gift, their art, their contribution to others, they lead.

To say, We can’t do this, appears, on the face of it, to recognise our true limitations, but as Harari points out, we often stop short of what we are capable of.  Humility expressed in curiosity, inquiry, and exploration moves us beyond what we have so far know as possible.  Humility is not trying to be more than we are, neither is it hiding who we are.  Humility is bringing who we are and offering it in the present.

‘It is a cause of joy when a guide comes along who can help us discern our way.’^

(*From Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens.)
(**From Edgar Schein’s Humble Inquiry.)
(^Robert Jonas, quoted in Henri Nouwen’s Discernment.)


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