Mihaly Csikszentmihayi proffers our next challenge as humans as he closes his iconic book on how achieving flow (‘joy, creativity, the process of total involvement with life’*).
Flow is about differentiation – basically to know who I am as different to who you are, to know what my contribution is compared to yours.
Now, he says, we must explore how my flow merges with your flow, with the flow of the universe from which we have emerged, else we face increasing alienation:
‘But complexity consists of integration as well as differentiation. The task of the next decades and centuries is to realise this under-developed component of the mind. Just as we have learned to separate ourselves from each other and the environment, we now need to learn how to reunite ourselves with other entities around ys without using our hard-won individuality.’*
We notice how, as we grow up, we move from dependence to independence – when our motivation and goals come from within us. Now we live in a world where personal independence has never been so powerfully expressed – as individuals, societies, nations. We need to move from independence to interdependence:
‘Recognising the limitations of human will, accepting a cooperative rather than a ruling role in the universe, we should feel the relief of the exile returning home. The problem of meaning will then be resolved as the individual’s purpose merges with the universal flow.’*
Rohit Bhargava labels one of the cultural trends he has noticed for 2018 as truthing:
‘As a consequence of eroding trust in media and institutions, people are engaging in a personal quest for the truth based on direct observation and face-to-face interaction.’**
Truthing makes no sense, though, unless we use it on ourselves as well as others. Otherwise, we may become our own fake news, that is, fake truth. It’s why the end of the journey is not about knowing something, or feeling something, but doing something, not just once, but repeatedly and in a developing way. Only as this serves others, however, will we see the kind of reality Csikszentmihalyi hopes for, perhaps expressed here by Roz and Ben Zander:
‘The WE appears when, for a moment, we set aside the story of fear, competition, and struggle, and tell its story.’^
Some more reading about this development from the self to the we, from dependence to interdependence can be found in Tribal Leadership from Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright, and Seth Godin’s Tribes.