The opportunity

The geneticist Stephen Gould […] developed the concept of ‘punctuated equilibrium’ to highlight the fact of collective disruption; in his analysis, environmental ruptures occur suddenly, disorganising previously established patterns. This is to to say that chaos rules, that there is no equilibrium in the environment, but simply that it is a stay against time.*
(Richard Sennett)

truth is stranger than fiction because fiction is never that complex**
(Hugh Macleod)

My calves are killing me.

I’ve just begun run again after struggling with an injury some years ago. I’m not covering much ground, but, boy, do my calves hurt.

Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz point out that we’re likely to back off when we encounter pain but:

Stress is not the enemy in our lives. Paradoxically, it is the key to growth.^

If I just let my muscles recover each time then I’ll be able to keep on developing them.

What is true of our physical muscles, Loehr and Schwartz remind us, is also true for our emotional, mental and spiritual muscles – all of which we’ll need for the days ahead.

In our opening quotes, Richard Sennett and Hugh Macleod are pointing out how we ought not to be surprised by randomness in our world.

Stephen Gould’s punctuated equilibrium finds us living in one of the most disruptive stories of modern times, but we may have been offered one of our best opportunities to be disruptive back, individually and collectively.

I wonder what may be some of the things you’re noticing through these days and wanting to see change in what will be a different future to the one most of us imagined only three or four months ago?

Business, education and government will all look somewhat different in the future. I wonder if they will be enough to more equitably share profits, improve educational possibilities for all and shape a safer and fairer world.

I made Richard Sennet’s book Together my read for May partly because we can’t get together right now, but I also wonder how we’ll come together in new and different ways in our different future. With his engaging thoroughness, Sennett explores the “rituals, pleasures and politics of cooperation,” including taking a look at competition and cooperation through history before moving on to look at how today’s equilibrium includes many inequalities, including that of education, being one affecting each of us:

I’ll look at two dimensions of social inequality: first, inequalities that are imposed on children, not of their own making or desiring; secondly, inequalities which are absorbed and naturalised, so seeming to become part of the child’s self. One way in which children naturalise inequality does something quite special to their psyche: they can become more dependent on the things they consume than on other people.*

Resonating with Ken Robinson’s views of industrial education, Sennett warns:

A child of ten will pass a watershed in absorbing these external realities: economic facts and social institutions will in the course of a few short years shape the sense of self.*

Streamed from a very early age, for many it will be impossible to recover within their lifetimes.

Perhaps, beyond the lockdown, we’ll have the opportunity to reflect on many of these things and begin to imagine different ways to live our lives and live together.

It begins with how we allow our own stories to be disrupted, which, is both a painful and a growing thing, but makes it possible to disrupt back.

(*From Richard Sennett’s Together.)
(**From gapingvoid’s blog: Why we wrote Angrynomics – Mark Blyth.)
(^From Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s The Power of Full Engagement.)

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