As a growing, evolving spiritual community…we commit ourselves to nurture our needs for personal spiritual growth…and mutually caring community, devote ourselves to religious learning…, embrace human diversity…, and join with the larger community to promote love, justice, and service to society.
Toward these ends we pledge our talents, energies, and resources.
Unitarian Society of Hartford, Mission Statement
Ecological Evolution of Post-Millennial Economics
Rev. Gerald Dillenbeck, M. Div., MPA, PDC
While I seldom take time to read long emails, I hope you will at least give this a chance to see if my perspective resonates for you regarding the ecology of the Unitiarian Society of Hartford’s economic culture, including perhaps rather too much sweeping conjecture about regenerative faith systems. In summary, I propose an internal, growing toward externalized, cooperative exchange of values, arguing these will grow increasingly positive, abundant, even regenerative, as value exchanges reflect our shared faith in individual and collective “Truth-Journey,” also known as Tao, or “the Way” and “the Word” in Christianity. Applying fundamental principles of permaculture design and synergetically eco-logical stewardship planning and networking to ourselves, our faith community, and our larger ecosystem, incubates a richer, more inclusive, greener, resilient, and life-sustaining economic culture. Like good yeast.
Joanna Macy and Molly Brown’s Coming Back to Life is a useful manual for what has become known as the Work That Reconnects (WTR). This WTR, like Permaculture Design, begins with an enthymematic, silent stage of simply noticing what’s going on, without judgment or needing to fix it, or even embellish it, yet. As we mindfully perceive and co-prehensively interact, learn from and notice, our Exterior Landscape, in this case the economic flow trends, exchanges and boundaries, both tangible-spatial and temporal-sequential, we find parallel dynamics in our Interior Landscape, our currently enculturated ecology—how we both do, and do not, experience ourselves as an organically full-functionally interdependent ecosystem, a full-blown polycultured paradise.
So, for example, if we believe that all people are mutually subsidiary to each other, enjoy equal dignity and interdependent solidarity, within Earth’s care, then it begins to appear like an issue if some people are harvesting and sequestering nutrients needed to feed and water other species and people who are suffering, especially if these needs are indigenous to our biosystem. This perspective that we are losing economic well-being (fuel, power, efficiency, health) within our own larger community, and planet, begins to build an internalized desire for systemic change. Economic suffering, poverty, vast disparity in financial assets, is not eco-logical, a lack of well-being; imbalanced nutrients, investments, vocations, lifestyles, learning, beliefs, awareness, consciousness ensue.
This relationship between Exterior and Interior Landscapes may also be applied to any organic system, like a tree, with the exterior being the trunks and branches, leaves, and, hopefully, flowers and seeds to produce, empower, reseed winter’s soil; and, imagining underground, the tree’s Interior Landscape is morphologically reiterated in the spatial-temporal branching of a hopefully well-composted, nutrient-rich Yin-root system, reaching down and out, developing an underground cooperatively networked feeding system for the Yang-production upper-end of the tree’s binomial system.
Each faith community needs a healthy nutrient ecologically-balanced root system, nurtured by our self- and community-caregivers, and our externally-oriented producers, economically effective designers, growers, builders, organizers, advocates, creators, writers.
I understand UU culture, as incarnated within USH, within a Taoist narrative frame. My own perspective begins looking down at UU’s Yin-internally nutritious, graced, empathic, interdependent root system, cooperatively mindful of balanced power, energy, function, and attuned to gravitational, or ergetic, alignment frequencies. Imagine a feminist-balanced eco-therapist mentor taproot reaching deep down into our underground river Commons for water to quench the thirst of a wilting faith forest.
So, it would follow that I would look up for analogically prime relationships between our deep ecology and our externalizing, incarnating, regenerative production of Mission Leaves: love, justice, service; a faith community organizer, developer of positive constructs, programs, designs, self-regenerative, systemically sound financial and learning plans, resource organization and delivery systems, an eco-logically resilient, diversely-skilled and expressed and celebrated, economy of inclusive and long-term sustainable equity.
The Work That Reconnects includes some time-traveling exercises. What will the USH community of 2214 want to know about what we did and did not choose to do because of our permacultured care for at least seven generations in the future? If we assume that our endowment fund, for example, represents our Elders’ caring not just for our time, but for all time, then how do we achieve the permacultured design principle of Greatest Abundance with Least Loss? This, by the way, is redundant of Buckminster Fuller’s Continuous Quality Improvement design principle, perhaps related through his Unitarian upbringing to his understanding of Universal Intelligence. Fuller’s regenerative system response was two-fold:
- Don’t try to make individuals better, individuals will heal when we make a better system;
- Don’t waste a lot of time changing dysfunctional and decaying systems, design better, more therapeutic, ones and that will help clear out what has become pathological.
I am inclined to put our USH faith tree and our UU faith forest in the late winter of the Great Turning, on the first dawn that brings the longed for hint of warmth between frigid blasts. The religious sector, and faith in the future development and evolution of Earth and Her Tribe, are emerging, I hope, from a long winter of dissonance and discontent. USH appears to be pushing out buds. Positive faith sectors that avoid competitive theologies, while embracing cooperative teleologies [positive teleology is active hope that our history’s meaning remains primally related to our future’s purpose—also known as karma, in the East, and the deep ecology of grace, in the West] are spreading balanced permaculture, whether this faith lives under the label of UU, Intentional Community, Green Occupier, WTR, EcoJustice Warrior, these all intend to express cooperative industry, design, creation, busy-ness, vocation, residence, habitat, consumption, extraction, exchange, community.
These Positive Deviants are early endosymbiotic adapters, evolutionaries, as found in Positive Psychology, but also evolutionary and learning theories. The Positive Deviance Institute (www.positivedeviance.org) takes the basic principle of Positive Psychology—confluent frequencies and function tend to evolve as increasingly congruent form, a positive corollary of Cognitive Dissonance Theory, that we tend to shut out what is viscerally dissonant with our Received View, without noticing or remembering it—to reproduce the anomalous trends of early positive adapters in otherwise negatively trending environments. Gardeners do this when they harvest the best seeds, usually an early winter project to organize ingredients to be most fruitful with each other, looking forward to spring planting of symbiotic polycultures.
Perhaps it is not coincidental that many young adults and adolescents are interested in faith systems that have positive responses to their concerns about the environment, climate change, economic collapse, and their pervasive thirst for justice, cooperative systems, win-win gaming strategies, experiential and creative learning, peer mentoring ecologies, relief from chronically stressed neural systems and autism, natural and organic therapies, globally inclusive and accessible information. The World Wide Web introduced a post-millennial cultural Wealth Without Walls assumption. Our value and our values are rooted in Earth and produced within a Commons exchange network. Stewardship is about our property and our time and our assets, including our bodies. We live within a natural system economy that is profoundly inclusive of human nature itself. Ego-identity emerges from eco-centric individuation, following principles of natural systemic development. Post-millennially emergent permaculture, of which UU is an unusually well-balanced exemplar, responds to the opportunity of climatic winterish crisis with a sense of urgency for eco-systemically balanced change, including economic confluence with our ecological principles.
Those who retain active hope for their futures seek cooperative economies and environments that invest in local ecosystems, are holistically informed, inclusive, resilient, buoyant, and show promise of growing in sustainability for the long term. For an excellent economic analysis of what faith communities would wisely invest in, please see long-term economic and ecological trend analysis by the Tellus Institute (www.tellus.org). It will probably come as no surprise that cooperative vocational, communal, and nutrient abundance derives from diminishing competitive financial and political assumptions and lifestyles. Our mutual immunity ego-systems do better when they do not exceed our eco-unitive system. Successful polycultures do not typically play win-lose roulette (more of a high-risk corporate structure strategy); mutually symbiotic nutrient sharing is our underlying ecological win-win strategy.
Those who are having trouble hanging onto active hope throughout our days and nightmare nights are less likely to show up in the religious sector at all. Those who succumb to despair often have a sense of impending crisis, which leads to chronic stress syndrome and concomitant mental health issues. It would follow, then, that more and more of those newly arriving on the USH threshold who are younger are also concerned about finding a safe harbor, and a culture that is less about teaching and more about mutual mentoring; walking the walk, not just talking the talk.
My brilliant 17-year-old son has told me that he might be able to start trusting me again if I would just listen to the darkness he feels about his future, and his peers’ future, and Earth’s miserably projected future. If I could just notice, listen, not judge, actively attend, be more mindful, stretch into his stressed skin. Just respect it for what it is. Truth is saying what he feels about his daily, seasonal, lifetime choices, such as they may be. The polar bear on the not-so-slowly melting ice, adrift alone, his existential icon.
As an EcoMinister I notice a UNICEF survey report (2013) that “almost three-quarters of young people aged 11-16 are concerned about how climate change will impact on their lives…two-thirds of young people were worried about how climate change will affect their children and families in developing countries.”
During the 1970s, studies of young people noted an unprecedented polarity in response to the perceived threat of nuclear doom; a spike in social indifference (denial) and in defiant behavior against a nonsensical, hopelessly irrational adult world of clannishness and nationalism creating technology for a global apocalypse. The absurdity of nuclear mutual annihilation as a terminal way of resolving property issues and cultural disagreements measured clearly on an intergenerational scale of positive teleological health as a decidedly negative turn of events. Studies of post-millennial young people suggest a new baseline for chronic stress in post-industrial cultures, perhaps associated with overpopulation, diverse neural, communication, and information interface anomalies, including the ability to predict a tsunami through social media cloud trend studies—possibly the renewed emergence of telepathy within our teleological positive consciousness.
While I have chosen to cast our UU Tree of Life in late winter’s glimpse of spring, a Transition Generation perspective would more typically reverse the picture to late summer’s heat drying up our polar caps and glaciers, expecting a hard apocalyptic Fall from benign grace, as Earth winnows her harsh harvest of positive v. negatively energetic seeds. My son reminds me of what the psychoanalysis mentor Harold F. Searles said to an intern who was not sure he had anything more to learn,”Your problem is that you’re not paranoid enough.”
To promote more synergetic economics, communication and community life (Buckminster Fuller’s systemic synonym for love is synergy), eco-justice, and care for Earth as well as oneself, each UU, and the religious sectors of each community, and the faithful global community of Earth’s Tribe, we might choose more cooperatively and inclusively oriented win-win strategies within our communities, our systems. Our internal economy and ecology are most likely to meet Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) standards of even TransGeners if these systems mentor, reveal, uncover, display, incarnate, walk the walk of what we would advocate for our society, global culture, and would hope for those who follow us in 2214.
An implied reverse corollary: If our internal UU Tree grows competitive, we waste redundantly-held resources. An under-commodified cooperative root system is one that doesn’t access nutrients because nobody knows who has what that they don’t need right now, that could be invested where it is needed. An overgrown tree, has a root economic system that is insufficient and ineffective, does not actively seek synergetic diverse nutrient fields for a long term peacefully slow grown economy, does not openly invite participation from new challengers and stressers, for fear of collapse. These trees fall short of regenerating our own permacultured paradise.
Joanna Macy uses the Shambhala Warrior Prophecy to predict this transition time of unprecedented challenges. Both our compassionate Yang community-investment energy and our cooperatively nurturing, mutually caregiving, mentoring Yin mindfulness of interdependence need each other to grow more balanced and fully accessible talents, energies, and resources; positive nutrients in a seasonably harmonious, sustainable economic ecosystem.
As a growing and retiring, Yangish and Yinnish, Taoist-UU peer mentor, without the slightest hesitation or caution or concern, I urge UU leaders and others reading this to use the Work That Reconnects (www.workthatreconnects.org) as a template for late winter’s shared vocation, planting cooperative gratitude for winter’s well-seasoned seed, learning from our acutely stern and frightening issues how our shared sense of pathology, embraced together, points toward our faith and love of cooperative and resiliently inclusive economic therapies.
For UU communities to also live up to Green Sanctuary aspirations, it would help to have a Green Economic Estuary, compassionate mindfulness mentored amongst ourselves, prepared for more successful greater Hartford economic policy and outcomes, advocacy, inviting a shared investment journey that excludes no positive teleological faith, we might practice this WTR, with intention to discover an abundantly regenerative nature-spirited system of
- Cooperative learning and vocations,
- Cooperative habitats and residences,
- Cooperative investment systems and networks,
- Cooperatively nutritional talent, energy, and resource systems, inclusive of all senses, paradigms, investments, time, and forms of communication.
Coming Back to Universal Life
All from Earth
and to Earth we all return,
back into Gaia’s composting womb.
I brought nothing when I came into this Identity
and neither did you.
I will leave this Identity taking nothing with me,
and so will you.
which purposes and practices,
seem most sane
knowing how each starts
a (0)-sum balanced economy?
We each withdraw
with lifetime boundaried precision
what we bought into at conception.
How does this eco-prime transaction,
eclipsing short-term risks and opportunities of ego-identity,
inform my, our, karmic evolution,
our mutually interwoven roots and flowers,
weeping revolutionary Earth-bound Tree of Life?
If each life concludes as compost,
to enrich or further poison future generations,
and usually some of both,
which grade of compost do you prefer
to sustain our EarthTribe’s universal dream?
G O Dillenbeck