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If we are going to get out of the messes we are in, I believe we have to start with a more accurate image of ourselves and the world of which we are a part. A thread about #system boundaries, abortion bans, climate change, gun safety, and more.
We each are flows, more like flames or whirlpools than rocks or billiard balls, in constant exchange with the 'environment. Your 'boundaries' are so much more fluid than everyday perception (in this western industrial growth society at least) suggests.
I mean this literally - not metaphorically. What was 'not you' moments before you drank a glass of water now is 'you.'
Go to a smaller scale & the same applies. Your cells, are constantly replenishing, communicating, growing, dividing, dying. Within your cells, complex molecules being broken into smaller parts, new molecules being constructed.
Go to a larger scale & it's also true true. Think of the way conversations change, based on who is in the room. Or the feeling of synergy when different perspectives skillfully engage and something new emerges. Or the way hate, once emboldened, spreads.
As you can maybe see, this flow-nature of us, isn't good or bad - it just is. It allows for the most amazing things and also the most horrible. How we ride the currents and steer the flows, that's what shapes the future.
Go even bigger in scale, to the whole Earth - stare at this visualization - you are looking at home. It's not a thing, it is currents and ripples and waves.
Right I am now sitting here exhausted and coughing with a virus I'm pretty sure I caught from my kids. The virus invaded them, used their cells & their life energy to make copies of itself, which crossed my mucus membranes, lodged inside me, and started the same process all over.
Tell me where do my kids end and the virus begins? Where does the virus end and I begin?
Even through my stuffy nose I can smell a sweet smell through the open window. Molecules that were very recently 'pear blossom' drifted to my olfactory epithelium and collided with receptors there.
'Smelling' is when a molecule that 'wasn't you' joins to a molecule of 'you' and sets off electric currents of perception.
And of the course the ripples aren't just across space in the current moment.
They stretch across time too. Our actions ripple forward and forward and forward. Chance meetings that change the direction of careers, traumas that ripple and propagate for generations.
Did you read about the donor who paid the debt of Morehouse College graduating students today. 400 lives, changed rippling out to change other lives. On and on and on. huffpost.com/entry/robert-s…
I think about all of this because, to do the work I do, to build maps or simulations of complex #systems you have decide *for your purposes* what are the boundaries of the system.
When everything is connected to everything else, to function you need to make some sort of approximation. Systems thinking forces you to be explicit about that approximation. (We all make boundaries in our minds, all the time, but we don't always know it.)
In your life or work, when you get a result that you didn't expect a good question to ask is: 'is there something outside of what I'm considering the system, that needs to be brought inside the boundaries'?
A planet dangerously warming despite an economic system which is supposed to find optimal solutions is a sign of system boundaries that are too narrow where 'economy' doesn't include 'planetary life-support' or the 100 year time horizon.
Children being terrorized and dying in school shootings is a sign that the the boundaries of 'gun policy' don't include 'child and family safety.'
Or, as so many have pointed out in the wake of abortion ban bills the boundary for 'protecting children' seems so narrow as to focus on embryos but not parents, communities, schools, poverty or health care.
Even when grappling honestly and in good faith, it can be hard to draw system boundaries, when the underlying reality is so interconnected. It calls for wisdom and care and ethics and empathy.
As we see all around us, system boundaries that are drawn too narrowly literally result in violence, death, trauma, ill health, and climate crisis.
The power to define system boundaries is the power to define what (and who and when and where) matters.
A society built on slavery, genocide, patriarchy and extraction is a system with very narrow boundaries - so expanding systemic boundaries is deep, transformative work.
If you think about it, the most powerful movements of late from #blacklivesmatter to #metoo to #WaterIsLife to #climatejustice all are movements for more expansive boundaries.
The change such movements have already made gives a sense of the power of naming and shifting system boundaries.
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