Diversity Ecology Ethics Practice
The human being is part of the whole....He experiences himself, his/her thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. Albert Einstein.
Human diversity is as important as biodiversity. In our current global predicament fear often engenders a need to perceive identity in terms of separation and competition. We compete as individuals or we form tightly knit allegiances characterized by groupthink that compete as 'collective egos'. Top down hierarchical organizations often discourage individual responsibility and accountability within their ranks.This may produce a certain drive and energy towards a particular goal, but historically we know that monolithic conformity stifles innovation and creative intelligence. Another way of saying this was summed up by the Jungian psychologist James Hillman: 'If the fundamental principle of psychological life is differentiation, then no single perspective can embrace psychological life, and norms are the delusions that parts prescribe to one another.'
In evolutionary terms increasing complexity emerged at the level of humans and some large-brained mammals as self-reflexive consciousness. Trial and error no longer served the growing internal complexity of this level and a new awareness arose by which different courses of action could be assessed in advance. The capacity of conscious choice as decision-making gave rise to this new self-conscious awareness at the individual level. Self-interest operates as decisions that are based on choice and is experienced by the individual as the freedom to choose, even against the collective pressure of the group or established tradition or convention. When survival appears threatened by new unfamiliar pressures or collapsing systems and economic instability there is a tendency towards a regression to the reactive conditioning of flight or fight, and out of fear the formation of extremist groups around a symbol or an ideology of self-assertive security, along with a tendency to 'demonize' the other, becomes a common response. But to meet the global challenges of today and to navigate wisely amidst the economic uncertainties and unpredictable political climate we need open-ended systems that require diversity and a plurality of views along with transparency and the unrestricted circulation of information.
At this critical juncture a new kind of collective response is required, an awakening of intelligence at a collective level requiring an unprecedented measure of cooperation. Self-reflexivity at the collective level would embrace the distinctive and unique contribution of each part in a cooperative endeavour to heal the greater whole. The individual cannot repair the world but can make a valuable contribution through self-healing to the regeneration of the world and its damaged social and ecological communities. For this to take place we must replace conformity with community, compliance with creativity, standardization with innovation. And we must begin at the level of nurture and education.
Deeper reflection shows us that we are not a collection of discrete objects but a community of subjects, as Thomas Berry reminded us. By practicing deep listening and attentiveness within and without, we can shift our perspective from living and acting in conformity with values exclusively based on self-interest and ruthless competition that no longer serve us in a complex world of diverse needs and cultures.
Where value is only quantitatively determined it is not possible to nurture an environment that is beneficial to an organization where all can thrive. Effective leadership today recognizes that economic, social, ecological and personal well-being must work together. Technical skills are necessary but cultivating the inner life of individuals is now essential for the optimum performance of any organization.
Mindfulness is not a quick fix. It requires a daily commitment to practice, both at home and in the workplace. In our time human activity is dominated by the modes of doing and having. Practice entails nurturing the ability to recover our primary mode of being where we can cultivate self-monitoring and emotional intelligence, and thereby awaken to our own particular gift of uniqueness and how it can serve the greater whole in a cooperative and creative response to our global predicament.
Just as no two leaves of a tree are identical, but collectively are the flowering of the interconnected web of life that is the forest, so by penetrating into our own original nature through the layers of our conditioning as separate identities paradoxically we become capable of creating greater diversity through nurturing a deeper understanding that we are inter-dependent selves, interpenetrating within a greater whole, the web of life within which we are deeply embedded as organisms gifted with language, culture and a potentially wide spectrum of sentient awareness.