Yesterday evening, when driving through my hometown Hannover, I listened to a conversation on balance and fragility in our World on the radio. One sentence caught me and has not released me until now – but instead led me to think about what Knowmads has to do with the future of society.
Amongst the people invited was a historian. At some point he said that the essential and innate drive of every cultural development – meaning the build-up of civilization – was attaining more control over the environment and more security. He said that man ultimately wants to attain control over the odds in life.
Man had to seek shelter of the elements, of heavy rain, of thunderstorms and of fire. He discovered that he was stronger in groups, groups formed; they build huts and started growing food. We know the story, until here it is quite simple.
Now in civilization, as it evolved, there were more odds and unknowns to be added to the equation. The seductive force of Power that led to countless fights, the growth of the worlds population and simply the challenge of living together were making things way more complicated than anyone would ever have thought.
Today we are aware of a whole huge bunch of challenges for our world and our generation: an amplified climate change, a fragile financial system, currencies that seem to be on the verge of collapse, hunger and civil wars – to name a few.
This is, of course, an incomplete bigger picture. But with everything that we have reached and built, with everything that we have attained we are still facing these challenges.
There is a big distance left to go.
What the guy said on the radio, that everything developed by man is made to give us more control and more security led me to think about where I see myself in the bigger picture of our civilization and how this behaviour of man is reflected on the smaller scale of my own world and thinking.
Attaining more control and more security sounds like two different goals, both easy to understand when knowing where we are coming from. But actually, it is not two goals – it is only one, the other is a means to get there. Security is the goal and control a tool.
Now striving for this is a pattern – I know that I do not like to be insecure and do not find it easy to accept that I have to let go of the idea of control. I am afraid of what can happen. Accepting that one cannot foretell the events in life can be really difficult, but being in control is just an illusion. We will not be in control over what will happen to us anyway, no matter how far we plan ahead, there will always be an unknown in the equation of life.
Which is what makes life beautiful, surprising, moving and daunting – it is what makes it worth living. I do not think anyone could be in total control and not be dead bored. Maybe we can only stand living with the illusion of control because we are not in control anyway and therefore surprised often enough not to fall asleep. What a funnily beautiful, contradictive and irrational pattern this is – only being able to stand the illusion of control because it is proven wrong daily.
I think it once applied to me a lot, now it applies to me a lot less – it is a process.
(I know that there is a lot to be said about control, fear, the unknown, the unconscious and “life in general”. There is a lot to be found out about it as well. This is not a scientists approach, I write based on the assumptions, knowledge and experience I have.)
Our civilization seems to cling to the illusion of control.
And society seems to cling to the idea to beat its fear and anxiety. Not always probably but often enough – everyday I hear politicians say that the euro crisis is in control, that they know exactly what to do next. They have to say it, because for them to have a chance to stabilize the single currency they need people to keep as calm as possible. But they do not have total control over it, how could they? Nobody can control something that complex.
I find that the tool “control” has not proven to be the best choice in the millennia we know about. Maybe clinging to the illusion of having control makes it impossible to reach the goal of security.
So what will happen if we let go of the idea?
Now it becomes interesting. We would have to change and shift our paradigms and methods. Of course, letting go of every ounce of control is not what I am advocating, if I would get a heart surgery, I would find it particularly charming to know that the surgeon knows what he is doing.
But I think we are on the same page.
Maybe as a global society we can let go of the illusion of control. If we could shape the future so that it would suit us best we would not have to change – if the world changes, then also we cannot remain the same.
We are reacting to unforeseen changes and try to tame the beast that we often previously have fed ourselves. What if we change our behaviour?
We could curiously observe what will happen while at the same time preparing for the future and building more resilient structures that will help us to adapt better and faster.
We would have more security.
If we are well adapted and prepared for a variety of scenarios, we no longer depend on one.
This is not a wild idea – it is only really simple in theory and very complex in reality. How would the world look like? We will need a lot of answers that cannot only be provided by the ideas that are already being implemented.
Also, as always, we are talking about a colourful world in grey scale. It is not black and white – both approaches coexist right now, the “control approach” and the “adapt approach”.
I just think we need a lot more of the latter.
I am sure it is doable, it will be a long way but it is possible. We can evolve, act consciously and take all the possible outcomes into consideration instead of counting on those we wish to see.
At Knowmads, we work with this mind-set. We design our work process in a way that allows surprises and new developments to enter. It is a bit intimidating, it is fascinating and most of the time it is also a lot of fun.
Knowmads is not the answer to all the problems of the world (but close;)). It is a personal start – change starts on the small scale to reach higher from there. Right now I have the feeling that by bringing more of this approach into the world, every one of us contributes to developing the new way of doing that we have such a big need for. It is a good feeling.