I talk about a mindset shift followed by continual improvement as a process to change culture. I just realized there’s a second mindset shift. This post is partly like a diary entry, exploring a new idea, so not designed for easy reading, but maybe more seeing how my work develops.
A few threads coalesced to clarify a huge missing piece of my mission, maybe a keystone that makes the structure stand.
The threads I’m just coming to see how they connect, in no particular order:
I’ve been sharing lately that I feel I’ve failed at communicating the fun I feel doing things like climbing the stairs to bring the solar panels to the roof and seeing how long I can keep my apartment disconnected from the grid. I describe myself as kid playing with Lego. While there are fun elements to it and I do enjoy seeing what I can do, climbing the stairs isn’t fun, exactly, but it is deeply rewarding. I characterized my not conveying that reward as a weakness. I have plenty of weaknesses, but the problem is that I misidentified the emotions these activities evoked.
Speaking of weaknesses, I was trying to think of mine to include in my book and wrote this note to myself: “No kids and can’t stop extending circle of compassion that would end with them to all of humanity.” Yesterday’s post on parenting I think emerges from and reveals passion. Parents love their children. I think they think I feel less love not being a parent, but I don’t think so. I think I love just as much, just directed differently. If so, where is that love going?
I often say how any parent, pet owner, or gardener has change their lives and spent more money and time on their thing than I have on mine. I pointed out the change, what looks like sacrifice to someone who doesn’t feel the emotional benefit, but haven’t pointed out that I also get that benefit. But I haven’t clarified the benefit I feel, or that it comes specifically from what looks like sacrifice.
“Doing well by doing good,” which means to run a business or organization where you personally benefit from helping others is missing something. It makes transactional what could be intrinsically rewarding. All businesses help others, including Exxon. When we change a baby’s diapers or help an old person cross the street even when we’re in a hurry, we aren’t doing well by doing good and I suggest we like that experience more. Why?
People constantly describe themselves as balanced and me as extreme. They’re speaking a tautology, of course, since everyone has their own values and weights, everyone can call themselves balanced and therefore others unbalanced. As best i can tell, they tend to balance something like doing good for the environment, which is abstract for them, against enjoying life and relaxing, which frames doing good for the environment as deprivation.
I’ve been struggling with the term indigenous. I’m learning from some cultures like the San and Hadza, but not because they were in some place first. I’ve thought about describing them as sustainable, but I’m not just learning about nature from them. I wanted to clarify what I see I can learn from them.
For years I’ve connected our polluting culture with a culture of slavery. I noticed that slavery led to racism, not the other way around, which it turned out historians had found long ago. I’ve been studying the connections between slavery, colonialism, and imperialism, as well as how hierarchies form, from control over required resources with no alternative. Sebastian Junger’s book Tribe and David Wengrow and David Graeber’s book The Dawn of Everything showed how people in other cultures see ours and prefer theirs, despite our technology, longevity, health care, schools, comforts, conveniences, and so on. Seeing the difference in cultures as stemming from presence or lack of a dominance hierarchy, I’ve concluded they didn’t want to give up their equality, freedom, connection, mutual support, and community. I felt there was more to it.
Maybe a few other loose ends connect. If so, I’ll edit them in when I think of them.
The Missing Second Shift
I now see a second shift I’ve made but didn’t realize. What prompted it was yet another person telling me he was balanced. In his case, yesterday, he shared that he had already made the shift I described of expecting acting more sustainably to bring not deprivation and sacrifice but joy, fun, freedom, community, connection, meaning, and purpose. In his case, I see he had. He had left a well-paying career garnering great respect to focus on sustainability. He had rewilded much of his property. He enjoyed the process.
When I did the Spodek Method with him, he appreciated it, but said he was mostly there already. When he talked about flying, when I mentioned the people on the receiving end of the pollution, he acknowledged something there, but that thread was left untied.
I came to see he had basically made the mindset shift the Spodek Method created, but something was still missing. He still didn’t see or feel the incredible feeling I get climbing all those stairs. He’s not the only one. Many people I’ve walked through the Spodek Method appreciate and love connecting more with nature and acting in stewardship. Still, they see my actions as deprivation and sacrifice, even if they feel joy, fun, freedom, etc in stewardship.
I saw a second shift. I’m sharing the realization still developing since I use this blog partly as a diary, but here’s what I’ve gotten so far. Beside the shift to serving nature, I’ve shifted toward serving other people, specifically innocent people. Or maybe humanity. I have to clarify it.
I feel love i suspect like what parents feel toward their children while I climb eleven flights to the roof, volunteer specifically salvaging food, find and implement ways to avoid using polluting grid power, and so on. When I don’t fly, I’m not just thinking about the people who would be displaced from their land, breathe the fumes, see their land submerged, and so on.
I feel an emotion as powerful as what I see parents express. I can speak from experience about owning and loving pets and gardens, and this feeling exceeds ones from there. When someone at a party or fun event leaves to take care of their kid or pet, they aren’t depriving themselves. They are acting out of love. So am I. The more I do, the greater my experience and expression of it.
Looking back, I see how much joy and passion I’ve felt climbing stairs and delivering groceries. In my heart, I’m helping people I love. I’m in the middle of Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babbit, two former SEALs. We may think of warriors as killers or emotionally cut off, but they’re full of love. Soldiers consistently talk about the love they feel for their brothers. They risk their lives for each other. It seems deeply human, deeply meaningful.
I think a better way to convey it than in words is experientially since I started thinking about how to update the Spodek Method. For those familiar with it, I’d add a new commitment with two first steps, parallel to its current first two steps.
After they’ve done the first commitment, I’d ask “What does helping others mean to you? Can you talk about a time you did something to help others for no benefit to yourself?” and explore with them an experience helping others, things like volunteering, that I think will lead them to share experiences as meaningful as the nature experiences they share so far, leading up to sharing the emotions they felt.
Next I’d invite them to think of ways to manifest those emotions, as they did with their nature-based emotions, now with serving-people-based emotions. I’d replace the constraint that it leave the world better than they found it with that it help other people they don’t know, or outside their family and friends, through their work, not giving things away.
Walk yourself through conceiving of and acting on such a commitment. How do you feel volunteering?
Now combine volunteering with stewarding nature: helping people and nature together, necessarily not benefiting materially yourself. I think this action reaches things like not flying, climbing stairs, avoiding baby garbage as much as possible as acts of love. I think it re-approaches cultural practices in hunter-gatherer cultures like never taking the last fruit.
I understand among the San, if one person possesses something and another says something like “I like your bracelet, can I have it?” they always say yes. Maybe the thing makes its way back to you as different people ask for it, but you don’t miss it.
Applied to imperialism, consider instead of taking other cultures’ land and resources, doing all we can never to use their stuff. Today the imperialized nations demand punitive payments and say they should get to catch up to imperial ones. i think that voice comes from people who have been assimilated. I see instead the imperial nations giving back land and stopping paying for mined, extracted, cash cropped, and such materials—not out of deprivation but love.
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