Posts Tagged ‘social’

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” 
                                                     – Albert Einstein

“It’s time to roll up our sleeves and do the wash.”  In other words, let’s start talking about and taking action on things that really matter. For me, doing the wash is synonymous with change-oriented talk, and this blog post is all about hosting a new kind of conversation that is grounded in the universal activity of doing laundry and the metaphor of wash.

Over the next few weeks I will be introducing the multi-layered conversation that is WASH!, the collective vision that is driving it and The Washline Project as a vehicle to put WASH! into action. I will be sharing the work, experience and ideas of the many people – story-tellers, scientists, social activists artists, educators, innovators, children and people like me, people like you – who contribute to the washline.

For all of you who have being following WASH! and for those of you who are brand new to its energetic pull, I thank you in advance for your attention and I welcome your participation.


But first, I want to confess something right out of the gate…

We’re over the recommended word count.

Oh, I know what your thinking… rule-breaker already?



Whatever WASH! is, it is not a sound bite. There is no easy way to lay a foundation for the kind of large scale, participatory conversation I am describing.  It is personal, it’s social, it’s your family, it’s your community and it’s across the globe…

So, let’s just begin with a keystone principle.

Conversation is the Cure

Pretty much everything I will be sharing going forward stems from this life-organizing mantra.

And here are six related ideas for what follows today:

  • 1 – Conversations are living systems
  • 2 – We’ve got big problems
  • 3 – Our brains are socially wired and evolving
  • 4 – We are all more or less depressed
  • 5 – As a narrative therapist, I work with stories
  • 6 – Conversation is art and art is activism

That’s the “cheat sheet” but peeling the onion for each of those ideas will require your full attention.

Conversation is the cure.

It certainly seems that way.  When we talk about things that matter, we feel better. Feeling better supports self-agency and collaboration and we make better decisions when we are calm.That seems easy enough.Well maybe in theory, but in practice it’s another story entirely.Talk is hard.There are all these variables: who says what to whom, in what way, under what circumstances, to what end, all count. And context, timing and sequence count also; conversations change by virtue of time’s directional arrow.  The conversation of a minute ago has changed even if nothing is said.So, conversations cannot be controlled or predicted entirely, they are complex, adaptive (yes, living!) systems and can only be influenced, shaped, hosted, enabled.   If we try to shut down a living conversation, we find that it re-emerges for better or worse in another context or setting, stronger as a result.  Life finds its way, and so do conversations.There you go.There is much research available to help us to explore and understand this phenomenon and we can always look to the philosophers, poets and children to step in where no research is available to illuminate for us the mysteries and to close any gaps in our own experience or thinking.So, there seems to be an evolutionary mechanism at play as language, thought and emotion ricochet into this lively, intricate, self-organized emulsion of meaning-making supported by our developing, socially structured brains. This is one way to conceptualize the whole of human civilization: as a cumulative conversation, a river of meaning or consciousness that resonates universally while also allowing for and remaining open to new information, stimuli or energy (i.e. the washline).To be clear, I am talking about very big conversations.It is only through very big conversations (and they often begin in seemingly very small ways) that we can begin to grasp and grapple with the truly daunting problems (globally and in each of our backyards) that we are facing today – problems that include famine, war, bullying, prejudice, bias, water, political oppression, domestic and gender-based violence, our response to natural disasters, the environment and more.

Like many of you, platitudes and easy solutions put forth to further political agendas or protect self interests do not work for me and I try hard to not become jaded or cynical.

I ask myself what it would take to imagine, talk through and enact truly collaborative and caring solutions across the globe and I work hard to create the holding space within myself to support that vision and to contribute to the conversation that could help get us there.

We’ve got a few things in our favor.

Our brains are social – this means we are not stuck with what we’ve got, we are constantly evolving. Our brains respond to social interaction and stimuli in the form of energy, semiotics and language.

There is untapped potential here.

Einstein said that the consciousness that created the problem; cannot be used to solve the problem.

Well, thank goodness then that we have each other!

Lately, when I need a nudge to be more hopeful about the state of world, I listen to Symphony Of Science’s, Ode to the Brain, featuring Carl Sagan, Robert Winston, Vilayanur Ramachandran, Jill Bolte Taylor, Bill Nye, and Oliver Sacks. In this way, this group of thinkers, these scientists have become part of my internalized community… my washline.  Just listen to what they have to say (well, sing actually) about our brains…

Comparatively (mass to mass) our brains exert more energy than the sun. How do we tap into this vast potential? Certainly there are solutions within our grasp, if only we allow ourselves to be open to them.What does it take to become open?Being open involves energy and imagination and would require that we address the widespread low-grade depression that is sapping our energy worldwide. When problems are too big to take in, when they are impossible to comprehend, when they are so enormous that we feel there is nothing we can do about them, we feel depressed. And that kind of widespread low-grade depression is a much bigger problem than any of the problems that I outlined earlier.Conversation is the cure –When we talk about things, we feel better; and when we feel better, we are able to take action on what ails us.To address the type of depression I am referencing here, we will need to start talking about things that really matter … and not give up.I want to be clear though – I am not advocating for polite or superficial conversations or conversations where we don’t haggle over differences. The most difficult conversations are often the very best conversations: they create opportunities for transformational change.  I am advocating for bold, imaginative, holding accountable, caring conversations that invigorate our thinking and call forth our most creative and imaginative selves.In this way, conversation is art and art is activism.So this is why I am putting my focus on talk.

As a family therapist, I have been trained in narrative therapy.  This means that I believe that we create and experience our lives (as individuals, families, communities, countries) through our stories. The stories we tell each other about each other, the stories we tell about ourselves, etc. shape our identity. As a narrative therapist, I am versed in therapeutic conversation and experience with my clients the power of language to story and re-story our lives. As an advisor to CEOs and teams in global organizations, I know that corporations can and must develop new narratives in order to participate in creating and enacting the kind of solutions that I have described here. I see examples (too few, but a start nonetheless) that should be celebrated, studied and further enabled. As a concerned citizen of the world and above all, as a parent, I see the need to extend the boundaries of the therapeutic conversation into much larger environments.  This is what I would like to share with you.

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing how The Washline is the hosting environment for a very large therapeutic conversation and how WASH! functions as the springboard to get that conversation started.

I hope you will join me in a social change experiment, organized around a participatory art project and a load of wash.  It is the result of over 15 years of research and writing and represents thousands of conversations and recollections with others; with many of you. We will be introducing provocative ideas, useful research, conceptual frames, helpful examples, and stories… lots and lots of stories.   In short, we’ll be pulling everyone in and putting everything out on the line – coming clean to support a vibrant conversation about what is possible.

We are all in this together, so what do you most want to contribute to get this conversation started?


Read Full Post »