A Public Religion Research Poll (January 2011) revealed that more than 60% of Americans think politics is more divided now that it was in the past. 40% of Americans think that religion is more divided now than it was in the past. People are polarized and sticking to their long held perspectives, whether its religion, politics or personal worldviews. We mistakenly think that we know how the story ends and go to great lengths to preserve the world as we know it, and protect the end we think we know. This is the essence of fundamentalism, to resist change and fight to maintain the status quo. The problem is that quo changes its status more often than a teen’s Facebook account. Overzealous Facebook posters may be annoying, but the fundamentalist’s inability to see outside their own perspective is downright dangerous as we saw again recently with the mass killing in Norway.

Developmental Psychologist, Howard Gardner offers a helpful definition of fundamentalism-

Fundamentalism is a decision not to change your mind about something…Many of us are fundamentalists…because it has worked well for us.

At our best, we are willing to change our minds and acknowledge that we don’t know the end. No one does. Even the most astute forecaster or the most inspired prophet doesn’t know the end. Some people are very good at reading the signs that point in particular directions, but no one knows the whole story with any certainty. The first truth of change is that it happens and we are always in the middle of change. The second truth of change is that when you are in right relationship with change, you read the signs, let go of the outcome, and allow the future to emerge within, through and around you.

A guy named Dan is working in his store when he hears a booming voice from above: “Dan, sell your business.” He ignores it. It goes on for days. “Dan, sell your business for $3 million.”
After weeks of this, he relents, and sells his store, for $3 million no less. The voice says “Dan, go to Las Vegas.” He asks why. “Dan, just take the $3 million and go to Las Vegas.”
He obeys, and goes to a casino. The voice says, “Dan, go to the blackjack table and put it down all on one hand.” He hesitates but knows he must. He’s dealt an 18. The dealer has a six showing.
“Dan, take a card.” What? The dealer has –
“Take a card!” He tells the dealer to hit him. Dan gets an ace. Nineteen. He breathes easy.
“Dan, take another card.” What? “TAKE ANOTHER CARD!” He asks for another card.
It’s another ace. He has twenty. “Dan, take another card,” the voice commands.
“You’ve got to be kidding. I have twenty!” Dan shouts. “TAKE ANOTHER CARD!!” booms the voice.
“Hit me,” Dan says. He gets another ace. Twenty one.
The booming voice chuckles and says: “Son of a gun! You got lucky! That’s unbelievable!”

The booming voice in the story is your best intuition. Some might call it the still, small voice or God within. It’s a persuasive energy, not a coercive one. It doesn’t tell you what to do. It guides you with signs and messages. It doesn’t know the future, but each step becomes clear as you are taking it. Maybe, if you are particularly insightful, you intuit several steps ahead. You see the necessary changes up to a point, but not all the way. No one knows that.

Leadership expert, Margaret Wheatley said,

The future cannot be determined. It can only be experienced as it is occurring. Life doesn’t know what it will be until it notices what it has become.

Life is a constant process of becoming, a series of dynamic experiences, and each one builds on the ones that came before it. The many, interrelated factors in each experience create the future. You, and reality, are always becoming with each evolving experience. It’s not so much that there is a right and wrong in each moment. It’s a different kind of knowing; open and generous. It always presents options and keeps you on track like an internal adjustment bureau. You feel your way forward, with the vision unfolding as you take each step. The outcome is not clear, but it doesn’t need to be clear. It makes sense as you go. You are at one with life as it unfolds.

At your best moments, you feel like life’s dance partner. The ballroom floor is change. You flow through change like a Latin dance goddess, at one with the seamless movement. You can’t even tell if you are dancing or being danced, leading or being led. Either way it feels good and right. You move with grace and style and improvise when the situation demands it.

By all accounts, Albert Einstein was not much of a dancer. But he sure did know how to tear up the dance floor of new ideas. He is said to have performed a thought experiment when he was contemplating relativity. He posed the question: If you were literally riding on the edge of a light beam and you held a mirror in front of you, could you see yourself? And the answer is no. If nothing travels faster than light, light can’t get to the mirror to reflect your reflection, so you would see nothing.

That’s a wonderful metaphor for change. There’s nothing absolute in the future to see. We’re creating it as we head there. This is why change can be so scary. You look in the mirror of the future and see open space. No matter how much you wish for certainty, life doesn’t work that way. However, not knowing the future is also incredibly empowering. You get to help create what you want to see in the future. You have the privilege of helping change happen with your loving intention and mindful action.

Change happens the same way ant trails emerge and paths emerge on a campus. First, one person walks across the grass from one building to another. Another person takes a different route across the grass. Soon there are several lightly marked paths. Eventually one clear path across the grass emerges and most people use it. No one caused the path to happen. No single person designed the path. There was no meeting to agree on a particular path. It wasn’t even a conscious decision. It was a self organizing structure. It emerged as people unwittingly created it. It was co created.

The path from one job to another, or one relationship to another, or any other major life change, is more delicate than a grass path, but similar principles apply. You step out and allow the path to emerge. Change happens within first, and then change manifests around you. You intuit your next steps as others intuit theirs, systems evolve and before you know it the future has become a very present reality.

As business strategist Harriet Rubin said, “To see the future you have to travel on the rough edge of experience.”

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  1. Jan says:

    Great article – I enjoyed it thoroughly!

  2. Tamara says:

    I appreciate your reminder that we create the future — we don’t just sit around waiting for it to happen.

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