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Lions Roar : September 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2008 105 of the individual, but particularly today, people are so caught up in small personal and interpersonal dynamics, a downward spi- ral of narcissism and egotism, that they just can’t get over them- selves.” As a consequence, Wheatley thinks the small group, not the large group or the individual, is the most potent focus. The best place to begin is in having a good conversation and cultivat- ing relationships. According to emergence theory, these are the bonds that lead to change, growth, and influence. For Wheatley, all of the truly marvelous changes wrought by humans can be traced back to “some friends and I started talking and....” I asked her whether there wasn’t important work to do at the indi- vidual level. She said one of the most important things we need to do is find time for reflection. “This kind of time has disappeared from our lives, and we need to reclaim it,” she says. “We must have time where we start to feel centered, peaceful, focused.” Out of that space, we can cultivate a real relationship and start a conversation. Like the others I spoke with, Wheatley sees all kinds of breakdown as inevitable, and there will be casualties. There already have been. But the cataclysms we face in the future, Wheatley says, may lead us to more local focus, to self-sufficiency, to coming out of our isolated shells. Adam Kahane likes to repeat a distinction Wheatley taught him. She sees a difference between giving up, throwing your hands up in exasperation and frustration, and surrender, embracing the power of that which has overtaken you. Wheatley is not certain how many people are ready to surrender. “ The kind of breakdowns we’re expe- riencing may force more collaboration and community on us, but I have to say, I haven’t seen it yet. As things break down, it’s either going to force us into community, or we will kill each other more.” IT’S DAUNTING to talk to knowledgeable, insightful people who are so sure things are going to fall apart, and also sure that a little better version of the same old thing won’t be enough. Yet each of them sees promise. Not a dewy-eyed, mushy kind of promise, not love without power, or a grand ideology to rally round, but a realistic promise that in crisis we will find resilience, that we will be thrown back on ourselves and our communities and what counts. That’s the way of nature, including human nature. What I find striking is how close their view is to the core Buddhist principle of interdependence, the teaching that there are no self-sustaining, permanent, inherently existing entities; that everything emerges as part of a great web of interlocking relationships. Suzuki Roshi referred to it as the interplay of “de- pendency and independency.” Environmentalist Stephanie Kaza wrote in the March, 2007, issue of this magazine that “the ex- perience of a systems thinker, who brings awareness to all their relationships with specific human and non-human beings” is equivalent to what a Buddhist might call the “penetrating expe- rience of interdependence.” In Buddhism, however, the philosophical understanding of interdependence is coupled with the practical understanding that we need a mind discipline to break the habit of treating entities as permanent and independent. To get us out of our mess requires more than an intellectual understanding of what’s SEPT 100-112.indd 105 SEPT 100-112.indd 105 7/3/08 1:35:54 PM 7/3/08 1:35:54 PM