In this episode it is my great pleasure to welcome Carol Sanford back to explore her brand new book Indirect Work.
To support and celebrate the book’s launch, Carol has offered a giveaway offer exclusively for listeners of Making Permaculture Stronger. If you listen to and then share this episode on your website or any of your social media channels (such as sharing from the Making Permaculture Stronger facebook page), and then let me know about it, you go into the draw to access:
- A free copy of Indirect Work posted to your door
- A free ticket to a 90-minute Q&A on Indirect Work with Carol 10am PT, May 2, 2022 ($200 value)
- The link to download a pdf Self-Assessment for Regenerative Integrity. $100 value
There are also a bunch of different offers for buying different numbers of books here on Carol’s site.
Now, a little taste of what this book is all about. Carol explains that:
indirect work is building the capacity in people to consistently think at higher levels in order to create innovations for advancing specific contexts and streams of activity. This capacity allows us to become instruments for the regeneration and evolution of the living systems within which we are nested—to become effective change agents.Carol Sanford
Here are a few of my favourite passages in the book.
For example, every time we try to solve a problem, dividing it into its components to understand it better, seeking to figure out its causes in order to address them, we fall under the spell of classical mechanics. Every time we translate something into a replicable (and therefore scalable) procedure or recipe, we’ve stepped into a machine universe. This is so pervasive in Western and now global culture that it becomes invisible to us. It can be very difficult to get our minds to shake off this continually reinforced pattern in order to question our fundamental shared beliefs about how the universe works.
Earlier I said that this book was addressed to well-intentioned people who seek to make the world a better place through the instruments that are available to them, such as business, social activism, or creation of policies and institutions. I also said that most of these efforts are likely to be compromised or fail because they still operate from an old paradigm, within which the world is assembled from discrete pieces, each playing its part in a cosmic machine. Our machine-based metaphors are so pervasive that we hardly notice them: input, output, feedback, leverage, rewiring, reprogramming, metrics, ideal state, and on and on.
A living or regenerative paradigm has a very different character and uses correspondingly different metaphors. It starts with an image of the living, dynamic, and unfolding universe, in which each entity is endowed with the spark of life and an innate capacity for growth and evolution with regard to how it expresses itself. Working from this paradigm, one doesn’t attempt to push the world and its inhabitants to an ideal state—that would be coercive and life denying. Rather, one encourages and enables living beings to discover and express their innate potential as contributors to living communities. For those of us who truly want to transform the world, it is the regenerative paradigm that will enable us to do so.
This confronts us with an important question. Are the underlying beliefs, assumptions, patterns, and language that characterize my culture derived from a machine or a living systems paradigm? And if I want to cultivate a living systems culture, what must I do I to help with the shift? (note – Carol answers this question in our conversation!)
Consciousness is the necessary antidote to our overwhelming tendency to engage in automatic habits of thought and behavior. In its absence, these habits extend to the most general reaches of our collective understanding of the universe, itself, conceived of by Western Europeans in the time of the Renaissance as a giant clockwork. This peculiarity of regional imagination has now become the dominant paradigm of reality worldwide. As such, it has created a self-reinforcing loop in which the mechanistic universe is reflected in the conceptualization of our bodies and minds as biological machines and our institutions as social machines. Thus, we invent mechanistic metaphors and processes for educating and healing ourselves. In other words, we resort to conditioning, a default approach that is precisely the opposite of living free, self-determined human lives. And, in a mechanical feedback process, this conditioning reinforces the already prevalent tendency toward automatism.
But the process of accretion of information and action, no matter how comprehensive, will never on its own generate the shift in perspective that allows us to engage with a living whole. If anything, the tendency to aggregate and integrate only serves to reinforce the problems associated with fragmentation. This is because it derives its raw materials from the underlying practice of breaking things down into parts in order to understand them before attempting to reassemble them into something that makes sense.
I could see that nearly all of the world’s conflicts grew out of a binary or polarized view of reality: good/evil, right/left, male/female, white/black, profit/loss, owner/worker, wealth/poverty, future/past, energy/matter, ones/zeros. Business, politics, psychology, and even religion were all busy trying to shift things from one column to the other within a zero-sum universe where one person’s gain was inevitably another’s loss. Or, when they weren’t seeking to win the game, they were seeking to maintain its equilibrium through careful compromises and the balancing of powers—complementarity rather than polarity.
Faced with the ubiquity of this way of thinking, I realized that the way out of its dead ends had to do with the power of three-ness in a two-force world. In my flash of insight, genuine creativity came from not accepting the rules of win and lose. Rather, one had to see the dynamic tensions between opposing forces as the sources of evolutionary energy. This required stepping outside of the polarity in order to recognize its potential within a larger context. Stepping outside introduced a new, third force, one that was not bound by the terms of the conflict but could embrace both sides (or multiple sides, for that matter) as contributors to a new possibility.
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All of Carol’s books and how they fit together