Sourcing our Creation Processes Outside the Mechanical Cage with Millie Haughey

In this episode I re-release an interview Millie Haughey recently did with me for her own podcast which is called Unplugged, Tapped In.

We explore the idea that most of us are trapped in the all-pervasive cage of mechanical worldview without even realising it and what becomes possible when the cage is seen and the door out is located. This will be a theme of some upcoming writing and solo episodes also.

In the intro I mention Millie’s interview with my dear friend and long-term Making Permaculture Stronger collaborator James Andrews.

I also mention this episode in which I interviewed the founder of Possibility Management Clinton Callahan (or see as youtube here).

During the chat I mention Carol Sanford a fair bit too.


  1. Your reference, Dan, to people coming to permaculture looking to free themselves from a “cage” only to find themselves still entrapped and therefore disillusioned (?) (my paraphrase) also jumped out for me as it evidently did for other listeners. For me it links back to other conversations regarding patterns or archetypes within permaculture in terms of people becoming permaculture ‘designers’ and their ‘clients’.

    Here is a question: How is that “second level of cage” different from the original starting point of “cage”? Does it go from being an external cage to an internal one? Could that be part of the process of growth as not a “permaculture designer” but of oneself as a human being who is utilizing the concepts and impulses of permaculture to understand, enrich, and find meaning, direction and purpose within the human experience within the web of life?

    As human beings coming out of an era of industrialization with its tail end of hyper tech and rote educational system, I feel we have a mental entrapment to the idea of “solutions from above” and we treat “permaculture” as that. However, it seems to me that permaculture only works as a concept if we work with it as a “solution from within”. That is really tough, since to a great extent it is taught and marketed as a “solution from above or an external solution”.

    I have noticed a pattern in terms of “breaking through cages”. Identify the cage (Realize one is entrapped), break the cage (this could be a prolonged struggle), feel elated, motivated, full of energy (productive, active, engaged), identify the cage (again? Or is it a different cage? Was a new “blind spot” revealed? Is this a process of growth or a dead end?) No one wants to make all kinds of efforts to wind up at a dead end.

  2. Is it ‘The Matrix’ rather than the cage? After all we do not perceive a cage….

    (Also as a very minor point, hospitals are NOT machines. While I haven’t worked in one, I have some understanding, having spent a fair bit of time in them. It’s people who make them work – lots of machines, but the people are what count. They are complex adaptive systems)

  3. I am curious about what the “cage” may represent from a living worldview and ask also, how might this cage (or whichever is happening) be something that is actually real and alive?

    It seems that the ‘cage’ is as much about a very real mental constraint and feeling as it is a metaphor or mental model because it can absolutely be physically/experientially constraining –whether aware of its existence or not.

    However with this in mind (and in pondering the idea of a cage as a machination itself), I am curious about when one becomes aware of this mental/cultural constraint and begins to be able to wander out beyond this metaphoric ‘cage’ into perhaps a developmental/process field worldview (looking back on these proto-cyborgian/parts-systems/solutionary worldview confines).

    With potential for “liquifaction” of one’s personal mechanistic worldview of the cage via inner and outer revelations, might the cage then cease to be understood as such because its essential process, value and purpose may become known as an aspect or appreciable expression of a living being/force/field/process?

    And now that I think about it, one might just as easily slip out of the cage into yet another belief or worldview altogether. Perhaps we may come to find out that we are indeed a weak and frail civilizational organism being held together and protected only by a sort of mechanized lobster shell! (Heehee, I didn’t make that up, but found it somewhat amusing as a metaphor on the Wikipedia page on the subject “cyborg”.. but do beware of the lobster traps! 😉

    1. Thanks Adrian I really appreciate having ideas and metaphors like this lovingly beat with a stick :-). I am working on a substantial series of articles and episodes going more into these questions. Maybe I can run some drafts past you for your input pre-publishing!

      1. For sure Dan, happy to.

        And yes, definitely prodding the cage at least (real and metaphoric)!

        After posting that I felt a little insecure that I had distracted from the theme of the conversation (Sourcing our Creation Processes Outside the Mechanical Cage).. though I just felt that I needed to immerse in the context of the idea of the cage for a little more while first.

        And thanks Jon B for your comments about hospitals as not being limited as merely machines. As mechanistic as their ideation and function can feel, it would seem that life prevails therein, although it can be severely obscured from sight and mind through a mechanistic worldview.

        I am finding lately that I am imagining so-called ‘machines’ with a lot more life than I used to. Like a “bicycle” as a punctuation point in an ongoing dynamic history that eventually rusts, weathers and melts (again) and all the lives, organisms, people and families involved in its creation; the meals, laughs and tears shared by factory workers; the joys and hardships of bicycle riders; the movement and evolution as mineral, hydrocarbon, energy, culture.

        1. Thanks again Adrian. I am also feeling a strong urge to immerse in the context of the idea of the cage (and whatever other metaphors help highlight the various dimensions and layers of the mechanical worldview) for a little more while first. Meaning a bunch of posts and eps are about to do just that, starting with the release of my fourth chat with Carol Sanford in a week or so. I also enjoy imaging machines (the simpler the easier) within life, even if a dominant aspect of the prevailing worldview seems to be that life ought to be imaged as within machines (more on this in upcoming posts, though googling Jeff Bezos’ visions for future space colonies will get you started).

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