I promised last blog to continue the theme of what we can change. My conclusion is that we cannot change the things that many people suppose are ours to change – for example, our own personal destiny. But we can change the mindset or attitudes that we hold and this in turn has an impact on how much we learn and therefore collectively evolve. It is worth nothing that evolution seems to be a process of accumulation of knowledge, personally and collectively; if I understand it correctly, most scientists believe that the universe is in a state of continuing entropy with the prospect that all exchange of energy will over time will be dissipated until the universe reaches a state of equilibrium (or stasis). This looks like a pretty depressing prospect, however many billions of years in the future this eventual scenario might be. However Tom Stonier (Information and the internal structure of the universe) points out that this process creates information, which exists independent of energy or mass. If this is true, then our journey is towards creation of information. Our structures for storing and accessing information have become far more sophisticated over time and since the internet is like a huge brain our capacity has increased exponentially over recent decades. Yet, if we are not in control of this, and research tends to suggest that we are not (a relatively recent article that I mentioned in a blog some months back showed that distribution of wealth across the globe closely mirrored biological systems, not something that each individual with their “free will” could possibly imagine to be the case) then it is intriguing to wonder what Life is up to now and what we are being prompted to evolve?
One thing that occurred to me through the auspices of a frustrating four or five hours on the phone to Vodafone’s call centre, with an increasing sense of powerlessness enveloping me, was that our organisations, our technology and the crises we currently face in terms of ecology and financial systems are all trans-national. They cannot be solved at a local level; they somehow force us to come together collectively in some way to address them. It occurred to me, that for most of us, what is frustrating about this process is that we feel we are increasingly facing impersonally large organisations or issues which we feel powerless to influence. I also hear people of my own generation and younger (I was talking to an interesting fellow consultant at a meeting of John Lewis Learning and Development suppliers who seemed my age but on reflection I sadly realise was probably ten years younger) lamenting the fact that our children seem to relate to a wider and wider group of people virtually (as if they are real friends, when they have had no direct contact with them). Is this entropy – many people seem to think so – a genuine degradation and slipping backwards, dissipating our collective evolution. Yet, I suspect the reverse is true. I suspect that the reason we are dealing with more and more impersonal large organisations, trans national issues and virtual forums for meeting people, is so that we are able to evolve beyond the interpersonal level relating to tribe and family. If we can recognise that someone we have never met is as much “us” and as close to us as a human being as any member of our family, we might begin to see an evolutionary shift taking place on a collective level. It strikes me we are at the early stages of this (and that it might be connected to the Aquarius-Leo paradigm – discovering collectively (Aquarius) that we are all individuals with a heart (Leo). It is frustrating to be at the early stages of this, yet without these frustrations, how would we be motivated to evolve? At the same time, the current scandals hitting us financially, demonstrate a concern born of our treatment of each other and our governments without the understanding that it is all “us”; that if we exploit others for our own advantage as if they were objects then in the end it impacts us all. This came home to me in a conversation I was having with close friends about tax. Both individuals were expert at playing the system and genuine and lovely individuals, generously committed to others, but somehow the government seemed different. Thinking of the government impersonally creates strange effects in our morality. Most people know that the government is funded by all of us but few relate to that on an emotional level. For the most part, we feel it is ok to take advantage of big businesses, of the government. They are so large they can be treated impersonally. Yet, we all dislike the impersonal world that this creates and feel oppressed by it. What is the answer? The only answer is to stop treating people impersonally at a personal level. I notice the impact when my friend Chrissy suggests to people that the fiddling of the government they are doing is being paid for by the hard work and taxes of the other individuals in the conversation it has a significant impact on shifting how everyone sees and feels about it.
In this respect, it was a shock to discover that, on auto pilot, I had set up a company because it was more advantageous from a tax perspective and from the point of view of any financial meltdown (limited liability). Yet hearing the mayoral debate for London, I was brought up with a jolt to hear Ken Livingston being accused of being two faced and unethical because he had set up a company for his private affairs in order to pay corporation tax rather than personal tax. I immediately rang my accountant to ask not what did I need to do to pay as little tax as possible but rather to be as ethical as possible. It will cost me £7,000 per year but I think at the moment the government needs it. It is always easy to see what impersonal organisations such as governments, big business etc. – the great “they” – should change but I don’t think “they” ever change anything. I think “we” can though.
What we can do is to change our mindset or attitude. As a student of the I-Ching, I am conscious that the I-Ching’s primary focus is our attitude. When coaching clients, I am often asked what they should do and yet they recognise when they change and develop, it isn’t about what they do but rather about what they choose to assume or believe that changes; the degree to which they are able to put themselves in the shoes of others and appreciate their position. So we might not be able to change the incidence of large organisations, trans national issues, governments etc. but we can change how we choose to relate to each other.
I decided in the end (with suitable prompting from the I-Ching) to drop my power battle with Vodafone. The reason being that I recognised that at the beginning I was so focused on getting the cheapest possible deal and pushing to negotiate the best result that I have had non-stop problems throughout the contract and it has backfired on me. Vodafone have their part to play – but it isn’t mine. My part is to do my learning and change my attitude.
There is huge outcry at the moment concerning the banks and their awful attitude, yet, in working with Lloyds TSB during the years preceding the crash, I was dismayed that even the most enlightened of individuals were primarily focused on achieving targets and the customer was seen primarily in terms of how much they could sell to them. Even so, they were not and continue not to be, unique. John Lewis, which was founded on enlightened principles seems to be struggling not to be like any other organisation, seeing their goals in terms of financial targets and commercial competition. Its founder John Spedan Lewis, created the partnership concept and gave away the company to the workers, because he felt it was the right thing to do, rather than because it was to his own financial advantage. The response to the current crisis among many organisations has been to see it as heightening the need to be competitive and “aggressive” in the market and focus people on being more commercial but this is, like any change, the response of those hanging on to the past paradigm and hoping that pedalling it harder will remedy the problems.
This transactional view of each other harms all of us; it is built on a notion of continuous growth (or greed to give it it’s less flattering name). The idea is that we will all be happy by being wealthier and that it is worth exploiting others if it creates our own financial gain, also, the idea is that we can take on greater and greater debt to support the lifestyle we must have to be happy. Oh dear; it is a big mind picture and it has gone crash collectively, but perhaps it might just cause us to become wiser and kinder. Most of us would not dream of acting this way with close friends or family but we justify it as “commercial” and “professional” to do so with others. I am currently challenging myself to consider every expense for clients and each interaction as if it were being charged to me by someone else. On the whole, I tend to be pretty generous, yet, it has been amazing to see the justifications that my personality will come up with on small, “unimportant” trifles!
Whilst the current transits may not be comfortable (they are not really meant to be), they are breaking something outmoded down and preparing us for a new evolutionary step. The generation born in the sixties under a Pluto-Uranus conjunction are at the height of their influence at a time when there is a Pluto-Uranus square. It is another period of significant change, akin to the sixties; like that decade it will see significant changes, but with the Neptune-Chiron conjunction (which last was in evidence during and shortly after the war) it is a painful breaking down. At a personal level, I have found these sorts of fundamental changes in my life to be very unsettling and uncomfortable but the periods which I look back on as having transformed my understanding and which I would not change because I learnt and changed so much. The person I coached today who has been hit by both transits over the last few years has been transformed by them but would not go back to the sort of blind ambition which dominated her approach previously. With the moon forming a t-square to Pluto-Uranus and Saturn-Chiron she is very much representative of her generation in starting to question the attitude which dominated her focus till now.