"How can we as individuals help our species make the shift to collective self-interest?" Or to put it another way, how can we live in the face of what sometimes seem like overwhelming odds?
The following guidelines were composed in 1990, by Joanna Macy and some German colleagues. They appear in her extraordinary book COMING BACK TO LIFE: PRACTICES TO RECONNECT OUR LIVES, OUR WORLD (co-authored with Molly Young Brown). I'm posting them with the invitation to anyone who is feeling weary of the bombardment of stories of suffering in the world, anxious about the future, or just wondering what we can do. There's more to say, but I would rather the wisdom in these guidelines lead. Here they are:
"1: Attune to a common intention. Intention is not a goal or plan you can formulate with precision. It is an open-ended aim: may we meet common needs and collaborate in new ways.
2: Welcome diversity. Self-organization of the whole requires differentiation of the parts. Each one’s role in this unfolding journey is unique.
3: Know that only the whole can repair itself. You cannot fix the world, but you can take part in its self-healing. Healing wounded relationships within you and between you and others is integral to the healing of our world.
4: You are only a small part of a much larger process, like a nerve cell in a neural net. So learn trust. Trust means taking part and taking risks, when you cannot control, or even see, the outcome.
5: Open to flows of information from the larger system. Do not resist painful information about the condition of your world, but understand that the pain you feel for the world springs from interconnectivity, and your willingness to experience it unblocks feedback that is important to the well-being of the whole.
6: Speak the truth of your experience of this world. If you have persistent responses to persistent conditions, assume that they are shared by others. Willing to drop old answers and old roles, give voice to the questions that arise in you.
7: Believe no one who claims to have the final answer. Such claims are a sign of ignorance and limited self-interest.
8: Work increasingly in teams or joint projects serving common aims. Build community through shared tasks and rituals.
9: Be generous with your strengths and skills - they are not your private property. They grow from being shared. They include both your knowing and your not-knowing, and the gifts you accept from the ancestors and all beings.
10: Draw forth the strengths of others by your own acknowledgement of them. Never prejudge what a person can contribute, but be ready for surprise and fresh forms of synergy.
11: You do not need to see the results of your work. Your actions have unanticipated and far-reaching effects that are not likely to be visible to you in your lifetime.
12: Putting forth great effort, let there also be serenity in all your doing; for you are held within the web of life, within flows of energy and intelligence far exceeding your own."