Brexit has happened. We made that choice re-actively. But there are problems with choosing between options or choosing because of complaints. What got us here is not sufficient to take us forward and you know it. You can feel it.
I feel it when I walk past the boarded up façade of Bud’s department store downtown, gone a few months ago after a generations old reign on the main drag of Guelph. For years, really for decades, I walked by, wondering how something so clearly outdated could survive. And then one day I walked by and it was gone. It didn’t survive. I’d known it wouldn’t, it couldn’t. But the sight of the perpetually manequined windows boarded up and the ‘For Lease’ sign prominently displayed still stopped me mid-step. It caused my heart to pause for a beat, made my eyes do a double take. I searched to re-orient myself on the street, answering the silent question ‘Where am I? What’s missing?’ and I had the thought, “Wait! What?….” followed closely by feeling the subtle deflation of seeing the inevitable come to pass. A slow, subterranean realization spreads, as I pause for one moment on the sidewalk, my world is altered. I’m left with an unspoken knowing that my and my fellow citizen’s accumulation of unconsidered daily choices not to visit that store has contributed to this. We now have a situation where nothing like what was will ever be again. The world is too different now. This change is permanent. What is left is a boarded up space of possibility.
These moments happen daily, worldwide. Most of us whip past them unconscious and comment on them maybe once, to our spouse or lover over dinner, or maybe it becomes a local news/gossip item for a week. There is the clucking of tongues. ‘…Isn’t it sad? …But of course it’s gone.’ And then we move on, sometimes never thinking about it again, sometimes having the memory of what was resurface in the oddest moments.
I did this.
And then Brexit happened. And the whole planet had that moment simultaneously. Our world is altered. But this is not the closing of one downtown department store that throws a few employees, a family owner, and a couple of remaining customers into the unknown. A change, one hopes, whose shock is absorbed by the caring friends and family of those involved. This is a deeply interconnected, global-structure-shaking event. This shock will be absorbed by every person on the planet. The ripples are just beginning. The unknown is sending markets into a tizzy and sending millions of British citizens running for petitions demanding a do-over in what feels like a frantic, collective, groping for the global undo button. Our collective “Wait!… What?…” is palpable.
So I’m awakened at 4:57 am with the image of the boarded store front, inevitable. I’m in the feeling of events happening with blinding speed way outside my control, and an awareness that the accumulation of unconsidered daily choices brought this about, mine included, if only by omission, bu unawareness, by not moving as surely toward creating what I know is possible as I could have. As the world begins to wrestle with the questions “Where are we? What’s missing?” I feel an urgency to shout as loudly as I can, that unconscious processing will not bring us forward into a reality that any of us desire.
By unconscious processing I mean the accumulation of unconsidered daily choices that got us here. And by unconsidered I mean the choices that we make from reaction. When we read an article online now, it’s usually an article designed to “engage” us by making us react, click, and offer an ill-considered opinion so the platform can make the 9 to 27 cents that your click is worth. Much of the recent online news about the Brexit choice was optimizing for the best way to extract your 27 cents. How? Present an emotionally rattling either or choice that you can align and agree with or resist and react to. Oversimplify the argument to a couple of simple contrary options. Voila, click-bait. Look, that’s what got us here. It’s not what we need to move us forward.
You can feel the righteousness simmering in those news items. You can feel it simmering in the so-called Brexit analysis that’s just begining. The I-told-you-so’s the they-made-me’s. The name calling and and the blaming are all recommencing on this new and ‘highly engaging’ topic. These are the unconsidered choices; The reactions. And when you look at the quality of them they all have one thing in common. They’re choices between; between right and wrong; between your fault and their fault; between good outcomes and bad outcomes. Between these two obvious and historically demonstrated choices. But these choices between, especially the emotionally rattling ones, are gross, blatant, shockingly naiive oversimplifications. And the implications of those unconsidered choices are now, like all our choices have become, global, and permanent.
If I have one desire for the world right now it’s this; that we move, collectively, out of our knee-jerk, ill considered, click-and-unleash reactivity and start asking a question.
What will we create now?
We’ve created an opening with the choice for the UK to exit the EU treaty. Please, God, let us not fill that space with more click-bait-choices. (*note that by God I mean us, collectively, our infinite creative potential, the holographic image of which lives in each and every body/mind/soul on the planet.)
It’s a simple question but not a question that is simply answered. Why? Because there is no either-or in it and without that either-or our pathetic binary approach-avoid, emotional-reactive mind cannot deal. And let’s face it we’ve been over-relying on our reactive minds for far too long. Without a polarizing choice we feel confused. And my goodness it’s shocking how much we hate to feel confused!
But binary choices, the ones that feel easiest, that we can feel the most certain about, are almost always false and limiting choices. There is almost always, in the often remembered words of a dear friend “God’s Third Choice” (third being a metaphor for infinity, God… well, see above.) God’s Third Choice is usually a harder choice, generally a bigger picture choice, it’s a choice we think of 20 minutes after we’ve clicked and unleashed. It’s a choice that pops into our consciousness upon waking, but only after a nights sleep. It’s a crazy choice. It’s often an unsupportable choice. It’s a considered choice. It is, decidedly not a choice between the two obvious options. It’s a choice that both excites and terrifies. It’s a choice that works for you and your neighbour, for you and the grumpy old man down the street. God’s Third Choice is always available. Always. No kidding. Always. You can take that to the bank. If there is one, in your emerging future.
If you sit in the question ‘What will we create now?’ notice what does not occur to you. It does not occur to you to think, “Let’s create a flame storm of belittling if amusing insults to hurl at Donald Trump for his Brexit Blunder.” Notice in pondering the question ‘What will we create now?’ that ‘The Donald’ simply is not a key player in the fuzzy emerging picture. Sit with the fuzzy and emerging. Perhaps there will be more questions. Do a little digging. Read a few long form posts. Seek advice from the myriad brilliant thinkers online who don’t write in sound bites or whose videos take multiple minutes instead of seconds to digest. Synthesize that. Talk to people about what they care about and listen to what they say. For heaven’s sake, listen. Include what you desire. Yes, little ol’ you, who, multiplied a few billion fold, IS the global economic system. After that, start suggesting, collaborating, offering, contributing. This will feel weird. But you know it feels a lot better than sending flame tweets all day long.
The choice between binary options is almost always a false, reactive and limiting choice. Look within. Infinite possibility is still there.
Once you start to get a sense of the post-Brexit world you want to co-create you will be faced with the other choice killer. You’ll be asked to justify, to prove, to demonstrate that your choice is possible. But of course you won’t be able to do that, because, and let me not be too subtle about this, because we have never done this before.
Get that? We have never done this before!
No one, anywhere, in any history has negotiated a next step after a contentious country wide referendum by a league of nations that chooses to conclude the previously negotiated agreement of a league of nations in an almost fully economically interdependent world. Whatever we choose to create next, we will be swinging for the fence. We will not be able to look to history for certainty.
Get that? Our next choice cannot be supported by historical evidence!
We are making this up now. Literally.
That does not mean we should not be the ones making it up. In my life, as I’m sure is true in your life if you look, notice that the choices we make from considered desire are never wrong choices. We cannot fail. When we choose a path because of what we are moving toward we simply do not regret those choices whatever happens. We try, we learn, we adjust, we move forward, always in the direction of our desire. This is sometimes tough going. But it’s always fulfilling, it always expands us and increases our resilience and capacity. What we regret, both individually and collectively are the compromises we make because we just can’t ‘prove’ that the choice we long to make is the right choice, the choice that guarantees a win and eliminates the possibility of loss. This is the lie of “choosing because” we cannot make a choice toward something by clinging to what we’re leaving behind.
When we are doing something new there is no possible way to prove that it will work. We blow a whole lot of energy on trying to prove we should do what we know we should do. To make new choices we must release the need for certainty. We must breathe through the fear of being wrong.
This is a skill, a capacity that we need to cultivate globally.
The time is now. “What will we create now?” is a question that will be answered collectively and individually. What emerges will be a mashup of all the choices we make from now on. We can’t predict the outcome. Could we please just stop playing that game? The frantic search for the undo button or the confident saviour who will fix it all for us is a child’s fantasy. But we can get clear about what we desire. Start speaking about what we want to include. We can check each choice, step by step to see if it seems to be bringing about that desire, stalling us, or distancing us from it. Will we ever get there? I don’t know. But if we move in that direction, we’ll get closer.
This is up to us now. All our attention needs to be on what do we care about? What belongs in our shared future? Part of me wishes I had an answer for you. I know what I desire; mobility, more open borders, travel, the choice to live and work in different countries, to know and love new people from far flung places, to work at the pace I choose, on projects I care about. I want to know that if I ever get sick, I’ll be cared for, that if I ever get tired I can rest, that wherever I go, if I’m kind, I’ll be welcome. But more of me knows that what I care about is only a partial reflection of what you care about. All of me knows that what we co-create will be stronger for including all of our desires.
Hey world. We made the Brexit choice re-actively. The department store is done. What do we do now? It’s time to start asking questions…
What do we want to create now?