Six years ago I read Charles Eisenstein’s book, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible. I was immediately caught in its spell. I described it to friends as a book that will fundamentally change the way you see the world.
I know I am particularly susceptible to books. New ideas are the most seductive things in the world, and I love being overwhelmed. But this book has had lasting resonance. I have continued to think and talk about the ideas Eisenstein laid out so clearly.
From my essay about the book posted here in 2014, The More Beautiful World:
Eisenstein is a self-styled voice—he is neither a traditional academic nor a journalist—and yet he has written a book that is fearless in its examination of the large arc concerns of life. He has a penetrating and exacting mind, and he speaks truthfully of our world’s woes. But his approach is also humble, personal, transcendent and thoughtfully hopeful. The short chapters have one world titles like Separation, Despair, Miracle, Hope, but they string together and form a compelling narrative of how we collectively transition from the old, outdated story of ourselves—separateness, scarcity, fear—to one of interconnectedness and collaboration…
This is not a book full of clichéd warnings and blue sky pronouncements. In fact Eisenstein self-effacingly places himself alongside the rest of us in the fragile complexity of life. We all struggle with what to do to make things better, and our response is often to do something just to be doing. Eisenstein advocates a different approach. He suggests just siting in the silence of the not knowing and listening in the stillness about how to proceed. Of course I resonate with this technique. It is one many artists learn early on and hone with time. Increasingly the silence holds the answer about where to go next, how best to move forward.
Eisenstein’s themes are part of a whole ecosystem, and they show up repeatedly in other formats and from other promulgators. They are also playing a significant role during this interstitial, upended, disoriented time. Over the last few months I have spent many hours listening to the clear brilliance of Daniel Schmachtenberger. (Just do a Google search. There are many conversations with him to choose from.) And I have been moved to read Nora Bateson’s 2016 book, Small Arcs of Larger Circles: Framing Through Other Patterns, one that is closely aligned with the Eisenstein’s framework.
In speaking about her father, Gregory Bateson, Nora Bateson expresses similar ideas with a different slant:
My father used to say, ‘The new comes out of the random.’ Mutual learning happens in the entropy; we need the confusion to release the new. This dance exists everywhere in nature. It is the swarm of confusion that becomes the grace of the way things come together. The individual paradoxically is both erased and brought to another kind of existence in noticing her participation in a larger context. In the space between the instrument, the musician, the notes, the audience, and silence, the song arrives. It is not in the instrument, nor is it in the musician, nor in the silence. The notes on the page are a map, not a territory. New meanings, new levels of understanding, come pouring into combinations born of our eagerness for contact.
Sitting in the stillness. Embracing the not knowing. Allowing the confusion that releases the new. Holding an open space for the global phase shift needed to replace our self-terminating strategies with a still undefined future path that is sustainable.
That’s what I’m carrying with me to Maine, the best place I know to consider larger circles.