Just driftin’

“Those of us who aspire to a life of Purposive Drift, try to cultivate habits of mind that allow us, from time to time, to seek experiences that reveal opportunities for well-being that lie outside our immediate context or sit concealed and unnoticed within the pattern of our everyday lives. Habits of mind that encourage us to think of our lives as a series of experiments that provide valuable information about what we like and what we don’t, what we value and what we shun, and what we want and what we don’t. Valuable information that informs how we make it up as we go along and takes account of the richness and variety of the world in which we live.”
I wrote this about eighteen months ago. Things looked very different then. For a start, I had no idea that a year later I would find myself caught up in issues around my health or rather lack of it, which has impacted fairly heavily on the kind of experiments in living I have been able to conduct.
The other stuff, collapsing house prices, threats of recession and so on I had been anticipating – that wasn’t rocket science, busts always follow booms. I had even made plans to insulate my family and myself from some of its effects. Like many such plans the tricky bit is getting the timing and the details of a coming crisis right. Like most people, that’s the bit I invariably get wrong and like many others got wrong this time too.
So whereas at the time I wrote that passage I was anticipating some major shifts in my context and a whole new set of things to explore, instead, eighteen months later I find myself more else in the same place with the central issue being getting by.
But the big surprise for me, which I still find hard to articulate, is the way that I am seeing the waves of bad economic and financial news as being a positive process opening up spaces for new ways to think about and act in the world. Stuff that has been bubbling away under the surface for years if not decades is now seeming ever more relevant. Voices of people, who have been out of the mainstream, such as Russell Ackoff, Jane Jacons, Geoffrey Vickers, Gregory Bateson and Meg Wheatley, indeed all those people from many different fields, who have been thinking in terms of systems and networks.
So here we are in the middle of 2008 and quite unexpectedly I find myself feeling that we are entering one of the most exciting periods in human history, The transition from a civilisation based on selling the family silver – consuming fossil fuels that took ten of thousands of years to form in some thing like two centuries – to a civilisation with some kind of long term future is one that will require all the creativity, imagination and enterprise we can muster. But what an exciting, inspiring project.
Of course, we may have left it too late, but despite all the obstacles, I am still optimistic that we will muddle through.
Which is more or less how I feel about my own future. My nice neat plans may have crumbled and with them the easy solutions have all evaporated. Now it is time for a bit of improvised getting by, bracketing the anxieties that accompany getting by and cultivating a mode of just driftin’ in an alert kind of way, watching out for those unexpected opportunities that a bit of driftin’ invariably reveal.