Image: Jonah Cacioppe
My life so far, the way I have chosen to live, and the work I have chosen to do, has taken me from Bay Street to Hastings Street to Lüling Lu. When people ask what I'm doing here in China I preface my answer by warning them that if they try to make sense of it within the dominant Western-centered, upwardly mobile, "American Dream" paradigm then they will fail miserably. I then go on to say that I am living a decidedly non-linear lifestyle.
That term has always made sense to me intuitively, but today I heard an explanation that literally stopped me in my tracks and shed a whole new light on non-linearity.
First the definition, then the source. (And yes, the irony of using bullet points isn't lost on me.)Non-linear thinking:
- Uses synthesis rather than analysis as the primary mode of understanding
- It is integrative of differences rather than selective
- It seeks to transcend the perception of any evolving situation, rather than just solve the problem as first perceived
- Looks for systemic language to influence or shape the system
- Seeks to question, rather than just solve, a discreet problem
The explanation then goes to say that leadership in a non-linear environment:
- Is collaborative or collective
- Requires members of the community to constantly engage in dialogue regarding their purpose and their ethics
And in such an environment:
- Reflective practice replaces specification
- Inspiration replaces information
- Inquiry replaces assertion
Now for the source. These insights came from the fascinating conversation between Ken Wilber and Richard Hames on the Integral Life site. (There is an amazing number of interviews that Ken has conducted. I've developed the habit of listening to them as I walk around Xiamen. The location definitely adds to the experience!)
Needless to say that Richard's book The Five Literacies of Global Leadership has been ordered and will be waiting for me at my sister's place in Ontario when I'm back there at the end of March. (Trust me, it's just easier that way.) I was further interested to know that Richard is an ex-pat currently living in Thailand, so I'm looking forward to more of his insights on Asia.
Here's the thing: Richard is writing primarily with business practices and leadership in mind, although he is quick to point out that these principles can and should be applied to all areas of life. Many of us are at this place on our spiritual journey, at least on an individual basis. But wouldn't it be something to be part of a community that structured itself around the non-linear environment characteristics listed above?