Continuing with the flowing river metaphor from the last post, there are ways to build and support stability with your paddle even in a raging spring flow.
Eddies form behind boulders or other naturally occurring obstructions to the flow of a river. A flowing river always fills every space it can. You can think of the constraints of the bank, and other physical objects like boulders, as the context of the flow. If the river were to start drying up, the properties of the flow would change with every change in depth and water sources, because the physical geography of the context is tapped differently by any difference in the river flow. And our use of our”magic” (if limited) paddle would change accordingly.
Because the river flow is dynamic, and we don’t have a way to control the sources of the water in the river, we have to always think in terms of using our paddle to alter and respond to the local situation in which we find ourselves. It is much easier to do that in an eddy than in the rapids of the river.
We do this all the time. We look for immediately available places where our paddle(s) can be used to move us where we want to go.
But if you ask almost anyone how to change the impact of the river’s flow, that person will leap to the idea of controlling the flow as a whole, rather than focusing on local control of water flow or local change of the context of the flow (digging the bank out to enlarge the eddy, for example).
Looking for an elected savior is trying to change the whole flow. Now, someone who has a bigger paddle and who can use that paddle to change your situation will look like a savior but isn’t ever changing the flow as a whole.
Who else wants the savior to use that bigger paddle to change the flow in their part of the river? How long will our claim on this savior’s support “hold water”?
Looking for a silver-bullet ideology is also like trying to change the whole flow. I think that ideology is mostly a kind of membership card for a social group that has the same values or beliefs. I don’t think that truth is a meaningfully important part of any ideology. But the social network, especially the network’s core values, can be an effective tool for mobilizing an effort to change that local flow, and if you have lots of paddles all trying to change their own local flows using the same values, you can produce real change.
But remember that you aren’t changing the whole flow. You are directing a small part of the flow to expand the impact of the values and relationships you hold dear.
In carving out, building, and supporting a space to make our values real for those we hold dear, we need to understand just how fast and unpredictably the river flow is changing worldwide and put our hope in each other and our common efforts, not in some superstitious notion of directing the entire flow. We need to think of those with bigger paddles as tools we can use to support our network, but in no way should we buy into either saviors or ideologies and their claims to be able to control the entire flow of the river. Such claims are always a manipulation or a delusion.
Every bit of energy that we put into saviors and ideologies that doesn’t positively impact our values and network is wasted. And wasting energy while navigating rapids leads to sinking.
Next time, I’ll drag myself out of the river and dry off in the sun.
Next Post: What Is a Real-World Eddy Like?