The Nature of Change

I talk about progressive change a lot, yet that idea does not fully capture my ideas about how change occurs.

I like the word progressive because it indicates forward movement. It is also nonpartisan, or at least it can be understood in that way. Yet, progress is linear, logical, and rational. There is a beginning and an end. Yet, change does not always occur in this way. In fact, change is an ongoing, continual process. Every breath is a potential transformation.

When I was an undergrad, my theology professor shared two views of history with us. According to him, a line with a set starting point represented the Western view while a circle represented the Eastern view. Not being satisfied with either, I developed a third idea – a spiral with no beginning and no ending, with cycles that build upon what has occurred in the past.

Social change happens in all three ways, reflecting the multiple understandings that humans have about the nature of history. Social change also occurs in quantum space when openings are created through chaos.

So how does one become an advocate for quantum change, rather than progressive change, without being physically or psychologically violent?

I think this can be achieved by detaching, opening up to possibility, and flowing.

So how does one effectively do this in a politically tenuous environment?

By focusing on our intention, trusting, and being love.

Releasing our unrealistic desire to control everything in the universe leads to an increased sense of self-control.

I think that the concepts of progressive change and quantum change are complementary, perhaps even paradoxical. Activists can simultaneously employ different means toward the same ends either inter- or intra-personally. The important thing is to be aware of what we are doing, our purpose, and to do something to express our deepest values in the social sphere.

Charity Police

Philanthropic organizations are increasingly demanding that grantees measure impact. It is not the measuring of impact to which I object, it is the way this expectation is unidirectionally communicated and enforced. This paternalistic practice is an abuse of power that emphasizes control and containment over partnership and possibilities.

The MacArthur Fellows Program is an amazing example of trusting philanthropy (and I hope to be one someday!). Grantees are selected according to their contributions and are then trusted to make decisions about the best use of the funds; reports are not required. As a teacher, I take a similar approach with my students in the community or online setting. I expect students to take what we learn in class and to use it to the best of their ability in their context. My hope is to inspire change that can’t be captured in numbers or even words, and to provoke changes that are multiplicative.

With trust and freedom, great things will happen. Let’s share with each other out of love rather than fear.