Where Do

We Go

From Here?

The purpose of www.JoyofCrisis.com is to explore the challenges and opportunities of change. This includes ideas, possibilities, options, maybe an active forum, a little humor and perhaps just a pinch of inspiration as we all seek to find our personal paths through the big and small crises of our own lives and through the accelerating changes impacting our world.

    You are invited to actively participate with this site. Please contact us with your ideas, stories, etc.   Email: editor@JoyofCrisis.com.

*    *    *

  Crisis is a confusing, often overwhelming experience. Most of us strive to avoid this uncomfortable and scary condition, understandably preferring the comfort of continued stability. Yet, it is the disruption of crisis that provides the stimulus for change, the impetus for our finally taking that next step toward a transition we may have long desired or known would “someday” be necessary.

    Change occurs in that boundary between stability and chaos. The disruption of crisis hits as we enter this turbulent zone, the vortex where challenges may obscure opportunities until the two swirl together into something new. It is here that we experience a loss of control as the old ways no longer work but the future is still a great unknown.

“The changes

we dread most

may contain

our salvation.”

Barbara Kingsolver,

(Small Wonder: Essays)

Crisis shakes our foundation, but also clears the cobwebs.

   We often struggle to find an antidote for this discomfort. Maybe we can clamp down harder, maintain a stiff upper lip, damn the torpedoes and otherwise proceed with even more of whatever has worked for us in the past. Sometimes this digging-in works, but very often, a lasting transition requires some form of letting go in order to move beyond what might be described as our “Illusion of Control.”

   The sense of helplessness can seem devastating, so we try our best to escape, sometimes by planning ahead but often by simply ignoring reality. We may freeze with indecision, or fool ourselves into believing that all will just return to the old normal. The truth is that much of our sense of control is a story we tell ourselves, and the act of recognizing our illusions can be a crucial step in eventually making meaningful change. Our personal illusions are more difficult to discover than those we see in others precisely because we are are each equipped with our own blinders that are helpful in keeping us focussed while obscuring the margins. On the larger stage, we might be able to see the illusion of control whenever there is a disaster followed by the “public” and “leaders” all clamoring for some single change that will now allow us to again relax with generally meaningless assurances of future stability. We humans have actually evolved to ignore facts that compete with our preconceptions, and we like to point our fingers outward, demanding accountability and punishing the “identified culprits” in order to “send a message” of control over others. What we often miss in this process are the underlying contributing factors and the creative alternatives we might find by exploring the nooks and crannies that are revealed whenever the hard shells of denial begin to fracture. Sometimes we also miss out on the opportunity to examine what we might personally achieve instead of telling others what everybody else should be doing.

    We humans have become amazingly skilled at doing what we do by developing specialized nerve circuits in our brains; neural pathways that strengthen through use just as our muscles strengthen with repeated exercise. When these neural networks are not used, however, they can fade away with their neurons reassigned to other needs. The result is that we become expert at doing things “our way” but lose access to other potential solutions. We experience crisis when “our way” no longer works and alternative approaches have not yet been found, perhaps not even considered. How we address a crisis situation may depend on our ability to develop new pathways within our brains. A similar process occurs within communities and even for humanity as a whole.

“The tahrir movement is one of the most authentic, most human quests for dignity and freedom that I have ever seen.”

Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times

    For example, Hosni Murbarak successfully ruled Egypt for over three decades through a combination of iron-fisted oppression combined with a system of measured rewards for those supporting his purposes — including the Egyptian army, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel. This extremely powerful and selfishly successful autocrat was then forced from power in only 18 days once a broad cross-section of Egyptians collectively lost their fears and found their voices. Murbarak had been known for moving subordinates around in order to prevent any from gaining too much power or popularity, a strategy that has now given the new Egypt a pool of broadly experienced potential leaders to collaborate or compete with the non-hierarchal motivators of change. The smiling faces seen in the crowds of Cairo’s Tahrir Square serve as a reminder that many people come together in times of upheaval even as others jockey for their own personal advantage. The new Egypt will develop through a combination of collaboration and selfish power grabs.

    Aron Ralston is a young man who has long loved his life of adventure and often enjoys a solitary appreciation of nature by traveling light and frequently alone. He skillfully uses precision backcountry planning and takes the precaution of letting others know where he is going and when he plans to return. Through a series of minor oversights, changing plans and extraordinary coincidences this generally careful adventurer found himself trapped, alone, with a crushed arm and virtually no chance of ever being found alive. He did survive and then presented his experience and personal transformation in his book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place which then led to the film 127 hours. In a 2011 interview, Ralston said, “I absolutely believe a trauma can be a tragedy or a blessing. I left something behind in that canyon, but I didn’t lose anything. I only gained. It has transformed my life in every sense. There’s nothing I would change about what happened.”

   The challenge of crisis can develop slowly — like economic bubbles — or emerge suddenly through a car crash, heart attack, earthquake or some other trauma appearing out of the blue. In January 2009, U.S. Airways Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger reported a double bird strike and sudden loss of power in both engines shortly after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport. Air traffic controllers “followed the book” and quickly cleared traffic for an emergency return to LaGuardia plus a backup runway in New Jersey. “Sully” quickly determined the best flat, clear landing area within reach was the Hudson River. He alerted the cabin crew and passengers to brace for a “hard landing,” and then carefully calculated his approach options, angle of contact and probably hundreds of other details in order to successfully and calmly “land” on the river. Only six minutes had elapsed from the initial takeoff until the plane came to rest floating in the water. There were no fatalities or serious injuries. This amazing success arose from the actions of a pilot with the courage and abilities to reach beyond “the book” in order to create new solutions in an emergency, aided by his own unique neural pathways developed through extensive study of safety procedures combined with his experience of enjoying recreational gliding as a hobby.

    Or consider Dr. Atul Gawande, a successful surgeon borrowing from “the book” of aviation procedures to apply checklists to the complexity of surgery where mistakes and oversights can lead to unnecessary complications and tragedy. Dr. Gawande also challenges some aspects of the traditional medical model of control by actively encouraging doctors to “let go,” empowering and learning to trust the abilities of others through collaboration. Like Aron Ralston and his boulder, some doctors are finding they can gain more than they lose in the process. Someday, perhaps the medical residency training approach may also abandon the torture model of sleep deprivation now used in training healers.

  The “Joy” part of crisis lies in taking a deep breath, facing new challenges with open eyes and minds (perhaps even with a smile), and then diving in for what may become a wonderful

“There are cracks in everything to let the light in.”

Original source pending identification

new adventure. Sometimes people in turmoil report a seemingly contradictory feeling of exuberance and the discovery of strange coincidences even as their lives are falling apart in the midst of a crisis. These experiences can be explained as neurological reactions to stress, but also resemble many spiritual metaphors, including the Jungian concept of synchronicity and the “Hero’s Journey” documented historically and across cultures by Mythologist Joseph Campbell. The more we work with the process of transforming the disruption of crisis into new beginnings, the more we are able to develop and strengthen neural pathways that will help us face future challenges. As a species and as individuals within an increasingly global community, the more we are able to take care of our own needs while helping others, the less likely we are to have to answer to dictators or to become dictatorial ourselves.

   The ancient Chinese understood Crisis as being a period of fertile disruption — those “Interesting Times” combining Danger with Opportunity. Our intention with this website is to especially explore the opportunity side of that equation. We want to offer this exploration in a way that avoids the simplistic “feel good,” “happy-face” denial of real problems while also overcoming the arrogance supporting the need to continue our own personal “Illusions of Control.”

    We also hope this website can serve as a small counter balance to the atmosphere of blame, fear and anger screaming at us from the increasingly agenda-driven media, grabbing at us from abusively shocking stories, and flooding in from all the other nervous interactions rippling through society.

    Much of what has worked for us in the past — or seemed to have been working — is now being questioned. Perhaps we thought that the stock market and home values only went up with occasional little bumps for entertainment, that flu was just a winter inconvenience, that continued growth would forever solve all problems, that a free lunch was always welcome, or even that those claiming to be the “smartest guys in the room” really were.

“If I ever find another one,

I will never say

‘I hate my job’ again.”

Newly unemployed woman, quoted in the Boulder Camera

    As the curtain pulls back from these illusions, we find some disturbing truths, including cascading series of Ponzi schemes at all levels of society, especially those “leaders” who enlist our support in gaining power only to use their positions of trust to take more for themselves. But, as we discover the realities of these new days, we also have the opportunity to find that we really are all in this together and that greed may not be the way to get ahead. Those of us who are Americans might recognize that we often come off as the “Helicopter Moms” to the world (or worse) and that an important part of nurturing our hopes for others is often to step back and trust. The good news is that because of all the crises we experience, we can choose to be in a better position to work creatively with reality, as individuals and as societies. Perhaps this is how we can become the people we are supposed to be.

    Of course, not all crises end well. Highly developed survival skills and a passion for transformation certainly help when needs arise, but we also have to play the hands we are dealt. While a community may rebuild better than ever following a disaster, many individuals may have died and otherwise lost everything to set the stage for change. For every hero to emerge through adversity, there may be another falling by the wayside. Television news capitalizes on the daily tragedies caused by those whose personal challenges lead to violence directed at others rather than transformation for themselves.

     Activist/entrepreneur Andrew Butcher works with what he calls “guided disruptions,” opportunities to transform multiple challenges where nobody would previously “own” the problem. As a student at Carnegie Mellon University, Butcher identified chronically vacant urban land as a major symptom of a downward economy in Pittsburgh, where there are about 25,000 empty lots. Butcher now contracts with the owners of blighted property and facilitates the involvement of those living in adjacent neighborhoods to convert damaged land into attractive, enjoyable, business generating alternatives. Together, they create such solutions as cleaning away rubble and planting urban fields of sunflowers. Why sunflowers? These bright, beautiful plants quickly replace drabness with light, provide local employment, remove lead and other contaminants, make the soil more productive for the future, and produce vegetable oil which can then be sold as fuel in a sustainable local enterprise.

    As we build this web site — hopefully with your help — we too want to work with multiple problems and to chip away at our own illusions. We have no crystal ball and we do not possess “The Answer.” What we do have are questions, curiosity, some ideas, a willingness to share possibilities, and a desire to connect with others embracing constructive change.

    So, please, take what you want from this offering and ignore the rest. Thanks for reading, and best wishes to all as we each boldly go where no one has gone before . . .

    Into our own personal futures!

Gil Campbell

“There are those that look at things
the way they are, and ask why?
I dream of things that never were,
and ask why not?”

Robert F. Kennedy

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Click on Titles to Explore . . .

Where Do We Go From Here?
Most of us will do anything we can to avoid the loss of stability — indeed, the pain — of crisis. Yet, it is within this this time of disruption that a new beginning can be found.

Flowing With The Four Winds
Show Up
Be Receptive
Speak Your Own Truth
Don’t Be Attached to the Outcome

Driving Into a Prehistoric Dawn
This article is the start of a series
that takes a long view of our place
in history triggered by a personal experience of touching the distant past.

Something Strange Happened
Scientists debate the possible causes and meanings of a major crisis that occurred about 13,000 years ago. This second article in the series explores what is known of the rapid changes of that time, and explores possible causes.

What Might They (Someday) Think of Us?
After looking back to prehistoric events, consider now how our present time may be viewed from the far distant future.

The series concludes by checking in on some special artifacts of our own time awaiting discovery by those 13,000 years in the future.

Eating Away at Plastic Pollution
A Canadian teen gets tired of plastic bag clutter and finds a way to help nature 

Friendly Skies of Rufus 
Customer satisfaction may be at an all time low, but sometimes one person really can make a difference.

Future Articles . . .
The Hero’s Journey
Do we answer the Call of the Hero’s Journey or slip back into a continuing complacency?  The choice is ours as a society, and especially as individuals in choosing who we are and who we shall become.

Unintended Consequences
Galileo cautioned that protective efforts may lead to even greater damage. 

Today’s solution may become tomorrow’s problem.

New Neural Networks

Bottom/Up Planning

The Problem with Panic
The responses that cause panic attacks today helped our ancestors survive and get us this far, but times have changed

Copyright 2011 by Gil Campbell. The contents of the joyofcrisis.com website are copyrighted with all rights reserved. However, we have a very liberal policy of sharing information and allowing duplication.
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