How Can We Maintain Resilience?

How can we maintain resilience?

We see things dismantling and we can become alarmed. It may be something we take for granted in our lives, like our favorite grocery store closing down. On an organizational level, a new CEO wants to change the rules we had become accustomed to, or we experience a merger. In society it may be that institutions change or political unrest causes a sense of precariousness.

This is a question we can ask of ourselves as individuals, organizations and society as a whole.

Recently I started to become aware, with alarm, that some of the pieces that function to protect the environment, remind us of our history and create stable markets were starting to come undone. It doesn’t seem so important viewed in isolation; a Wheat Board here, a few Environment Canada scientists there (who happen to be monitoring climate change in the Arctic), a few National Archives Collections. But when a pattern emerges, it becomes alarming.

We can look for inspiration from Nature. What creates resilience in living systems?

In nature there is redundancy, diversity and ample interconnectedness. How could that be replicated in our society and in organizations? What can bind us together so that we are strong, resistant, resilient? Actual relationships and lines of communication can be broken. Actual social institutions, particularly when dependent on a few donors or one decision-maker can be snipped at the umbilical cord. So what binds us beyond these temporary manifestations?

What we are blind to is the energetic pattern underlying resilience. We tend to see it as static – maintaining what we can see. In actual fact there is a dynamic equilibrium that holds the essence of things together. The dynamic equilibrium underlying resilience is always in flux, within certain parameters.

Brian Swimme calls this Homeostasis, one of the powers of the universe. It manifests in all systems – from the pH level in our blood, to populations in ecosystems, to carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, to super novas exploding in the galaxy.

So does this mean that when we see things we care about coming undone, that we passively stand by and wait for things to change, for homeostasis to work its magic and for the pendulum to swing the other way?

No. For it is the very energy we invest in to what we care about that causes the shift in the other direction. It is the accumulated effort of individuals and groups of people who are moved to react to what they don’t want to see happen which causes change.

Secretly, though, we often ask the wrong question. We may think we are asking about resilience – when we might really be asking “how can things just stay the same?” The answer: they cannot.

Here is a poem from Rosemary Wahtola Tromer, beautifully describing this phenomena.

Things fall apart—
the road
the cup
all I think
I know—

and
something
holds together
all this breaking

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