"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. In effect, the people who change our lives the most begin to sing to us while we are still in darkness. If we listen to their song, we will see the dawning of a new part of ourselves."
Existential Intelligence is the sensitivity and capacity to engage questions about human existence – how we got here, whether we have a purpose, and whether there is meaning in Life. Existential intelligence embraces the exploration of aesthetics, philosophy, religion and values like beauty, truth, and goodness. A strong existential intelligence allows human beings to see their place in the big picture, be it in the classroom, community, world, or universe.
First proposed by Howard Gardner, existential intelligence is one of nine theorized intelligences and is considered to be amoral – that is, it and the other eight categories of human intelligence can be used either constructively or destructively.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
The Abundant Community
Simple but radical: We have allowed systems to co-opt community, and by doing so, we are gradually losing our connection to everything that is meaningful and potentially rewarding in our lives.
The authors write:
“All that is uncertain, organic, spontaneous, and flowing in personal, family and neighborhood space is viewed in System Space (caps mine), and in Science, as a problem to be solved…”
To paraphrase: What systems do best is organize human beings in ways that we may appreciate as the public school system, government, or the ease of knowing exactly what will be on the shelves in a big box store – because each store is laid out like all of the others. It’s the purpose of systems to create a world that is repeatable.
Embracing systems also means we don’t have to trust our own instincts about what is right or wrong or healthy any more, because we have trained professionals who know better than we do how our children should be raised, how much exercise we need, and whether a diet would be a good idea or not. How we should deal with homeless people. Whether it matters when a developer clear cuts a hundred acres of woods, or dredges the beach, to build a bunch of new houses.
Life is automated. Maybe it’s a relief. Maybe it’s a side step of decisions we could make ourselves. Feeling good about the decisions you make – whether they are related to your children, your work environment or your diet – is the foundation of a healthy sense of self esteem.
So it’s a trade-off. On the surface systems keep the wheels greased. Read further in the book, and you’ll be on to how this is all about consumerism. How human beings can be managed and automated until they actually think there is never enough, that acquiring is the name of the game, and that it’s every person and every family, for his or herself. Not anything new. But exactly what seems to be breaking down, all around us, right now. Perhaps we have reached the end of the rope when it comes to substituting impersonal systems for the slower, messier task of relationship building - a few dedicated folks at a time.
I am still thinking about how this impacts my art world. Based on the ideas proposed by this book, I must consider whether I am living in the world of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Last week I wrote about systems and classifications. This week I fear I’ve contributed to a system that will only serve to erase the personal face on all that is reverent and intrinsically human about making. It’s the paradoxes of Life that keep me humble.
We can’t throw out the systems completely without initiating chaos. Watching the events in the Middle East this week is evidence of that. But like the King of Bahrain, our best bet is to dismiss the troops and keep talking. Offering flowers, while rejecting the most dehumanizing of the systems. Making at least one peaceful, defiant choice every day that defies systems.
What could you do this week – in or out of the studio – that would defy a system and return a little bit of humanity to the world around you?
I’ll post my choices and experiences if you’ll post yours.