I started this series of posts with emerging thresholds, a post that articulated my transition in writing about “destination” (Chapter 5) to writing about “emergence” (Chapter 6). I recognize that I am now making a transition out of “emergence” and into “possibility”. Before I do so, I need to revisit the three elements that are crucial organizing ourselves in cities: journey, destination and emergence.
A key habitat we build for ourselves on our evolutionary journey is cities, and they are meant to feel uneasy. Cities are a platform for our never-ending journey, in which we see need for great improvement. The improvement we see is a destination that is both alive and adrift. Our destinations/purposes are both planned and not planned, for they are continuously shaped and reshaped by our life conditions. What emerges along our journey depends upon our destination and journey AND changes our destination and journey. These three elements are in a continual dance with each other.
We never build the city we think we will – or the lives we think we will – because what we conceive of what we want moves as learn on our journey to get there. And when we “get there” we see a new destination to move in. A new destination has emerged to challenge us to improve.
When it comes to organizing our cities, and all the intelligence embedded within them, it is essential to spend time noticing where we wish to go and how we’ll get there. It is equally important to ensure we create habitats to learn along the way so that as things emerge to thwart or aid our efforts we skillfully navigate our way, creating new patterns of order on the other side of chaos. We learn to handle new life conditions, get comfortable with those life conditions until we reach another chasm, facing another journey across another threshold and a new order again.
Thresholds have a critical role to play in our individual and collective learning and growth. Each is the ‘shoreline of a new world’, as John O’Donohue puts it. It is a reminder that my/our chosen destination, the direction we wish to move in, is in another world and we need to embark on a journey to get there. And when we get there, it won’t be what we thought. It can’t be, because it is another world. Being in relationship with thresholds is a learning journey itself, where we begin to think, make and do new things, allowing new patterns to emerge. The quality of our relationships with the thresholds we face – as individuals and as a collective – is a factor in our reaching desired destinations.
So we articulate where we wish to go – a direction, or a specific destination. Along the way, we encounter things that get in the way of moving in the direction we wish. Life conditions change in any manner or at any scale, requiring adjustment on our part. The obstacles can be any manner of chasm – threshold – that requires us shift and adjust. Our adjustments take place consciously and unconsciously. We learn consciously and unconsciously, spurred on by persistent practical problems. We struggle with chasms seen and unseen.
In the end, we chaotically reorganize ourselves by exploring our in-tuition. We take a step back from the edge as needed in order to choose the right leap for the context. We are learning how to let a scary idea warm us up first, then explore the inner struggle, recognizing that each struggle is powering us up for something bigger and more challenging.
The more we consciously explore the thresholds before us, and their nature within us, we will make wiser choices: go forward or turn away.
It is in each of us to reach the places we wish to go.
What thresholds must you cross to reach the places you wish to go?
What thresholds must we cross to reach the places we wish to go?
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Sources / Further reading
Peggy Holman, Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity
John O’Donohue, Bless the Space Between Us
David Whyte, The Three Marriages
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This post forms part of Chapter 6 – Emerging Thresholds, of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities. Click here for an overview of Chapters 4-7 (Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence). Click here for an overview of the three parts of Nest City.
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