Regenerative Capacity: What It Is, Why It Is Critical, And Why You Care

Equity must be a central feature of regeneration.  And, equity work can be done in such a way that is degenerative. Diversity, inclusion, equitable involvement, and valuation are crucial to regenerative capacity, and regenerative approaches are key to equity, at the individual, inter-personal, organizational and larger systemic levels.

Regenerative capacity is the capacity to generate again.  To generate the resources needed for one’s system, from within one’s system.  High regenerative capacity means that the system generates all of the resources it needs for its own sustenance, from within the system.  Low regenerative capacity means that the system depends on external sources for its sustenance.

Regenerative capacity invokes capacity (the nouns we have), with which we can generate (the verbs we have), again and again, (from the potential we have) as we grow and learn.  While the capacity to work depends on our nouns, generative capacity depends on our verbs and nouns, and regenerative capacity depends on our potential, verbs, and nouns.  Regenerative capacity is qualitatively different than generative capacity or capacity alone, in that it requires continuous alignment of our potential, verbs, and nouns, as we evolve over time.  This continuous alignment of potential, verbs, and nouns requires full engagement of all of those people who are responsible for the potential, verbs, and nouns.  This full engagement requires equitable participation in the continuous alignment.

Why is equitable participation critical for the continuous alignment of potential, verbs, and nouns in regenerative capacity?  Let’s first clarify what equitable participation means, and then what happens when equitable participation is weak, medium, or strong.  Equitable participation requires inclusion, diversity, and equitable involvement.

Inclusion is having relational access structures to resources, being part of the set of relationships with structures of access to the definition of desired impacts in the community, to determining who is to be impacted by specific efforts, to the factors that are used to decide these impacts and what is learned along the way.  This is to be included, from the Latin for being made a part of.

Diversity considers the requisite voices, those who have the required unique contributions needed to serve the group’s deeper shared purpose.  Diversity considers the processes for how these unique voices make their contributions to the group, honoring what they each bring.  Diversity in the contributions needed, in determining what is of value to the community and how the value is to be generated and received.  This is diversity, from the Latin for turning different ways.

Equity is treating everyone equally, in how they are invited for and engaged with their unique contributions.  This is equity, from the Latin for being equal, treated fairly.

Through ISC’s global research in 125 countries and over two decades of experience in social change systems, we find that the degree of equitable participation determines the degree of regenerative capacity, and that these are both fundamentally determined by the strength of the system’s agreements field.

The system’s agreements field is a whole, a whole that one experiences as a unity, a whole that includes the system’s deeper shared purpose, how it engages people in that purpose, in their unique contributions, in the creative energy their connection and service releases into the system, in the agreements of structures and processes that work with the potential, development, and outcomes in that engaged creative energy, in the ways that the system’s structure transforms that creative energy into the energy of products and services that other stakeholders value and desire, in the resilience of the systems in its capacity to generate access to the resources it needs for this purpose.  These are the dimensions of an agreements field, in how it engages and transforms energy into an energy that it transfers to others.  These dimensions and their levels within a specific system reflect the choices the people in the system make, either unconsciously accepting someone else’s agreements or consciously choosing their own agreements.

The strength of the system’s agreements field directly determines the degree of equitable participation it is capable of, and the level of regenerative capacity it can manifest.  A weak agreements field is degenerative, destroying or extracting value.  A strong agreements field is regenerative, creating and regenerating value.  This is why the strength of the agreements field is so critical to equitable participation and regenerative capacity, it shows where the choice points are.

The following table highlights the difference in low, moderate, and high agreements field strength for the harmonic generated from the synergy of the unique contributions, the basis of the economic power, the leadership’s focus, what is valued in the culture, the forms of equity, and what people understand by regeneration.

  Low AF Strength Moderate AF Strength High AF Strength
Harmonic remains unexpressed in counterspace (E3=0.0) expresses E3<1.0 in experience expresses E3=1.0 in experience
Economic-power basis resource power network power tangibilization power
Leadership focus (political lens) “the book” – one voice, of the founder processes of voice inclusion, to the best we can, for now (2-3 primary relationships) what I/you/we want and commit to for us
Cultural lens Value extraction Value creation Value regeneration
Social lens Coordination in value-exchange gesture Cooperation Collaboration
Equity form “hard,” difficult, at best, lacking AF to engage and transform works sometimes, in pockets “normal” part of who we are
“Regeneration” = embedded resource-extraction structures EFA explicit processes of resource co-generation transparent resource-regeneration structures EFABCD

When a system is able to generate a sustainable net positive flow of resources in the system, meaning that more is flowing in than is flowing out, the system is more resilient in its regenerative impact.  This net positive flow requires equitable participation.  The key inflow, whether it is revenues or other required resources, is determined by the value perceived from those who receive the value generated by the system, which requires a clear and continuous relationship with them to understand what they value.  This is the degree of impact of the system.  The key outflow, in some form of costs, is determined by the responsible ownership of the people who make up the system.  As the system grows and ages, unattended costs tend to rise, unless people are creative and responsible in the ways they work with the outflows, continuously learning how to improve the value generated from resources more efficiently.  Responsible ownership of all stakeholders within the system requires authentic participation, access, transparency, and communication.  Finally, the ability to maintain a net positive surplus of inflows less outflows requires resilience, the ability to shift with changes in the context over time.  This resilience requires that the existing elders and powerholders work closely with the emerging and rising leaders, all four generations, building on what has been learned, is happening today, is emerging soon, and will live on in the distant future.  These three ingredients of net positive flow—the inflows, the outflows, the ability to continue to generate a surplus—highlight the critical nature of equitable participation.

The weak agreements field is a system of embedded resource-extraction structures.  As examples, in the USA, we have the 2008 too-big-to-fail banking bail out.  In Europe, we have the residual artifacts of global colonialism.  In Africa, we have traditional aid examples from the IMF and the World Bank.

The moderate strength agreements field is a system of explicit processes of resource co-generation.  In the USA, we have town meeting in New England.  In Europe, we have the BUILDUPON initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the building stock by 50% in the next 25 years, across all member states of the European Union.  In Africa, we have the Bokaap initiative to generate its own electricity, food, and water, creating independence from the national grid.

The strong agreements field is a system of regeneration as transparent resource-generation structures.  In the USA, we see RE-AMP and EAN VT, where states have taken on sovereignty of their own energy future, moving towards 90% self-generation by 2050.  In Europe, Renovate Europe has integrated the legal structures to support “nearly net zero” building standards for the whole EU, drastically reducing energy consumption.  In Africa, the SHIRE Alliance in Ethiopia developed local innovation ecosystems for the self-generation of electricity, run and maintained by the local community.

Regenerative capacity is the capacity of a system, of a group of people, to generate its own life-sustaining energy, a key proxy of its resilience.  Equity is a critical part of that equation.  A system’s regenerative capacity is reflective of the strength of its agreements field, which means that it is a matter of choice.  A choice of inclusion, diversity, and equity.  Your choice.

A hat tip to my colleague Curtis Ogden for inspiring this reflective exploration of regenerative capacity.

We Know The Energy Is There, Why Aren’t We Manifesting It? — 3 Keys to Unlock Impact

When you engage with a group, you feel the excitement about its potential. When you connect with a group’s purpose, you experience the energy it can bring into the world.  You know these are real–you experience them directly.  You know how that experience feels, inside of you.  It is probably what connects you to the group in the first place, to the purpose they aspire to, to the impact they can have in the world.

And you also experience that the group is not manifesting everything that you know, somewhere within yourself, it is possible for them to manifest.  In our group, we care, we try.  Why isn’t it happening to the level that we know it could?  ISC’s research finds these questions living in most groups, in most places where people come together to do something in the world.

What’s happening?  My colleagues and I have been working with these questions over the past 30 years, evolving our understanding of what is happening and how to deal with it.  Over the past 5 years, we have been deepening our understanding into the energy field of a set of agreements, which we call an agreements field.  We find that this energy field of agreements ranges from weak fields to strong fields.  This agreements field is a multi-dimensional energy field.

We have found that you can unlock the full energy of the agreements field with 3 keys.  Each key is uniquely configured, and you need to use all 3 to unlock the deeper potential energy residing within the agreements field.  The 3 keys unlock the flow of energy through the agreements field: (1) engaging the energy; (2) transforming it; and (3) transferring it.  Our global field research finds that people who use these 3 keys simultaneously unlock far more of the energy already within their agreements field.  Said another way, we find that most groups either (a) don’t use any of the 3 keys, leaving almost all of the available energy untapped, or (b) they use only 1 of the keys and only partially, unlocking a little more energies than others, but still far, far less than they could.  It does not seem to be a matter of being smarter, richer, or more experienced: it seems to be more a matter of consciously choosing your agreements.

We have developed a tool and process for assessing how well a group unlocks the impact potential already residing in its agreements field.  We call this the Strategic SCAN, as it lets us diagnose the group’s Systems understanding, Collaborative Capacity, Added value, and Network Readiness (SCAN).  With it you can assess how weak or strong your agreements field is, and what keys are needed to unlock more of its energy.

The potentially infinite energy available through human creativity and manifestation is available to you in every agreements field.  The question seems to be in whether you know how to unlock that potential.  The groups we have found that do unlock far more of that potential get far better results from the massive amount of energy they unlock.  These groups are not better endowed: they are consciously choosing to use these 3 keys, simultaneously.  It is a choice.  Your choice.

Maslow’s Hierarchy Through the 5 Primary Relationships

Abraham Maslow is famous for his view of human developmental needs, progressing in a hierarchy of needs from physiological needs to transcendence.  I just found, in his later writing, how he saw this development in terms of what we refer to as the five primary relationships–the experience you have in the vibrancy of your relationship to your own self, to the other, to the group, to the creative process of nature, and to the creative source of spirit, five ways you relate to one experience.

“Transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos,” (A.H. Maslow, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, 1976, Penguin: New York, p 269).

Systems Change – What Is It and Are You Ready?

SYSTEM

What is a system?  A system is a set of interrelated elements.  Elements that interact.  Another word for how elements interact is an agreement.  Human interactions form a field of agreements, an agreements field.  An agreements field engages the energy of people connected to a purpose, changes that energy into another form, a form that others want and are ready to receive.  From whom, how, to whom.  That is how systems metabolize energy: systems that are fields of agreements.

We distinguish four types of energy fields in an agreements field.

  1. EFA. Material energy fields (EFA) are the physical dimension we experience as tangible. Crystalized, mineral structures. We live in a world made physical through the structures of material energy fields, of which humans are also made.
  2. EFB. Accessing energy fields (EFB) are the reaching out within an energy field, as structures of access, to get the needed resources. As humans, we are also EFB, reaching out with accessing structures for resources.
  3. EFC. Relational energy fields (EFC) are the energy fields that relate one energy field to another. Mobile in space and time. Humans are also EFC, relational energy fields.
  4. EFD. Aligning energy fields (EFD) are the energy fields that align an entity’s purpose with what it experiences, what it remembers, and what it chooses. Humans are also EFD, aligning how they relate to other energy fields (EFC) with accessing (EFB) structures (EFA). EFABCD.  Human systems.  Agreements fields.

CHANGE

What is change? Change is a shift in behavior.  A shift in outcomes and in experiences.

Systems change is a shift in the outcomes and experiences of an agreements field, of its interactions in its four levels of interpenetrating energy fields, EFABCD.  A shift in its structures, its material energy fields (EFA), is a change in the amount of material resources it has.  A shift in its accessing energy fields (EFB) is a change in its capacity to reach out towards other resources.  A shift in relational energy fields (EFC) is a change in its ability to relate to other energy fields.  A shift in aligning energy fields (EFD) is a change in the ability to align the agreements field with its intended purpose, its relationship with other fields, and with its accessing structures.  A change in human systems requires a shift in all four energy fields, EFABCD.

READINESS

How ready is any given system for change?  How ready is the agreements field ready for a shift?  The agreements field’s readiness for a shift assesses its state of all four energy fields, EFABCD.

  • Added valuation. What is the current added value of the available resources (EFA)?
  • Network readiness. What is the current access to basic structures (EFB), to form a network of nodes?
  • Collaborative capacity. What is the current relational capacity, to collaborate with other energy fields?
  • Systems understanding. What is the current ability to align one’s own energy fields?

These four capacities SCAN form the Strategic SCAN, a strategic assessment of an agreements field’s (S)ystems understanding, (C)ollaborative capacity, (A)dded valuation, (N)wetwork readiness.

Where are you in your readiness for systems change?  The Strategic SCAN assesses the four energy fields (EFABCD) of your agreements field, to let you know where you are with what capacities you have, and what you need to do to shift to the capacities you need for the desired experiences and outcomes.

Generating Value and Impact, for Whom?

A group’s impact, the value it generates, is a common measure of its success.  Groups that generate greater impact and value tend to have greater access to the resources they need to continue generating impact and value.

We can understand a group’s impact and value generated as the energy it is able to engage, transform, and transfer.  This energy engagement, transformation, and transfer is described by the geometries of the agreements field.  The transferred energy can then generate even more energy, a surplus.  Who ends up with the energy and the future impact it generates depends on the agreement about the energy transfer–the giver who engaged, transformed, and transferred the energy or the recipient to whom the energy was transferred.

  • Transaction.  In a transaction, energy flows towards the giver (payment) and towards the recipient (transferred energy).  Energy flows both ways, in the moment.  The giver no longer has a relationship with the transferred energy: the energy transferred now belongs to the recipient.  The recipient keeps any future surplus generated from the energy received.  The recipient now has the energy, and can use it to generate new impacts and value.  The giver receives energy, in another form, for having engaged, transformed, and transferred energy.
  • Loan.  In a loan, the giver transfers the energy to the recipient, for awhile, with the requirement that the amount of energy transferred plus some surplus be returned to the giver in the future.  Energy flows first to the recipient and then back to the giver.  The giver receives the energy and surplus for having let the recipient use the energy for awhile.
  • Gift.  With a gift, the giver transfers the energy to the recipient.  Any future surplus generated is for the recipient.  Energy flows to the recipient.  The giver receives the awareness of the future impacts the recipient generates and retains.
  • Reciprocity.  In a gift ecology, the giver transfers the energy to the recipient.  The recipient generates surplus value with the energy, and transfers it to someone else.  The energy transferred, plus the surpluses generated along the way, eventually are transferred to the initial giver.  The energy and accumulating surplus flows around, through the circle, with all participants receiving and generating more.

People often label what they are doing as a gift, a loan, a transaction, or reciprocal.  Sometimes it is what they say it is.  Other times, they are not. For example, what is labeled a gift might have expectations of return, thus it is a loan.  By looking at what the giver receives back and who receives future surplus the energy transferred generates, you can see what is actually happening.  All four forms are valid.  The point is to be clear on the intention, and what is actually flowing.  Who do you want to benefit from the value/impact generated?  Who do you want to end up with the energy generated?  It is a choice.

Your Unique Contribution

Collaboration.  The impacts of a group’s efforts seem to be much greater when people collaborate, as compared to when they cooperate with shared resources or compete with each other.  A key to collaboration is engaging a set of unique contributions with everyone involved, towards a deeper shared purpose.  This collaboration drives the synergistic harmonics, the new resulting wholeness, everyone seeks.  This working together, by respectfully engaging the best, unique contributions of everyone involved is the simultaneous expression of freedom, equality, and solidarity.  Working together, for the health of the whole (solidarity), by respectfully inviting and engaging with each other (equality) the best, unique contribution each has to offer (freedom).

A big part of this is your unique contribution.  What is a contribution?  The word “contribution” comes from the Latin for “to bring together,” from assimilated form of com “with, together” and  tribuere “to allot, pay.”  The root seems to come from the Latin tribus for tribe, possibly derived from the place from where one comes (PIE root *treb-).  One understanding could then be that a contribution is what is given to the group.  Another understanding could be that a contribution is what flows with others into a larger body, like a tributary river.  Yet another understanding could be that a contribution is the act of being with (com) sacred space (tribus, treb), connecting with one’s own creative source and flow, with one’s own expression of purposeful energy.

Everyone seems to engage more when they are invited to contribute something that is uniquely theirs to contribute, a creative act.  When people are completely replaceable or not even needed, they tend to engage far less, everywhere.  Working with all three uses of the word, maybe your unique contribution is when you engage your own creative process, letting your creativity flow through you, with the creative flow of others, for the benefit of the group, of everyone in it, and of everyone impacted by the work of the group.  You can choose to make this contribution–the flowing of your unique creativity–or not, it is your choice.

3 Keys to Unlocking Impact

Everyone talks about impact.  Social impact.  The impact they have on others.  What is impact, and how does it work?  Impact is the energy received.  “A strong effect on someone.”  In physics, impact is the force that is applied when an object comes into contact with another object.  Impact then is the shift of energy from one object to another.  Impact requires energy coming in, a transformation of that energy, and that energy being released to or received by another (depending on your vantage-point).  Most people seems to minimize their impact–the energy they engage, transform, and transmit to another–by keeping these required energy forms locked away.

When people are disengaged, they do not connect to the energy, the creativity available within themselves.  When our agreements are weak, we transform and scale very little of the creativity and energy engaged.  When we don’t actively know or engage the people we intend to impact, we transfer very little of the energy that we transformed.  Along the way, of all the energy and creativity that was available, little was engaged, less was transformed, and even less was transferred.  Not very efficient or effective.  Why do we do this?  Is it hard to do otherwise, to engage, transform, and transfer high energy?

3 keys can unlock this energy.  Over the past two dozen years, my colleagues and our networks of colleagues around the globe have found very straightforward, intuitively-obvious and seldom-used-in-coherent-ways tools for unlocking this energy for far greater impact.  We have found it in groups around the world, and we have learned how to see it, understand it, and develop it.  We found that the doors–the floodgates for this energy flow–have specific keyholes, requiring specific keys.  That’s part of the problem–the wrong key cannot open the door.  And, the doors all need to be opened together, with the right keys.  What are the 3 keys?  One key for unlocking the energy of engagement.  A second key for unlocking the energy of transformation.  A third key for unlocking the door to the energy of transfer, of impact.

1 — Key to Energy of Engagement.  This key has three prongs.  A prong of purpose.  A prong of unique contribution.  A prong of trust.  This key is the quest, “To what purpose do we invite your specific contribution, in a vibrant space of trust?

2  — Key to Energy of Transformation.  This key has three prongs.  A prong of tangibilization.  A prong of leverage.  A prong of resilience.  This key faces the inquiry of, “How do we integrate and leverage this energy engaged efficiently with resilience into impactful products and services, into relevant forms of energy?

3 — Key to Energy of Transfer.  This key has three prongs.  A prong of acceptance.  A prong of intention.  A prong of inclusion.  This key addresses the exploration, “Do the intended recipients want this transformed energy, and can they receive it?

Imagine the impact when not unlocked.  When these 3 doors–to energy engaged, transformed, and transferred–remain closed.  Not engaged, not transformed, not wanted or received.  You have probably experienced many situations like this, or at least on this end of the continuum.

In combination, these 3 keys unlock far greater impact, engaging and transforming purposeful energy that others want and are ready to receive.  Those who are engaging, transforming, and receiving the energy resonate with it.

Where have we seen this work?  The people of Vermont have taken on a radical shift, from complete dependence on external sources of energy for electricity, heating, and transportation to complete autonomy in their energy future.  Through a state-wide process over the past 10 years, people from many different vantage points (utilities, businesses, local and national government, communities, networks) have come together, each bringing their unique gifts to shift their whole energy system.  You can see what is happening in this work in Vermont by clicking here.  The people of THORLO work towards the preventive foot health of everyone, bringing more life to your everyday interactions.  Through decades of work on their culture, structures, and processes, they have found ways of interacting with each other and with their communities to bring greater creativity and vitality to everything they do.  You can see them tell their story by clicking here.  In New England town meetings, the people of each town meet annually to discuss and decide on their budget, together.  Their local governance structures bring the information needed to decide,  the people are informed, and come together to decide.  This model has existed for centuries.  You can see more about town meetings, as they are evolving and still practiced through New England, by clicking here.  Three examples, from civil society, business, and government, of how people use all 3 keys simultaneously to unlock the purposeful energy of impact.

While few people see and use these 3 keys, everyone has them.  They are right there, and there are many examples, in all walks of life, of how to use them, and how to measure them.  You have them.  You can use them, if you so choose.

Spaces as Collaboration Enhancers

Space.  We occupy it, move through it, and have a really hard time understanding it.  While humans have debated what space is and our human relationship to it for at least as long as we have recorded history, we do know some important things about space.  There are spaces that make it much easier for us to experience our fuller humanity, where it is much easier to be fully engaged.  There are also spaces that make it much harder to engage, to work with others.

While there are many researchers exploring our relationship to space, we each know, from our experience, what kinds of spaces invite more from us, engage us more deeply, and which kind shut us down, disengaging us.

As the types of problems that humanity takes on increase in complexity, it has become critical that people come together, each contributing their unique capacities to a collaborative effort.  When people try to solve complex social problems on their own, they find that they are often lacking capacities that are key to shifting the dynamics inherent to the problem.  Sometimes it takes a village, a collaborative effort.

Much of what is written today on “collaborative spaces” refers to social media or office arrangements for letting people work in the same space.  Only some of it focuses on how the nature of the space affects the collaboration.  We do know that most people prefer windows, comfortable temperatures, fresh air, and connection with nature.  We also know that people prefer spaces where they can more easily align with their deeper purpose, the energy that motivates their love for the future, and where they can more easily relate with others, and have access to the vital structures and substances they need.  Said in the opposite, spaces are deadening when they make it hard to be physically comfortable, when they disconnect people from their deeper purpose, when it is hard to relate with others, and vital substances and structures are inaccessible.

People need to be able to experience themselves in the space, physically.  That is because people are physical beings.  When people are deprived of their senses, not sensing where they are, they can go crazy.  People need to have access to air, water, food, movement.  That is because people are also biological, living, and they need access to vital substances in their space.  People need to relate to other living beings.  That is because people are also social beings, they need to be in relationship with other things and people.  People need to be able to choose how they align their intentions, their deeper purpose, with their creativity, their thoughts, their feelings, their intentions, their action.  That is because people are also choosers, they need to have certain freedoms to express themselves.  There are spaces that engage more of this physical, biological, social chooser and there are spaces that disengage it.

So, while the human connection to space is still not well understood, clearly the spaces where we interact make a difference.  Interacting in spaces that enhance the collaboration that we so deeply need today is a choice.  If you know the difference, it is your choice.

Two Views of Value Destruction, Extraction, Creation, and Regeneration

Value.  What something is worth to you.  I just finished reading the book The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy by professor of economics Mariana Mazzucato.  The book explores how the understanding of what value is and the implications for our daily lives of that understanding has evolved throughout history, how the evolving discourse of what we value has fallen off, with most people blindly accepting economic values as given facts, and with many people saying that they are creating value when they are extracting it.

We know, from the framing of the ecosynomics of abundance, that the cultural lens we use for our agreements focuses on what we value, in outcomes, in developing relationships and capacities, in potential, and in the interweaving of these perceived levels of reality.  We also know that much of what we accept in life leads us to low-value traps, to many sets of agreements —agreements fields–that extract value, some that create value, and a few that release potential.

We also observe that there are at least two ways to see these value processes.  In exploring Mariana’s focus on how value extractors have appropriated the value-creation term, I realized that the value-process terms of destruction, extraction, creation, and regeneration are slippery, because they can be used to mean multiple things, some of which seem to increase value and others which seem to decrease value.

Value destruction—when a value-giving substance is taken out a system.  Its value is no longer accessible.  Value destruction can be seen negatively as destroying value in the current system.  What was valued is no longer valued.  It has become rubbish. Seen positively, new interactions have been generated, which made the old interactions obsolete.  Think smart phones as one device replacing five devices (cellphone, voice recorder, camera, PDA, GPS).

Value extraction—when a value-giving substance is shifted from one system to another.  Value extraction can be the appropriation of value away from someone else.  One group generated the value and another group took it from them.  Negative connotation.  And, for someone to take on a higher risk in how they use their resources, they expect to receive a greater return for that risk, extracting more of the overall value generated than others.  They might also see that they need to protect the value of something, like a forrest, so they take it out of the realm of real estate development.  Extraction from one value set to another.  A positive connotation for some.

Value creation—when a new value-giving substance is realized, made real, in relationship to one or more systems.  Value creation can be the generation of something new that is valued, which is now accessible.  Think of the Internet or a new highway, which everyone can now use to do something new.  Value creation can also be the imposition of hidden structures of access that extract value.  Think of the new highway access, with an imposed toll paid to a private company.

Value regeneration—when a system is able to generate its own value-giving substances.  Value regeneration can be seen positively as the capacity of a system to self-generate the resources it needs to survive.  Think of partially open ecosystems like rainforests or self-sufficient communities.  Self-sufficiency in value regeneration can also be seen negatively, with one group of people excluding others from their self-focused resources, such as systems where money generates money for those who have more than they need, extracting it from those who do not.

Each of these value processes can be seen positively or negatively, depending on your relationship to them.  It is not that one is necessarily better than the other, rather it depends on how you relate to them.  What you can do is to be clear on the dynamics in each value process and on the perspective you take.

If You Had the Time, Could You? — Recommended Readings

Barbour, Julian. The End of Time: The Next Revolution in Physics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Carroll, Sean. From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time. New York: Dutton, 2016.

Skow, Bradford. Objective Becoming. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2015.

If I had the time, I would…  How would you complete the sentence?  Why does it seem like time can go by very slowly, at times, and sometimes it can go by very quickly?  How do we get lost in time?  How can we have such different experiences, and often different from others having the same experience, with this thing we call time?  What is it?

The short answer is that nobody knows.  What time is and why it exists have perplexed people for as long as people have asked questions.  We know that we can measure it.  Until we can’t, because it is relative to the observer, as Einstein taught.  At least we know it exists.  Until we don’t, as physicists have taught us.  So, what do we experience, why do we experience it, and is this experience useful?  Or does this experience mislead us?  In these recommended readings, two physicists and a philosopher explore these questions.

MIT philosophy professor Bradford Skow guides us through frameworks that describe our experience of time with the block universe and moving spotlight theories.  These theories provide possible ways of understanding, robustly, what it means to experience the passage of time.  Is time moving, or are we moving?  Is there one time or branching time?  Why does time seem to speed up or slow down?  Professor Skow invites us to explore the rigor of the underlying philosophical claims that these frameworks bring to these questions about our experience.

Physicist Julian Barbour invites us to explore time as a series or set of “nows,” where “time is nothing but change…change is the measure of time, not time the measure of change” (p2).  How can we understand our experience of time, if “time does not exist at all, and..motion itself is pure illusion” (p4)?  Building on Einstein and Mach, Barbour suggests that “The proper way to think about motion [change in space over time] is that the universe as a whole moves from one ‘place’ to another ‘place’, where ‘place’ means a relative arrangement, or configuration, of the complete universe…the universe…does not move in absolute space, it moves from one configuration to another…History is the passage of the universe through a unique sequence of states” (p69).

Cal Tech professor of physics Sean Carroll provides a relatively user-friendly exploration of the physics of the arrow of time, through an understanding of entropy, Einstein’s special and general relativity, quantum theory, and black holes.

For me these readings have opened up my awareness to what I am experiencing when I think it is time.  Seeing choice points, choices that otherwise I tend to lose in time.