How Might Change Be Driven by Coherence?

As institutional and social change seems to be accelerating, something that is becoming more and more clear almost by the day has been seeping into our work here at The Big Questions Institute.


It’s the sense that all of this, the pandemic, the racial unrest, the looming environmental and economic disasters, all of them are symptoms of the deep incoherence of this moment when it comes to our supposed values and commitments and actions we actually take. Everything today feels like a reaction; nothing feels like an outcome that we collectively have been working toward.


In our best world, all of our actions center the greater, or public good. We share a vision for a just, equitable, thriving society, and we contribute our ideas and our work in service to that. We are a community. We are truly neighbors who care for and support each other’s aspirations because we know achieving them will serve us all, not just the individual.


In our current world, however, most of our actions serve the private good. We seek to “win” at the expense of others. We value the tangible things upon which we can measure our success. We put ourselves in the center of the story, and we feel impacted only by what we see in front of us.


In our future world, neither of those will sustain. In order for our species to survive and thrive, we must act for the global good. It’s not so much about  allegiance to our cities or towns or nations as it is the collective of humans on the planet. This moment is telling us that how we act impacts all others and the world itself. It should just be a reminder, but for some it feels like a brand new lesson.


CoherenceWe think it suggests that the way we think about change needs to be driven by the idea of  “coherence” as in “the quality of forming a unified whole.”


In that sense, coherence will only be found when we acknowledge our profound connection to everything around us. Only when we begin to not just articulate values and commitments that center justice and equality and respect but to also live those values as well can we begin down the path to coherence.


And that, too, is where schools must start now. Change conversations can no longer be focused on how we might live differently in our schools but how we might live differently as schools in the world. We must start with a commitment to shared values that contribute to the global good, and we must fiercely inquire about and interrogate the gaps between those values and our practice.


Charles Eisenstein, in his essay The Coronation, writes:

For a long time we, as a collective, have stood helpless in the face of an ever-sickening society. Whether it is declining health, decaying infrastructure, depression, suicide, addiction, ecological degradation, or concentration of wealth [and systemic racism], the symptoms of civilizational malaise in the developed world are plain to see, but we have been stuck in the systems and patterns that cause them. Now, Covid has gifted us a reset. A million forking paths lie before us.

If we want to become helpful instead of helpless, if we truly want to live lives that nourish the global good, we must first be coherent in our motivations and our actions, not just with one another, but with the world.


Where else would we start?


Homa and Will

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  1. Rich TenEyck says

    You might find this piece by Umair Haque useful. He introduces the need to be intentional about the focus on the development/nurturing of a commitment to coexistence.

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