VOICES of CUHF

In this era of profound uncertainty, dissolution

          and revelation, how do you understand the work of

   the Council on the Uncertain Human Future?

 


CURT NEWTON  |  MIT

CUHF Steady Council Anchor

This time of profound uncertainty and dissolution is also a time of revelation, and a time, hopefully not too late, for repair and regeneration…

There’s an urgent need for people to bear witness, to truly take in and process what is happening; and do so in community where new insights and collective intelligence can emerge. Systems of human dominion over nature, extractive capitalism, racism, and male domination that have produced our escalating crises cannot be expected to solve the crises, and they are so deeply entrenched it can be hard to see them and imagine any alternatives. Yet so many people “of these systems” do want to make things better. I am one of those people, and I’m not alone.

Different ways of thinking, communicating, and acting in the world are needed. We can’t know in advance what forms the different ways will take, but multitudes of human communities, other life forms and ecosystems have some suggestions, if we can only listen.

The methods of CUHF—slowing down, reflecting on the biggest questions, and listening to each other with undivided non-judgmental attention—hold great promise to help conceive of and begin to generate these forms.

 

 


KATHLEEN DEAN MOORE  |  Oregon State University
National CUHF Member

Time and evolution have given human beings many gifts. Intelligence, endurance, foresight, adaptability, cleverness with tools. But the greatest gift, the gift that has allowed this species to endure when others have not, is the ability to come together in groups and work for the common good.

Now we are testing whether we have the ability to turn our gifts to the greatest of all challenges, finding a route through uncertainty to a future of cultural and ecological thriving. This is made all the more difficult as frightened people turn their backs on their gifts and seek stupid, short-term, and selfish solutions.

How essential, then, is the work of the Council on the Uncertain Human Future, recalling people to the ancient practice of Council, summoning the collective wisdom of people speaking from their hearts about what is essential and true.

A Council is a circle. It has no beginning and no end. It has no leaders and no followers, no hierarchy of power or privilege. There are no limits to its revolutions. What a circle has is a center. The center holds honesty, which is a kind of beauty, which is a source of truth.

 

 


LILY SWANBROW BECKER
CUHF Associate Director

As our world shifts into a time of great unraveling, life seems to only pick up speed. As we struggle to bring the scope of the crisis into our collective awareness while continuing to meet life’s many demands, the world around us appears to be barreling with increased frenzy toward impending collapse…

It is within this strange paradox between the urgency of our time and what it demands from each of us, and the stillness required for deep, transformative change that work of the Council on the Uncertain Human Future can profoundly serve.

We need to step off the runaway freight train of our broken systems and pause. Creating and nurturing this space of pausing, breathing, and holding still can begin to release us from the inertia of our torn, insecure, polarized, and threatened world. Although we may often feel pulled between competing pressures, the most powerful action we can take at times is to step back and listen. It is in these quiet and contemplative spaces, sitting in intentional conversation with others, that the wisdom, strength, and seeds of change we so desperately need to bring about cultural transformation can begin to take root and emerge.

This process of creating space from which to welcome shifts in our collective understanding will not happen by itself. Also, not everyone may feel called to participate. But those who do may find themselves deeply moved by the Council circles CUHF convenes. And on a collective scale, this work serves far beyond the small circles and people who occupy them. Now, and likely to a greater extent into the future, the sparks, openings, shifts, and seeds sprung from CUHFs can ripple outward and spread in mycelial threads of transformation. While a particular outcome from this work is never the intention nor a realistic goal for our uncertain world, we must all find a way to meet the times. The work of CUHF can help shine a light on that path while slowly, intentionally, and quietly beginning to open a doorway to transformative change.

 

 


DIANA CHAPMAN WALSH
CUHF Co-Founder

My first experience of Council left me knowing I could never again look away. Look away from our ravaging of Nature and Earth and all the chilling consequences. Others in that group had long ago moved our uncertain human future into the center of their consciousness. Made of it the engine of their passions and commitments.

So if you ask me what is important, essential, irresistible, irreplaceable about the Council practice, I would have to say first that it makes it impossible ever again to look away from what we humans are doing to our only home and all of its inhabitants.

From the precipice on which we now stand. And, at the same time, the Council practice makes it tolerable—maybe just barely so—to never again look away. For the companionship, wisdom and mutual care that arises in our Council circles, envelopes us not so much in hope as in a blend of humility, ferocity, courage, gratitude and love. Yes, love most of all. That’s how we serve.

 

 


ASHER MILLER Post Carbon Institute
Rando Partnership Member

The Council for the Uncertain Human Future provides a unique gift—to be present, to share honestly, to listen deeply with others as we step into the liminal space between a world that has been hurtling towards a climate reckoning and one that must navigate its arrival.

 

 


WALTER WRIGHT  |  Clark University
CUHF National Convener

Given our situation, how can we address our deepest assumptions without reproducing them? The Council process can open a space of shared, radical listening, both to each other and to what is beyond habitual mind…

In this space, we have the possibility of allowing our assumptions’ grip to loosen, suspending their influence, and bringing them into view. By listening open-heartedly to one another, we can allow new, unanticipated insights to arise.

In this way, council is a path to an emancipatory way of being with the world and with each other. It is a model for the world we are trying to bring into being.

In addition, we should note that this way of listening has been widely known and practiced in indigenous cultures. Tactfully, and with respect, we need to listen to what those cultures have been telling us for a long time… to right the endless wrongs we have inflicted, and are inflicting, on them. We need to open to the suppressed voice of our own indigeneity, listening to the places we dwell and to the creatures with whom we share these places. We need to shut up, to go into the cracks, as Bayo Akomolafe says.

 

 


KIRSTIN EDELGLASS
Rando Partnership Council Member

There is a spaciousness in our councils—a time-out-of-time—in which we can pause and trust that insight will arise from our creative depths…

One insight sparks another and another until we find ourselves seeing possibility and light through the fog of despair. Like an ecosystem, we are generating new ways of being and collaborating for the benefit of all.

The CUHF is also a commons for our emotional response to what we are witnessing in our world. As we allow our hearts to express the anguish we have learned to conceal, we feel resonance from the souls around us, and hear words of gratitude and affirmation. Our pain is no longer personal—we are one node in a vast web of people who care and feel called to contribute to the healing of our world.

 

 


JOHN BAILES Wellesley College,  Amherst College
CUHF National Convener

It does not have to be this way and we know this…

We are not the only ones who know this. People, plants, forests, savannahs, fish, coral reefs, oceans, and the atmosphere know this. 99% of life on this planet knows this.

Our modern world view is totally out of sync with life. Our survival cannot depend upon engineering feats holding back floods, fires, migrations, and diseases which in fact they have provoked. We have to find ways to live with life, all life, its transcendent form, that which exceeds our simplistic profit and loss statement world view. It is a matter of learning to compose with life, to create together as humans and together as all life with life.

I see this as the work of the CUHF. The work of freeing ourselves from the stranglehold this limited view has upon our lives and opening together to a more complex, rich, and fertile way of being through the practice of council. A diverse, open, truthful, respectful sharing and listening to the wonder and complexity of each of our lives, our interdependence and uniqueness. From this I see community, leadership, joined action emerging and sustaining life.

The Council process puts us back in touch with ourselves and one another, affirming our individuality and interconnectedness, strengthening our trust in ourselves and our experience and that of others. This is the beginning of community, real history, and real lore to receive, live by, and pass on. This interconnectedness is the beginning of true ethics and morality, of “never alone.” This is true learning.

 

 


KRISTA HISER  |  University of Hawaii
CUHF National Convener

The function of the Council on the Uncertain Human Future, as I see it, is to put the most involved and engaged activists, teachers, and thinkers about the planetary predicament in a room together (real or virtual) to slow down and thinkfeel together. It is grief work, relationship building, and collective sensemaking.

It might seem counterintuitive to take the busiest and smartest people working on climate issues and put them through a slow arc of structured questions; yet, a mysterious energizing and clarity occurs from the Council process.

Nothing is solved here. No plans are made. It is a time to catch up to ourselves and witness others on the surreal path of reckoning and revelation. Each participant is holding space for many others—students, colleagues, family members, communities, and also trees, animals, waters, and places. The Council holds space for the space-holders.

 

 


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LINDA KENTRO
CUHF National Convener

In what can feel like an End Time, with discussions that can ring of doomsday, there are also signs of transformation in human consciousness. The transformation has the character of turning from extreme individualism and materialism, towards an honoring the sacredness of all life, and the importance of community and of living at a sustainable scope and pace.

CUHF serves that process, and those who are aware of climate disruption and destruction and want to deepen their understanding of the pattern and causes behind current disasters and losses… it is an immersive experience where listening, reflection and speaking open the heart to the pain of loss, in order to strengthen one’s capacity… CUHF is a space for support and solace, clarification and inspiration.

 


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NATASIA LAWTON-STICKLOR  |  Clark University
CUHF National Convener

This Work (capital W intended) calls, at its core, for protection. Protection of anything and everything we can save through this great planetary change, protection of the values we hold dear, and protection of ourselves and each other. Council gives us the protection of time and space to bring our grief, our fear, our resolve, and our hope. By offering both our gifts and our vulnerability to the collective we are both allowing ourselves to be held by others and in turn giving ourselves in protection of the collective. I believe that this linking of ourselves to each other is what will make us strong enough to face what will come.

 


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BARABARA WALDORF  |  Natural Dharma Fellowship
CUHF National Convener

My sense of what CUHF serves is to provide, in one way, a very practical training in the creation of collective consciousness. The practices of deep listening and spontaneous sharing allow an open sensitivity to the emerging awareness that wants to be spoken. We are creating a way for the collective voice that is connected to the one heart/mind, to speak and have itself heard. The actions that come from this are unknown, but have the potential to create new paths and as yet unheard solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems.

 


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KEVIN GALLAGHER
CUHF Core Team and National Convener

The Council on the Uncertain Human Future is an emergent process that responds at multiple scales to the demands of world-historic dislocation, uncertainty, and change.

Most intimately and simply, for the individual, the CUHF process can disrupt the denial, isolation, and unprocessed grief that too often leads to chronic anxiety, paralysis, and despair, while offering access to essential communal wisdom, creative insight and even nervous system co-regulation. It is an antidote to the opacity that clouds our ever more uncertain future.

Widening the focus, the Council nurtures relationships within its host communities and organizations, supporting their resilience and growing their capacity to adapt to accelerating change. This occurs in part through disruption of existing socio-emotional norms, particularly those that privilege denial, delay, and obfuscation over radical honesty, and that marginalize emotional intelligence and embodied wisdom in favor of analytic rationality. In creating space for new ways of being and sources of wisdom, the Council liberates communal capacities for insight, creativity, and adaptability necessary to respond to our global predicament.

At still deeper levels, the Council experience addresses our most fundamental needs as human beings. Uniquely in the animal kingdom, our species combines extreme individuality with extreme sociality. The irresistible lure of dopamine and our constantly rewiring brains lead to ever more divergent experiences and understandings across individuals, yet survival’s demands for close kinship within the bands in which humanity evolved simultaneously requires cohesion between individuals.

This fundamental human need for belonging, connection, and solidarity, described by Peter Sterling as “the evolutionary basis of the sacred,” is denied by modern culture. The Council ameliorates that costly failure. Harnessing the power of a small group, shared attentional focus, and behavioral synchrony, the Council process can transform even the most difficult of experiences into an opportunity for greater interpersonal coherence and integration. The result is an experience of heightened collective emotions that builds trust, strengthens bonds, fosters a shared sensation of connection to the sacred, and buoys collective capacity to face the literally and figuratively unimaginable.

Perhaps most profoundly, the Council engages in deep culture repair that offers a concrete alternative to the dysfunctional dominant paradigm, in effect building a bridge of practice between an extractive present and a regenerative future. Both its form—a circle—and the simple guidelines that shape its function embody a collaborative, radical, non-hierarchical equality that offers a clear counterpoint to the competition, control, and domination inherent to the structures and processes of global industrial culture. The outcomes of the Council process—an encounter with collective wisdom and witness to creative possibility – demonstrate the dynamic, emergent nature of complex adaptive systems that stands in stark contradiction to the linear, mechanistic assumptions of the materialist worldview that has waged such effective war on life in all its forms.

The Council experience rattles the crumbling foundation of a defunct dualistic paradigm, one that demands our choice between mind and body, thought and feeling, matter and energy, self and other, individual and community, human and nature, the mundane and the sacred. The Council experience denies the legitimacy of that paradigm and its assumptions, offering instead a vision of the world rooted in interdependence.

It manifests the wisdom of ancient teachings while making good on the century-old promise of quantum theory (and the more recent urgings of complexity theory, network theory, biology, neurology, and genetics).

 

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