Lincoln, the Movie - A Life Lesson on Valuing Processes, Uncertainty, and more...

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For Inner Tapestry - Theme Starting Over, Again

Lincoln, The Movie:A Life Lesson on Valuing Processes, Uncertainty, Necessary Diversity, and Coherence

What is making people applaud at the end of this movie? The praise of its merits seem to come from a majority of folks. What can it help us understand about coming to agreements in such a difficult climate? It clearly speaks to something we all share in - freedom for all? Inalienable rights? Let's have a conversation to go deeper.

By now many of you will have hopefully seen the movie, Lincoln. I would like to open a conversation that uses this work of art as a source for learning about living processes and ways of creative organisms namely, humans, in this case.

I was struck with how much of life is driven by thoughts and decisions made in uncertainty, how each person’s life contributes to what is “becoming”. Also we witness the emergence of coherence, that is a coming to the “sense of the meeting” and the messiness of such a process. How does it work? How do we ever come to agreements and evolve as human beings? Big questions, yes, but Norm was one to tackle such questions. Perhaps in some way I’d like to continue that tradition of process here.

"Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what’s going to happen next." Gilda Radner   It’s Always Something

I propose here to point out a “process” perspective that such a snap-shot of history in this movie Lincoln provides us. The art of filmmaking requires a similar process, as the one we get to view in this film, with choices being made individually and collectively to find the richest, hopefully “highest” harmonization towards a coherence. When people applaud at the end of a movie, and give it praise from all walks of life, perhaps that coherence is evident. Something of truth is expressed, universal enough that everyone can find something in which to relate. I guess that would be my definition of good art. Some may wish that different artistic choices had been made, but let’s use what is there for the purpose of our discussion.

My first thought out of the movie was we need more “slow/deep thinkers” as Lincoln appeared to be. He surrounded himself with folks who disagreed with him not by choice, I suspect, but by recognition that to leave any one point of view out would only lead to some aspect of the “whole” not becoming integral to a lasting comprehensive coherence.

First we see a war – horrible treatment of one human by another. Then we hear the reflection by two different perspectives one of Negro soldiers and one of white soldiers and even two perspectives within each. Lincoln seeks to learn of what these folks know, their perspectives, their experiences. It seems Lincoln was reaching for any understanding of the moment that he could gather from such horribleness.

He acted on all he knew at the moment – gathering from all his “history of acts” and that of everyone with whom he surrounded himself.

Lincoln “stole” moments from his busy life to be with his younger son, in his play, in a few moments of “loving,” of feeling nourished by this intimacy with an innocent questioning child – still forming so much of his reality. As humans, we need time away from new stimulus to integrate. I suspect this time allowed Lincoln such rare moments of luxury.

Women too, his wife and Negro housekeeper, were strong influences in his choice of actions to continue to push for passage of the amendment. The telegraph workers would offer him reminders of something he’d learned from Euclid – a self-evident truth that would turn the direction of history – whether he asked for the Southern Conferate group to come then, or later.

There was a dance happening on the empty page of life – what was going to be written? There were 600,000 people dead from a war that would not end. If the war ended sooner, would all those lost have done so in vane without the resolve of Congress to pass a 13th Amendment?

Think of all those actions of folks prior to that moment (Frederick Douglas and Harriet Tubman) who helped to form the thoughts needed for the times and the influences on Lincoln from a lifetime of inquiry and living. Ideas come out of “inspiration” but there is a constellation of energy that is becoming, forming, manifesting from what?

Norm and I would say there are laws of coalescence – including those of valuing organizing principles, larger than values (yours or mine) but valuing processes, from which we work to find our way individually and collectively. They are an “inner GPS” given us from birth as part of our inalienable rights to be free to act. As living organisms we must be able to act from our autonomy and our collaborative natures – to find our way. In no single organism can there be enough diversity to deal with the enormous complexity of life – plants, animals and yes, humans must have “stores of energy” within them of vast diversity held in potentia for any possible eventuality that could present itself throughout it’s lifetime.

So with life comes living-valuing intelligence that enables a harmonization of all this complexity over and over again – as we oscillate between all the contrasts. We find some way of reaching into our deepest knowing as individuals to create that which works for the greatest inclusion of all the diversity. Something is released, set free, enabled each time this occurs. Each time we suffer through what feels like impossible odds to find a greater coherence than the moment before, we win a little bit. We grow, expand our consciousness and we are all the better for it. And on occasion it just pushes us into a new epoch of becoming, of starting over, of choosing again with new knowing, and added possbility.

We are truly at a time of ending and beginning epochs. Lincoln lived at such a time, and now we may be at another. As great differences, polarities increase it can often be an indicator of the death of old ways and beginning of something new. At such pivotal times the diversity of everyone being fully present, engaged in the emergence makes the forming of the new beginning possible. It’s messy and without guidelines – but in the “valuing GPS” within each of us, and all of us, there is an organizing way. Tune in, listen and know, we are truly meant to be here now.

Peggy Holman in her book, ENGAGING EMERGENCE provides a description of this process.

Emergence seems discorderly because we can’t discern meaningful patterns, just unpredictable interactions that make no sense.  But order is accessbile when diverse people facing intractable challenges uncover and implement ideas that none could have predicted or accomplished on their own. Emergence can’t be forced, but it can be fostered.   

And that’s what we witness in this movie of the emergence process at that moment in history. Lincoln continued to gather diverse input, he “fostered” the process and he called attention to the highest most unifying values where everyone could see from their own intrinsic selves what was effective action under that mandate.

When the DVD comes out, I hope you’ll take another look. There’s a lot to discover there about starting over again. Bring your thoughts to our website forum to continue a gathering of thoughts on Lincoln and the emergence process to be continued there.

The movie “Lincoln” is now on Netflix. I hope you’ll take another look. There’s a lot to discover there about starting over again. If you’d like to have a conversation about action lessons you take away from the movie, from Lincoln the person, then let the emergence process continue with renewed spirit.

Norm Hirst offers further thoughts below to help in our perspectives.

The ultimate test of any set of new primitive ideas is not, whether or not, they make sense in themselves, initially, but rather whether or not the world makes more sense when seen from the new viewpoint made possible by taking them as a whole.
Norm Hirst   Foundations for a Science of Value