It Begins with Me (and you, and you, and you...)

In 1925, Mahatma Gandhi described a set of patterns that he believed would destroy us as a society. Those “7 Sins,” as they have come to be called, hold true today. How can we use HSD to help us see, understand, and influence patterns of health and sustainability as we move through the current crisis and work together to shape whatever comes next?

My daughter was helping me clean my home office this last week and brought me a folded piece of paper, asking what I wanted to do with it. Opening it, I saw this quote from Mahatma Gandhi. I read it two or three times, and so many recent images came to mind: A president telling people that using disinfectant inside the body could cure a pandemic; death tolls that are horrifying in general, but reflect a significantly imbalanced impact for black and brown people; corruption in government; and physical and verbal abuse of Chinese riders on the NYC subway system.

I wanted to rant against the ways we see these descriptors being lived out on our television screens, in our social media feed, and in the articles and stories that come into our phones and computers on a 24-hour news cycle. I thought to myself, “If only they would pay attention to these precepts and change their behavior. Then we might, as a civilization, survive! Our planet might survive!”

Since then I have been thinking about each of these, realizing that I can’t control what “those people” do. I can only make choices for my own behavior. I can begin to realize the privilege I take when I look at these as impersonal and distant caveats. I can step outside that privilege to realize that, in a complex human system, the behavioral and social patterns of the group are shaped by the actions and relationships of the individuals in that group—a complicated way of saying that what I do matters. I can’t shape what “they” do, but I can shape my own actions.

So, I have been considering how these seven simple statements might inform my own Adaptive Actions toward healthier, more sustainable patterns. It’s a work in progress, but I’d like to share some of the ideas I have been exploring and what Gandhi’s words have triggered for me.

What are the patterns that can emerge when I:

  • Remember that politics is also about how power is distributed between and among all members of a group?
  • Consider that my actions create consequences that go beyond personal fun or pleasure?
  • Do the work it takes to build and sustain wealth that goes beyond money and physical comforts—health, friends and family, good work?
  • Use what I know to serve the collective benefit of those who live and work together in groups.
  • Conduct the “business” of life, recognizing and valuing the moral and physical impact my choices have on myself, others, and the planet?
  • Recognize the opportunities for science and technology to support equitable and sustainable life for all individuals on the planet?
  • Make large and small sacrifices to preserve and defend what I consider to be sacred?

So what does that mean for me individually when I:

  • Recognize the impact of my action—or lack of action—to manifest the principles I espouse about power, privilege, and shared power?
  • Realize how my pleasure and leisure activities can ultimately depend on the exploitation of other humans and/or of the planet?
  • Understand the work necessary to create and sustain wealth that goes beyond financial and material goods?
  • Use what I know and what I learn to contribute to the benefit of the greater community?
  • Define a moral compass that directs my day-to-day actions and choices to contribute to life of all kinds in my corner of the planet.
  • Demand that science and technology support equitable and sustainable life for all individuals on the planet?
  • Commit to use my time, talents, and other resources to help preserve what our community hold sacred. 

Now what choices and actions will help me see, understand, and influence these patterns in myself and in my community?

Now what choices and actions can I invite you to join in as we work together to see, understand, and influence these more sustainable patterns in our shared community? These are days of pandemic and worldwide economic challenges. Can we find opportunities to combat the patterns that Gandhi warned us about, replacing them with new patterns of health as we design a new normal?  In this month’s Live Virtual Workshop, Glenda’s topic will be:  Generate Energy in Equity: Social Justice in Radical Uncertainty. She will explore additional patterns to consider as we work together to define our shared new normal. Register HERE.

I invite you to let us know what Gandhi’s words say to you, and what you can do to help establish these new, more hopeful patterns.  

Be well. Be in touch!


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