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Probing 'uncertainties that matter'

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

This week a group of friends and collaborators were talking about continuing to co-create a learning space and experience for people who work in organizations that support people with disabilities. We were searching for language to express our purpose and intention, in ways that would distinguish it from other learning opportunities.

The conversations are always interesting. We have not yet landed upon a way to describe what we want to do that would make the invitation clear, and distinguish it from other offerings. We recognize that people need some intellectual or emotional clarity to weigh into their decision making process, to make choices about how and where to invest their time and mental energy.

Our conversations are embedded in a collective desire to participate in co-creating change. Organizational, systemic, cultural, and personal change.

We have lifetimes of experience of knowing the harm that has been imposed on people with intellectual disabilities, and those who love them. We have observed the structural violence that occurs through the process of extricating children from the society they were born into; separating people from their families; designing and implementing segregated education; housing people in institutional warehouses; clustering people in smaller congregated housing and 'day' services; forcing people to choose between receiving support in these services, or living in poverty without access to housing, employment, and support.

There are some things that we know with certainty. We know because we have witnessed the harm. We know what does not feel right.

There are other things that I know less about. I personally don't how to create lasting change, or shift from a culture bent on excluding and segregating to one that embraces the breadth and depth of human experience. I only imagine that something else is possible, that humans are creative, and that we can choose what we participate in creating.

I do know that I want to participate in exploring the incremental changes that can make more possible than our inherited history has demonstrated.

Throughout these conversations with friends there have been words that surface and point to a direction of what we care about, what we want to invest our time, hearts, and minds, and what we want to invite others into exploring.

  • culture...ways that we think, act, organize, express, and pass on what is important to us

  • liberate...emancipate, free, and release from experiences, thinking, and circumstances that have been restrictive and binding

  • probing...learning through acting and reflecting, trying things to see what happens when we do something new, and how can that inform what we do next

  • creativity...bringing something new, something that lives in our hearts and in our imagination, into being

John O'Brien is a teacher/friend engaging in our conversation together. John is such a deep listener, a passionate learner, committed to exploring meaning, purpose, being human, and how we shape and organize the world we live in, that most conversations hold gems of thought that capture my imagination. In this most recent conversation John expressed,

...there are fruitful places where we don't know...fruitful questions that we don't know the answer to. And the only way to find the answer is in action. That's kind of the definition of complexity from one point of view. It's an uncertainty that matters.

These "uncertainties" that matter ignite my imagination They inspire a creative desire to bring something new into being, to discover experiences of possibility. There are patterns in this way of thinking/doing. Some of these patterns resemble the commitment of artists, who remain faithful to the repeated process of bringing something from imagination into reality.

In a recent conversation with my friend Beth Mount, a thought came through my mind...

...we need to discover a language that resonates, that gets at the point that this world we want to experience, a ‘beloved community’, a culture that celebrates gifts of diversity, won't just happen. It has to be created.

If we’re going to create it, then we have to be creative. And if we’re going to be creative, we need to engage the wisdom and practice of people who have made it their life's work to be creative.

Finding ways to uncover the "uncertainties that matter", seems to be both exciting and necessary. It activates a desire to invite others into the mystery of this pursuit.

Rick Rubin in his book, "The Creative Act: A Way of Being" invites us to consider,

“The heart of experiment is mystery. We cannot predict where a seed will lead or if it will take root. Remain open to the new and unknown. Begin with a question mark and embark on a journey of discovery.”

In these pursuits there is something that is spiritual and practical to be discovered.

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