Dancing with Expansion, Exploitation and Increasing Complexity

Three forces

It’s easy to think that we, modern humans, invented expansion in all directions, exploiting all available resources and increasing complexity in absurdum. We didn’t. These three forces birthed the Universe, are driving evolution, and are part of all cultures. And without these forces, no galaxy, no life, no internet. These forces are fundamental. And problematic. 

The same Forces moving through Everything

During my years with the Wider Embraces method, I realised that the same forces are moving in the physical, biological and cultural spheres. For me, it has been both liberating and scary to explore and sense them everywhere. Scary because they are powerful and have destructive potential. Liberating because when I stop rejecting them or project them onto others and instead own them, there is forgiveness and deep belonging. 

Counter-Forces and a Potential Leap Forward

This is the first post in a series of five where we’ll look into the forces and their counter-forces and boundaries one by one and see how they move through the world, how they live you and me. In the last part, we sense the possibility of a leap forward, becoming aware as Humanity, as the Biosphere, as the Planet. Waking up to everything we belong to. 

We are Danced by these Forces

The force of Expansion: Our Universe started as a tiny dot, and now it’s billions of galaxies with billions of stars each. Life on Earth began with one cell, and now life is everywhere. 

The force of exploiting all available resources: Stars burning all their fuel and the black holes sucking in everything around them. Trees spreading their branches to collect maximum sunshine. Slugs eating all the salad. 

The force of increasing complexity: From particle soup to atoms, to molecules. From cosmic dust to galaxies. From single cells to trees and whales. 

The same forces dance our human culture. 

We are not cut off

We look at nature and indigenous tribes and perceive systems in harmony, built by love and cooperation. We then blame ourselves for being bad, assuming something went wrong when we moved into modernity, that we invented expansion, exploitation and complexity. That we are cut off, separated from our roots and the rest of the planet. We are not. We can’t be. It’s impossible. We are an expression of everything we belong to. The idea that the forces moving through us are separate from Life, Earth, and the Universe is complete hubris. 

Forgiveness and Healing instead of Guilt and Shame

We dominate the planet because we care for each other, share what we know, and cooperate in large groups. In other words, we are good at exploiting resources, expanding in all directions and increasing complexity. 

Instead of crumbling under shame and guilt, we must dare to sense into the underlying forces and realise how deep they go. It’s scary and overwhelming, and it’s liberating and healing. And, instead of letting them steer us straight forward into a collapse, we can feel and acknowledge them. We can dance with them and their counter-forces in service of life on Earth for the next billion years, until the sun gets too hot. 

2 thoughts on “Dancing with Expansion, Exploitation and Increasing Complexity”

  1. thank you Stina, this is really helpful. The next step on the journey that started as “Big Heart of Humanity” 10 years ago. Healing the self-hatred, the shame and guilt-ridden existence that many environmentalists experience.
    The emotion of shame, if owned constructively, can lead to the ability to take responsibility, for my own actions and also those of groups of people and even humanity as a whole. Then maybe there is a chance not only of survival but of development and realising our potential. Expanding wisdom and love, rather than less desirable aspects. Finding ways of exploiting without depleting. And increasing our ability to hold complexity consciously and responsibly.
    Looking forward to a continuation of this series!

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  2. I get it! Most organisms, at an individual level will exploit a resource without any restraint, until it is exhausted, and then find another resource or die. Their success at exploiting a resource means they will generate more offspring with more chance of surviving, which will exhaust the resource more quickly. It is at a systemic level (emerging complexity) that restraint, balance happens, not by choice, wisdom, strategy or ethics at an individual level. If higher level ’embraces’ aren’t somehow established, then they won’t survive. We are the first organisms with both the innate drive to exploit and expand, the social learning capacity to exploit a resource more effectively, and the capacity to understand the systems in which we are immersed, and so to choose to take a more strategic approach and self-restrain our behaviour in our own longer term individual, and collective interests. That causes inner and outer, social stresses, between innate drive, short and longer term interests, and personal and collective interests. In evolutionary terms, both exploiter and resource have a higher level interest in establishing a mutual embrace, which ‘cares for’ and organises their mutual self-interest, even if the individual parts are incapable of caring for each other, or acting with restraint by understanding the bigger, more complex picture.

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