Making a Place We Can All Call Home:

Wrestling with VUCA – Through Placemaking

As Wellbeing By Design

This is one in a series of 6 Thought Pieces by Ian Wight exploring his contribution to Urban Hub 20: Accelerating City Transformation in a VUCA World (curated by Marilyn Hamilton, published by Paul van Schaik, to be released April 2020)

… the startling fact is that ecological wisdom does not consist in how to live in

accord with nature; it consists in how to get subjects to agree on how to live in accord with nature. This wisdom is an inter-subjective accord in the noosphere… it is a path . . . based upon mutual understanding grounded in sincerity; it has its

own developmental stages, with its own logic. (Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything, 1996, p. 293; my emphasis)

Our climate change challenge – sourced in the atmosphere, entailing destruction of our biosphere – may only be resolved by achieving ‘an inter-subjective accord in the noosphere’. It will not be enough to live in accord with nature; the real challenge will be ‘getting subjects to agree on’ how we might live in accord with nature. And most of these ‘subjects’ are now living in cities; the challenge is mainly theirs – as citizens, civic managers, business innovators, and civil society denizens – in pursuit of the necessary ecological wisdom.

‘Getting subjects to agree’ will take work, on ourselves as well as with others; not simply our more familiar ‘outer work’ (in our jobs, career, businesses), nor even our ‘inner work’ on our self-awareness and presence, but also – and perhaps especially – on our ‘inter-work’, on our relationships with one another, on our inter-relating.

This is primarily consciousness work, in the noosphere – the sphere of thinking, and hearting and souling – first conceived by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin as a natural cognitive layer of existence ‘above the atmosphere’. The root noo is from the ancient Greek that translates as ‘spreading the thread of the mind’ connected to ‘reasoning’ – but wisdom, intelligence, intellect, insight, intuition and thought are all parts of the meaning of the word noo. This is the context for our ‘inter-subjective according’, beyond our otherwise familiar biosphere and atmosphere settings.

From an integral perspective this involves an extraordinary integration effort, demanding our best efforts in terms of both our integrated-ness (on our insides), and our integration-ability (on our outside, in our outer work in the world); an embodiment and enacting of our integrity – as ongoing default mode. In particular this involves a critical integration of significant differentiations, rooted in the integral quadrants and levels; an integration of self, culture and nature – in body, mind, soul and spirit.

Imagine a more evolved collective mind – and heart and soul – charged with ecological wisdom, bearing down on our challenge. ‘We’ are being implicated, in the deepest, most direct sense; ‘We’ need a defining ethos – as manifestation of our inter-subjective according; ‘We’, beyond ‘them and us’. ‘We’ need to get in better touch with our transformer-selves, to achieve – together – transformation beyond mere change (indeed, perhaps we need to reframe climate change as noospheric transformation).

There is something elemental, and existential, at work in this (noo-)sphere of minding and hearting and souling. Thomas Arthur’s ‘elemental’ (above) mirrors such transformation, finding the animate in the inanimate, outing the spiritual in the material, inviting a transforming mind into the mix: ‘breaking through ancient armouring; impossible to keep this elemental trickster chained up’, as Arthur notes.

The image is drawn from nature, and then ‘transformed’ – a cropping that is also a coupling; differentiation that becomes a (new) integration. There is also an additional ‘third-dimension’ sense of some ‘looking at oneself’ in a mirror… two halves fusing, sharing an edge, manifesting an ‘inter-face’ (inter-being-style) – which might contribute to a sensing, for some, of the contours of one’s transformer self, in all its elementality. You are invited to undertake your own channeling of this ‘elemental’, embodying and ensouling its magic and mystery, letting it transform you, existentially.

[Links to the original Earthanima project/exhibit, and video of Thomas Arthur’s work: ]