Making a Place We Can All Call Home:

Wrestling with VUCA – Through Placemaking

As Wellbeing By Design

This is six 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)

[Our Entangled Future: Stories to Empower Quantum Social Change (2019). Edited by Karen O’Brien, Ann El Khoury, Nicole Schafenacker and Jordan Rosenfeld. Adaptation CONNECTS]


Through an integral lens we have been exploring the realm of ethos, an inter-personal space, where some practical wisdom might be assayed about how we as a species – in all our inter-subjectivity, might be enabled to achieve greater accord as to how we might fruitfully engage with the challenges of our times. So that we might achieve some ‘we-stories’ – some further evolution stories – that are worth telling to our collective future.

The underlying ethos-making is being conceived in novel ways, that may presage very different future manifestations of what gets consciously presenced (in relation to what is generally absenced). It involves ‘telling a WE-story to the future’. It is a collective, convivial project – for agents in communion (not sole agents, nor solo efforts). As story-telling it is a moral tale. As a ‘making’ endeavour it is a ‘we-design’ project, in a ‘we-zone’, where we try to see with Marcel Proust’s multi-perspectival ‘new eyes’.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is…” Marcel Proust [Full quote, and a treatment of its full context, here:]

Ethos-making is about ‘big-picture’, ‘big-caring’ perspectives – calling into being a higher/wider/deeper sense of our selves, in our persons, and collectively. What might such we-story-telling to our future look and feel like? If ‘inter-subjective according in the noosphere’ does not quite do it for you, how about the territory of yarning and yearning, around ‘yesterday’s tomorrows’?

Once upon a time, and space, in an eternal place… there are the stories that make us ‘us’. There is a power in story… synergy-generating, eternity-embracing, infinity-anticipating. What might be our integral we-story?

Consider the power of story, as a medium for the integration that is so valued, the integration of differentiations that matter. There are strong indigenous roots in the perspective of ‘telling stories to the future’.

When in Australia a few years ago, I encountered the propensity for ‘yarning’ – not only among aborigines but also among the more recent ‘settlers’. The yarning seemed to be a form of cultural bridge between the two – rooted in story. It provided a basis for exploring a collective future, and for pursuing some common yearning. It seemed to open up a grander canvass for our story-telling – the whole time-space of ‘yesterday’s tomorrows’… holding each, while privileging the unifying.

Yesterday’s Tomorrows emerged from some exploratory ethos-making – in Freemantle, Western Australia, in July 2011, exploring the terrain of meta-professionalism. It represents a generative ethos-in-the-making, addressing the yearning in yarning, and the yarning in yearning. It involved telling stories of longing, and singing songs of potential (song-lines underpin much aborigine culture). There follows some ‘ethos-pieces’ from that day – fragments of an emerging ethos, from a generative field, that we all might cultivate in our own ways.

Yesterday’s Tomorrows

Spanning Yesterday and Tomorrow


Primalcy and Potency

Following the Song-Line Home



A Primal Human Urge – That is also an Imperative

The Evolution in the Creation Story: The Creation in the Evolution Story

Once Upon a Time – To Come

The Yonder in the Wonder


Discerning what is still inside – Waiting to be given out

Beyond Being: The Becoming on the Horizon

A Privileging of the Humanity of it All

The Yearning in Yarning

An Onus for Wholeness – for Whole-making

Generating Yesterday’s Tomorrows

Ushering in New Perspectives on Old Realities

Making Connection Second Nature

The Yarning in Yearning

Storying Tomorrow’s Yesterdays

An Uncommon Respect for Basic Humanity

Overcoming the Partiality of it All

Sonance and Solace

Accord in Discord : Comfort in Distress

Generative Tension

What Ails Us : What Wells Us

Privileging Well-being and Well-becoming

In the Now

We emerged other strands to the story, still waiting to be woven in to its fabric – when the time and place is right. Strands such as: harnessing our own power, in service to others; making connections, generating synergy; manifesting evolution as an ‘ever-more-whole-making’ intention; and celebrating the miracle that is ‘we’. And in terms of our ‘meta-professionalism’ curiosity, emerging sentiments included: we are all health and wellness professionals, professing wholeness and wellbeing – with a specialty that is universal, and life-affirming; we are each power sources of a synergy that serves our emergence as ever-more-whole – in body, mind, soul and spirit – agents of, media for, the generative impulse; professing via stories  – and song, and dance, and poetry – telling stories to the future, as well-beings well-becoming.

Yesterday’s Tomorrows is an ethos en route to a poiesis – an even higher level of transpersonal ‘making’ that we might aspire to, as co-creative integrities, bringing our very best to the making, in our person (our praxis), and collectively (our ethos). It begins by being at home in our Selves, a very conscious personal home-coming, for – as John O’Donohue reminded us: ‘when one is at home in oneself, one is integrated and enjoys a sense of balance and poise’. This rendering actually aligns very closely with the Greek notion of ‘sophrosyne’ which Richard Sennett has interpreted as: ‘to be balanced and centred, in face of difficulty and diversity, acting with grace and poise, balancing inner and outer life exposure’. This sophrosyne is what every authentic ‘maker’ – of a place we might all call home – must embody, and enact; in effect, in the persona of a sophrosyne.

What seems particularly significant however is that sophrosyne  and poiesis  were considered  by those wise ancient Greeks to be ‘intimately related’, helping us to a fuller and deeper sense of the quality of the placemaking – as poiesis – being reached for here. As Sennett clarified:

‘… for the Greeks, to balance oneself one had to act as well as to look. The result of caring about what one sees is the desire to make something – poiesis (poetry – but their word was broader than one art in scope)… As a result of his or her own engagement in making or doing things carefully, sophrosyne and poiesis were intimately related’ (Sennett, 1990, p. xiii)

Making a place we might all call home implicates an exquisite making by exquisite makers. The underlying poiesis is more than poetry-making; it engages other allied arts, such as story-telling. But it also demands placemakers – the agents of placemaking – who have a poetic sensibility and disposition – enacting and embodying the modern equivalent of sophrosyne: integrated, balanced, centred, graceful, poised. At home in oneself. In place. In communion. Relishing the challenge of inter-subjective according in the noosphere. A poiesis of sophrosynes?

[Gavin Thompson: Sophrosyne 1]