On the 11th of September 2001, when three planes not only crashed but destroyed the lives of thousands of people, they also woke up the world to our profound interconnectedness. The Future that day brought both deep shadow and unexpected light.
I didn’t realize how intently the Future was calling me as I watched reality TV be invented at an unimaginable scale. I sat staring at the screen confounded by hours of replays, horror and global consternation. I imagined years and decades of disastrous fallout from this event.
I imagined economic meltdown, global depression and dis-ease everywhere. I felt the negative effects ripple out from NYC to the rest of the world. What would happen to world trade? How would fear pollute relationships? What would blame do to international agreements?
But the Future had many ideas much more powerful than my fearful contractions. Within hours of viewing the twin tours implode, I was reminded about all that I had learned about community, preparing for a disaster we had called the Y2K bug – a computer malfunction that predicted the failure of global energy systems and the dimming of lights and energy utilities worldwide.
But that disaster taught us about a key paradox embedded in the laws of complexity – that if you change 10-15% of a system, then the rest of it “changes for free”. Along with many other technology service providers who attended to overcoming this human-made Y2K problem, I watched 99% of the world’s lights turned on for the celebrations of the Year 2000. It turned out that so much mitigation was successfully programmed into our global technology infrastructure, that we prevented the feared outcomes.
But it wasn’t just technological upgrading that the Y2K phenomenon precipitated – it was also the capacity for being in community with one another. My work in 1999 was focused on building community with my neighbours, co-workers, businesses, health care providers, schools, city hall and justice system. Gathering emergency response resources, learning about each others’ talents and gifts, appreciating our assets and strengths. I even co-created a game (called Y2K Connections) that built community as you played it – keeping score by assembling the map of the world. It was designed so that if we were confronted by threats on a world scale, we would know how to support one another.
On the day of 9/11 the strength of those community connections overcame for me the fears and apprehensions reported on the news. The energy that was released, in fact, motivated me to bring Dr. Don Beck to Canada to teach us Spiral Dynamics integral. My work in community was recalibrated with this evolutionary developmental framework and took me from coast to coast over the next 10 years sharing the insights and training trainers.
Out of those relationships, I learned the patterns of a living, complex adaptive, Integral City and subsequently created a website and wrote 3 books. Moreover, the resilience of New Yorkers responding to 9/11 has become legendary. But because the world’s airline system was shut down that same day, it turns out the resilience of communities around the world, including Gander Newfoundland where 100’s of planes were safely landed as an emergency response system emerged from professionals cooperating around the world as a community of carers – looking after individuals, groups, places and the planet (what Integral City now calls the Master Code of Care).
The fallout from 9/11 continues to this day – and much of what the media reports looks through a glass darkly. But if you stand back to appreciate the lessons from the Future that came to the world that day, we can be grateful that we are still learning the power of caring, community and connectedness that we need to meet today’s challenges that the Future is preparing to strengthen us for tomorrow.