Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail
Have you heard? Some of us in this big 'ol world are grappling with how to engage "restoratively". What's that about? What's it like?
Recently a friend of mine shared a term I hadn’t heard before: chaordic. According to Wikipedia, the term was coined by Dee Hock, founder and former CEO of Visa, as he grappled with what works best for groups of people trying to create something together. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaordic As I understand it, Mr. Hock thought that a blend of chaos and order is the sweet spot. And I understand my friend to refer to chaordic spaces as disorienting, yet of value.
I took a different angle and offered the metaphor of a spiral dance between chaos and order as a way of describing what I consider to be the dynamic, multidimensional and sometime disorienting nature of co-creative process. I also said that being on a merry go round can be disorienting, too, and we’re not really getting anywhere. So, I think it’s important to consider what’s going on.
After looking deeper into the etymology of our words chaos and order, I’d like to say more, and am going to switch metaphors to employ another dynamic and multidimensional creative art form - the weaving of cloth.
The word chaos, from greek, means "space" or “yawn”. If we go back further to cha- [ka] = “life force” + os = “opening” we have cha+os as a kind of space that’s defined just enough for something to happen within it.
Indeed, where two or more are gathered together – chaos! Yes, that space between us is the loom.
Order. A possible origin of the word order is odiri, "to lay the warp". In weaving, the fibers of the warp are set up first on the loom. Only then may the weft fibers be woven back and forth through it. That's how whole cloth is created.
I think the conscious and unconscious choices we make to arrange ourselves is the warp. It's the paradigm and the system that supports it. The arrangement is determined by our purpose(s) and the principles we think will best serve us. Sometimes the arrangement has been there for so long that we don’t even realize it’s there or don’t think it’s important, don’t know what else to do, are reluctant to change it, don’t think it’s important, and/or are just plain used to it.
The formal and informal practices we do are the weft. These too can be be things that we've done for so long we don't think about it, or don't want or know how to change. In any case, we try to weave them through the warp.
If they warp and weft are aligned, cloth will come together. Something happens between us. How is it? Whole? Full of Holes? How are we? Satisfied? Happy? Disappointed? Disoriented?
Perhaps it’s what we wanted. It’s a new kind of cloth and we celebrate. And we feel disoriented. It will take some getting used to.
Sometimes, it’s the old kind of cloth and we wonder why. This is a different kind of disorientation that comes when we’ve tried to create something new, expected to experience something new, but didn’t. Did we really change the warp and the weft?
Another possibility is there’s no viable fabric at all. It won’t fully come together. The way things are set up aren’t aligned with what we’re trying to do now. That’s disorienting in a different way. Did we change the weft, but not the warp? Or the other way round?
Yet another possibility is there’s no fabric, but rather a heap of fibers piled under the loom. Are we so tired of the old paradigm we just cut the warp fibers, set no warp at all, and everything we try to do just falls to the floor?
Does this make any sense?
It does in my experience. If we’re going to co-create, then we’ve got to lay the warp. And if we want to lay a restorative warp, we’ll be identifying, communicating and deepening understanding of the purpose(s) and principles of restorative paradigm. Then we can see how the formal and informal practices that we engage in (i.e. what we’re doing ) as we make decisions, learn, have conflict, etc. are aligned.
Keeping in mind that this is weaving that I’m talking about, and not outlines and linear tracks, I’d like to offer my current list of what seems to work, restorative paradigmatically (!) speaking, as I describe it below. This list is born out of my experience of both joy and frustration with living with myself and others, and with an eye and heart increasingly on participating in weaving a social fabric that works, whenever we come together and the loom appears.
Restorative purpose and principles (the warp): To engage with Life in all its forms and create conditions for It to flourish, everyone matters, the collective matters, mutual understanding, shared responsibility, shared power
Restorative practices (the weft): engaging with what serves Life (human and more), honesty/authenticity, inclusion, voluntariness, self – selection, showing up, listening, expressing, dialogue, consensus decision-making, collaborative learning, conflict circles, rotation of leadership, feedback loops.
This list is a work in progress. It’s the fiber in my weaving basket and as I try different things, discover more. I imagine some stories about how this has worked could be interesting. Maybe I'll write some, or you will. Meanwhile, As I share the list here, I wonder what others would change, add or remove?