Monday, June 22, 2009

Design on a Para-digm

You've seen the show Design on a Dime right? Though your leisure channel surfing won't fess up to such things, I'd bet you've watched at least a final reveal or two. The premise is this. A team of designers, come and transform a room based on the perceived tastes of the person and their overall personality. The rate of successful, participant pleasing reveals, is pretty high. Point of reference: the participants are often quite budget conscious but want to work wonders with a room. They are usually content to let the rest of the house look pitiful. I believe that such is the same about life. We think that by changing one thing about our appearance or job or finances that we can somehow change our whole lives. Never quite, realizing that a complete, life transformation requires a metaphysical demolition and not new curtains and a refinished bookshelf. We are victims of an overdose of surface treatments. And for many of us, these surface treatments become the paradigms on which we operate our lives. For example, some center their lives around money. The paradigm: "If I had more would be better." As a result, our entire lives turn into Grand Hustle Central. Or this one. "If I was in a relationship....I'd be be happier." We're all familiar with the painful consequences of this paradigm.

Truth is, we are all designed on a paradigm of sorts. For some of us. Our belief rests on the divine paradigm of creationism and living a purpose driven life. For others of us, it's traumatic life experiences and upbringing. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective people (good read), the author talks a great deal about how our lives are based on a mixture of assumptions and universal principals. The reading is quite intense, but it left me with one, unanswered question. What paradigm am I designed on/around? Seems corny, but I think that it is this: The world would be a better place if people helped people. There no real spiritual, political, economic mysticism about it. Its fundamental. It's true. I like it. This paradigm. This belief, is what ties me to community organizing. What causes me to have unwavering respect for fellow organizers and local volunteers regardless of their views on religion. It would cause me to take a job that paid less and bettered society rather than one where I could look down on poor people from the window in my corner office. It's the choice to establish a life long friendship with someone who doesn't believe in God but believes that the seat of government should be one of accountability. It may just seem like a set of choices where any one with a conscience would make the right one, but really it's all about the bigger pictures of how and why we arrive at certain choices. I'd say its our chosen paradigm. Wouldn't you?

So in keeping with the idea of paradigms we find that the problem really is how we define the problem and our positioning in it. I'll give you a hint, according to most people's paradigms, the are never apart of, or anywhere near the problem. But the next time that we are having trouble seeing through the proverbial windows of life because they have been clouded by the ignorance and bad habits that prevade the whole house. Don't just get Windex. Kick the windows out. Remodel the whole house....(Dramatic, yes). Fact is, the world is built on a set of paradigms. Some shift, some don't. Most are problematic. As agents of social change, we are to gather an army of folks who will keep the paradigm in line, or, if need be, shift it. It's not unheard of and it's definitely necessary.But most of the time not easy. For example, in the face of troubled times, thousands of people were willing to shift the paradigms of their lives from a place of "Money is the means and the end" to a place of financial conservation and spend-thrift style political activism. That, in my opinion, makes a much more balanced society.

We are apart of the problem. In fact, we cause it. The good news is that that isn't the bad news. But rather its the realization that helps us move to the place where we we can do something about it.

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