Integral resilience is one of those domains of consciousness wherein vast aquifers of knowledge connect and open new frontiers for exploration. In this place we can find inspiration to join together in beneficial actions that reduce misery and redeem our common humanity.
Our purpose is to catalyze a new field of inquiry and practice to help individuals, organizations, and communities adapt creatively and positively to trauma and adversity. Our first step was review the main studies, articles, and commentaries on resilience; my second to offer a fresh perspective on how communities can cultivate resilience and thrive. “Resilience” is generally understood in the large majority of studies we cite as an ability to bounce back to an original state of equilibrium or homeostasis. But here we are more interested to understand how systems (biological, technological, and societal) dynamically learn to bounce forward toward something even finer, to turn adversities to advantage. We introduce a new conception of “integral resilience,” as a core life competency that can build upon and enhance the existing literature on resilience. And in an age fascinated by breakthroughs in positive psychology, mindfulness, and brain science, we highlight in contrast humanity of heart.
We are explorers of systems on the great Serengeti of integral resilience inquiring what causes them to be viable and what not. But we are not only rapporteurs. Embedded in the design of this work are two ideas that may be useful to readers on this journey. The first is a “Knowledge Multiplier”. The concept of integral resilience is so basic it can become a springboard for virtually any domain of inquiry that interests you. In other words, it is a magnet that attracts knowledge from many fields and disciplines to it. You might conceive of integral resilience as a great tree with a glorious upper story and a profound root system that extends for miles. All you need do is climb onto any branch, look out, and be curious. The tree can take you wherever you want to go, and we can all have a hand in planting it.
The second idea is “intertidal thinking.” When we spend a pleasant day on the seashore and walk along the beach, we might notice the most biologically fertile area is the “intertidal zone.” Here sea life and terrestrial life live in balance, continuously bathed by the tides, nourished by the sun and moon. It is the same with intertidal thinking. All we need do is ask whatever questions however improbable strike our fancy, and let our minds wash over them. (No one is judging here. It’s all in the spirit of play.) For example, what is the connection of metallic resilience to earthquake prediction? Or what insights can we gain from bacterial and viral resilience in the design of new interventions for chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and diabetes? What might we learn from the resilience of cultures to prepare coastal communities for the impacts of climate change? The Text is designed to be a living resource, organically growing, enriched by many; increasingly interactive, intelligent, and intertidal. For in this fertile earth I believe we will discover a treasure of knowledge and wisdom that can help us to meet the battalions of problems that now beset us.
Santa Barbara is our first pilot. It is a poignant choice because Santa Barbara is still struggling to recover from the Thomas fire which cost $ billions in property damage and the subsequent devastating mudslides that killed 23 people. Also, Santa Barbara like thousands of other communities across the U.S. and around the world is totally unprepared for the imminent medical, social, and economic catastrophe of chronic illnesses like Alzheimer’s. For a relatively small city like Santa Barbara the mounting costs of Alzheimer’s, already in the hundreds of $ millions, can become devastating. My hope is to create a model that is inclusive, collaborative, and compassionate, and that Santa Barbara’s experience will help other communities to pilot better with the calamities of a turbulent world.
I am indebted to my colleague Bill Moulton for bringing to my attention the rich range of challenges to resilience and concepts closely allied to resilience that are often used interchangeably. As a systems cyberneticist he notes there is a wide number of interrelated concepts and keywords that are employed in different disciplines and taxonomies that speak to fairly common conceptions of systemic resiliency.
Julian Gresser, Santa Barbara, September 2018
Book of Serenity, Case 94 – DONGSHAN IS WELL
Dongshan was ill. A student asked, “You’re unwell. Is there someone, after all, who isn’t sick?”
Dongshan said, “There is.”
“Does the one who isn’t sick take care of you?”
“I’m actually taking care of that one.”
“What’s it like when you take care of that one?”
“Then I don’t see that there is illness.”
The archetypal symbol of Resilience is the Phoenix rising majestically from the ashes of its own destruction. As part of Nature we humans have an incomparable ability to update ourselves into much stronger, braver, and brighter beings. Since ancient times in cultures around the world people report that Phoenix’s tears have healing properties, that it is endowed with extreme physical toughness, can control fire, and possesses infinite wisdom. The Myth of the Phoenix: Our Amazing Power of Resilience