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We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality,

tied in a single garment of destiny.

—Martin Luther King, Jr.

One could see the entire movement for sustainability and social change as a migration toward greater alignment…an opportunity to make our communities more equitable, support healthy economies based on social and environmental realities, and to balance our relationship with the planet.

In order for this to truly occur, there is a need to observe and investigate the ways in which we—as individuals and as a species—are out of alignment and what we might do in both subtle and substantial ways to address this. Henry Miller once wrote: “The world is not to be put in order; the world is order incarnate. It is for us to put ourselves in unison with this order.” We must lose somehow what David Ehrenfeld refers to as “the arrogance of humanism”: to see ourselves not as a center or at the top of a hierarchy, but in relationship with the rest of the world.

Imagine that time when we as a species finally arrived at the fact that the Earth was round and not flat, or the radical acknowledgement that the Earth was not the center of the universe, that we revolved around the sun and existed in relationship to other planets and galaxies. We are now in a similar time as a species in the realizations about what true sustainability and social change require. What will it take for us to come into alignment with ourselves so that we can create the communities, economies and ecologies that stem from our profound understanding of relationship and not of dominance?

Perhaps it starts on a simple level, as the oft-quoted spiritual philosopher Krishnamurti shared, “in the transformation of the self is the transformation of the world.” How might this change the way we relate to our co-workers, our neighbors, our family members and friends? What would dictate our actions if we truly lived in that ‘inescapable network of mutuality’ that King evokes?

The poet Mary Oliver offers a simple and profound starting point writing “I look upon everything as a brotherhood and a sisterhood…and I look upon each life as a flower, as common as a field daisy and as singular.” We must both respect the individual and see its place in the collective to come into truer alignment. To create lasting change, we must walk the line between paying attention to each relationship and seeing the complexity that all of those relationships create. This is part of the work asked of effective leaders as we move through a challenging time and into a new era—to use the power of relationships between ideas and people to create greater alignment without losing the importance of the strength of the individuals and ideas that compose the broader network.

May 2009