Patterns on the Horizon

I was around early this morning. I find it a valuable time; it allows me to appreciate the new day before too many people have used it, before the noise of commuting and its associated shallow urgency. 

I also listened to the news for longer than I usually do, not so much to pick up new items, but more to listen for patterns, for issues coming together like gathering geese.

As I listened to the hasty retreat from Afghanistan, it reminds me less of Vietnam and more of nearly two hundred years ago, when the inhospitable terrain, the unforgiving and unpredictable weather, fractured tribal politics, turbulent relations with the local population and armed civilians led to Britain’s downfall in Afghanistan. It is not a corner of the world that takes well to the Western concept of a nation-state. 

There has been a twenty-five per cent increase in 18-35-year-olds smoking due to the stresses generated during the lockdown.

The shortage of child care is causing real issues to working parents, driven by the availability of facilities, compounded by the way it is being funded (the usual answer applied – we have given extra money etc. but did not mention that those funds represented only two-thirds of the actual cost). It’s the reason I’m around early, as my wife spends an hour travelling to support family with childcare.

Finally, before I switched the stream off, the news that food delivery services, which have yet to make a profit, are booming, at the same time as deliveries to our supermarkets are faltering, whilst those same supermarkets are subject to bidding wars from private equity.

It is difficult to feel grounded when there is a sense of seismic change, and that very ground is moving beneath our feet. 

One of my “go-to” books is Bill Sharpe’s “Three Horizons, the patterning of hope”. It is a simple idea and all the more potent for it. Our first horizon is the stuff of the day to day news I listened to, of goals, objectives, mergers and acquisitions, and returns on investment. Then there is the third horizon – far in the distance, when the ripples generated today will eventually land, and the second, liminoid (from the Greek word eidos, meaning “form or shape”) to refer to experiences that have characteristics of liminal experiences but are optional and do not involve a resolution of a personal crisis) horizon of things emerging but barely noticed.

It makes me wonder what we want of our lives and our children and grandchildren’s lives as we monetize every aspect of them, from the stresses caused by the pandemic to imposing an unwelcome form of order on others, to the way we spend our short time here, and respect the very earth we stand on? Do we think about the third horizon impact of our urgent, short term activities?

Phase change comes about when small groups, loosely connected, unite around a common purpose. (Cascades, Greg Satell)

We are fragmenting into smaller groups as the logical benefits of scale bump into its emotional realities. We are loosely connected globally thanks to technology, and geography is no longer the determinant it was. Power is moving from the top of hierarchies to the centre of networks. The geese are gathering.

Which leaves us with purpose – as we go about our lives today, what do we want for ourselves, those we love, and the planet on which we live?

The things that will determine our future are gathering like the geese we will shortly hear in our skies. We may want to pay attention to them before they have flown.

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