Everyone loves bubbles, even the most hardened of us…to be surrounded by bubbles being blown awakens some primitive childlike delight.
Bubbles hold their shape. Until they pop. Their life cycle is generally measured in seconds. In those seconds they evoke beauty, wonder, delight, joy…
For a bubble to hold its shape there is a minimum requirement of a positive and negative charge. For a cell membrane to hold its shape, to neither collapse into a messy heap, or blow apart, there is a requirement of a positive and negative charge.
Take a bar magnet and hold it up over some iron filings. From the mess of the filings, you suddenly get order, and that order adopts a circular pattern. The magnet demonstrates a positive and negative charge. Filings choose which polarity to take. The choice is essentially agnostic.
To hold its shape in Universe…or to either not collapse into that messy heap, or blow apart… polarity is critical. Polarity is what enables anything to hold its shape. Anything will include you and me as our flesh encapsulated beingness, it will include the relationship between you and me, it will include the bubble, the birth of a project…the birth of a product…the maintenance of a nation…the building of a team, the design of a building…polarity is essential to existence.
To be in integrity, we must have polarity, for to be in integrity means to hold shape.
Why then do we have a word that so abhors polarity? That works, under the hands of humans, from dawn till dusk trying to have everything move towards sameness …to be all positive…or all negative?
What does this mean in practical application?
(1) It means that we would design in diversity of thinking, world view, perspective, cultural identity. And while we are doing that, we would design the framing ability for this diversity to co-exist without one view or another taking conquest over the whole.
In other words, a world where the power belongs to white males with misogynistic backgrounds with a world view hell-bent on extraction of any and all assets at any cost, as a singular polarity, will FAIL. Design science will not allow this model to exist for long. Even if the rest of us did nothing, this ‘delusion of power’ group will, in the end, kill each other.
But by doing things actively, we can accelerate their demise. Like a nest of hornets, as long as we stay away from the crazed frenzy of stinging, we need to relentlessly stir the nest, until they bite each other to death, or phase shift to a new order of being.
(2) It means as individuals each of us explores our own polarity. Our shadow and light. That we recognise that our weaknesses enable our strengths. That when we judge another, we provide a field of grace for the whole person. Their light and dark. No one person is all light, or all dark. We all have both. Stop beating ourselves to shreds over our own shadow, stop being angry at others when their shadow leads, and stop putting anyone on a pedestal as if their shit don’t stink.
(3) It means we design systems with a built-in tension/compression mechanism. Architects already know how to do this. Our monetary, economic, finance and value systems must have the polarity built-in.
(4) It means leaders and stewards become fluent in holding polarity. They neither collapse into a heap when they are attacked nor turn into an enraged monster. They hold their centre. They learn the art of holding as they move their enterprise or project forward. They tune into the timeline of what is being created and understand the point of action, the point of observation, the point of destruction and the point of holding. Each place requires a very different response. The leader steward adapts their response and their holding to the appropriate conditions.
In the current world, we are living in now, we are, as a collective, at a place where we have been seeking to eliminate polarity in the system. We have been striving for sameness. This might be generated by the extremes of polarity we have found ourselves to be, where there is a danger of the polarity blowing us apart.
Just as extreme polarity can blow things up, extreme sameness does collapse everything into an undifferentiated goo.
Polarity lives in a dynamic balance, on occasions touching equilibrium, yet equilibrium is not the destination, because equilibrium in any system is a form of stasis and death. Polarity and aliveness is a dance.
In our violently polarised world what we need, as an imperative, is to embrace diversity. To invite it in. To design ways we can navigate its often difficult waters. To build opportunity for robust debate, for heat, for disagreement. For cold and distance. For considered anger. To learn how to stand whole in conflict, emotional intensity, and reptilian response. To invite difference to the conversation.
I suggest we begin with an embrace of our own diversity, our own light and dark, our own weaknesses and strengths, our own capacity to stay present and grounded when those around us are losing their tether. To observe our response and reactions when working with others.
From this reference point, we move to explore the polarities in our own relationships, our businesses, our community. Not from a right nor wrong perspective, but with curiosity. Where is the counterfoil to the extreme? Where is the diversity to the same?
The more we approach sameness and safety the more unstable the system becomes. It is counterintuitive.
Nature loves the dance of emergence, and the dance of emergence flies on the wings of polarity. Invite it in.