We conclude this essay about Generativity Three by turning, briefly, to the opposite end of the generativity spectrum. We focus once again on the absence of generativity and the resulting condition of personal stagnation. While we are ending this essay on a negative note, these warnings are being offered in large part to remind us of the powerful motives that underlie our generative acts and the great benefit that Generativity Three brings to our personal and collective lives.
Stagnation as a reaction against Generativity Three is about a narrowness of space and time. We can’t look beyond where we are right now. This means we either disregard the old or ignore the new. In disregarding the old, a person who is stagnant no longer cares about that which came before. The stagnant person considers the old to be “irrelevant,” that which “time has passed by.” This often includes personal history, their contributions in the past, their own legacy. We may be nostalgic about our past life, but we do nothing about it. We don’t honor our own heritage. We don’t honor the contributions of people who have impacted our lives. We move forward without bringing the past with us, which means that we probably don’t really move forward at all. Rather, we spin around and around without a compass or road map. We keep making the same mistakes, learning little from the past.
Honoring the Old
One of the most insightful and expansive thinkers of the 20th Century, Gregory Bateson (1979, p. 157) wrote about the un-use in biological systems. Bateson uses an example of the femur on a whale (the fin that extends from the top of the whale’s back). This anatomical unit of the whale’s body no longer is of much use; however, it was once very important as a stabilizer for the whale when the ocean currents were much stronger than they are today. Nature decided via evolution to reduce the size of the femur, but not to eliminate it since the ocean might once again become more turbulent. Why reinvent the femur when it can be saved for another time in the future? Similarly, we see that the “old-timers” in an organization or “outdated” political perspectives may no longer seem relevant to the challenges now being faced in our society. Yet, at another time in the future these perspectives and the underlying wisdom might once again be of great value. We can identify these un-used and now devalued entities as remnants: components that have been part of a system for many generations and seem now to be irrelevant or out of date. We need to honor the remnants, because it is much harder to reinvent than to restore. We are stagnant and lack Generativity Three insight when we ignore Bateson’s insight and the wisdom of the remnant.Download Article 1K Club