In the forest, boots crunching, tree tops sweeping in wind. Silence is not silent. The season is revealed in the wet soil and yellowed leaves, but time is an abstraction.

Transformations are now everywhere all at once. Intimate and global, mental and environmental, economic and political.

There is rigor needed to pay careful attention to this. Yes, it requires effort to look beyond the crises into the conditions, and to do so in detail. Before that effort is brushed off as unreasonable there must be an admission that the larger effort is in not applying the necessary rigor and continuing on an endless boulevard of hellish consequences. …

Trying to fix the wrong context of broken is a hallway of hallways.

The suffering is the consequence, not the problem.

Don’t solve it.

It’s not that the schools are not good enough, it is that the next generation is being squeezed into the past.

It is not that poverty is devastating it is that the economy devastates.

It is not that our bodies have been violated, it is that predators are celebrated.

It is not that the tech is evil, it is that it is unable to feel.

It is not that the doctor is wrong, it is that the poison in food, water, air and stress are beyond the reach of medication. …

I dropped it.

Clear glass in water on the floor-


pieces in the puddle

Broken sharp edges

Of relationships

That crashed into each other


In a time that is cracking,


Full hearts spilling


With nothing to contain them

Sloshing into each other

From between the shards

Of what once held them.

Safe now that nothing is safe.

To be streams headed down the same hill

Finding a way

While being lost.

In new formlessness




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N. Bateson 2020

Nora Bateson & Mamphela Ramphele

The crises of the moment do not need further description here. Suffice to say that the complexity of the overlapping crises of inequality, health, justice, technology, ecology and culture are producing emergencies that the institutions of the last centuries cannot contend with. How will the next decades play out amidst these crises? More importantly, what is possible for societies around the world to learn in the process?

We (Bateson & Ramphele) are going to bring our voices together on this topic, to open a conversation with a conversation. We have both been watching these patterns for decades, from different sides of the world, different experiences of life, different cultures, different generations… but we have seen something very similar. Each of us has struggled to find the thing people call “traction” for these observations we share. …

I have been seeing one small piece of the landscape, a branch of a forest.

Believing it.

Then —

The forest revealed.

And I feel I have been so inept.

It is a reminder of the cost of thinking my knowing is anything.

I am learning that learning is the healing.

Not backtracking, not re-hashing, not splitting words and attempting to save face, not apologizing.

The only currency here is movement.

Learning is moving to a scope from which there is no return to past limited vistas.

No going back to not seeing, no hiding in old ways of non-sensing.

It is a one-way valve. …

Note: I wrote this piece for Cocoon in November 2019. (

The time it takes for change to occur can be quick. The time it takes for the conditions of change to ripen and become ready is a variable. It’s x + 1 minute. You just never know where you are in the timeline of x. Sometimes it’s closer than you think.

Let’s not start at the beginning.

At this point if your organization is at all inclined toward social or ecological responsibility you are already aware of rising levels of cultural and environmental upheaval. I will not use this place to reproduce the digits of destruction of biodiversity, soil degradation, increasing wealth gap, polarizing societies, or rampant political corruption. You know about all of that, and since the speed and direction of change that these numbers take as time goes by is only towards more unthinkable emergencies, I think we can leave it at: This moment is critical. …

It’s not just about trying…
It is about learning.

If the script stays the same, that is an indication that there is stagnation in learning.

In a moment in which every comment thread, video clip, identity script, political statement and news story is generating division — I ask myself if I have already said the thing I am about to say. If so, it’s time to stop, learn more, change angles, expand the edges, go deeper.

Coherence & continuance of the existing destructive systems require these divisions.

Continuance of life & humanity?

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Find a way
Where there isn’t one

Piece it together with the infinite possibility
that waits
In our complexity.

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We are living in a world in which it is a given that one should not bother caring about things that cannot be changed.

The exact opposite is where I am now.

Falling on my knees before the complexity. Doing, being, in rigorous attention.

In tension. Paradox, and…

It matters.

That is why.

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Ideas are their stories, they are not naked.

Ideas are clothed in the experience and languaging of those that give voice to them. Ideas are made of relationships, they travel on and through relationships. They are not smooth bullets flying through the air, they are encounters aggregating between us, the land, our art, other ideas…

To separate ideas from the relationships in which you, or I find them is to strip them of their vitality.

Ideas are not just dangling, they are living in particular spices, brewed in their own sauce of our hurts, our glee, our unique searching.

This makes a big difference that makes a big difference. …


Nora Bateson

Filmmaker, writer, educator, lecturer, President of the International Bateson Institute. Books: Small Arcs of Larger Circles 2016, Warm Data *upcoming 2019

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