Chaos on the Other Side of Worldview Collisions

On November 9, 2016 we woke up to an upside down world where the impossible was realized and many people, communities and organizations were thrust into chaos. One thing that was increasingly clear throughout the very long US election process is that people became very attached to their worldviews – me and my friends included – and this set the stage for the collision of worldviews in the most visible fervent political and personal exchanges many of us have witnessed.

This showed up in deep attachment to candidates and hostility to anyone who wasn’t that candidate or supporting that candidate. People with varying worldviews were incredulous that others could actually support their candidate of choice. That was expressed in arguments and, increasingly, in attacks on people who supported a different candidate. There was a vehemence in the attacks. It happened amongst friends, calling into question friendships both new and longstanding. It fuelled more vigorous debates and sometimes divides within families. And people found themselves being attacked for their views by others they did not even know. There was more unfriending and blocking in social media than on any previous collision of worldviews (that I am aware of).

If there is anything we know now more than ever, we need spaces where we can be kind, generous, compassionate, generative and creative with each other to find ways forward when issues are challenging and worldviews collide. The work of Worldview Intelligence is advancing and we have created one such space with a new listserve – the WVI Global Forum. This is intended to be a space where we can support each other, ask questions, share resources and collectively imagine a future we all want to live into in. You can search it out and join it in Google Groups.


While it is still in its infancy, a discussion has already begun there, sparked by a question, “Is it a new worldview we need? Or the original?”

Which sparks another question about what is an original worldview? The answer is, that it is different for everyone. And it could be that we remember a past that is more romanticized than real. Some want the future to be an idealized remembrance of a better past, some want the future to be radically different and many just don’t know and we cannot see the way forward.

Where we get trapped is in believing there is one worldview, one story, one narrative that we either all have lived or we can all agree to. In advocating for that one worldview – which of course would be the one I’m advocating not any of the various others that exist out there – divides deepen. In a Duke Chronicle article Tears and Cheers, Julian Keeley, says these divides are accompanied by growing political animosity to the degree that in some families it is unacceptable to be in relationship with someone from the other party, even in families with a growing acceptance of being in relationship with someone of a different ethnicity. She advocates for familiarity which can lead to empathy and even love.

The work of Worldview Intelligence is to look for the new narratives that will help us all make sense of our experiences individually and collectively. This is not one story but an interweaving of a multiple of narratives until we begin to see the tapestry of these different experiences come alive in the same space. We will not be able to get to that place until we invite ourselves to step back, to take a breath, stop name calling and proliferating information that may or may not be facts. It is not to let go of our worldview or our preferred candidate but to reach out to truly understand why someone who supports another candidate or has a different worldview has come to see the situation or the world the way they do.

So many people are not feeling heard. Shutting them down does not change the way they feel, it only exacerbates it. It doesn’t go away as we have witnessed in this US campaign season. Finding the courage and compassion within ourselves to embark on the quest is part of what is needed to heal the rifts, to step out of our own rhetoric long enough to invite someone else out of theirs, to reach the human being who is acting out of fear, passion, determination and desire for a better life.

We each have our own notions of what that means and how to get there. Even as I write this I feel my own worldview and attachment rise to the surface wanting to be expressed.   But I will not come to understand why someone has come to see the issue the way they do if I cannot open the space to listen. After all, it is not about a candidate and all the data we can find to support our point of view. It is about something that is fundamentally important to each of us as individuals, about our sense of identity and the drive to survive in a world that does not make sense to us anymore.

Van Jones has done a brilliant job of reaching out to people, in a video series called #TheMessyTruth which you can find on his Facebook Page, who have very different views than his to try to understand what people are thinking and to create openingsalong the way for humanity to show up. He does not let go of his worldview. He asks compelling questions and he does not judge the people he talks to.

This is the challenge now for each of us. To reach out to someone whose views we do not understand, not to convince them that the way we see the world is the right way or that our candidate is the right one, but to dig into motivations, fears, desires and find the human beings under the easily spouted rhetoric and “facts” that are not always facts.

I know this is easy for me to say. I am not in danger. There are others who are. Many of my US based friends could well be in danger and I want them to be safe. And some people are more reachable and some less. But we have to start somewhere to change the conversation because the circumstances are already dire and urgent and lives truly are at stake.

As Otto Scharmer said in his Huffington Post article On the Making of Trump and the Blind Spot that Created Him, “We have entered a watershed moment not only here in America, but also globally. It’s a moment that could help us wake up to a deeper level of collective awareness and renewal—or a moment when we could spiral down into chaos, violence, and fascism-like conditions. Whether it’s one or the other depends on our capacity to become aware of our collective blind spot.” He advocates the need to lean in to what wants to emerge—and build architectures of collaboration rather than architectures of separation.

As another person on the WVI Global Forum said, “It is time for a new worldview that will begin with each of us as we journey inward to uncover our stories about who we are and how we are in the world.  I am choosing to reach for the spark that is calling me to show up in the world differently.  To have compassion, to love, to listen to understand and to be peace.”

If the US election has taught us anything it should surely have taught us that the impossible is possible. So, let’s begin now.