The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. It's when days begin to get longer and we again get more of the sun's energy. It's when we make resolutions. On the Mayan, or astrological, scale it's when our earth completes a cycle of wobbling; it's when new ages or cycles begin; it's when people see differently, which may be a good idea for us.
For most of recorded time we have tried to figure out why things happened, and in cases where that was impossible we called the gods into service. We have been quite successful in this as both our plethora of religions and our modern living conditions show. The hard sciences of physics and chemistry have led the way, but the realization is increasing that nature is not so easy to figure when you get down to fundamentals. Scientists are finding that nature is more often networked and doesn't really fit the linear, connect-the-dots pattern we have used in our thinking, where it's easy to see why things happen and how to fix what is wrong. And as time progressed living things became increasingly networked and complex. Living things defy analysis because in order to understand and analyze them we have to cut into the network and it is these cuts and ignored connections that lead to all of the unintended consequences that show up months or years later. What would it be like to see these problems in a different light? Let's take something really complex, like our children and our educational systems.
Seeing children differently
Long ago we wanted to analyze learning so we could teach our children better. We looked at how lab rats learn a maze and found that they learned faster if they were rewarded for doing it right, and the task repeated if done wrong. That principle is now ingrained in our school systems. But it ignores how kids learn in the first place. Children learn by exploring, by playing with their environment, and by repetition; like scientists they test their environment and learn how it works. As they do nerve connections in their brains turn into highways--they are myelinated--and then the ones not myelinated are pruned and gone. Then our children go to school where they are expected to sit still, listen, and learn, and all of those learning highways are ignored. If we could see in this way maybe we could make all learning more hands on, using those myelinated pathways that worked so well before school, and continue the almost vertical learning curve shown by infants and toddlers into and through their school years. Researchers have already told us that kids learn science better when a hands-on approach is used. Finland tries to do that.
Children also respond to their environments in predictable ways. When the environment is threatening they look for safety in known adults. When the threat comes from known adults they withdraw and develop what Gabor Mate calls counterwill or oppositional defiance; overt obedience may continue, but it is not inner directed.
After the tragedy at Newtown many have expressed the desire to search for reasons why we are so violent, but we really don't want to know the answer. Thirty years ago James Prescott gave us an answer that got him retired from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development. He studied different cultures and found that the violent ones were the ones where children were raised under threat of punishment for bad behavior. Counterwill develops in such children and can explode into violent behavior. Michael Mendizza at Touch the Future has an extensive interview with Dr. Prescott that discusses this further.
Seeing relationships differently
The same principle also holds for international relations. It is clear from common sense as well as from experience that the use of force develops the same counterwill it does in the child, in the nation it is used on. Joseph Nye wrote a book on the subject of Soft Power that avoids the growth of counterwill by using methods that are not seen as threatening.