The Burning Edge

A while back I was supposed to participate in an event hosted by Vinay in London. After careful consideration I decided at the last minute I was not going to go even though I was really looking forward to it. A few days later I had the following exchange on Twitter…

  1. @ladyniasan It’s a shame you didn’t make it to #bigpix. Another time.

  2. @evangineer yes, would have loved to. Had to prioritise rest and time afk. Taking care of ourselves and all that…

  3. ladyniasan If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in the last year, it’s that self-care is job number one! Especially in #socent or #activism.

  4. @evangineer . Sustainable means cognitively and socially sustainable too.

  5. @ladyniasan Yeah the trouble with riding the edge is that burnout is waiting for you to fall off!

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  1. @Olasofia @evangineer @edgeryders which questions would we want to answer together through the #burningedge at #LOTE?

  2. @ladyniasan @evangineer @edgeryders Nice qu. How do we ensure the resilience of change makers themselves. What are flags we shd watch out 4.

  3. @ladyniasan @evangineer @edgeryders “The quality of an intervention is dependent on the interior state of the intervener”, Bill O’Brien.

  4. @ladyniasan @evangineer @edgeryders how can this be more of a collective concern?

  5. @Olasofia @evangineer @edgeryders mmm maybe how people are already doing this and what we could learn from them?

  6. @Olasofia @evangineer @edgeryders this also fits well with the discussion about new working culture the @unmonastery wants to foster

  7. @ladyniasan @Olasofia @edgeryders Some of us are, so let’s share best practices. Most of us get caught up in chronic coping though. #LOTE

It reminded me of the ongoing conversation we have been having about work, meaning and innovation. In this post, Dougald looks at the search for meaning in our participation in the social and economic lives of our societies. Irrespective of how we make a living, it comes down to how satisfied we are with the answers we give ourselves to all three questions below. When answers become obsolete, human beings can break, no matter if they’re working middle-aged men with relative financial security or young graduates with no security at all.

  1. Economic/Practical: How do I pay the rent?
  2. Social/Psychological: Who am I in the eyes of others?
  3. Directional: What do I get out of bed for in the morning? And where do I see myself in the future?

We know that ways to go about and meet those needs are not the same for our generations as they were for our parents. There is no clear “workforce to enter”, so many have a hard time fullfilling even the first of the three needs above. Even with a conventional job, the financial rewards and social recognition are misallocated, in that most often people doing the hardest or more valuable work to society are those at the bottom of the ladder. What’s needed, according to Christopher, is to radically rethink the chain: “you need an education, in order to get a job, and then be able to feed yourself, house yourself, and have value in the eyes of others”.

And so was born the idea for a track at LOTE dedicated to exploring concrete ways in which we, together can contribute to ensure the resilience of change makers themselves beyond chronic coping.

Interested in the topic? Know of good people, places or projects that we should draw into this conversation? Want to help?

Hack and share the google document Register by signing up and tell us that “Yes, I am coming to LOTE – The unMonastery edition 29 October - 3 November!” at the worlds first unMonastery in Matera! If you are already a community member, go to your profile page and tick the boxes there to let everyone know you will be joining us!

Its free of charge and dedicated to bootstrapping social, economic and political infrastructure to support meaningful work and the people who do it. Peer to peer.

What do you think of the proposal for this track? Start shaping it by leaving a comment below!

what kind of questions should we ask, specifically?

Hi all,

I think it’s a great start and look like there’s interest in this, since you all got hooked and actually penned down a coherent writeup. well done.

At the beginning, and following your tweets I got the impression that a session on BurningEdge is focused a lot on our own personal burnout and strategies to cope, which has a lot to do with privacy. Someone else did as well:

but reading through the google doc it seems you are interested in this to collectively support bottom up social change, no? so the focus is on learning from one another.

Adding to the list of examples in the doc is New Cross Commoners, who seem to be doing very practical things eg events where people come together and share skills or build maps and models, cook food, learn digging and planting, or demonstrate health care… at neighborhood level. I would ask them and the others what personal value they see in prototyping these models of resilience, and how that goes back into the innovator’s mindset, helping them stay calm and carry on?

or maybe start scapping a list of other questions that might help develop a clear output from the session?

Community case studies

Hello, I’m glad to see New Cross Commoners got in touch. I sent them your way! Here is a post that explains a little bit of the context into which New Cross Commoners have entered, an area of dense layers of overlapping groups that lose and regain energy over years, with a great deal of creativity in the mix due to the proximity of Goldsmiths College.

Would it be interesting to invite storytelling and analysis of particular localities we’ve experienced, and examples from history, to understand how creative and sustainable communities form and how they maintain common resources?

What would a blueprint for case studies look like?

Community case studies seems like a good way to get started and wonder what the others in this proposal think? consider that how we manage common resources is probably only one facet of how we can better support one another, but might be a good start.

Other than highlighting positive experiences - the good work around protecting green growth, that you’re doing Bridget, with festivals and various art forms - I would start with describing the context by answering the question: What would chronic coping of changemakers in the specific community be? or how does the scenery look like without the active changemakers, in your case without mobilization in the New Cross area? and then move on with responses to how the collective concern arises? how do people move from bystanders to a community of support? or go a different approach?

How to keep a healthy mind and maintain emotional well-being?

I remember being deeply tuched by Stephan Urbachs post about depression in the hacker community and how to deal with it. I think this is one area that is often underestimated, at least unless you have experienced some kind of psychological or emotional distress that affected your ability to achieve what you set out to do. This has certainly been the case for me, and I have to admit I still struggle with this a lot. So exploring how dynamics of online and offline interaction in communities like Edgeryders can better support community members well being and practical steps we can take together to make it happen is something I care about. And we are not starting from scratch…

At Last year’s lote one of the best unconference sessions for me was this one on Spirituality and Resilience by [Luke]. It is the first time I have been in a meaningful and generative conversation about how to keep a healthy mind/maintain emotional well being while attempting to achieve difficult things with little support and against alot of intertia. In think this is relevant to the discussion about how to leverage Creative Networked Communities to achieve impact. Any ideas or suggestions?

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some thoughts

so much to say on this … I will let ideas flow rather then aim for a coherent comment.

maybe we need to be open to further reframing: how can I not need to pay rent? does/should it matter what I am in the eyes of others? what inspires me (and obviously gets me out of bed in the morning)?

living on the edge is kind of like climbing mount everest (but all the time!)… and climbing mount everest is the last part of a long journey of preparation. how can we prepare for being on the edge? maybe we need much more time in preparation then actually “being on the edge”? maybe this implies that we can do less (because we have to spend much more time in preparation)? my Yoga teacher sometimes describes daily practice as a savings account … what you put in (through regular practice) is what you will have available to you when  you need it.

I was given a teaching from Samkhya philosophy called Neti Neti = not this, not that. It describes our journey through life as moving towards a core by peeling off layers. In practice this has re-oriented my approach to “trying and failing” - in that I rarely fail … all of my attempts are valuable in this of “not this, not that” … every failure  is another layer peeled off … another step closer. To me this seems to take the edge off the “edge”.

Removing importance and urgency. Passion can be a wonderful fuel but can also be explosive. “Nothing we do is important, yet its important that we do it”… I am starting to get the hang of this … importance unnecessarily sharpens the “edge”.

What if we experience “the edge” because somewhere deep inside we are still measuring ourselves by the mainstream (that which is further from the edge)? I am on the “edge” at least partly because I couldn’t bare living in the mainstream. Now people from the mainstream view me as “on the edge” when I actually feel soft and safe and that THEY are living on the edge. Do we enjoy thinking of ourselves as living on the edge? maybe it’s not something we need to learn to live with but something we need to learn to let go off?

Can we do something to prevent the edge from “burning”? Maybe preventing fires is better than trying to put them out?

The most challenging aspect of my personal experience of “the edge” has been loneliness. I have been gifted with tools to being in balance or recovering balance … but these tools cannot change the fact that I am alone … the “edge” isn’t a densly populated area :slight_smile:

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Nadia… I enjoyed that session too.

The question can be reduced to: how to thrive in conditions that are uncertain and unstable. More broadly: what gives life? How can we avoid burning out, or selling out? These are profoundly spiritual questions.

I also see a connection here with the Unmonastery that hasn’t been made explicit yet, unless I’ve missed it. It shouldn’t just be a digital simulacrum of the traditional monastery, but also include genuine space for contemplative practice and for taking advantage of being marginal and liminal in order to preserve what really matters.

This is what the Scottish and Irish monks did throughout Europe during the so-called Dark Ages (see Kenneth White’s work on ‘intellectual nomadism’ in ‘The Wanderer and His Charts’ for more background on this).

Anyway I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next with Edgeryders and contributing to it if I can.


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let’s find each edgeryder strategy

I think it’s very interesting, and I definitely would want to participate. I think many edgeryders have already faced this problem and found their own solutions. So I think you should also ask everybody what solutions did they come up with. I for sure have mine which I would be happy to share (both in 30 seconds or in 10 minutes).

Personal vs. automated support against burnout

I just stumbled across a website called Calm. It supposedly guides meditation and I was thinking this might be a good thing to explore ahead of this session. Do you know of any other processes or services that we could use as inspiration or basis for discussion?

Dwindling interest in intimacy

Just came across this article exploring why young people in Japan are losing interest in sex and relationships. I can’t help but feel that this is something probably not entirely irrelevant in the context of this session.

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cleansing and evolution

Interesting read. It seems to me that the issue is only indirectly intimacy, that intimacy is one reflection of many other forces that shape society. The article is filled with indications of social patterns that are incoherent, double-standards and lack relevance. Intimacy has been drained of purpose, it becomes an empty ritual that simply doesn’t make sense. To me intimacy is both an inward and outward movement though it the inward part is often missed. Maybe what we are witnessing in Japan is a purposeful redirection of intimacy inwards?

What if this is part of a much larger picture that is just beginning to unfold. What if this is one of many expressions on a planetary scale of induced degrowth that is critical to the welfare of this ecosystem we call Earth? Just this morning I came across this article (see Japan reference at the end): “There are too many people”

and for further reflection … in stark contrast (or same underlying vibe?) check out this article [Matthias] sent out on twitter in recent weeks: Why young women in rural China become the mistresses of wealthy older men

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Read it, was quite a fascinating read. And judging by the comments, the development seems to have some relevance for Europe as well. What to say 'bout all this? :S Maybe just this: If not even romantic relationships work out any more as they did for centuries, a society must indeed be in the middle of a deep change. And as always, things must change before they can get better.

Health For Hackers

A-Z Health For Hackers (and social innovators)

I wonder if there is any interest to co-create a well-being wiki for our EdgeRyders and unMonastery communities?

For example:

B Burn out prevention

C Scanning for Comfort

C When Communication styles don’t match

D Distraction Addiction

D Fear of Dying

G A15-minute Grounding exercise

H If you want to be happy

I Integrity

K Knowing, how to unlearn

L Listening skills

N A 2-minute Neck Pain fixer

R Relationships

S Sex

S How to sit at your device with good balance and upper body integration

S A certain Spiritual practice

U Upset ? Need some help?

(A slightly fleshed-out version of these can be viewed on my profile [1] )

Here’s a complete example:

A 2-minute Neck Pain fixer

Start with a reference movement by turning your head and neck from side to side//Now look ahead, keeping your head facing forward, then take your eyes to the RIGHT and back to the middle//Repeat this a few times//Next, take your eyes to the LEFT and back to the middle//Repeat that a few times//Then, make it interesting for yourself, turn your head to the RIGHT and at the same time move your eyes to the LEFT//Repeat a few times, the head going RIGHT and the eyes going LEFT//Now move your head to the LEFT and eyes to the RIGHT//Repeat that a few times, then take a rest for 10 seconds//Now try out turning your head and neck from side to side and see if that is easier.

(source: The Feldenkrais Method)

(TIP: get someone to read this and talk you through the exercise. Alternatively, speak it - slowly, with pauses - into your mobile phone and playback.)

Also try this 4-min Neck Tension release:

The above linked entry on a wiki would also be listed under

N Neck Pain; P Pain, neck (alongside Pain, back; Pain, shoulder; etc.)S Stiff neck

T Tension, neck

Guidelines (open to suggestions):

  1. Topics take no longer than a few minutes to read - and no more than 20 min to complete (can suggest further reading).

  2. Be holistic but try not to ‘preach’ the obvious.

  3. Accept permission to suggest something you think is useful, but only half know about, so that others may help complete your suggestion.

  4. There would be a self-responsibility disclaimer attached to each entry but definitely encouragement to ‘try this at home’. Where possible, the name of the originator or a particular technique should be credited.

  5. Individual EdgeRyders who try out entries from the A-Z listings on themselves are encouraged to say how effective (or not) they found each suggestion. Ratings or comments might be added to help revisions.

And Beyond…?

…could be developed by an EDgeRyder into a user-friendly independent website ‘sponsored by Edgeryders’ and available to hackers anywhere as open source.

a) Please comment if you think this would be helpful - or if not useful, say why.

b) Submit a topic suggestion, even if incomplete. (We would want to know NEEDS as well as solutions!)

c) Is a wiki the best format? Does some of this belong in the Cookbook?

David Ridge [1]

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