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The Alchemist’s Cook Book

We call our top room, overlooking a leafy bend in the Thames, ‘The Crow’s Nest’. It’s a good place to dream about new horizons. I must have fallen asleep on the floor listening to the crows calling to each other. As I surface I ‘sense’ this question.

“From an evolutionary and biological point of view, why are people who belong to communities of faith, healthier, wealthier and happier than people who don’t? Never mind who your god is and how you’re supposed to live. It’s common to all these belief systems worldwide.”

Where’s this voice coming from? I keep listening.

“If you take a ‘design thinking’ approach to this question you can tease apart three essential nutrients. They are… healing, inspiration and connection.”

That’s what my team building work is about. I sure hope the phone doesn’t ring, this voice is gold.

“If we don’t provide those three things socially, as the old traditional hierarchies like the church used to, they will be provided negatively. From white supremacist groups to jihadis, the first thing they do is find people and give them a sense of connection and brotherhood or sisterhood, a sense of coming home”.

I’m always talking about coming home in my music sessions. If I ask for one word to sum up how they feel at the end, in a group of twenty people, the jokers will say “exhausted”, the majority will say a version of energised or inspired, and there’s always someone who says in a calm voice, almost regretful that they didn’t get there earlier, “home”. The afternoon sun is streaming into The Crow’s Nest. I reach out and put my phone on silent.

“Those groups, across the board, give people a sense of community. Their message says you belong here, we see and we validate your pain, and we can help you heal it. Over time they move their new recruits to more extreme points of view but they don’t do that up front. They meet your first need for belonging, then they validate your suffering, and then they provide you with healing inspiration. This comes in the form of a cause bigger than you. It gives you something to live for, fight for and even die for. It’s happening worldwide right now. Many people are hacking this and following this model with negative outcomes. But think about this. What happens if we can reclaim it with positive outcomes?”

Coffee. My mind is saying, “Get up and write this down”. But the voice continues.

“The simple realities are, life’s a bitch and then we die, and we all take a lot of hits along the way. So first we need abilities to process and integrate our trauma. And then we have to have something more than ‘Existentialism 101’, which is “Oh my god, I’m a naked ape, acutely aware of my own mortality”. Ernest Becker talks about this and Jason Silva is always riffing on it: that simple stark awareness that we’re staring the abyss in the face. So we have to have a sense that there’s some way to glimpse a meaning that’s more than just this mortal coil. Community and connection fills that gap. So, if we can provide compelling ways to meet those three cultural nutrients then maybe we’ve got a chance to create resilient people and resilient communities”.

So there IS hope. I don’t care where this voice is coming from, I could listen to it all day.

“If ‘Meaning 1.0’ was organised religion, which most of us have moved on from re: delivering the above, what does ‘Meaning 2.0’ look like? How can we create free, open-source, scalable techniques to meet those three essential things, healing, inspiration and connection. It’s the alchemist’s cook book. Here’s how to meet those needs for yourself, skin it with whatever you want and let’s have a thousand fires burn on this one because there’s no ‘top down’ solution. We need as many joyful, courageous, passionate experiments as we can come up with as a species now. And it has to be open-source. Most will fail spectacularly but a few will make it and we’ll learn from them.”

I open my eyes and scrabble around for a pen. Beside me is my open laptop. Black screen, battery dead. Or maybe not, it’s still on 56%. And what’s this? I turn the brightness up and it seems I fell asleep listening to a ‘Rebel Wisdom’ talk between Jamie Wheal and David Fuller called ‘Scaling Coherence’.

Would you believe it? That voice in my head was just the last five minutes of a thirty minute YouTube video. I wonder what they said in the preceding twenty-five minutes?

There’s only one way to find out. Let’s click together. 
https://youtu.be/rf0wxvY-eXU

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