A Journey into the Juicy Complexity of Regenerative Culture

Two reviews of Daniel Christian Wahl’s Designing Regenerative Cultures

I knew a lot about regenerative culture before I opened this remarkable book. I knew how it differs from sustainability (although I actually see regeneration as fundamental to true sustainability; it’s just that mainstream views of sustainability don’t recognize that). But I’ve now learned that what I knew is clearly only a beginning. So I’ve ended up writing two parallel reviews, a new adventure for me…

Here’s my first one:

1.

I have not finished this book. I was waiting until I finished it to write a review. But now I realize that my not having finished it is one of the most important things I could share about it.

Because this isn’t a book to “finish”. It is not a container of ideas to learn and set aside. It is a doorway into a fractal encounter with a world and a worldview that are present on nearly every page. It is a territory to visit over and over again from a hundred different vantage points, a realm to explore, to get familiar with, to take in as inspiration and guide for how the world could be and should be.

It reminds me of my Wise Democracy Pattern Language. Both are guides and a resources for designing a better world but, and perhaps most importantly, they offer through-the-lookinglass shifts in worldview, different ways to discern what’s going on and what to do about it.

That’s why it is so hard to communicate the nature of Designing Regenerative Cultures. You have to climb into it to even start to get what it really is about and the nature of the gift it brings.

So my advice is to get it and dive in, anywhere. In most cases the value and understandability of later chapters do not depend on your having read prior chapters. You can follow your nose and your interests (perhaps, like me, using the table of contents as a map to drop into it from). The chances are high that – wherever you drop in to read – you will learn something new or deepen your understanding of what you already know. Because this book is truly dense with rich and meaningful material.

Like a sacred text or a favorite book of poetry, you’ll never “finish” it. Finishing it is not the point. The point is how it inspires, clarifies, and reorients your awareness and aliveness every time you touch it. I think you’ll find this book a remarkable resource for that kind of relationship with the wholeness of what’s going on.

2.

When contemplating the toxic dysfunctions in our world and the amazing emerging responses to that mess, so many different things need to happen at once – and are happening right now – that any effort to be aware of it all is almost surely overwhelming.

But that is the nature of transformational complexity. And that, it seems to me, is both the leading strength and the biggest weakness of Designing Regenerative Cultures. Because this book deals with that inherent complexity with open arms, trying to embrace it all with useful insight but without oversimplifying.

Some of us try to see and share the whole picture because we know that there is an important way it all makes sense together – and that to the extent we can see the whole and start honoring and collaborating as part of that whole, we can energize and empower the whole transformational project and do what needs to be done in the short time we have to do it in. To the extent each of us finds our place in the Big Picture that Designing Regenerative Cultures describes – and to the extent we support each other in actualizing our various pieces of that puzzle – we will generate the world we are all seeking.

And in that effort, this book is invaluable. For that reason, this book should be at the bedside and on the bookshelf of every transformational agent on the planet at this turning point. And for that reason I find it also troubling to be ambivalent because this book – which is so essential to our planetary survival – can also be overwhelming to read if it is treated like most other nonfiction books. Halfway between scientific text and collection of poetry, it is not a fast read.

Nor should it be. I think Designing Regenerative Cultures begs to be read in a different way, one that somehow gets beyond the desire to be entertained to treasure seeing more of the full complexity and immense possibilities in our planetary challenge. For me that means stepping in and out of it, chewing on it in nourishing chunks.

Take, for example, its dozens of bullet-point lists of questions that stop me in my tracks every few pages. Do I take the time to really think about them right then and there? Are they for a group to explore together? Is this a study manual? Shall I just skip them and get on with the text and see where all this leads?

It is up to me how I deal with the questions. But the fact that all of them are there – and that each one points to an entire realm of juicy, necessary exploration and learning – is testament to how much we need to address and are (collectively, if not individually) working hard to tackle. And collectively the questions evoke the realization of what a thorough breakthrough it would be if we were to actually succeed.

The book doesn’t stop there. All those questions are only the tip of the iceberg. As a reader I encounter radically new ways of thinking, an endless parade of stories and examples, one challenging or enlightening idea after another, fascinating pictures and graphics, poems and quotes from familiar voices and other voices I wish I’d heard from so much earlier… This is what I mean by this book reflecting the complexity of what we face and why it is anything but a summary of the regenerative paradigm. Its very form and substance challenges us to encounter the realities of life in a different way.

Or you can just browse the many diagrams, thinking as you go, and see what comes….

Regardless, it is an adventure.

Here is the book’s official website (includes a great podcast interview with Daniel Wahl) and his “Medium” page of many writings.

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Tom Atlee, The Co-Intelligence Institute, POB 493, Eugene, OR 97440
Calling forth the wisdom of the whole for the wellbeing of the whole
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