This is taken from the preface to my next book, Reconnect.
Many years ago, I decided that the biggest impediment to human evolution was our continued willingness to use violence to resolve difference. That began a journey with two threads. My working life led me into twenty years in the criminal justice area as a probation officer, non-violence programme facilitator and more recently, a family violence facilitator. The second thread was finding Systems Theory, the science of how things connect and disconnect, that provided me with a framework to understand the underlying dynamics of human behaviour.
Since we are all different, conflict is inherent in the dynamics of human interactions. Difference can be resolved in ways that innovate and build wellbeing or cause destruction, separation, and chaos. When conflict is not handled well, violence arises. By becoming aware of our darker side and our capacity for violence allows us to make better decisions and better lives. Peace is not an end point to be reached, it is a process of healing and becoming.
I was brought up by foster parents in the Anglican Church in Nelson. I remember when I was about nine years old picking up something from the minister’s house. I was met by his wife, who asked me if I believed in God. I knew the right answer was, “Yes, of course”. I walked away wondering if I really did.
I went to university to learn science. I also encountered Māori culture, which revealed a fully valid alternative way of seeing the world. It was full of gods, ancestors, and a deep connectedness to each other and to the natural world. There was a mythology that was an open window to other ways of knowing. My birth mother was a Theosophist, and birth father a Buddhist. My mother died when I was six. My birth father retired and went to live in a Buddhist monastery in Japan but as he got older, he returned to New Zealand where I looked after him for about two years until his death. We talked about Buddhism. His style was Theravada, an earlier form, whereas my contact with Buddhism has mainly been with Tibetan Buddhism.
I see the world through many lenses, each giving me a different perspective. I have been influenced by science, Christianity, Buddhism, Theosophy, New Age ideas, Māori culture, the men’s movement and more. My spirituality has increasingly practical as I grow older being more about being a good person and living a good life.
Systems Theory was the connector that brought all the threads together. It gave me a pathway to reconnect back to myself and the world I live in. What I found to be God, if I needed a word, was the underlying patterns of cohesion that holds life together. Good and evil, order and chaos, moved from being opposites, where one should be eliminated, to two ends of a tension arising from one reality to be experienced. Difference and error are always present. When the tensions fall out of balance, difference is often incorrectly resolved, and abuse and violence arise.
I am extremely fortunate in that I have met and known most of the present-day systems scientists mentioned in this book at various conferences I attended around the world before and after completing my PhD. I also met family members or past students of many of the pioneers of systems. Some I have come to know more recently through zoom sessions as physical meeting became impossible. It also helps keep me up with the cutting-edge of systems research.
The Māori culture of New Zealand has systems wisdom woven all through it. Maori retain the connection to their family (whānau) and tribe (iwi), their ancestors (tupuna), and the natural world. Since this is the indigenous culture with which I am most familiar, most examples of indigenous ways of being mentioned in this book come from the New Zealand Māori.
I owe a deep debt of gratitude to all the clients I have worked with over many years. It has been very much a two-way process, where I learn at least as much as they did. It has provided me many opportunities to develop the ideas and techniques that have had a significant positive impact in many people’s lives. Often it is the simplest techniques that bring about the greatest change. The simplicity of the 1-10 Anger Scale belies the power it gives people to monitor their behaviour and take control over themselves and their decisions. This book is intended as a guidebook to share the wisdom I have gained to a wider audience. I welcome you to a journey of learning and discovery. Travel well