In the previous newsletter I introduced the concept of the Gate, a topic I feel particularly drawn to and that I chose to focus my summer writing and live sessions on.
I see it as a symbol of those moments in life that feel like an invitation to transmute how we operate in the world and how we participate in it. In case you missed it, or if this email was forwarded to you, you can read the first piece on the Gate here.
One of the elements of the Gate that fascinates me the most is the crossing.
What is it about? How does it work?
Going beyond myths and tales, what does it take to step through the Gate in real life?
And why is this important in the context of impact and sustainability?
When it comes to the Gate, we tend to hold an intuitive understanding of what it is: a passage.
Like every passage, the Gate is a transition from one state to another marked by a threshold we choose to cross (or not). A lot has been written on this topic, so most of us have been exposed to enough books and movies to know that “every step forward must come with a price“.
In other words: we don’t just stroll through the Gate.
It’s an initiation: there’s always going to be something or someone at the door asking for an offering in order for us to cross.
In myths and tales, the price to pay varies: it can be literally something to give, or it can be a task to perform, normally highly symbolic and challenging — something as important as what lies on the other side of that threshold.
In our lives, it’s not different.
Sometimes the price we’re asked to pay becomes the reason why we might prefer not to pay it, ultimately turning away from that Gate.
But while there’s much to explore around that, what fascinates me the most about the crossing is that, when we look closely at the price to pay, we see that it has two dimensions.
One is more tangible: in order to step into the new chapter we might be asked to offer our spare time, a thing, our current well-paid job, our life in a city we love, our relationship with someone we care about that suddenly becomes incompatible with where we are going, the specific lifestyle we built over the years…
But on the other side of that price lies the true cost of crossing the threshold: in order to go through we must also offer our identity.
And this is where it gets tricky.
When we say that to cross the Gate we must also offer our identity we refer to the fact that, by definition, to step into a new paradigm means to transmute and radically alter the way we operate.
Together with the tangible price to pay, this is also a non-negotiable requirement.
If we don’t offer our identity, if we don’t leave at the door our old way to operate in the world, we will not be able to cross.
In tales and myths it looks like a door that physically closes, guardians that prevent us from passing or characters being sent back to their normal life. In our case and reality it’s exactly the same. Just more nuanced.
If we want to cross the Gate but refuse to pay the price and offer our identity, we might think we stepped through, but we didn’t.
We might even start to recreate the looks and feels of the change we wanted to go for.
But it will be a mere simulation of the deeper process of transformation we were not able to undertake. It’s not real, it won’t feel meaningful and its incoherence will eventually lead to frustration.
This is easy to observe looking at the impact and sustainability sector, especially in the fields of innovation, entrepreneurship and activism.
Jason Hickle, economic anthropologist
“Green growth is not a thing. If we want to reverse ecological breakdown, we need to be smarter than this. High-income nations need to actively scale down resource and energy use, and organize the economy around well-being rather than around perpetual expansion.”
We say we want to cross the Gate and step into a new way to operate in the world, one that prioritises natural resources, inclusion and justice, but most “change-makers” and “change-making projects” are still wired to prioritise growth, profit, centralisation and questionable ideas of “stakeholders value”.
We might change features and colour palettes but we didn’t want to offer our identities, we didn’t want to rewire our ideas of value creation and therefore we didn’t acquire the necessary tools to step into the new paradigm and contribute to it.
In other words: we did not accept the price to pay, therefore we did not cross the Gate.
Now, can it be that most of us just don’t know how to cross?
And most especially: can a first change in features lead to deeper transformation?
I hope so. I like to believe it could.
But only if we are clear about the fact that those changes in features are not the end line but only a first step towards the Gate we want to cross, and that we are still meant to learn what we must do in order to go through.
So, where do you observe this “simulation” of change?
What can we learn, what tools can we acquire in order to step through this Gate and embed these values in our projects, businesses and society?
There’s a lot to unpack here.
Asking these questions and sitting with them long enough can also be a very important first step towards that Gate.