L’onestà è una cosa semplice.
Honesty doesn’t have to be dramatic, or aggressive. True honesty is simple.
As I let the teachings of the Way of the Forest sink in and further stretch their roots across my work, this concept keeps coming up for me.
In nature, things are just the way they are.
There’s no space for drama, or for stories about “how things should be instead”.
Everything is constantly fulfilling its purpose, answering to its own inherent, organic pulse. Even the things that we (humans) call “disasters”, to nature are just a wave, a small ripple of a much larger series of events — all necessary to our ever-evolving planet.
Every organism plays a role and, by expressing itself, it activates a domino-effect of uncountable other processes, in other organisms and across the whole ecosystem.
From the point of view of indigenous culture, there’s much of these processes that still escapes our understanding, and modern science is trying to catch up.
But while that’s a topic that fascinates me, the very first tangent my brain took on this was less about the nature of those domino-effects, and more about the one thing nature needs for any of those processes to unfold.
Nature needs every element to be true to itself – to show up in the way it’s meant to, so everything else can follow.
In fact, whenever something resists and deviates from its inherent pulse and role, that’s an organism out of tune – disconnected or even intoxicating for the rest of the ecosystem.
In other words, there’s only two positions any organism can take in relation to its own nature:
- to follow its innate pulse and express it, or
- to resist it, and function in some other way.
And this is when something clicked for me.
Because it showed me that in nature the default is honest expression of one’s core, and the deviance is resistance.
But what is our default?
When we look at the impact and sustainability space, and more broadly to this historical period, we can see that it’s characterised by the demand of transparency and honesty from our leaders, organisations and people in power.
Even on a more individual level, we celebrate honesty and sincerity as something brave that some of us choose to do.
As I was reflecting on this, the first phrase that came to mind was “let me be honest with you”. It’s a phrase that suggests that cards were not on the table, and that somehow honesty must be announced and put forward intentionally, almost aggressively.
Another phrase that came up was “I really appreciate your honesty“, as if being sincere was something hard to do, a struggle some of us choose to put ourselves through.
The examples are uncountable, and they all point in the same direction: culturally, honesty is not our default mode.
Non-honesty is the baseline, and honesty is something demanded, admired or celebrated.
So what’s our true default, and how does it really work?
If we look back at the two options that we find in nature, we see that on one side we can follow and express our inherent pulse, or we can resist and deviate from it.
If we translate this to human behaviour, we can say that in any given circumstance we can:
- be honest and express our true nature or position, or
- go for its opposite: resistance — which is the application of all possible strategies in the attempt to hold another position and play another role, one that is not really aligned with our truth.
And this is when it becomes interesting for me.
Because “resistance” makes me think about those experiments we used to do in school to learn about different laws of physics — like when you have an irregular or curved surface, and you put a sphere on it. You will see it rolling and settle in the lowest part of that surface due to gravity. In any other point of that surface, the sphere would be holding unsettled forces, and still “waiting” to settle.
I think about honesty and resistance in the same way.
In any given circumstance or context, there’s just one position (and one only) that doesn’t require any resistance, strategy, crafting or friction. Any other position that we’ll try to keep will see us in contraction, trying to orchestrate ways to hold a posture that is unnatural — actually using more energy and resources than what we’d otherwise need.
So – as any object put on any surface will settle depending on its center of gravity, we are honest when we release the desire to hold any other position that is not really ours, and we settle in our own center of honesty.
That’s why honesty is never about crafting yet another story or strategy.
It’s about surrender.
Which can be scary, yet still pretty simple.
If nature herself would be part of this conversation, this is when she would step-in and ask: but hold on a sec — why is resistance your default?
Why would you ever want to hold any position that is not truly yours?
There are many directions we could go from here.
From behavioural psychology that looks at the strategies we learn since we are born in order to belong and survive, to capitalism’s incentives to mold ourselves into pre-fabricated scripts to prove our worth, and more.
The one common denominator of all possible theories is that we follow stories or scripts because we want what they promise us — be it belonging, success, happiness, love or anything else. There’s something we consciously or unconsciously crave, and a story that tells us “that’s how you get it”.
A civilisation hits a major crisis when those stories start to crumble.
And that’s exactly where we are right now.
We are finding ourselves holding positions that feel unnatural, exhausted and forced to acknowledge that those scripts are not delivering what they promised.
Some of us try to stretch it, “maybe if I hold this a little bit longer, I’ll get what I want” only to discover that all this role play can be thrilling, for a while, but what we’re truly after is nowhere to be found.
I believe this is a key conversation to have in the impact and sustainability space, mainly for 3 reasons:
- One of the biggest aspects of this cultural shift is that those unnatural positions to hold are not just exhausting, they are becoming uninteresting. Our ideas of success are shifting, which means that the type of people that inspire us and the leaders we’re willing to listen to and follow is also changing;
- Demands of transparency and honesty are important, but at some point we’ll need to shift our focus from fighting and trying to reform leaders whose incoherent action we criticise, to crafting the type of environments that set and honour honesty as the new default;
- In this sector we aim to put nature back at the top of our priority, and part of that work will include to re-align with the laws of nature we lost sight of in the attempt of chasing something else, like the importance for every organism to fully express its true essence.
At the end of the day – real recognises real.
As soon as we choose to surrender to our own center of honesty, everything else re-arranges.
Amongst other things, we immediately develop the capacity to detect who is acting from their center of honesty and who isn’t – and, as we prepare ourselves to shift our investments of time and resources to take a for-impact and planet-first direction, the ability to immediately identify our allies is key.
We resist our true nature when we are stuck in scripts that promised something we want.
In my experience, the only way to break out of those scripts is to trust that we, too, have an inherent call that we can (must?) follow, and that what we are really looking for is on the other side of that surrender.
And there’s only one way to know.