The Ideaspace

Interviews, essays, and research exploring the frontiers of what's valuable and in our self-interest

Long-term thinking

Strategies for seeing the bigger picture
8 posts

Haa Shagoon with Morgan X’agatkeen Howard

Earlier this year during a Weekly Bento discussion on long-term thinking, a member of the audience raised their hand. Morgan X’agatkeen Howard introduced himself as a member of the Tlinget tribe, and he shared their tradition of intergenerational thinking called Haa Shagoon. This practice, he explained, weighs the considerations of past, present, and future generations equally. Morgan’s perspective had the room in rapt attention.

A few weeks later Morgan and I connected directly to talk more about his life, the practice of Haa Shagoon, and how it helps guide the Tlinget for-profit Sealaska where he is a Board member. This conversation is the first in a series of interviews with members of the Bento Society about who they are and what they do.

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Old Growth vs New Growth

The column on the left represents where we are now. The column on the right represents where we need to go. Are there plausible paths for how the world moves from the left column to the right?

We explored this question at last Sunday’s Weekly Bento. First with a fifteen minute presentation by me, and then an amazing group discussion that included insights from a First Nations leader, data scientists, arts professionals, and entrepreneurs on their experiences dealing with these issues. The conversation was so remarkable I’ve uploaded the whole thing. Highly recommended:

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Rethinking Self-Interest

In the late 1990s, people around the world began to live in a state of rising fear of two missing numbers.

The computer bug known as Y2K threatened to wreak havoc on the global infrastructure through the tiniest of details: computers being programmed to represent years in two digits (“99”) instead of four (“1999”). Headlines warned that systems would go haywire — crashing planes, freeing prisoners, and potentially leading to “The End of the World as We Know It?” as a 1999 Time Magazine cover posed.

We laugh at Y2K today like it was just another Skidz-like ‘90s fad, but that’s only because computer scientists successfully fixed the bug. (The immovable deadline helped: computer scientists had raised alarm over this exact issue since the 1950s but it took until basically the night before for anyone in charge to do something about it.)

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A Different Kind of Freedom

What does it mean to be Bentoist or, if you like, Bentoish?

It means prioritizing others’ needs along with your own.

It means making a conscious effort to consider now and the future.

It means pursuing outcomes that meet all dimensions of your self-interest.

In many ways these are basic things. Obvious things. That doesn’t make them easy things. More than once this week I failed to live up to them. But striving to seek coherence between ourselves and our worlds is at the heart of Bentoism.

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Theories of Time

I recently read a book I’d been curious about called The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe. The book theorizes that history changes through generational shifts, and that these changes happen in predictable and repeatable patterns.

One of the big questions the book poses is the nature of time. The authors present three theories for how time functions:

  1. Time is cyclical (the four seasons; the cycle of birth, life, and death)

  2. Time is linear (things are getting progressively better)

  3. Time is chaos (there’s no order at all)

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In what ways are you improving on silence?

This question was posed by the curator Kimberly Drew in an interview with The Creative Independent in 2016. The internet was noisy, Drew said, and she didn’t want to add to it. So before posting online she asked herself the question: In what ways are you improving on silence?

Later that year The Creative Independent, a resource I cofounded, put Drew’s quote on a billboard in upstate New York. It was a question worth more consideration, we thought.

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