For all their beautiful, dramatic forms and mathematical perfection, the creation of sea shells does not require high-tech design tools, expensive materials, a volley of charismatic leaders giving TED talks, or months of grueling meetings.
The nautilus doesn’t require a Hollywood montage.
The shells are grown, naturally, through the simple behaviors of the mollusc in its environment, the interplay of its evolved interactions with forces like gravity and surface tension. It is through this holistic process of behavior, environment, and ecology, that the shell transforms.
We, the inhabitants of the Universe are so interconnected and interdependent that researchers have shown that Nautilus shells in the depths of the dark ocean get their shape, in part, from an interaction with the distant moon!
All organisms are shaped by their environments, and in turn, help shape their environments, their homes: the nautilus shell, the beaver dam, the bee hive, the bird nest, the fox den.
Influential architect Christopher Alexander has pointed out that the world’s most beautiful, vibrant human lifeways, communities, cultures, and structures developed largely through the same process of “morphogenisis”: Through simple, evolved behaviors of humans interacting with and transforming their environment.
Humans naturally humaning.
For example, the cell-like structure of what researchers call the “home forest garden” (one of the Adventures in this book!) is found around the world. This pattern is grown naturally as humans go about holistically investing in the health of the ecosystems that support them. They nurture plants that are useful, remove those that aren’t, plant seeds of trees with the best fruit, fertilize a particularly good tree, grow some enclosure to protect their homes from wildlife.
Beautiful communities are grown in the same way, humans humaning; investing in beautiful homes; building public squares to gather, celebrate, and trade; growing agricultural spaces to meet their needs, and wild places to support and frame their lives. And together these create the special tapestry of vibrant settlements, the kind of places famous for their beauty, rich cultures, and spiritually meaningful customs, the kind of places we flock to for vacation. They have the fulfilling lifestyles many of us dream of quitting our day-jobs to run away to. They’re the places we go to experience the sort of ADVENTURES that have given human lives purpose for as long as there have been humans. And because they were GROWN through very efficient processes, with the renewable energy and resources of ecosystems, they are also some of our most just and sustainable communities.
Healthy, vibrant, just and sustainable cultures and societies, too, are just the end result of the daily behaviors and choices of individuals like me and you.
Today, many of us feel disempowered from creating the kind of lives we want, let alone the kind of world we’d like to see. That’s certainly how I used to feel. Well of course! We’re constantly told that it’s only the actions of other people – visionary “great men,” the leaders, the designers, the planners, the tech bros – that can have an impact on our future.
But the truth is you and I are growing the future everyday through our actions and behaviors as we choose what kind of world we invest in, and what kind of people we will be to fill it. The truth is it has always been the actions and behaviors of “regular people” that have most determined the course of human history.
These “Transformative Adventures” are the key lifestyle behaviors, fundamental human experiences shared by most of our human ancestors, that have the power to transform both our lives and our society.