NSL Blog

Marilyn Hamilton on wellness and urban life

April 4, 2013

Slide1In No Straight Lines I investigate the idea of what makes life worth living at a fundamental level. Why do we work, what is work, and more importantly what makes us as complete human beings as it quite clearly is not the current model. What price are we going to pay when we strip ourselves of the qualities that make us what we are? As Arnold Heertje argues we have lived in a quantitative and dehumanizing economic paradigm which has alienated human beings from their labour and social being. As John Stuart Mill wrote, human nature is not like a machine.

The Gift Economy and the Human-OS: Lewis Hyde in his book The Gift Economy explores the idea of the reasons why we share and why that is so important to us. He says the purpose of the ‘gift economy’ is to establish and strengthen the relationships between us, to connect us one to another. It’s the gift of exchange that brings social cohesion. This work led me onto explore the idea of what I call the Human-OS (operating system). which brings me to Marilyn Hamilton. There is an increasing determined rejection of the fake, the virtual, the spun and the mass-produced, in the search for authenticity. The charms of the global and virtual future we were all brought up to expect, where meals would be eaten in the form of pills and machines would do all our work, have worn rather thin. It’s not that we don’t want all the advantages of progress, we just want a future that manages to be local and real too.

Marilyn Hamilton is a Canadian author, academic, activist and city evolutionist. Born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, her early life in eight Canadian cities, was influenced by her father’s career as a museum developer, giving her a firsthand experience of indigenous and immigrant cultures, history, archeology, anthropology, geology and geography. In 2005, Marilyn created the website www.integralcity.com, and Integral City Meshworks Inc. in 2008, to explore human systems development at the scale of the city through the lenses of the integral framework, living systems and resilience. Here she is being interviewed on her thoughts about city life and wellness.

Hamilton: Role of energy in a city – happines from FreedomLab on Vimeo.

Edited Transcript: Well, if you go back to E=mc2, it’s fundamental. Energy is what makes up the metabolism of the city. Because the city has to be looked at through metabolism. And you know, that’s the way to look at the economy, if you will. That’s what the bees are doing and producing 40 pounds of honey. So my question around energy is this: What is the equivalent of our forty pounds of honey? That’s my research question of the century. And I’m getting close to an answer, and I think it actually emerges from some of the philosophies, proposals, research around happiness, believe it or not. Which is, you know – when you situate happiness, you can do it integrally, but you can’t leave out those left-hand quadrants, that sense of well-being in all the I-we-it-its of yourself.

Human nature is not like a machine

Human nature is not like a machine

And that is, if we looked at what is the metaphorical age of our species? It’s somewhere between two and twelve years old, probably. And so we’re just growing into a realization that we need to be responsible for our energy: for our personal energy, for how we interrelate with each other in any of our collectives, and how we expand that energy on ways of making ourselves as happy as possible. The way that happiness is measured is quite interesting. I’ve done some research in it that kind of relates it to more or less subjective perceptions of well-being. But when you actually analyse what people are identifying in happiness, a lot of it is very able to be integrated into the whole integral, spiral complexity model. Because people need to have the basics of life, they need belonging, they need the sense of personal expression and power, they need some order in their life, they need to be successful, they need to have some social capacity.

And when you see this trajectory, which is really one of complexity, and you look at also how they’ve measured it in terms of dollars and cents – John Helliwell measured that after about 13.000 dollars a year, a person does not get more happy, in terms of their compensation. That probably has to be adjusted for inflation now. Maybe somewhere between I would say 13.000 and 20.000 US dollars a year, which compared to the kinds of compensation packages that we look at now and of course all of the real heavy-ended executive packages, the current research on happiness continues to say, almost the more stuff you have, the less happy you are. So I actually do relate this back to energy, because I think that as we become more intelligent about how we use our energy, we will also tap into what will make us more happy. And that actually makes sense to me.

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