Evolution. It’s encouraging, right. Accept when it is not.

I laughed when I saw this photo this morning on a friend’s Facebook page (who is actually celebrating his birthday today). So promising (evolution, that is). So much progress. But then again, oh yah, that hunched over thing.

I use the language of evolution a fair amount in my work. My friend and colleague Kinde Nebeker and I have created a series on the “Inner and Outer of Evolutionary Leadership” (Series I, Series II) I use the language of evolution to invoke an attitude and disposition. Not in the geologic sense that is over centuries and millennia, though I suppose that could be relevant too. But definitely as “evolving the nuance of who we are and how we are together” in the coming months, years, and even decades. It’s a fundamental invitation rooted in desires to collaborate. Not just collaborative as in, helping the neighbor rake the leaves. More at the layer of evolving the edges of who we are becoming as a species, as nations, as teams, as people on the edge of difficult or untenable circumstances.

Untenable. Hmmm…. There feels like a lot of untenable that is rising up in the world. It feels more accurate to say that it has always been there — it’s just reaching more visible edges of those not normally confronted with anything called untenable. Yesterday I became aware of a person based in Canada that felt she could not send two people as participants to a leadership training that I’m cohosting the next four days near Seattle, Washington. She was worried by protests she had seen at American airports over Donald Trump’s executive order limiting visa and entry status for people from predominantly Muslim countries, and the ripples from that order. She was fearful of police efforts to disperse crowds using pepper spray. She was alarmed by a growing and overarching perception that the United States is an unwelcoming and unsafe place to be.

Whether those participants from Canada come or not (I hope they do), this week’s Art of Participative Leadership training includes 40 participants. We gather for three days at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. We will learn and share stories and questions about participative leadership. We will explore models and ways of being together. We will practice — as in do leadership — through the model that is hosting. We will evolve edges through our learning, our work, and our relationships together. I think of it as essential practice to try something different together, to create deliberate encounter together, to dislocate patterns and certainty in a place that is safe enough to do so — no pepper spray in the supplies list for this gathering.

It is imperative, I believe, to evolve the edges and the nuancing of who we are together and what we can become. And, with a tone that I’m hearing a lot more these days, “now, more than ever.” But lets be clear, now more than ever isn’t returning to “hunched over.” At least I hope not.