Overgrowing the system is a bottom-up approach to replacing the current regressive unhealthy/unsustainable system with a potentially progressive healthy/sustainable one. But overgrowing the system is no walk in the park. It requires courage, patience and resilience.
Even the people we care about the most may still be hooked on the outdated system, so it also requires loving compassion, but definitely not pacifism or pity. We should be sympathetic with their plight, but not to the extent that we let them off the hook for not being responsible with their power.
As it stands, the current system is the main force that’s causing the environmental destruction and social issues that we are tackling today. Being bold in the face of that destruction is the height of courage in our day and age.
So here are four ways to go about harnessing that courage and overgrowing the system.
1) Overgrow yourself
“The revolution begins at home. If you overthrow yourself again and again, you might earn the right to overthrow the rest of us.” ~ Rob Brezsny
You want to heal the world, begin by healing yourself. You want to overthrow the system, begin by overthrowing yourself. Likewise, if you want to overgrow the system, overgrow yourself. Like a self-overcoming Nietzschean Ubermensch overcoming itself again and again, self-overgrowth has the power to topple tyranny.
Don’t worry about other people. Don’t worry about the system not cooperating. Don’t worry about not having enough of this or that.
Make do with what you have and overgrow yourself every single day until you’re the walking personification of Camus’ liberating quote “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion,” and then overgrow yourself again.
Keep doing it, over and over. Don’t stop. The world needs more people who are so absolutely free that their very existence is an act of rebellion.
Feed your body healthy food. Feed your brain healthy thoughts. Feed your soul healthy doses of “can do!” Then wrap it all up by feeding your mind body and soul with healthy mindful meditation. Before you know it you’ll be an expert at overgrowing yourself and then you will be in a place where you can make a difference by overgrowing the system.
2) Boost your largesse
“The earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.” ~ Gandhi
What are you doing to make things better? What are you doing to lift up others? If you want to overgrow the system, you need to realize that “the system” is made up of people. These are people who feel like there is no other way.
These are people who are so caught up in the smoke and mirrors of the unsustainable system that they mistake the smoke and mirrors for reality.
The way we overgrow such a system is by giving back through radical generosity. Stop whining, “Me! Me! Me!” and start declaring: “We!” After all, we empower each other. So let’s transform borders into centers for healthy dialogue. Let’s embrace the core tenants of permaculture: care for the earth, care for the people, return of surplus.
Find out whatever it is that you are good at and then gift that back to your community. And if you’re someone who has more than you need, expiate your wealth. It’s what I call capital munificence, the expiation and reciprocity of wealth with emphasis on holistic and eco-moral compassion.
Tear down the culturally conditioned false ideal of greed. Recondition your conditioned reflex to own things. You don’t own anything. You’re borrowing it, at best. Overcoming the ownership-based culture and adapting a relationship-based approach will get you everywhere closer to overgrowing the system.
3) Be carefree rather than careless
“We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.” ~ Carlos Castaneda
Be lighthearted, not troubled. Be happy-go-lucky, not anxious. Be optimistic, not pessimistic. And if you are troubled, anxious, and/or pessimistic, then be proactive about assuaging whatever it is that is causing you to feel that way.
There are ways to be both carefree and proactive: by growing a garden instead of a lawn, by writing what you’re passionate about instead of what you’re told to, by speaking truth to power, by liberating the unliberated. Having a relaxed cheerful disposition rather than a thoughtless inconsiderate one, is a great way to lead by example and overgrow the system.
And the more proactive we are about being lighthearted the more likely we are to soften the hardhearted. You can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of the system, or you can rise up with a full heart and push back.
So be nonchalant with your passion, especially in the face of tyranny. Be insouciant with your love, the rest of the world will just have to adapt. Be a shining light, as bright as the sun, that way the people you shine your light upon will, like blossoming seeds, feel liberated to overgrow their bounds.
4) Make good art
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” ~ Pablo Picasso
Are you still caught up in the outdated, parochial paradigm of the system? Do you feel like there is no way out, that you’re caught in the quagmire of wakeup, work, watch TV, and sleep? Well I have news for you, there is a way out. It’s called Art.
Probably the best way to overgrow the system is through free artistic self-expression. If the system is suppressing you and turning you into a slave, overgrow it by responding with good art. When the shit hits the fan, make good art out of it, like Jackson Pollack splattering paint on a wall.
Make art the best you can. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be genuine. It doesn’t have to be the best thing ever; it just has to be the best you can do. Art liberates lives and has the power to topple governments, but it can also be used to enslave lives and brainwash the population.
That’s why Neil Gaiman and I are emphasizing “good” art. There’s a reason why Hitler seized more than 16,000 works of art. Art is inherently insurgent. Art is extremely political. It plants seeds that the powers-that-be are afraid will someday grow to overthrow their power. And so it is today, the system fears art that paints it in an unhealthy, unsustainable light.
But it is immensely unhealthy and unsustainable so, rebel artists the world over, I beseech you, paint your hearts out and overgrow the system.
Overgrow your limits
Neil Gaiman quote
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and get the latest updates straight in your inbox!