Why We Lost Our Groove & How To Get It Back
Part 2: How to get our groove back!
Alright, people! Last week, we explored why we lost our groove and it was…. a little bit depressing to say the least. Which is why this week it’s time to dive into how to get our groove back!! 🕺😁 Ready?
Part 2: How to get our groove back!
Sociologist Hartmut Rosa claims we are increasingly in a mode of aggression and alienation – i.e. no meaningful inner relation – toward the world. I simplify this as being out of sync or losing our groove (read part 1). So how can we get out of that mode of aggression and alienation? How can we get our groove back?
“What is the opposite of burnout? What is an alternative way of relating to the world, of being in the world?” Hartmut Rosa
“I think just slowing down things is not enough, we need a new vision of a non-alienated world and this is what I call a resonant world or a resonant mode of being in the world.” Hartmut Rosa
“The quality of a human life cannot be measured simply in terms of resources, options, and moments of happiness; instead, we must consider our relationship to, or resonance with, the world.” Wiley
Rosa believes that this idea of resonance can give us not only a new sense of what a ‘good life’ is or how we can design a good life but also how we should reconstruct society in order to build a more vibrant and better future.
“[…] I am convinced that modern capitalist society is haunted by two terrible flaws. One is that the distribution of the means, products and profits of production is utterly unfair – that is, that exploitation is an essential problem. The other is that even for the ‘winners’ and profiting classes, the ensuing life is not a good life: it is based on a wrong mode of existence, on a wrong mode of being in the world, on a wrong mode of relating to the world.
[…] [It’s this] wrong mode of being [that] is responsible for the possibility of exploitation and injustice [in the first place]. Therefore, in my view, we first need to overcome alienation in order […] to remedy the absurd distributional flaws in our world as well.” Hartmut Rosa
Okay! Let’s get into the four main elements of what Rosa calls resonance. I think this is the truly interesting stuff, the
pain pleasure points so to say. And I think they will help you come up with novel thoughts and ideas to build whatever you are building in a way that solves the very core challenges of alienated people and an alienated society.
So, resonance is a way of encountering the world – i.e. people, places, things, experiences, nature, history,… – that is characterized by the following four elements:
Being touched, or moved by someone or something. Affection has both an emotional, but also a cognitive and a bodily element.
“We all know what it means to be touched by someone’s glance or voice, by a piece of music we listen to, by a book we read, or a place we visit.” Rosa
Basically the capacity to ‘answer’ the call, or being able to react to the affection and give a response. Because only then there is an actual relation established.
“When we feel touched in the way described above, we often tend to give a physical response by developing goose bumps, an increased rate of heartbeat […] and so on. […] But the response we give, of course, has a physiological, social, and cognitive side to it too.” Rosa
And this capacity to react can also be described by self-efficacy, i.e. when we realize that we are capable of actually reaching out to and affecting others, and that they truly listen and connect to us and answer in turn.
The result of true affection and emotion then is a transformed self but also a transformed world.
“Whenever someone has an experience of resonance – with a person, a book, an idea, a melody, a landscape etcetera – he or she comes out as a different person. And the other side is transformed as well.” Rosa
“That resonance of this sort are vital elements of any identity formation, can be read from the fact that claims such as ‘after reading that book’, or ‘after hearing that music’ or ‘after meeting that group’ or ‘after climbing that mounatin’, ‘I was a different person’ are standard ingredients of almost all (auto-)biographical accounts given, for example, in interviews.” Rosa
This last element is all about the elusive and serendipitous nature of resonance. You cannot ensure it will happen, you don’t know how long that connection will last, and you cannot really predict what the transformation will result in.
“You might buy the most expensive tickets for your favourite piece of music, and yet you might still feel untouched by the performance.” Rosa
“When something really touches us, we can never know or predict in advance what we will become as a result of this.” Rosa
According to Rosa, a key result of what happens when these four elements come together and you get ‘in resonance’ (getting your mojo working so to say 😉) is that you feel truly alive.
Linking this back to last week’s issue and the disintegration of time, this feeling of aliveness basically un-freezes time. Your different relationships towards time re-integrate (or line up), and you are not only fully ‘in the moment’ (as mindfulness proponents would say) or in a ‘flow state’ (as the flow movement would say) but this aliveness can actually give you a sense of co-presence of past, present, and future. There is a sense of meaningful connection between the three. Everything comes together, just right. As I wrote last week:
For example, the day-to-day job aligns with what you learned in the past and with what you want to do with your life, as well as with the narratives and needs of the age or epoch you are in. They’re in sync.
Rosa calls it ‘vibrant time’ as opposed to ‘frozen time’.
Sooo…what if we used the above to design our lives? What if we used it to design society and all sorts of systems? Is it possible to design affection, emotion, transformation, and serendipity into say…urban spaces, politics, friendships, companies, products, etc. ?
There is one more categorization of resonance that can help with that. Experiences of resonance, according to Rosa, can be differentiated into three dimensions:
Social: Experiences of resonance that connect us with and relate us to other human beings (love, friendships, and also citizenship)
Material: Resonance that we establish with certain objects or artefacts (work, sports, education, posessions...)
Existential: Resonant experiences that give us a sense of how we are connected to the world, to nature, life itself, or the universe (could be about religious ideas but also to the wonders or beauty of nature in general)
So while resonance has a serendipitous nature and cannot be directly engineered, we’re still able to design the right contexts, the adequate environemnts that will make it more likely for resonant experiences to occur.
“A capitalist society which forces us into a mode of competition, optimisation and speed, for example, and which creates permanent time-pressure and stress, enforces a non-resonant, instrumental, reified mode of approaching the world.” Rosa
Okay! So to make this more practical, let’s apply this the example of food. How can we build a food system (food brand, restaurant, product, experience….) that will encourage resonant experiences to occur?
Here are a few ideas that I brainstormed with the help of ChatGPT (yep!):
Social & Material Level:
Build food consumption methods that incorporate a sense of community, such as shared meals or family-style dining
Encourage food-centered tourism, such as food tours, cooking classes, or farm-to-table experiences, that promote connection and understanding of different food cultures
Promote food preparation methods that incorporate a sense of touch, such as kneading dough or chopping vegetables by hand
Create food presentation methods that incorporate a sense of sight and aesthetics, such as arranging food in an artful manner
Food-centered art and performance, such as culinary storytelling, food-themed music, and food-based theater, that promotes emotional engagement with food
Launch food education programs that teach people how to grow, prepare, and appreciate food, promoting a sense of self-efficacy and empowerment
Encourage food waste reduction programs that promote mindfulness and respect for resources, promoting a sense of connection to the environment
Explore food-based spiritual practices, such as mindful eating, fasting, or food offerings, that promote connection to a higher power or sense of purpose
Support food-based social justice movements, such as food sovereignty, fair trade, or food waste reduction, that promote connection to a sense of collective purpose and making a positive impact on the world
Imagine food-based science fiction or speculative design, such as new food systems, new food technologies, or new food cultures that promote connection to a sense of possibility and potential future.
I even played a bit more with ChatGPT and asked it to come up with more unconventional ideas (a great tip for using the AI tool by the way):
What’s interesting to me is that the ideas above don’t really mention any of the big topics that the food industry has been investing in or is currently focusing on. For example: convenience (food delivery, fast food, ghost kitchens), self-improvement (functional foods, frozen foods, instant food), and automation (QR codes, kitchen robots). Which, in my opinion, would again create the context for alienation and aggression rather than resonance.
But hey, this little example was actually just meant to get YOUR imagination going! 😜
So use the idea of resonance and the elements above and explore how YOU can build a context in your domain that increases the chances of resonant experiences and gets rid of the burnout-inducing stuff that further drives alienation!
That’s it for this week!
As always, if you enjoyed reading this, please consider sharing it with your network! 😉
PS: If you want to dive deeper into Hartmut Rosa’s theory of resonance, here are some great sources: