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I have been a student of complexity science for decades. Recently, I had the opportunity to engage in the optimal role of a student: I taught a course on Complex Adaptive Systems to nursing doctoral students. All this has involved a good deal of immersion in this topic. Over time, I have found the conceptual map provided by complexity science far more useful than the confinement of traditional Newtonian mind mapping. Because of this nurtured fondness for complexity science, I spontaneously recognize deconstruction, and think of it as good news if a system or pattern I am scrutinizing is collapsing either due to failure or its harmfulness.

This does not mean, however, that I do not react as most humans do, to the sudden disappearance of the familiar and known. Anxiety, misgivings, a longing for the predictability of the past…these are also part of my response. This is rendered more troublesome by my relatively non-existent capacity for patience. I mutter: “OK, so this thing that was destructive or dysfunctional has concluded its time on the stage… So where is the new thing?” I can accept deconstruction; I just want an immediate total replacement. I have noticed that others have this same rather irrational response.

Not surprisingly, studying the widespread post-Covid deconstruction holds my attention. Things are really and truly not going back to where they were. Tweaking stuff is not working. Many things are collapsing. People accustomed to controlling things are getting edgy.

And another phenomenon is concurrently emerging. Watching this emergence closely, I realize that I am not getting my secretly desired fully developed replacement for what is collapsing. Rather, all over the planet there are emerging what I am calling “Sparkles”.

Googling supports my choice of terms, providing these definitions of “Sparkles”: to throw out sparks; to give off or reflect bright moving points of light; to perform brilliantly; to shine brightly with a lot of small points of light or reflected light. These capture my meaning. We are not in a process of protracted replacement with analogs to what we have lost. Rather, it has seemed to me that we are testing out thousands of new and more human and humane innovative options to replace what is deconstructing. We are creating “Sparkles”. And they are everywhere.

Like many humans, I have spent a generous portion of my self-reflection effort clarifying what I understand as my purpose on earth, what gives my life meaning. My summary result is brief: to increase the light. While some are called to fight the dark, my work largely focuses on simply increasing light. If I am very honest with myself, I kind of wish I could be in the “attack the dark” group, but I am here, trying to increase the light on planet earth. The metaphor I have used for this life work is the “Lighthouse”. My house is awash in lighthouse imagery to focus my consciousness on my life meaning and work.

I note all this to acknowledge that this may explain my attention to “Sparkles”. I watch for the light, its scope, intensity, location, duration…I want the light to prevail. So, this sudden surge of “Sparkles” seems noteworthy and encouraging to me. And yes, you do have to go looking for them since almost none are included in the “news”.

Fortunately, there are groups and organizations working to get their “good news” stories out, to draw attention to their “Sparkles”. There are internet sites working to publish “good news”, local newsletters where communities reveal how they are doing “old” things in completely new ways. Even many established news sources are adding a “good news” dimension. This last development sort of cracks me up. For an established news source to have a special category for “good” news sort of seems like a confession that all their other news is “bad”. Kind of embarrassing.

Yes, for me, the “Sparkles” are everywhere, and I accept that knowing this is dependent on me actively searching for them. Concurrently, I have to work to redirect my attention away from watching deconstruction tear things down or people fighting the deconstruction and instead focus my attention on the search for “Sparkles”. This takes a good deal of discipline because the culture, I believe, is focused on the deconstruction, the mourning of the losses, and the desperate effort to resuscitate the deconstructed. This is called the “news”.

There is even an often-unstated assumption that if one is not submerged in laments about the deconstructions or embracing the resuscitation efforts, one is not engaged in the culture! I have noticed that no amount of lamenting on my part changes anything and I do not believe resuscitation is working. It seems to me a waste of consciousness and psychic energy. I prefer investing in the emerging “Sparkles”, and the emerging generations who will ensure their impact and survival.

I also am trying to figure out how to personally be a “Sparkle”, which in part explains why I started this blog. I want my work to shine brightly and give off sparks. And I believe this is true of many who, emerging from their Covid Caves, wanted to move past the past…and create “Sparkles” of their own, become “Sparkles” for the planet to celebrate. It seems to me a charming, hopeful and worthy goal. I like to think this is self-evident, but just in case…as more of us get engaged in noticing “Sparkles”, in affirming “Sparkles” and in being “Sparkles”, the influence of those who oppose the light will be diminished.


"To a dull mind all of nature is leaden. To the illumined mind the whole world burns and sparkles with light."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson -


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