To metamorphose is to transform. This site is an exploration of change (why we avoid it, how we can achieve it, who inspires us along the way) and the conditions required for transformation. Founded and curated by Simran Sethi.

information vs. production

it used to be many times more time/cost effective to buy one product than to solicit hundreds of opinions about that product. now, it’s more time/cost efficient to read hundreds of opinions about a product than to actually buy the product.  what does this shift from production advantageous economy to information advantageous economy mean? is it good? discuss….

Darwin 2.0

In peaceful, generous moments, we might believe – or just long to believe – that a genuine desire to help one another is something that sustains us. But then we remember Darwin and the grim competition inherent in “survival of the fittest,” and we allow, perhaps, this impression of science to scuttle our momentary vision of social harmony. That’s a shame because evolutionary biologists increasingly believe that this impression of science represents an incomplete reading of Darwin.

Fearing the obvious controversy, Darwin avoided discussing human beings and natural selection in his landmark On the Origin of Species. But 12 years later, in The Descent of Man, he hit the topic head on. And though he acknowledged the power of individual wants and needs, he identified a greater force within human evolution: the power of sympathy and the desire to cooperate. In The Descent of Man, Darwin wrote, “[S]ocial qualities, the paramount importance of which to the lower animals is disputed by no one, were no doubt acquired by the progenitors of man in a similar manner, namely, through natural selection, aided by inherited habit…. [S]ympathy … will have been increased through natural selection; communities with the most sympathetic members would flourish best, rearing the greatest number of offspring…. Selfish and contentious people will not cohere, and without coherence nothing can be effected.

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How do we create a saner world?

"How do we create a saner world or a saner domestic situation or job situation, wherever we may be? How do we work with our actions and our speech and our minds in a way that opens up the space rather than closes it down? In other words, how do we create space for other people and ourselves to connect with our own wisdom?…

It all starts with loving-kindness toward oneself, which in turn becomes loving-kindness for others. As the barriers come down around our own hearts, we are less afraid of other people. We are more able to hear what is being said, see what is in front of our eyes, and work in accord with what happens rather than struggle against it. The lojong teachings say that the way to help, the way to act compassionately, is to exchange oneself for other. When you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes, then you know what is needed, and what would speak to the heart.”

Pema Chodron, “Start Where You Are

A New Perspective on an Old Method of Change

In “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard,” Chip and Dan Heath argue there are three big ways to motivate change.

First, “Find the Feeling.” This means instead of just telling someone something, you need to make them feel it. Second, “Shrink the Change.” Chip and Dan say that the best way to approach change is to break it down into manageable chunks that won’t overwhelm us. Last, “Grow Your People.” If you create a group centered around change, individuals are more likely to pick up the new behavior.

Though these might sound basic to us, it takes motivation and creativity to instill change in others.

Take a look at a section from the book addressing common barriers to change (from “Overcoming Obstacles” in Chip and Dan’s book):

Problem: I’ll change tomorrow.
Advice: 1. Shrink the change so you can start today. 2. If you can’t start today, set an action trigger for tomorrow. 3. Make yourself accountable to someone. Let your colleagues or loved ones know what you’re trying to change, so their peer pressure will help you.

Kim Scherman

Photo credit. 


From “The Queer Art of Failure” by Judith Halberstam”:   

“…Act against ‘what Foucault called the Conquest, the unspoken war that founded, and with the force of law refounds, society…’ to constitute an unprofessional force of fugitive knowers [whose goal is] ‘not so much the abolition of prisons but the abolition of a society that could have prisons… abolition as the founding of a new society.’  

The social worlds we inhabit, after all, as so many thinkers have reminded us, are not inevitable… in the process of producing this reality, many other realities, fields of knowledge and ways of being have been… ‘disqualified.’” (Halberstam via Moten and Harney)  

Normalization is a technique of modern power.   Like the gang-banger-turned-OccupyLA-Peackeeper, perhaps a person who is an “Outlier” to the normalized system creates change when he or she is faced with the brick wall of “failure to thrive” in the existing system.  “Failure” is a method of speaking truth to power. 

Perhaps we should privilege motivations alternate to profit for being and doing, to establish an alternative economy, if we understand that this economy, it’s normalizations, and motivations, are not working.  Failure in this society can create success in a differently organized society.

The Anti-Divinity of Humanity

To be human is to be almost what we define as divine.  Manifesting our thoughts as actions, taking what we want from the natural world to re-create it in our image, paying homage to the incredible power of creation, intelligence, will and our power to dominate - as well as be compassionate.  Animals take what they need and no more, leaving their world undisturbed or in the “natural order of things”.  Which is more divine? To be a part of nature without regard for sustaining it, or to move fluidly through nature without disturbing it?

Why does our incredible power to create and be “conscious” also facilitate greed, selfishness, destruction, and lack of care for the very things which sustain us? What can we do to control our impulse to destroy - or even to become aware of this impulse?


We are not lemmings. We want to serve The Common Good - Part 1.

At 22 minutes in:  “They’re not doing it because they think they have to, they’re doing it because they think they OUGHT to.”  A fascinating re-examination of the famous Milgram* experiment on obedience, where the analysis is that we do not just do what we’re told, contrary to Pink Floyd.  They argue a la Machiavelli that the exact opposite is true.  People will suffer and agonize IF they think the cause is more noble than the means are bad.  The question is, who controls the spin of the “facts” of the cause?

Milton Friedman (Still) Rules

Economist Milton Friedman declared in his now infamous New York Times article that the only social responsibility of business is to increase shareholder value. "There is one and only one social responsibility of business–to use it resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game…" 

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Power of the Powerless

Excerpts from Vaclav Havel:

Ideology is a specious way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion of an identity, of dignity, and of morality while making it easier to part with them. As the repository of something suprapersonal and objective, it enables people to deceive their conscience and conceal their true position and their inglorious modus vivendi, both from the world and from themselves.

It is a very pragmatic but, at the same time, an apparently dignified way of legitimizing what is above, below, and on either side. It is directed toward people and toward God. It is a veil behind which human beings can hide their own fallen existence, their trivialization, and their adaptation to the status quo. It is an excuse that everyone can use, from the greengrocer, who conceals his fear of losing his job behind an alleged interest in the unification of the workers of the world, to the highest functionary, whose interest in staying in power can be cloaked in phrases about service to the working class.

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Why We Don’t Change (The Theory of Social Dilemmas)

It is said that society is in a moral crisis. And, what is worse, it seems to be deteriorating at an ever increasing rate. We all agree that something needs to be done. Our politicians and preachers say we need to help each other more, we need to have “family values”, we need to contribute to society and we need to have high moral standards. But there is a fundamental logical reason why none of this is going to happen. This article will explore that reason in detail.

 A few nights ago, my wife and I were driving along one of the lesser traveled highways. We came upon a person with a broken down vehicle in obvious distress. My wife said, “Maybe we should help”. But I said, “I think not - it is not worth the risk”. She responded, “But what if someday you were stranded and needed some help. Wouldn’t you want someone to stop?”


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Change is a Process, Not an Event; Change is a Spiral, Not a Line

This spiral is James Prochaska and Carlo Diclemente’s Stages of Change model of behavior change. I like this overview. Here’s what you need to know (and really because you yourself have tried to change, already know):

1) Change is a process, not an event.

2) Said process is non-linear. We spiral through it. 

3) Said change is not one change but, rather, a series of changes. 

4) There are two main types of change processes: cognitive (the way we think and feel) and behavioral (what we do). Cognitive processes help you move through the earlier stages of change. Behavioral processes help you move through the later stages of change. 

5) There are five cognitive and five behavioral processes. We need different kinds of interventions/ support at different stages of change:

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Icek Ajzen’s Theory of Planned Behavior. More models, theories & frameworks on behavior change in Paul Stern’s presentation Environmentally Significant Behaviour and How to Change It and this Behavior Change Reference Report

Where’s Your Tribe At?

While some suggested etymologies of the word tribe center around the divisions of ancient Romans, the one that makes the most sense in a contemporary context is from the Welsh “tref,” meaning “town or inhabited place.” Within that definition - and an era where “hangout” is something done in real life and on Google - the term “inhabited” must also be redefined. 

Despite our efforts to stand out, what we all really want is to belong and feel connected to - not separate from - others. Psychologists call this “social norming.” Our affiliations guide action. What we do for and with our people is different from what we do for strangers.

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The Truth as We Want It To Be

Political philosopher Antonio Gramsci said in his prison notebooks, “Each man participates in a particular conception of the world, has a conscious line of moral conduct, and therefore contributes to sustain a conception of the world or to modify it, that is to bring into being new modes of thought.” In other words, we have the power to maintain or transform the way we see the world. 

Gramsci was a Marxist who believed that control of the wealthy within the capitalist system was maintained not only by political and economic might, but also ideologically by fostering a one percent culture that the bourgeois made the norm for the 99 percent. The Occupy movements we are in the midst of are what Gramsci would call attempts to overthrow the cultural hegemony and reclaim world views that more accurately reflect our truths and values. 

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A schema (pl. schemata or schemas), in psychology and cognitive science, describes any of several concepts including:

  • An organized pattern of thought or behavior.
  • A structured cluster of pre-conceived ideas.
  • A mental structure that represents some aspect of the world.
  • A specific knowledge structure or cognitive representation of the self.
  • A mental framework centering on a specific theme, that helps us to organize social information.
  • Structures that organize our knowledge and assumptions about something and are used for interpreting and processing information.

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