Rain Dancers

Hope, Trust and Interdependency

When facing system change, it can be easier to keep doing what we’ve always done rather than forage the valley of uncertainty for new possibilities. Familiarity becomes a false friend in times of change. Through the promise of stability and certainty, desire for the familiar suppresses our appetite for risk. Given the choice, most of us will decide a quick answer is more appealing than the prospect of unfolding uncertainty.

It is not by chance that our collective psyche is littered with hope-filled metaphors. So we cross fingers, carry lucky charms and pursue social rituals that are designed to make us feel good. The fable of the rain dancers invites us to unpack the complex system dynamics that arise when humans navigate change and uncertainty. In particular, the fable highlights the dissonant roles we’re likely to perceive and play in order to make sense of the system. We are not trying to provide answers, but do hope this first in a series of simple fables will surface some interesting questions.

System Fable #1: “Rain Dancers”

There was once a prosperous village deep in the heart of a lush valley that benefited from centuries of reliable weather and predictable seasons. On the rare occasions when the rains came late, the Chief was always able to call upon the services of the many rain dancers that had come to inhabit the village over many generations. The “Guild of Rain Dancers” was powerful, and rain dancers were held in high regard for their skills because none of the villagers could remember a time when their elaborate dance rituals did not eventually result in the rainfall the village depended on.

One day the chief was informed by the Soothsayer that the years ahead would be barren and bring much less rain than ever known before. The predictable weather would, she assured, become erratic and uncertain.  Something had to be done to avoid the inevitable suffering. So the chief immediately summoned the rain dancers and asked each of them in turn for their point of view.

The rain dancers were unanimous. They assured the chief that if she could furnish them with more resources they would procure brighter costumes, more colourful skin paints, and larger feathers for their essential headgear. They would, they insisted, collaborate even harder to come up with more spectacular chants and compelling dances.

Exploring the Perspectives

  • What is the nature of the relationship between villagers and rain dancers?
  • What is the nature of the relationship between the soothsayer and chief?
  • What is the systemic power of the soothsayer?
  • How do rain dancers influence the future?
  • What is the role of the chief in the circumstances?
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