What if the 90% probability of a new president happens? The dust will settle and shouting die down. At some point even the lawyers will weary of their billable futile toil.

What then a week from now?

And the decade after that?

First, go remake friends with someone you disagreed with. Buy lunch. Talk about kids.

Then find something to do to care for the world God so loves and for the city and county that pretty much everyone who lives there loves, too.

There is too much broken to figure out what to fix first. Don’t try. You won’t care about my lengthy footnotes about the Canning River and honeybees and smoke coming in my grandsons’ window. You have such a list, too. We can’t fix it all.

What do?

We can follow the lead of the infinitely generative capacities of life. If there is a seed wanting soil, plant it. There are many seeds already in the soil, so water them. There are children already here, so feed, love and teach them. All of them. Sunlight already streaming, so capture it.

In every negative phenomenon at every scale there are positive clues that point the way. This is the startling data-driven testimony of the Positive Deviance tribe led by Arvind Singhal:

Look in the data you lament.

Focus on the positive deviation. It’s there.

Focus then on the behavior driving the deviation. It’s there, too.

Figure out how to spread the deviation.

The spread of the positive follows the ways of life. Jonas Salk thought that life spreads exactly as do virus, by learning and adapting to what reality makes possible. Try, fail, try, fail, try, fail. Adapt and try again until we find the way. Tenacity doesn’t always work, as Bill Foege once said. But he continued, “it’s the only thing that works.”

The search for the positive deviation spreads quicker if you have a light to guide you. That’s what a theory is—it helps us see where to look in the data and then what tools to build. A good theory for these broken open days is Leading Causes of Life. How probable is it that the Positive Deviance tribe would converge with the Leading Causes of Life tribe? About 90%.

What happens when tribes meet? They share songs, stories and technology. And, if not amid a pandemic, a lot of beer and dance. Then they create new songs, stories and tools. You can see that happening here on a series of collaborative YouTube channel called “flip to life.” Here are the first four, with many to come:

(If you haven’t voted, this is a good playlist to listen while you’re in line.)

All the members of these tribes are members of many other tribes. The connectional tissue is crucial to life. In our human bodies the fibroblasts are the most common kind of cell, literally everywhere in and around every organ. They are nearly my favorite, acting all the time, but especially in trauma and injury. They rush to the point of pain and create new connectional tissue—collagen—perfectly suited to the exact needs and opportunities there. I’ve been thinking of them a lot lately for that is exactly what we need in every family, neighborhood, city, county, state, nation and ecosystem. I wrote a longer piece about you can get here.

And that is exactly what we have to work with—already there, already healing waiting for us to lend ourselves to the task. Bobby Milstein calls for thousands of Stewards to heal the nation and find our way forward to all that science, faith and democracy make possible.

A congregation of fibroblast cells doing what they do together. (Image from

That’s who we are.

That’s what we do. Next week. And the next ten years.

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Professor, Faith and the Health of the Public, Wake Forest University School of Divinity. NC Certified Beekeeper Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders, Religion and the Heath of the Public, Speak Life and God and the People. God and the People: Prayers for a Newer New Awakening. Secretary Stakeholder Health. Founder, Leading Causes of Life Initiative

3 thoughts on “Next?”

  1. Wonderful to watch what is emerging and will emerge out of the current chaos. Listening, listening and more listening guides these days.

    Thank you …

    Steven N. Scoggin, M.Div.,Psy.D, LCMHC
    Associate Vice-President of Behavioral Health
    Interim Chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine
    Assistant Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

  2. Gary, as always I really appreciate your post. I love the idea of positive deviation and will include it in my sermon on 11/8. Warmly, Jaye

    Rev. Jennifer (“Jaye”) Brooks Developmental Minister Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock Manhasset NY 11030 Minister’s Mobile Number (508) 332-9548 Pronouns: she, her, hers


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