The Problem with Wicked Problems

The unsustainability of our world is an issue that has transformed into a wicked problem. The uniqueness of a wicked problem from a normal difficulty is that it is nearly impossible to solve and every single one is different. There are multiple strings attached to one wicked problem, therefore presenting many complexities and challenges in finding a solution. More often than not, only improvements can be made rather than a complete fix. Some of these attached strings include limited knowledge of the issue, the number of people involved, the economic turmoil it may cause, or the interrelation of these problems with additional problems. The sad truth is that all of these challenges are contributing to the unsustainability of our world today. Our nature as humans is to have the newest and greatest fashion as soon as possible, whether that’s clothes, technology, or material goods, but this mindset is leaving an economic footprint on our earth. If we keep living our lives the way we are now, the effects of this will be irreversible and the earth as we know it will become inhabitable. When enrolling for this class at Oklahoma State, I had no idea what it would entail or even what a wicked problem was. Now that I am at the midpoint of this class, I can confidently say that I have learned an extensive amount about the wicked problems in our world and how we should be eager to take part in the change. Truly the first step in a positive direction is to educate yourself on these issues and make yourself aware. This class has provided me with that opportunity and has opened my eyes to the wicked problems going on around me. 

A goal for this course was to develop a compassionate curiosity toward our earth’s wicked problems. Meaning that we begin to understand these issues intellectually, with the mind; emotionally, with the heart; and somatically, with the body. The main way we were able to do this was through meditation. Meditation is a mindful practice that centers every part of you. It brings about awareness of oneself while also establishing a calm and stable state of being. Participating in a ten-minute guided meditation at the beginning of class allowed me to be fully present, attentive, and non-judgmental towards the information being presented to us during class. Additionally, this practice gave me the opportunity to take a step back from my busy schedule and take a few minutes to simply rest and recenter. This exemplifies that not only is mindful practice beneficial in learning, but also for mental, physical, and cognitive health. Before this class, I had never participated in mediation, but now it has become an activity that I try to participate in every day. 

The first way that I have started to deeply understand wicked problems is with my mind. This way of understanding seems quite simple and obvious, but it is more complicated than one would think. There is so much more to these problems than what is presented at the surface. Gaining a deeper understanding of the wicked problems our earth takes on positions the lens through which I view these problems. For example, it is clear that climate change is a major issue. What most people don’t understand, though, is that this is not only affecting our earth, but it affects us too. As temperatures continue to rise, it puts ecosystems, our homes, and our livelihoods at risk. This is just one instance where there is a deeper root connected to these wicked problems. Additionally, another way that I have been able to understand with my mind in a deeper sense is by listening to the opinions of others. This discussion-based class provides me with the opportunity to hear different viewpoints that I may have never thought about before. This, along with research, helps me establish my stance and beliefs on certain topics. Meditation also contributes to my mindful understanding by giving me a clean slate to learn and be open to new ideas. Understanding with our minds is crucial in being an advocate for change and opens the door to understanding with the heart and body as well. 

The second way that I have started to understand wicked problems is with my heart. Considering that I am an extremely empathetic person, the emotional appeal is the way that I most greatly understand wicked problems. Because of our mediation practice before class, I am able to start the class period being centered and in touch with my emotions. This has opened my eyes and broke my heart towards the wicked issues that I thought were not so bad. I have started to feel very sad about the way we treat our earth. It hurts knowing that I once didn’t care about the extinction of species due to deforestation or the pollution of water and air due to fast fashion. Yet, at the same time, I have started to feel more grateful for this class and motivated to start the change for a more sustainable world. I believe that our hearts are the place where our passions and cares reside. Gaining a deeper understanding of wicked problems with my heart has placed a new passion inside me, which is to contribute to the change and motivate others around me to do the same. 

The third and final way that I have come to understand wicked problems is with my body. To understand something somatically means to have a connection between the mind and body. The meditation portion of class has helped establish this connection a tremendous amount. Taking ten minutes to sit in stillness has allowed me to have a calm and stable stature when learning about these difficult topics. Though I am not entirely sure how my body is supposed to understand these wicked problems, I know that my body has felt a sense of eagerness to go and start being a part of the change our world needs. Additionally, I have felt uncomfortability and grief within my body knowing that we all contribute to the steady decline of our already unhealthy world every day. I hope to learn more about this connection during the last couple of weeks of class and increase my understanding of the effects wicked problems have on my body. 

A second major goal of this course is to develop humble and compassionate responses to wicked problems. I feel as though I have experienced a great amount of growth in this area. Considering that I had little to no knowledge about wicked problems or meditation, I feel as if I was able to learn, internalize, and therefore respond healthily. This is because everything was new to me and I was being guided on how to respond to these issues the right way. Due to the compassionate curiosity I have developed, my external responses are reflective of my internal posture towards these topics. Additionally, meditation has allowed me to become more open and non-judgemental of other people’s perspectives or beliefs. An example of this was when we discussed what caused the downfall of Easter Island. Some people had differing viewpoints than I did, but instead of ignoring what they had to say, I was open to seeing why they believed what they did. This speaks volumes about how the content of this course reshapes one’s thinking and responsiveness in a way that is humble and compassionate. 

Overall, because of what I have learned so far in this course, I have become more aware of the wicked problems causing our world to be unsustainable. I have learned how to understand these issues intellectually, emotionally, and somatically. I have also learned how to compassionately and humbly respond to these difficult problems. A large amount of credit goes to mindful meditation, which allows my soul to be fully present, aware, and peaceful. I hope that within the last final weeks of this course, I can continue to increase my knowledge and understanding of wicked problems and begin implementing sustainable practices in my life.

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