Black Swans

Black Swans

For centuries, in Europe, all swans were believed to be white, as historical records indicated that they always had white feathers. In this context, it was impossible to imagine the existence of black swans: it seemed an unassailable belief. And so it was, until in 1697 a Dutch expedition discovered black swans in Australia. Since then, we speak of "black swans" to emphasize that a perceived impossibility could later be contested.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb published, in 2007, his own theory, according to which a black swan is an event that is characterized by the following: it is a rarity, because it is outside normal expectations; it produces a tremendous impact; despite its condition of rarity, the human tendency to invent explanations for its existence, after the fact, makes it erroneously explainable and predictable. As recent examples, he points to the Internet, the personal computer, the First World War, and the attacks of September 11.

Taleb himself states that “a small number of black swans explain almost everything in our world, from the success of ideas and religions, to the dynamics of historical events, to elements of our own personal lives.”

The history of foundation of Institutes of Religious Life is that of authentic black swans: "highly improbable" events that have had a strong impact on society and the Church. In these moments of transition that we are experiencing, I believe that an attitude of deep humility is appropriate; aware that the future is in God's hands and, at the same time, very sensitive and open to the emerging reality.

In the presence of possible black swans in our organizations, we are invited to overcome fear and accept the risk of the unforeseen and unexpected. After all, according to Taleb, “black swan logic makes what we don't know far more relevant than what we do know.”

It is true that there are black swans that can cause death. But closing the door, out of fear, to the unexpected, will also block the novelty and creativity of the Spirit, since “the wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Emili Turú


Photo by Lochie Blanch on Unsplash

Black Swans