Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Navigating the Currents of Cultural Evolution

We are living in evolutionary times. Our brains and bodies are wired for an existence that only remotely correlates to contemporary life. This has been a profound jolt to our systems. During the industrial revolution, many humans went from being farmers using their bodies out in the open fields and sunshine to becoming factory workers physically toiling away in dark, concrete buildings for twelve hours a day. With the technology revolution, most of us now sit in fluorescent lighting quietly grinding away for forty to sixty hours a week in a mostly sedentary manner. Exercise is now something we do as a hobby, diversion, or lifestyle choice rather than for the utility it offers in producing our essential needs. More importantly, though, many of us feel deeply disconnected from meaning as we produce spreadsheets, analyze data, submit reports, and the like. In all senses of the phrase, this is not working.

Individuals devote enormous amounts of energy, talent, and labor to selling packaged toilet paper or Search Engine Optimization strategies or health care policies. This is what makes our complicated world go round and allows me to wipe my ass easily and to see the doctor when I need, I suppose. At what cost, though? What is the cost to our culture as a whole when so many of us have no real connection or allegiance to our labor beyond gaining a paycheck?  Sure, we have more commodities, more luxuries, and the fa├žade of convenience, but many of us have no center, no essence, no larger structure we’re proud to be collectively supporting. We are scrambling to uphold failing institutions out of what…? Habit? Fear? A lack of alternatives? 

The reasons for our holding on to disintegrating models are many, but the bottom line is that our institutions are, indeed, failing. Be they in the realm of business, government, education, or religion, institutions eventually come to serve their own existence rather than the aims that originally built them. Most of our institutions have now reached that point, as I see it. Their role has become more and more self-serving and less and less responsive to the larger collective they once served.  Those who “succeed” among these crumbling relics are those who have the courage, means, and insight to create new models based on a more bottom-up, community-oriented approach rather than the top-down model of efficient obedience. That model worked for decades but has run its course. Times have changed. The planet has changed. Our minds have changed, and our exposure to ideas has grown exponentially. All over the place, I see people connecting and tapping in to this new paradigm. The future will be one of making collaborative connections around common goals. As technology allows our communities to exist beyond geographic limitations, their possibilities increase dramatically. My aim is to figure out how to tap into this new current – a current that flows from the wisdom (and folly) of human history but resourcefully utilizes the ingenuity of our rapidly evolving "new" culture. I’m not wholly sure what that is just yet, but I’m trying to relax enough to simply enjoy the pull. 

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