My copy of Eric Hoffer’s, The Ordeal of Change was published in 1976. I am re-reading it now, along with his, The True Believer, and along with that a whole collection of current writing all focused on what kind of creatures we are, and what kind of creatures we need to become, rather rapidly at that, if we are to manage all the ordeals of change that are rushing towards us.
“It is my impression that no one really likes the new. We are afraid of it.” That is his opening. And of course, I am writing this on my iPad, having earlier checked my e-mail on my computer, and in between, during a short walk, sent a message to my daughter via my iPhone. Afraid? Only that I won’t be able to afford whatever else is coming down the pipeline.
The pipeline? The oil line coming down from Canada. Oil? Prices going down because we can use what’s here, underground by fracking. Fracking? Tearing up the earth in ways unimaginable 20 years ago. Twenty years ago? That’s the last century? And 20 years from now?
In 20 years the storms that have begun to shake our familiar weather patterns will manifest themselves as the daily reality of climate change. That will happen no matter how many of us refuse to believe our eyes, and ears, and bodies drenched, and souls shivering. Already the island nations of the world are pleading for us to see what is happening to them. And to do something.
Afraid of all the changes coming? Only if I pay as much attention to those realities as I do to what I hold in my hand. What I hold in my hand is now, whether it’s my iPhone, or a sandwich, and I am built to take the now whenever I can. But I can change. I can learn to live into the fear of the new and I can prepare for the next season as different as it may be.
That begins with a deliberate intention to see and respond to the future as it shows itself in the present. Current research in neuroscience indicates we have the built-in wiring to make that kind of change in our thinking, and to make the kind of changes in attitude toward each other that will move us from what Philip Slater, in The Chrysalis Effect calls “the command structure” of social organization to a more collaborative, communal structure. An organizational structure that flattens out in areas of responsibility and decision making, an organization that is more nimble and quicker to discover opportunity hidden in crisis.
That kind of thinking tends and trends towards inclusion; talent, and the willingness to work together for the common good, a good that transcends tribal loyalty, is what counts. We are a little late to the game, but not too late.