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By Rhonda Fabian
Kosmos: You have been working with young people for a number of years now, Joshua. How is this generation different?
Joshua Gorman: There’s a new generation of young people waking up and coming of age all across the planet, a generation rising between an old world dying and a new world being born. We are the make-it-or-break-it generation. The all-or-nothing generation.
It’s the crucible through which civilization must pass or crash. That’s the significance of these times, the significance of who we are. That’s what we are being called to. Young people today are being swept up by the new story and it’s defining our lives, it’s who we are, it’s what we’re up to. And we see the new story playing out in every sector of society with young people often leading the way.
I see the new story happening in education where young people are self-directing their own learning and realizing “I don’t need to go sit in that classroom and in that box, I can take my education and my learning into my own hands,” so they step out into the world and they’re beginning to engage with one another outside of the classroom. They’re beginning to engage with the process of life itself and finding their way forward. Education is going through a radical transformation that’s part of the new story. Young people are waking up and realizing that there’s a new story for politics in our time. It’s not an ‘either/or’ politics, it’s a ‘both/and’ politics. It’s a politics of deeply listening and collaborating on behalf of the common good. It’s a politics of openness and transparency and participation, leveraging the technological tools that we have and the wisdom of listening to one another and sitting together in a circle and in groups and allowing the collective wisdom to inform our decisions as a community, as a nation, as a human family.
The new story is playing out in the field of our environment, right? Young people are reconnecting with nature, with the natural world. We’re reshaping the way that we eat and the way that we engage with food. People are growing food locally, working to transform their schools and make sure that fresh and organic food is being served. The climate movement is probably the most vital youth and student movement of our time and young people get that the era of fossil fuels is gone. It’s a new chapter of clean energy that comes from the wind and from the sun. We know that in our lifetime, we will no longer see exhaust coming from cars. We know that a clean energy future is in our midst. It’s already being born and we’re going to continue to make sure that that happens across the planet in every nation, in every community.
So the new story is playing out in every sector and we all have a role to play. Young people are finding their gifts, finding their passions, realizing that ‘hey, we’re all in this together and we’re going to make it happen’. That’s why we’re here, right? That’s why we’ve been born at this time to take the largest step that humanity has ever taken before, right? To step from an old world dying into this new world that’s being born.
Kosmos: Yesterday a young man said to me, “I really came here hoping I would meet a mentor, either an indigenous elder or an older person that I could connect with, but I haven’t encountered anyone that I want to emulate.” What do you think about that?
JG: When I woke up and started to come of age, I had no mentors. I had no one to welcome me into this world, no one to help guide me on my path. I think today’s young people are starving for elders—dying for love and connection and to be seen, to be held. We’re living in a culture where we’re coming of age in a society where our parents and our grandparents haven’t been initiated. What we’re being called for is to initiate each other into something that’s never existed before and so how do we do that? Who’s leading the way?
It’s a new paradigm of mentorship where young people are mentoring their elders and elders are mentoring young people and together, we’re co-creating something new.
Kosmos: Why do you think so many are feeling a sense of awakening at this time?
JG: There is a convergence of crises that is awakening us and it’s calling us to rise to an entirely new way of being human on this planet. There’s a global consciousness that is shaping and forming that’s a part of this awakening and it’s coming through technology. It’s helping awaken us to the many cultures of our world and the many different ways of living. The environmental crisis itself is calling us to wake up and step into a new way of being human on this planet and to be in relationship with Mother Earth in a new way. The challenges are waking us up but also I am a deep believer in the evolution of human kind.
I really do believe that we have come out of life, that we are an evolving species. So for me, adolescence is the age of awakening. It’s the time when we consciously come of age. Just like an individual goes through a process of awakening to our mature selves the human species also goes through a similar process. Right now we’re moving through our adolescence as a species and stepping into our adulthood and there’s a process of awakening unfolding as we develop from our younger selves as a species to our older selves.
I’ve faced the hardest of times. I spent years believing that there was no purpose or point or meaning to life at all and I almost gave up and I almost took my life. So I know how overwhelming these times are and how hard it is to believe that anything matters and that there is hope and purpose. I realized I was only focusing on one side of the story and it took a while to realize that there was a whole other side to the story of our times. Our world is broken and that is so true, but there’s another story unfolding and if you’re not connected to it and if you’re not aware of it, I just want to invite you to seek it out and begin to kind of step out of your comfort zone and seek out people who are part of a different story.
Find people who are actually creating solutions. Find people who are saying ‘no’ to this old world that doesn’t work and who are saying ‘yes’ to a world that does work. Find people who are not just talking about it but creating it and they’re having fun. These are the revolutionaries. The artists. The entrepreneurs. The people who are on fire with creativity and they’re using that creativity to regenerate, renew, restore and refresh our world.
Generation Waking Up (GenUp) is a nonprofit organization based in Oakland, California whose purpose is to ignite a generation of young people to bring forth a thriving, just, and sustainable world. Through their core programs – WakeUp, Thrive, and Synergize – they are helping the Millennial Generation realize its fullest potential and impact.
The interview was conducted by Rhonda Fabian, at Findhorn Foundation and Community in Scotland, during the New Story Summit in October 2014.