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From my limited understanding of evolution, natural, as well as cultural history and organic systems, it would appear that when a new element or design—in this case, a new civilization— is being introduced into an organic system, often it first appears in several forms that have a chance to be tested in a variety of situations and environments. Those that thrive, naturally grow and spread. Those that fail to thrive, either become extinct or change in some intrinsic way and are reintroduced.
The new civilization we are currently in the midst of welcoming, in my view is manifesting a number of distinct qualities. Because we are all caught up in the introductory process, it’s impossible to name definitively all its components at this time. The best we can do in the moment is pay respectful attention to what is thriving, notice how seemingly separate elements may be interconnected, and be willing to consider this question: Given what we now know, what might be possible? An alternate question might be: What is the core meaning of what is trying to express itself?
The cutting-edge creative artists—visual, musical, language, movement—of the early twentieth century broke abruptly with the past. Initially, much of their work was rejected by the general public, considered shocking or else simply ignored. Now that we have made it safely into the second decade of the twenty-first century, we can look back and recognize that a key message those creative pioneers were expressing a hundred years ago was: The future will in no essential way resemble the past.
Another lesson from the twentieth century might be the extent to which communications
of all kinds, as well as other systems, sped up exponentially. During that process of
acceleration, we came to recognize: Everything and everyone on planet Earth is
both interconnected and interdependent. Many spiritual traditions had been telling us
this for millennia, of course, but not until science—the current abiding belief system of
“Western Civilization”—adopted this creed, did the general public consider falling in line
behind it. Because of ever-changing cyber-technology, our twenty-first century systems
can and do, in increasingly large proportions, bypass hierarchy. What has been
emerging in recent decades and spreading globally are a number of ways and means of
communication that allow for the “man/woman on the street” to have a decision-making
role in matters of shared concern. With shared concern comes shared responsibility.
These communication systems include such practices as mediation (disputants agreeing
to invite a “neutral” to assist them in resolving their own dispute with no outside
arbitrator or judge), World Café, Open Space, Appreciative Inquiry, to name a few.
These communication systems all tend to acknowledge and support our
interconnectedness and interdependence.
In addition to these above trends, I suspect the fact that so many of our entrenched
institutions—political, economic, educational, religious, etc.—seem increasingly
dysfunctional is because they have outlived their usefulness and are about to be, or are in
the process of being replaced by systems that will support the needs of a New
As I contemplate what may lie ahead as this New Civilization unfolds, I am reminded of the age-old four basic pillars of an effective Communicator:
• Show up
• Pay attention
• Tell the truth
• Be open to outcome.
Happily, some things never change.
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