I recently bounced upon Mary Catherine Bateson’s lecture at the “Seminars about Long Term Thinking” of the “Long Now Foundation”, entitled “Live Longer, Think Longer”. A marvelous moment of well-feeling, of pure wisdom, dotted with humor and “deep thoughts for thought”…
A lecture that brings some hope for escaping the alienation of our “current life”. I recommend here Hartmut Rosa‘s fascinating book “Alienation and Acceleration: Towards a Critical Theory of Late-Modern Temporality”. His ideas are of great importance to weave my point here.
With life expectation rising, is it still reasonable to hope for the retirement that Bismarck envisaged when average lifetimes were 45 years? What’s the effect of “retiring” for so long? How long, on the other hand, can you remain healthy following the alienating and accelerating pace of current life? Do we have to face this dilemma?
No, says Mary Catherine Bateson. In her book “Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom” she proposes a real meaningful alternative life for all “retired” adults. Meaningful to the highest degree: She sees retired adults taking on nothing else than a key role in transitioning our societies towards the Future. That’s the message of her lecture and follow-up discussion with Stewart Brand
And this relates to my current re-reading of Robert Kegan‘s 1994 book, “In over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life”. Especially section IV with Chapter 9 on “Conflict, Leadership and Knowledge Creation” and Chapter 10 on “On Being Good Company for the Wrong Journey“.
Kegan’s ideas did not age.
Unfortunately they did not diffuse either.
His core question remains unchallenged: What order of consciousness will allow human beings to respond positively to the demands of a post-modern culture?
We do remain stuck answering: How to bring that about?
Weaving all these ideas together allows me to become very hopeful. In these “accelerating, alienating times”, (Hartmut Rosa) a key role is set aside for those who succeed in retiring from this hectic life. By “living longer, thinking longer” they can greatly contribute to help Humanity transition to a new civilization (Mary Catherine Bateson). They are uniquely qualified to fulfill the demands that Post-Modernist confront us with “demands on our minds that need to rise to a higher level, demands on exploring further how we know, in the complexity of our Consciousness” (Robert Kegan).
Now remember Robert Kegan’s Chapter 10 title:
“On Being in Good Company for the Wrong Journey”.
Can we transform that? Can we escape Hartmut Rosa’s Alienation? A partial Yes comes from Mary Catherine Bateson and Robert Kegan: They see retired people metamorphosing to provide hope and meaning, and become immensely valuable “Good Company” for the young – so worried and ill-prepared for the future – and the active adults – alienated and distanced by the accelerating complexity of modern life?
But what about avoiding the Wrong Journey? Are there clues that we can explore the Right Journey?
Yes there are! Let me illustrate just one.
I am so lucky to be in “Good Company” with contrarians like Bruce Beck and Michael Thompson. Lucky and thrilled to see them engaged on the way for “The Right Journey”. Not only intellectually, also very practically.
The journey I want to highlight here is Cities as Forces for Good in the Environment Project, presented to the US National Academy of Engineering as a Grand Challenge for Engineering for the next 100 years.
I’ve recently highlighted this journey elsewhere on this blog ( here and here ), drawing the attention particularly to Bruce Beck’s disruptively innovative Sustainability Concept Paper, that weaves together so well all the ideas above, into a real life project that can become World-Transforming.
The “Right Journey” is also appearing at the horizon.
Weaving ideas for a “Good Future Life” and sharing them, is what I have engaged in here. I’m aware that this might render my post – in particular with so many links – rather tedious to explore.
I hope nevertheless to find some retired people who will want to take the time to read through and follow the links, who will accept to be challenged, who will let themselves be drawn in changing their minds, in exploring the way that they know, in expanding the complexity of their consciousness.
In doing so they will become “Good Company” for all those who choose to courageously explore the path for the “Right Journey”
And who knows, maybe even some non retired, and some young, pioneers, will read too and engage in the challenge?
Let me know, tell me what you think, advice me, I need feedback, my motto being:
“Always Learning, Never Getting it Right”
I do need you since learning is always social.