Our friend Sara over at Orcinus is one of those people who gets it. Big picture, long view, and a perspective that’s as deep as it is broad. Her latest examination of our collective predicament is a great example.
As long as that core vision holds — as long as people in the group remember who they are and what they’re about — individuals, families, communities, organizations and nations can make and re-make themselves over and over, re-defining themselves to adapt to whatever comes. Leaders come and go. Generations die off and are replaced. Invaders can take away every damn asset they have, sack their cities, pillage their homes, kill their cattle and salt their fields — but as long as their ability to create collective meaning and purpose remains intact, that internal vision gives them everything they need to regroup, rebuild, and carry on.
And, conversely — once they lose that shared worldview and purpose, cultures lose their ability to make any sense out of the world, and dissolve into incoherence. It is, in the end, how they die. As an example, consider the Plains tribes: the buffalo were so central to their culture that when they were gone, many tribes literally lost their ability to order their days, assign significance to their experiences, and define their relationship to each other and the world. Their ability to make any kind of sense of reality died with the buffalo. As Crow chief Plenty Coups put it, “After that, nothing happened.”
Take five minutes and read the whole post.
2008 is going to be an important year in our nation’s history. The more coherently and thoughtfully we examine what our lives are really about, the better off we’ll be down the road.