Truly Powerful People (353)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

The tagline to this blog is something that I think about a lot: it’s not in what you get from life, it’s in what you bring to it. To me, this tagline is more than a clever phrase or nice sentiment. It’s more than a philosophical guide-star. The more that I think about it and do the work that is mine to do in the world, the more I realize that it’s an imperative of our time. It’s also an opportunity. Here’s my thought trail:

Something extraordinary is happening in my lifetime; it is something that has never happened before in the history of humanity. It lives under the broad category of The Pace of Change but this one we rarely talk about or factor into our news of the day even though it impacts every nuance of contemporary life. The first time I heard about it I was sitting in a classroom in elementary school though it meant almost nothing to me at the time. The second time I heard it I was in college and I leaned into it because I knew it was far more important than I could grasp as the time. Now, I’m living in the time that my teachers told me was coming; it’s not an abstraction, no need to think about it, I see it all around me every day.

It is this simple fact: it took many thousands of years for the population of human beings to double. The next doubling only took a few thousand years. The next doubling took a few hundred years. Never before now has the population of human beings doubled in the span of a single lifetime. And, in my lifetime, assuming I will live to a ripe old age, the population will triple. There were 3 billion people on the planet when I was born. In the space of 80 years, a mere blink of the eye, and there will be 9 billion people.

“What’s the big deal?” you might ask. Simply this: our systems and economic ideals – our way of thinking about the world – are rooted and structured in colonial intentions: it’s all about commanding and controlling the resources. It’s all in what we get. Manifest Destiny was a nice idea for the folks playing on the chosen team but was a horror story for the rest of the world’s people. It continues to be a horror story though now we have television and the internet so we can look at it if we choose to look. It might be new news but we citizens of the United States of America consume far more than we produce. We were the only nation on earth to occupy that special category until the late 1970’s. Now, each year, more nations join us in our model of consumption. It is an old and increasingly untenable idea to be in the world according to what we can get. It’s a global economy. That is more than a nice phrase; it is a functional reality and economies, local and global (no separation) run on the movement and flow of resources.

We are quite capable of going to war for oil or water or spice (salt was all the rage before the age of oil) but I suspect we’ve outgrown the good guys-n-bad guys storyline. The chosen people story is another variation of the good guys-n-bad guys story; it’s a useful story to mask a resource war but in a truly global economy it seems a bit out dated. We can do better. The earth’s belly is pregnant with people so obviously interconnected that it requires gargantuan hubris not see that we are, in fact, in this together. Transcending the tribal thing and the colonial thing is, in my mind, the real challenge of our times.

Life lived according to what we get prospers a few in the short term and wreaks havoc on everyone in the long term. It is an operating principle that worked really well for a few people when the population afforded lots of space and we communicated with smoke signals and pigeons. Today, it still works well for a shrinking few but since there are more and more of us… well, you get the picture.

The opportunity is not to continue cycling through models of dominance. The opportunity is to grow and reorient to the world in which we live now. We live in an extraordinary time because the opportunity for real change is present. We can continue to live according to what we get or we can pull our heads out of the sands of the past and take a look at what me might actually bring to the feast.

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