"One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that."
- Joseph Campbell
C GEORGE SOPER. COPYRIGHT ON BEHALF OF THE AGBI, BY PERMISSION OF CHRIS BEETLES GALLERY, SPECIALISTS IN THE WORK OF GEORGE SOPER. WWW.CHRISBEETLES.COM
All animals - the human one included - experience their phases of life. Birth, infancy, healthy growth, the relative stasis of maturity, decay, death. At some point during maturity, the zenith - the peak - is reached. That stage of life at which the system is functioning at the optimal level for producing the best of outcomes. Human beings have some control over how long this peak extends in our individual lives based on the decisions we make about how we live. Hopefully we make wise ones - avoiding falling into excesses of greed, gluttony, lust, acts of hubris, etc - and barring random Acts of God it's a long, rewarding ride.
This is also true of civilizations, that they experience these phases of life. And if they are founded in durable concepts and run carefully with an overarching wisdom governing the outcomes of our indisputably enormous cleverness, with the right checks and balances and an eye to maintaining optimal scale, we can similarly extend that period during which the maximum benefit for the maximum number of citizens prevails.
I wonder looking at the trajectory of the modern world, which let's say for argument's sake began in late 18th Century England with the birth of The Industrial Revolution, at which point between then and now did we enjoy our zenith? That point during which we were reaping the maximum benefits for the maximum number of people at the same time as enjoying a model that was arguably sustainable, that is, in overall harmony with its ecological context and therefore with the potential for enjoying the long-haul? What did life look like then?
I picture this continent being at its zenith when it had the most hybrid vigor. That is, there were lawyers and businesspeople and doctors and firemen and architects and professional composers and musicians and academics, all the likely suspects of today in fact thriving in towns great and small with gorgeous structures built to last at the same time as there were mounted tribesmen chasing bison over epic swards while clans of the backwoods scions of rugged Ulster Scots up mountain coves made the air ring to the strains of Celtic folkmusic grafted to African rhythms and a mixed race of French/Indigenous lead a similar hybrid lifestyle on Red River of the North. Both ends of the human spectrum and everything in between. Specialists and generalists alike, with plenty of room both physical and economic for a multitude of approaches and economies. Underwritten in the settled places by mixed family farms practicing an enduring, human-scaled agriculture based on renewable power sources. Clean water and air for all and surrounded by a diversity in nature. The ultimate freedom of human expression in other words at the same times as allowing for a much greater freedom of natural expression than we currently see.
The people who populate this vision are still amongst us. All the types are extant, but their ability to express their range of natures is sorely compromised. Given the awakening of the realization that we are at a juncture where the current model has become morbidly maladaptive, could we then begin work to re-create these conditions of true diversity? To use time honored yet ill-advisedly abandoned approaches alloyed with those modern advancements that show the most promise for affecting our longevity for re-introducing such hybrid vigor to our model? As a vaccine against our current steepening decline? Could we work to broaden the parameters while reducing the scale once again? To recover our cultural health, our vitality, reduce human conflict and conflict with nature? To enjoy the economic resiliency that such a model possesses? Choosing wisely this time, drawing from the vast breadth of all our experience and wisdom could we make it last for the sake of our children and other lifeforms? I don't know the answer to this. I don't think anyone does. But I know i am far from alone in asking these questions, in envisioning such an outcome.
And I know it is worth attempting.
Have a look at our "Education/Contact" page for info on the author.