Wednesday, January 7, 2009
The security of insecurity
I've been having a lot of conversations lately with people interested in looking beyond the economic collapse at the larger shift in values that's happening, the cultural reassessment and reordering around identity, meaning, connection, authenticity.
This morning a friend of mine, a creative director at a NY agency, sent me his take on the upheaval in our business, in the world.
You've mentioned the career new stage we've hyperspaced into. A professional period of imposed flux that's new, scary, different and disorienting. But one that's also offset with the glimmer of fresh opportunities. And the chance to reinvent your way to some better, happier, funner, more sustainable thing than the thing you've (we've) clung to.
For Christmas, my mother renewed my cherished subscription to the Voice, the politically obnoxious newspaper of my hometown of St. Matthews, Kentucky. In addition to the photos of old friends in the Society section and the Kentuckiana sports coverage from Earl Cox, I always enjoy the insights of psychologist Paul Schmidt, who writes an occasional column called Understanding Each Other.
Schmidt recently wrote about how we can get through this downturn/upheaval, the loss of our institutions of security: banks, markets, the 30-year-mortgage, the job.
He suggests we give this time our full attention, resist the urge to sweep it under the rug or be only bitter or cynical about it. He says it's helpful looking at how people get through other grief in their lives, death and illness.
This is a good time to shut down some activities and trim back others. Before we can amplify, we need to simplify. Only by feeling the emptiness of what we have lost can we come to feel our appreciation for what we have had all along. And what might that be?
We can realize that the best things in life are not only free, but safe from government eradication. I'm talking about the affection of loved ones, the laughter of children, the worship of God, learning new things, sitting down to read, listening to music, the warmth of a fire, the fellowship of friends, the exhilaration of exercise, the wonders of nature, writing to loved ones, helping a neighbor and giving blessings to those less fortunate than we are. Look back and remember how you enjoyed such precious moments in the past, and reach out to start creating them again for the future.
I saw Ben Stein on CNN talking about what will get us out of this economic mess is for us to go out and spend money, and it just sounded so false. It felt false. "If everybody saves, we all become poorer." Huh?
My family has been living closer to the ground since I left my job in October. We are more intentional about the money we spend. I'm making my coffee at home and bringing it in in the thermos my wife bought me for Christmas. We scaled back Christmas. We are having more non-monetized family experiences, like sledding, making stuff, experiments. We are having fewer blah unmemorable $60 dinners. We enjoy spending our money and are mindful of what it can, or can't, bring into our lives. I can't imagine that the answer to anything right now is to up our spending.
Yes, our 201(k) is hurting and the kid's college funds are disappearing, but it's been a wonderful time, this insecure time. The quality of our life seems to have expanded. I am enjoying my family and aware of the gifts and blessings around in family and friends. I am more grateful of a lot of things I'd taken for granted.
In addition to the personal, internal upside of this upheaval, I am also interested in the external, universal thing that is going on. The upleveling of the dialogue.
The reason I love Obama is not because he is advancing the aims of the Democratic Party, it's because all of his politics eminate from the simple idea that there are not two kinds of people in America - your people and all the people you disagree with - but one America. The implication of us all fully incorporating this simple and overlooked concept, it's profound.
Yes, Rick Warren is doing the invocation. Great. All the liberals get to see how positive and progressive Christianity can be, Rick takes the anti-gay stuff on his website and maybe he and his followers become a little more tolerant and inclusive. Both sides expand. That's why democracy, if done right, is the most growth-minded political system. The tension yields results bigger than the sum of the parts.
I find it all tremendously exciting. There's a sense of an upward thrust to all this chaos. I feel like I know where it's eventually headed, yet I feel naked exposing it on a blawg, because of its corniness and fragility and audacity, but here goes: the rise of our consciousness, a shared realization that we are all living on the same ball, floating in space, none of us with any clue, really, so the least we can do is be kind to each other so that we can all experience the fullness of life.
That's where we're headed. Not sure how fast. It's going to be a crazy ride. Exciting to be a part of it, isn't it?