We’re the latest instalment of the great human story as it moves from our deep past through the present and into our future. It will continue beyond our reach into the lives of others yet to be born. As in the past, so it is now, and so it will be in the future, this story will have be grandiose mixture of despair and hope, of problems and solutions, of ugliness and beauty. As Eugene Peterson rightly observes:
‘To be human is to be in trouble.’**
Hopefully, though, we are seeing life on Earth moving towards improving in an all-embracing way. The agricultural and industrial revolutions changed human life in many good ways – improving nutrition, employment and education to name a few – but we also know these have had bequeathed disconnection, depersonalisation, and de-skilling – again to name a few things.
Richard Sennett points out that these revolutions brought change from a different place. Change happened faster but not always better:
‘Mechanical change came to the labour force rather than from within the labour movement.’^
Seth Godin envisages a group of people bringing hope from a different place:
‘Entrepreneurship is a chance to trade a solution to someone who has a problem that needs solving. Solve more problems, solve bigger problems, solve problems more widely and you’re an entrepreneur. It’s tempting to industrialise this work, to make it something with rules and bosses and processes. But that’s not the heart of it. The work is to solve problems in a way that you’re proud of.’^^
Artists are another group of who bring something different, when:
‘Artists reflect their times through lenses that influence insight and action, in themselves and in others. In the face of great art, we find our spirits lifted, our views challenged and sometimes our very foundation of understanding tectonically shifted. Arts moves us and out species evolves with this kind of internal striving.’*^
When it comes to human evolution and our impact on the planet, and now into the solar system, imagination changes everything. Instead of randomness moving us from the past to the present, imagination allows us to imagine a different future, making it possible for us to live differently to create the imagined in the present.
Of this tribe, Ursula Le Guin writes:
‘To ask questions which must be asked yet cannot be answered, to create images which can be neither forgotten nor explained – this is the privilege of the most courageous artists.’^*
These entrepreneurs and artists may not look like they are bringing solutions. First they make clear the problem. This may be as far as some can take us, and we should be thankful for them. It’s not that some are born to be artists and entrepreneurs, rather it’s a way of thinking, feeling and doing we each can learn in accord with our differences.
Our revolutions have brought us into a world of abundance, making it possible to produce more faster. Look more closely, though, we see how a lot of this is sameness, and abundance that is sameness feels more like scarcity.
This is a scarcity of the things in which we are different. When we’re living our “different,” we’ll sometimes be a question and sometimes an answer, sometimes a problem and sometimes a solution, but, if we’re getting this right, we’ll see a richer planet for all its species, a richer neighbour, and a richer self.
(*A play on Yesterday shows another day is here, an illustration in Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak’s Open House For Butterflies.)
(**From Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.)
(^From Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.)
(^^From Seth Godin’s blog: Entrepreneurship is not a job.)
(*^Kelvy Bird, from Drawn Together Through Visual Practice.)
(^*From Ursula Le Guin’s Words Are My Matter.)