Welcome to the New Age

flowers in IrelandMonopoly, the board game, always ends badly (at least for the group).  If we realize that we are the group, that old-school game that became a hit in the last “Great” Depression may reveal itself as a teacher of compassion and enlightened Self-interest in our current economic conditions.

The economy is in the crapper and the group is scared.  It’s hot now and the summer sizzle’s not generally bringing out the best in our individual and collective moods.  The solar eclipse of the century is about to appear in Mumbai and sweep across Nepal and much of Asia in a couple of days, and there is a feeling of strange portents and change hanging over the world.  We seek refuge in the coolness of the movie theater and the “coming attractions” show us that Hollywood has figured out where the wild things are (and put them in something that looks like a Coke commercial from the 1960’s) while 2012 is planning to arrive early by some sort of space-time C-section—and it’s not going to be pretty (yet we’re supposed to get some popcorn and watch our collective dread get super-sized in what turns out in the end to be nothing but a carefully crafted rat-trap deliberately constructed to part us from our money by exploiting our fears).  Besides, given our actual economy, I doubt that the future will have the sort of production budget it takes to destroy everything in such a grandiose manner.

T.S. Eliot predicted that the universe would end, “Not with a bang, but with a whimper.”  And that’s a good thing because then the new universe can be born, not with a “big bang” but with a newborn’s cry of “I’m here, love me, soothe me, feed me and teach me basic trust again.”  This is how we parents might get back to “paradise”—the space-time where we once lived in complete harmony with nature, and from which our children arrive as ambassadors… until we convert them to our crazy ways.

I have a lot of clients who work (or should I say “used to work”) in advertising, and that whole industry is in code blue and not likely to ever fully recover to its former self.  And while I hate to see anyone suffer, I’m encouraging our Mad Men (and women) to think about what they actually want to brand and promote in the future.  We’ve all bought a lot of things that we don’t need, and now we fear losing them again (even though they failed to bring us happiness).  It’s like even those of us who “won” at Monopoly now have to put the game aside to confront the actual bills.

Many of us tend to think of the group as a dangerous beast that gives rise to war and chaos.  And we psychologists know that the “diffusion of responsibility” means that there is danger that in the group, no one may step up to help another in distress because they figure that someone else will.  This leads to a collective culture where bullying becomes the norm and the worst in the group gets to exploit fear and prosper, but only to their own detriment and empty misery in the end.  When the system collapses, there’s no one left to draw into the Ponzi scheme and even the tycoons lose Park Place.

But while I have my own fears of “the group” (and blog as an introvert, paradoxically seeking to speak to the quieter part of us all who is tired of screaming headlines, non-authentic being, un-helpful “help” and rage-inducing alienation, shame and fear) I also have hope that the zeitgeist may be shifting toward a more consciously connected time.  If this is true, it will prove true; if it’s not true, nothing we say or do will make it true.  The way to harmonize with our time is to understand it, and that is why I am an advocate for consciousness more than for change of any particular stripe.

The group will do better by being less of a group in its thinking.  If we can become a diverse and respectful rag-tag bunch of non-scared and non-miserable individuals we may wake up to discover that the group problems take care of themselves when we take better care of the specific individuals in our lives—particularly our children.  This does not necessarily mean training them to acquire Boardwalk, but rather learning to be happy with what, and who, we are right now.  There is a lot of sadness and anger floating around right now, but maybe we all need to go to our blackberry/iPhone/Mac/PC windows and not shout, but whisper, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!”

Try a different game with your kid today.  Co-build a block tower; co-create a song or a story; take a bike ride or a walk in the forest and collect some leaves.  Go to the farmer’s market and eat a peach, or dare to walk along the beach.

Namaste, Bruce

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