Thursday, July 07, 2011

Accepting change

Richard Thieme, a writer, formerly a priest, is a brilliant speaker, whom I had the occasion to see recently at a conference. His website, Thiemeworks, has many interesting pieces of writing by him. Here's a passage from an essay titled "The face we see in the digital mirror", that merits reflection (italics mine):

Think of the common spiritual practice of “journaling,” for example. Journaling began when people like James Boswell participated in the discovery and creation of a different kind of sensibility and self by using pen and paper to bring it into being. Today, bloggers engage in a web of self-discovery that older generations dismiss as shallow, but the collective self they are co-creating is in fact appropriate to the technology. When William Harvey described the circulation of blood, it is a historical fact that no physician over 40 ever accepted his theory. In religious life, too, new revelations are accepted one funeral at a time, but along a much longer timeline. Generations must pass away before the new sun can rise and shine.
In more mundane aspects of our lives, however, this impact cannot be avoided. Aspects of our lives that used to be unthinkably accepted as fixed by tradition, for example, have become modules in a self-generated persona or trajectory for which we are increasingly required to accept responsibility. Teaching children to learn how to learn is more important than teaching children stuff. Teaching children how to assemble themselves in an ongoing way is more important than teaching them how to live in a fixed and rigid way in a context that refuses to remain stable and thereby undermines that very fixity.
We used to be born into a religion, for example, and now we change religions and “shop for churches.” We used to stay married, but more and more people divorce and remarry. We used to choose a vocation and stay with it, but now we expect to have several careers in a lifetime. In every dimension of our lives, that which we took for granted as divinely ordained was in fact determined by an unvarying context for our lives, and it is that very context that our technologies undermine and transform. Then new contents inevitably flow into the new contours generated by a new context.