Isn't that the big question? How shall we live?
We imagined for a century or so--at least here in the northern hemisphere--that we were on our way to becoming gods. We could control nature. We could move beyond the limitations of our bodies and intellects. Only the slow march of progress stood between our having whatever we wanted. If there are problems, we'll invent the technology to fix it.
We moved so fast that our cultural traditions--which used to provide road maps for personal behavior and community survival--began to seem outdated and obsolete. We shook them off. We strove for freedom of choice. We can live any way we like.
But lately, the practicality undermines the philosophy. The world economy is in a tail spin. The planetary eco-system is in crisis. We can still do anything we like, but there could be grave consequences. Hopping on the career treadmill and believing that it will take you to a place of tranquil security and prosperity is seeming a little more empty.
On the political level, leaders are doing their best to shore up our existing way of life, to shore up the old dream. But what I'm not sure about is whether our existing way of live is sustainable--and I mean sustainable in the largest sense of the word. Could we dream of something better?
On the one hand, that's a scary thought--that the way we live can't last--but we could consider it an opportunity. When you look at it that way, the questions change. Are there more enduring satisfactions we could find without harming the planet? Is there a better life we can have? What, in other words, should be our new tradition?
How shall we live?
And PS, who is in charge of figuring that out?
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.