by David Barrett
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.” Dickens, Tale of Two Cities
Like many others, I’ve been wondering more and more, “What can we do to create in a time that seems to reflect this Dickensian world?” With an undeniable collapse of business as usual comes the associated need for invention. As the systems we have so embraced as standards and practices to keep our economic machine chugging along go haywire, we are fools to sit back and wait for the nex Ponzi scheme or “drill, baby, drill” mantra to fuel our engines. Can we really be so foolish as to hook our wagon – once again – to quick fixes that continue taking us down the inevitable slippery slope of the perfect storm: peak oil, religious fundamentalism (of all faiths), global climate change, and giganticism?
OR (The Call to Action)
Do we take stock of the dire straits we find ourselves in and see need, not greed…can we change our perspective from passive observers and codependents in this highly dysfunctional family and reclaim some power? As good capitalists – natural capitalists maybe – can we see that needs mean opportunities? Is this system not ripe for creative solutions? As designers of our future, are we not in the position to reclaim design as a meaningful act – one that looks at the big picture and as Charles and Ray Eames suggested in a similar season of design revolution, “Look for the big things in the little things, and the little things in the big things?” These words so clearly instruct us to think globally, think systemically & holistically; recognize interconnectivity, put on our telescopic minds!
powers of 10 courtesy the Eames
Now these words come relatively easy to me. Oh, I’ve been preaching this for years – “Powers of 10” meets “The Long Emergency.” But what I realize is how difficult it is for me to break my own molds. I too fall into fear. I fall back on habitual ways. My mind closes to true creativity as I assume too many protocols, shoulds, and self limitations. I am part of the old way as much as I resist it. I too often know what I am doing – and by extension am not exploring. I am continuing in the deep grooves of patterned response versus facing the truly blank page.
So I challenge us all to shake off the stupor that we find ourselves in. Give ourselves a whack upside the head, and go deeper! Reframe the question. Challenge the often narrowly stated premise. Seek other sources, other disciplines for models. Insist on using both sides of our brains. Co-create instead of isolate. Include the exuberant young in your brainstorming, or invite the wisdom of an elder in your contextualizing. Dream big, but remember “(your) God may be found in the details.” Embrace your role as both a problem seeker and a solution finder! Maybe most importantly, get over our fear. Use it to remind ourselves that we are human, but don’t get frozen in it.
This is a time asking us to rethink, reimagine, and take personal action – a time to write our own Tale. There are infinite possibilities and opportunities for those who decide to drop the cynicism and be part of the next wave’s authorship. Surf’s up!