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Coronavirus Disease 2019

There’s a Disturbance in the Force, Luke

Don’t let the dream shrink anymore. Don’t disbelieve it. Give it new life now.

It is The Time of Big Energy.

The Winds have shifted.

The times are liminal, emergent: Whatever is coming is not predictable by what was past.

It is a structural break. It is archetypal/apocalyptic/gigantic/volcanic/titanic.

The re’s are here: re-configurations/re-imaginings/re-structurings are upon us.

We are in an initiation, a reckoning. First, we grieve, then we repent, and then we get to work. More is needed than pivots through a crisis… this soul-sized confrontation with ourselves, our commitments and complacencies, means we will be digging deep for a sustained time. Some are not up for the journey—they want to go back to what was. We leave them behind to fend for themselves.

Christopher Frye in 1955 wrote this (paraphrased and reduced a bit):

Dark and cold we may be, but this is no winter now.
The frozen misery of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move…
Thank God we are alive when wrong rises up to meet us everywhere
Never to leave us until we have taken the longest stride of soul humanity has ever taken.

John P. Schuster
Source: John P. Schuster

Frozen miseries—long-term, centuries-old historic blocks to progress—are melting/breaking. More diversity, equality, justice, a world that works better, an economy that serves communities and families better, all levels are possible for springing forth with new life now. How long, how long, the human spirit has ached for better life and work structures and patterns that serve the spirit, not compress it, or delay it, or maim it.

But we could blow it. Not make it. Outcomes are unknown. That’s why we dig deep: So few opportunities to remake ourselves, starting with the person in the mirror, are so dramatically presented. The forces for regression, stagnation, and re-freezing the old miseries with new twists are far from gone. Particularly in America, the stakes are high. The social experiment of America that I joined in the mid-20th century had been long leading the way for soul-sized strides of improved human possibility. We still are in many areas (before my travel life halted with COVID-19, many an Uber and Lyft driver immigrated from somewhere on the planet, would tell me so) but we have lost ground, not just these last years, but for decades.

Born into this great dream in 1948, to be exact, by the time Vietnam’s miseries and Watergate’s disillusionment set in, I was 30 and the dream’s fabric was fraying out. As mentor Frederic Hudson said, in 1991 no less (this continues my series on his relevance for our time):

"When the people of a society respond to complex change by diminishing their past beliefs and present expectations without an infusion of new vision and hope that Society becomes increasingly dysfunctional … Personal isolationism in the '70s and '80s meant upwardly mobile Americans responded to their weakening grip on the world with personal isolationism 'if we can't make our dream happen in the workplace or society and beyond, then we'll make it happen in our personal lives' acquiring things, capital, fun. It is no secret that in the past 20 years [now 50 years!] we have neglected our communities, the world, and the dream itself.

"Overall our adult American response to change is a sense of loss followed by a reduction of our values to individual interests.”

(From The Adult Years, 1991. Hudson's last work organization, Hudson Institute of Coaching, cofounded with his widow Pam McLean, carries on his work.)

We, me and the boomers, unwittingly shrank the dream, a little at a time, rather than muster up the courage and necessary thinking to face our frustrations and failings, find ways to work together, and re-commit. We dropped our guard. We seduced ourselves. We gained big screens, fitness centers, and 401(k)s, while our citizen/community muscles atrophied, spiritual bank accounts depleted, ecosystems and species disappeared.

A failure of nerve. Coping and playing it small instead of re-imagination for who we could be. We kept using much of the language of the dream but missed its spirit. We let the pundits stir up some energizing outrage, tell us what to think, whom to ridicule. All the while, the fraying continued. The disturbance in the force amplified.

So this from me, now in my eighth decade, to those my age still up for it, and to the younger generations I so enjoy interacting with. Don’t let the dream shrink anymore. Don’t disbelieve it. Give it new life now. This Time of the Big Energy allows new structures, new dynamics to emerge. Complacency is not easy now. Pretending won’t get it done, like thinking a V-shaped recovery will take us back to where we need to be. We need a recovery and safety from a pandemic of course, but more so we need to see who we are, and what we want to stand for. We can stop the shrinking and start the shifting.

My generation could have done much better. We will help you, best as we can with what life we have left. You will show us how pluralism and justice in a twenty-first-century version of the dream looks, from the streets of Minneapolis to the farther reaches of the global community with whom we breathe the same air.

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