In order to understand who we are, we need to understand the culture that we live in. Over the past three or four generations, we have transitioned from a culture where we were subjects to powerful institutions to where we became captives to a culture focused on consumer products. And now, we are on the cusp of a third cultural transition. The following selection is from my short book, Seeing Below the Surface: The Brokenness of Modern Organizations.
None of us see below the surface of things. We fool ourselves into believing that we understand what is going on, when we only see the shiny surface of things. As Paul Simon wrote in his great 1960s pop hit, The Boxer, “People believe what they want to believe, and disregard this rest.” If seeing is believing, then we only believe in the appearance of what we see, not the substance of it.
The structure of the modern organization is collapsing. It is crumbling from within. The structure is no longer adequate for the fast-paced world of change that we live in. In many respects, its persistence is an act of denying reality.
Professor Joseph Tainter describes collapse as “a rapid simplification of an overly complex system.” It happens because societies become good at solving problems. As a result, greater complexity occurs. What does this complexity look like?
To recover reality is not to challenge the simulacrums of our time. But rather seek to understand the larger context in which these simulations / spectacles function.
The ancients would describe this capacity to discern reality as wisdom. While wisdom is certainly in short supply and in great demand, it is only one piece of a wider fabric of reality that is needed.
One of the results of the world of simulation and spectacle is the loss of the capacity for open, trustworthy, mutually caring relationships. Instead, we have connections with people. We have “friends” whom we’ve never met, had coffee or seen face to face.
I am convinced that the recovery of reality comes through the establishment of relationships of genuine meaning and love.
For to love another person requires a kind of reality that allows for honesty, emotional intimacy and commitment to the care and nurture of the relationship.
There is a choice we can make here. Live in the midst of the spectacle of the real or step back and try to understand how we can begin to live in ways that make a tangible difference in the way the world we live works.