In last week’s blog, I discussed the transformative worldview, in which “diverse paths are possible and attainable, and a globalized worldview or other visions of the future are not an inevitable scenario of how the future will or should play out.” Today I will focus on one complex aspect of the transformative worldview: its cultural patterns.
Cultural Patterns of the Transformative Worldview
Many people hold to new and emerging transformative ideals such as cooperation, community, and holistic thinking. “Holistic” means that all the traits of a culture—economic, technological, social, political, religious, ideological, and cultural—interact with and reinforce each other. Holistic thinking also sees the world as an intricately interconnected organism; accentuates uncertainty, approximations, and relativity instead of absolutes; calls for interdependence instead of independence; and recognizes seemingly paradoxical concepts. Highly regarded are Eastern philosophies and religious thought that emphasize cyclical thinking, highlight harmony with nature, and see unity within diversity and diversity within unity.i
A holistic perspective recognizes that nature, which has been treated for centuries as dead and mechanical, is an animate, invisible organizing power. The Earth, Gaia, is seen as a living organism, interconnected within a web of life. This perspective counters the split between nature and humans, which threatens life on Earth. A holistic view intuits that an underlying consciousness circulates within humans, life on Earth, and the Universe, connecting all into an intricate, interdependent circle of existence.
Some people holding a transformative worldview are embracing alternative forms of spirituality, which depart from the universal religions that arose over 5,000 years ago. The New Age movement, emerging out of the West in the 1960s and 1970s, is an umbrella term that embraces an eclectic array of spiritual beliefs and practices. It encompasses a wide range of personal development strategies and healing tactics to improve human well-being. Deepak Chopra, the spiritual teacher, states that New Age values support conscious evolution, a nonsectarian society, a nonmilitary culture, global sharing, healing the environment, sustainable economies, self-determination, social justice, economic empowerment of the poor, love, and compassion in action.
Some women have resurrected feminist spirituality, which encourages a connection with the sacred feminine and worship of the goddess who they claim has been suppressed by male-dominated universal religions. My cousin, a practicing shaman, performs rituals for clients and friends, such as fire ceremonies, that she contends burn away negative feelings and evil entities, resulting in a cleansing of the soul and renewal of positive energy.
The field of ecopsychology, connecting psychology with ecology, offers many people a way to spiritually connect with Mother Earth. Ecopsychologists maintain that this emotional connection between individuals and the natural world will help them develop sustainable and simple lifestyles and remedy alienation from nature. They support preserving nature on public lands, bringing nature into civic spaces, and connecting nature to their own personal space. Instead of the traditional lawn of green grass and shrubs, my neighbor has a menagerie of native plants that provides a welcome sanctuary for birds and other wildlife.
In some ways, postmodernism is part of the transformative worldview. Postmodern thinkers of the 20th century deconstructed the objective, scientific, modern worldview that has held sway for centuries and instead posited that there is no fixed meaning, canon, tradition, or objectivity, only infinity of meaning. This way of thinking erodes classical, rational liberalism, the cornerstone of the modern worldview.ii
Aesthetic expression in a transformative worldview differs from that of the globalized worldview. In many instances, the distance between the observer/observed or entertainer/entertained is reduced or eliminated. A person does not necessarily go to a concert and sit passively as the observer but may participate in the musical production by performing him- or herself or helping with the production. For example, a dancer in the audience might spontaneously participate in the dancing. The professional qualities that make certain artists celebrities are blurred, and the boundaries between the performer and audience fall away. A small, neighborhood theater in Pennsylvania, for example, featured audience participation as they followed sing-along tunes reminiscent of the 1960s television show Sing Along with Mitch. The audience was the performer.
Another example is the self-publishing book industry, which has recently skyrocketed. The big publishing houses no longer dictate what will be available to the book-buying public. Instead, individual authors can “self- publish” their own books, freed of restrictions imposed by corporate publishing entities. Also, blogs, tweets, and other forms of social media are not governed by established rules; authors can publish whatever they determine is important to them.
Questions to Consider
1. Do any of the cultural patterns of the transformative worldview resonate with you?
Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator and president of the nonprofit Center for Global Awareness. The Center for Global Awareness develops books and materials with a holistic, global focus for adult learners and educators. In January 2018, the CGA will launch the Global Awareness Adult Conversation and Study Program, or Gather. In this unique program, adult learners form small study groups to launch conversations about pressing global issues, seeing different perspectives, transcending deep political and cultural divides, and engaging with others to create positive change. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.global-awareness.org for more information.
i Fritjof Capra, The Turning Point: Science, Society, and the Rising Culture (Toronto: Bantam Books, 1982), 21-53.
ii Norman F. Kantor, American Century: Varieties of Culture in Modern Times (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), 425-431.