Will Your Kids be Happy?

Of course! Don’t be daft man!

And yet, you might think for a second. How will they find happiness? Hmmm … since we are talking about the future, we need to start with a caution. We cannot know. We can only speculate. My own speculation is that my son (and even more so his kids) will look at me as amazingly antique. And they will look on the things I have done to find happiness as quaint as sporting a pair of hip hugger bell bottom jeans. Why do I think so? Because that is how I looked at my own dear old dad. Poor soul, he was a product of his times.

Dear old dad thought one found happiness with hard work, probity and a good wife.  It was what he learned in the depression. I learned something different. I learned that one found happiness by “following one’s bliss” (Joe Campbell’s mantra). Here is good old Joe wearing a rather natty sports coat

Image result for Joe Campbell

Joe had a huge impact in the US, especially after he appeared on TV in 1981 with Bill Moyers. BTW, that is Bill on the left in the above pic, listening intently.

Robert Bly came along a few years later with a more specific message for men — men needed to re-capture their primitive internalized energy.  From the above-linked New Yorker article

Seeking lessons and cures for the modern man in fairy tales and myth, this flowering of men’s self-help workshops and books managed to be both New Age and retrograde. It emerged genuinely out of feminism or at least claimed an alliance with it, and had as its mega-selling quasi-manifesto Bly’s Iron John: A Book about Men. If you remember it now, it’s probably via the media caricature: so many gatherings of men in midlife crises, trying to get over their lingering daddy issues through primal scream sessions and group runs through the woods. (I think even Saved by the Bell put Mr. Belding in a bearskin around a drum circle in one episode.)

At the time, one had to take this seriously.  These dudes were offering, after all, the key to being happy! Happiness was less in individual application (discipline and work) and more in finding individual satisfaction (creativity and discovery). And I predict that this attitude will become antique.

So what is wrong with Joe and Bob?  It is not so much that they are “wrong”. It is instead that their message is embarrassingly self-indulgent. It fit well in a self-indulgent period.  And in the year of our Lord 2017, we can now put this in a more concrete cultural context —  there is nothing wrong with relentlessly feeding on’s ego … errr … if you want to end up acting like Donald Trump.  Yicky Poo!

So, what will replace this? After the Trump gross out, it will be something that looks better than self-indulgence. And we have a historical parallel. Back in the 1800’s, we got victorian values in reaction to the incredible self-indulgence of the regency period that came immediately before it.

My favorite story of this transition concerns an English gent by the name of Lord Lyndhurst. Here he is, a handsome young man

Image result for Lord Lyndhurst

He was born in 1772  in Boston and was the son of John Singleton Copley, the painter. He rejected the American revolution and moved to London, where he became a very successful lawyer and Tory politician. He was three times Lord Chancellor. And he was a product of his times — unable to resist chasing after the ladies.

As Lyndhurst grew middle-aged, the Victorians were beginning to assert different standards. The story goes that one evening at a ball where Lyndhurst was embarrassing himself chasing after a much younger girl, the hostess complained “Lord Lyndhurst! Do you not believe in platonic relations between a man and a woman?” His answer

“Yes of course. Afterward, but not before!”

Errr ….. indeed. Like it or not, Lyndhurst and his gang made way for a rather different cultural milieu. I predict that we will see a similar shift in the next decades. You can call it neo-victorian if you wish.

There will be a twist. The neo-Victorians will not like this label. They will see their values as something totally different. They will see themselves as bringing an enlightened renaissance of community. A re-discovery of the importance of “connection”.

The vocabulary is already emerging. I think that you can already hear this language in “deep think” pieces. Consider Greg Satell’s thoughts about how the internet of things will revolutionize how we work

It is this third wave, commonly known as the Internet of Things, that has the potential to unleash a new revolution in productivity. Yet it is not only technology that we need to combine. To create truly effective systems like those described above, we need computer scientists working with agronomists, environmental scientists construction engineers and specialists of all kinds.

Innovation, at its core, is combination and that goes not just for technology, but for people. As the bits in our computers begin to invade the atoms of our machines, we all have a part to play.

To read this properly, you should start with a grasp of the cultural value of innovation — it is what we all aspire to do. To innovate or die trying! And innovation is not following your individual bliss – it IS combination.  To combine, one must re-focus from the self to the group.

Stay tuned!

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