The New Year: Examining Our Lives and Building Our Dreams through Books

It is hard to believe that we are two decades into this new millennium. And I only barely became able to think of “the teens,” as the 2010s, the reference is so long associated with World War I, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Dada of the 20th century.

50 years after the publication of Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, I think we must admit that we are straddling the greatest cultural transition of the modern era. The lessons of history may inform us but their utility moving forward is limited by what the past didn’t know about the present. In some cases, today’s societal and environmental problems are direct results of yesterday’s flawed beliefs. We are wise to learn history but the future will be different. The challenges we face are complex and if there is any hope of saner and safer futures, it will be found within the collective knowledge of our people. So much is required of modern specialization that the discoveries we need now will likely be by the efforts of many. Exponential increases in knowledge and communication have spread human understanding wide and far, threatening traditional cultures once used to isolation. Cultures are disrupted and bent-out-of-shape the world over in this millennium. We are living the transition.

Looking past the conflicts, examining our plight through books, creative persons can envision cultures devoid of primitive violence that beleaguers us today. It is time for humanity to grow up. The cultures of the world have comported themselves like barbarians, mistaking bluster for reason and defending dogmas of our fathers. Maybe cultural pride wouldn’t be so toxic if the world weren’t such an entanglement of historic exploitation, subordination and war. Like proud fools we bungle the bounty of our experience and fight for our right to clumsy fear.

In a bookstore, the cultures share space. Whatever is less than perfect about our thinking, will improve as we gather humanity together. Each of the world’s religions and philosophies has embedded good precepts in their teachings. But people have fought throughout history over the creative dressing packed around the basics as cultures sought supernatural legitimacy, oppressing opponents and indoctrinating children.

So I am impatient and I believe my impatience is productive, and I hope contagious. We have the knowledge and the means to live sanely together on this planet without ruining it. It is the inertia of cultures that holds us back. The inflexibility of paradigms that depend on exclusivity for validity.

In books, we find humanity’s deepest and most profound thoughts. Humanities problems may be large and unwieldy, but our collective knowledge is adequate to our situation if we could only use it properly. I don’t know what it will take. A few things are sure. Opinions are not facts. Confidence should not be built on ignorance. No-one knows everything. Together we are stronger.

Happy New Year!