Generation Lost

April 2014

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At Yggdrasil, it is our intent to make a special place for young people – those who are just starting to find their way into a world that may not always be built to accommodate their radical, unjaded notions about what is possible, nor their idealistic, unambivalent ideas about what is worth doing. According to the World Economic Forum Global Risks Report 2014, these are precisely the people who will be most affected by the consequences of our willful ignorance today. The next generation has always born the brunt of the mistakes made by their ancestors, but never has the downside of such an inheritance been higher or more potentially devastating.

Calling those coming of age in the 2010s Generation Lost, the report says this:

"In many countries, dramatically high unemployment is frustrating young people’s efforts to earn, generate savings, gain professional experience and build careers. Traditional higher education is ever more expensive and its payoff more doubtful . . ."

"In general, the mentality of this generation is realistic, adaptive and versatile. Smart technology and social media provide new ways to quickly connect, build communities, voice opinion and exert political pressure. This generation of digital natives is full of ambition to make the world a better place, yet feels disconnected from traditional politics and government – a combination which presents both a challenge and an opportunity in addressing global risks."

As I lean into the more hopeful side of my nature, it would appear that Generation Lost is potentially at least a generation of visionary contrarians – full of ambition to make the world a better place. But they are not so sure there is a place for them in the world or that this is a world in which they want to participate. People like me. And you.

What might we speculate is missing, as they look out into the world in which they would seek their place? It seems to me that the answer to this question can be found in the concept of Sacred Balance.

As I hope to illustrate in this blog series in some detail, Sacred Balance is an idea with many dimensions. But at the heart of it is a simple truth:

"Sacred Balance is the marriage of individual creative genius and deep allegiance to the wellbeing of the tribe."

It is clear that Generation Lost brings much individual creative genius to the table, but the table is not set for those with allegiance to the wellbeing of the tribe. It is set for the privileged few who exploit the rest of us and the planetary biosphere for their own benefit. This is a tribe of sorts, I suppose, but it is a rather elitist one, leaving most people – and most other species – out in the cold.

Gone are the good old days of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, or even Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, when there was at least some sense of responsibility – and perhaps even a bit of compassion – toward those at the bottom rungs of our society who were struggling.

Gone are the good old days of Teddy Roosevelt’s commitment to preserve our wild and natural places, or even the strong public sentiment that led Richard Nixon, of all people, to sign the Endangered Species Act into law – thus signaling that 40 years ago, as my generation was coming of age – there was some understanding that our tribe extended beyond the human realm into the more-than-human realm of plants and animals with whom we share this garden planet.

Although Sacred Balance has always been an endangered species, it seems that the very idea of allegiance to the wellbeing of the tribe is no longer part of the equation by which we conduct our business, teach our children, or seek our place in the world. Few even bother to ask the question, “How do my actions impact others or the world at large?” Instead, the more common question seems to be, “What’s in it for me?” Now that corporations are legally deemed to be people – asking this question daily, while wielding disproportionate influence on our political system – the imbalanced paradigm we have created in our culture becomes increasingly deadly to the wellbeing of the tribe.

Here at Yggdrasil, we have created a workshop to address this imbalance – not on the political level, but on the psychological level where we believe all genuine change must start. While it has become something of a cliché to say this, our recipe for change does not stop there. Each of us must not only heal our wounds, but also find ways to transmute that healing into some positive contribution to the wellbeing of the whole. When we find something that works to bring ourselves into balance, it is our responsibility to share it with others – taking us to the second tenet of Sacred Balance:

"Sacred Balance evolves as individual healing fuels a creative contribution to the betterment of the collective."

Each of us has our gifts – our unique individual genius – but each of us also is wounded, in part by being raised in a dysfunctional culture that itself is the product of our collective wounding. To the extent that we fail to adequately address our personal wounds, we will be hampered in our ability to contribute our genius to the wellbeing of the tribe. So our first responsibility is to address and heal our wounds, and the second is to let that healing fuel the evolution of our genius as a gift to the world.

Both responsibilities are necessary to Sacred Balance. If all we focus on is our healing, we are just as imbalanced as those who contribute from a wounded place. Wounded people create a wounded world – which is why healing must be the first order of business. But without a deep allegiance to the wellbeing of the tribe, and a clear intent to make a contribution out of what one has learned through the healing process, whatever healing has been achieved turns into narcissism.

The deadly combination of narcissism – “what’s in it for me?” – and arrogant individualism – “if it’s good for me, it must be good for you” – turns the world into an imbalanced and wounded playground for narcissistic and arrogant individuals. Those with the loudest voices and the most toys win. The rest of us lose. The wellbeing of the tribe suffers, and even the best and brightest of Generation Lost sees no place to apply their talents where Sacred Balance prevails. This is a great loss indeed – for us and for them – and one that Yggdrasil aspires to address.

The next post in this series is A World Built on Duality.

To read more blog posts, go here.