Living In A Paradigm Shift

To change the way we live, we must change the way we believe.
Such a change can only come from a powerful and
holistic view of who we are in the universe.
– Gregg Braden, Choice Point 2012
Sometimes a person’s mind is stretched by a new idea
and never does go back to its old dimensions.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes
See, I make all things new!
– Revelation 21:4

Scholars describe our present age as a “transformational time.”  According to most analysts, Western civilization in particular is now in the process of a profound paradigm shift in nearly every area of life.  The word “paradigm” refers to the mental model or framework that we construct to help us navigate life. We construct our individual paradigm from all that we are taught by others and the meaning we create from our experiences.

The ultimate paradigm within which we live out our days is a “cosmology,” or the story we create for ourselves of how our world came into being and our place in it. It is the answer to the spiritual question: “Where Are We?”

In the early 1990’s, James W. Fowler (1991), the noted author on the stages of human faith development, called ours a “brewing, yeasty time of falling walls and paradigm transformations” (p. xi).  Those of us who viewed the dramatic television images of the falling of the Berlin Wall, ending the Cold War era, will ever forget it. Yet, at the same time old ways are dying, a new world is taking shape.

Fowler names a combination of factors contributing to this large-scale paradigm shift. They include the so-called “liberation movements,” the transformative social movements that arose in various areas of our planet in the last half of the 20th Century. These movements encourage new ways of thinking. Many call for a change from the dominant White, Anglo-Saxon, male-oriented framework of Western culture. They call for including in our collective decision-making the voices and perspectives of other ethnic, racial groups and other marginalized groups, including women and children.

Challenged by the insights of these so-called “liberation” movements, we now recognize the need to listen to a plurality of voices and standpoints in considering any decision or action. At the same time, through the marvel of modern technology, this plurality of voices, experiences, and opinions is now linked and accessible in a manner previously unimaginable to the human community.  It has taken the question, “Who is my neighbor?” and enlarged it exponentially.

Lastly, and in my mind the most significant factor behind the sweeping paradigmatic changes, is humanity’s first ever view from space of our beautiful, fragile planet, Earth. Marilyn Ferguson (1980) writes of this new vision in The Aquarian Conspiracy:

We have a profound paradigm shift about the Whole Earth. We know it now as a jewel in space, a fragile water planet. And we have seen that it has no natural borders. It is not the globe of our school days with its many-colored nations (p.407).

In fact, I, like many people, can now no longer refer to our planet as “the Earth,” as if it were merely a pedestal of rock upon which we temporarily reside. Instead, I try now to always say “our Earth.” It is a simple change in wording, no doubt, but I think it says volumes about a paradigm shift in our understanding of our relationship to the place we call home.

Ferguson. M. (1980). The aquarian conspiracy. New York, NY:Tarcher Books.

Fowler, J.W. (1991) Weaving the new creation: Stages of faith and the public church. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

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