“The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind — computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBA’s who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind — creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. These people — artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers — will now reap society’s richest rewards and share it’s greatest joys.”[i]
Daniel H. Pink, A Whole New Mind – Moving From The Information Age to the Conceptual Age
PAUL ROMER is a senior fellow at the Stanford Center For International Development (SCID) and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. Quoted in a recent book, Romer points out a terribly poignant reality: “The set of possible ideas, the set of things that are out there to discover, is just so incomprehensibly large that we’ve only begun to explore the tiniest subset of possible ideas or discoveries.”[i]
Take a deep breath. Come on! Take a deep breath! Inhale deeply and exhale normally. Now, imagine how many molecules of oxygen that you just inhaled – that have never been inhaled by anyone on earth before. Imagine as you take another deep breath, that everyone on Earth is inhaling and exhaling at the exact same moment you are? (That would be about 6.8 billion people).[ii]That’s a simple exercise to remind yourself how many novel ideas have yet to be thought, spoken, written, sung or shared. Which takes us – you guessed it – back to my infancy.
The guy with the scruffy beard and strange scent splashed on his face would leave really early in the morning and I typically wouldn’t see him until the next one. He referred to himself as daddy. Momma, as she now called herself, would come in early in the morning as my stomach awoke me (still does) and required something to eat. Yes, they still confined me to that wooden cage with vertical bars three feet high, spaced three inches apart on all four sides in the bedroom with those multi-colored, psychedelic, plastic things dangling (and clanging) above my abode.
What was really cool now was that after my breakfast, momma would put me back in my cage in the bedroom and then wheel the whole deal out into the living room or kitchen, wherever she was hanging out for a while. When she rolled me out to where she wanted me, she lowered the legs on my cage so the floor of my compound was about six inches above the carpet. It was from this perspective that I met dozens and dozens of huge, strange looking people who seemed to stream in and out of the house all day long. (Although I didn’t even have the slightest idea what a zoo was, I felt like a Chimpanzee being ogled by the crowd – day in and day out.).
It was during months of this experience when I began to hear people consistently refer to me as Billy or silly — I didn’t know the difference, but the sheer sound of it seemed to attract my attention whenever I heard it. (I was also deeply relieved that the name I thought these two had bestowed upon me – he-him-you – had somehow been replaced).
I also became aware of two very frequent visitors who had the same sounding name. They referred to themselves as Gramma. Although they both looked weird compared to momma, they went by the same name. I couldn’t tell them apart at this stage. Although they both wore a strong smelling scent, akin to what the bearded guy splashed on every morning, the fragrances seemed to be sweeter smelling and were different from day to day. They also wore these sparkly things hanging from the end of their earlobes and sometimes, wore chains around their necks. Each of them wore goggles of some sort, although they were different shapes and colors. One of them had eyes that looked like the size of quarters behind her goggles. My Grammas would hold me and feed me my bottle for hours on end. I’d even fall asleep in their arms.
At some point in time, I was released from confinement in my cage and placed on my back on a lawn comprised of three inch long woven threads. The threads were all the same length and color and covered the floor from the edge of the kitchen throughout our apartment. I flipped over one day and decided to get moving. I developed a tremendous ability to pull myself around on my belly. I was exploring. It was amazing. I loved to explore. Momma and daddy began holding me under the armpits as I attempted to stand on these wobbly stilts that jutted out underneath my torso. At this stage, I realized those appendages were superb for scooting across the indoor thread lawn, but hadn’t quite figured out what else they might be good for.
One day, it dawned on me.
I was out of the cage on the thread lawn in the living room and mom had just walked into the kitchen. I scooted over to the edge of the coffee table in the living room, grabbed a table leg and voila! There it was – the one thing I had been dreaming about getting my hands on. I slapped it with my right hand and pulled it toward the edge. Hanging on with my right, my left hand grabbed for the contents and stuffed it into my mouth. I lost my balance and with a mouthful of this stuff, fell backwards on my butt, eliciting a feeble yelp.
The next thing I knew, I was suffering from a severe form of whiplash. Momma had heard that yelp and had whisked me from my sitting position. It seemed like we were traveling like one of those leaves that flew by the outside of my bedroom window. I meekly puked on her left shoulder as we whizzed past the entrance to my bedroom toward the bathroom. My next recollection was precariously dangling above a circular white bowl with a white seat around the top edge. There was a small pool of water in the bottom. Momma had a hold of both my feet with her right hand, and had the fingers of her left hand down my throat. I was squirming and screaming for my life! Was she going to stuff me into that crater beneath me headfirst? I choked, puked again, and noticed two things; cylinder shaped, about an inch long each floating in the water beneath me. Just as I was about to pass out, momma flipped me around with my head on her shoulder, facing behind her. My mouth tasted like a mouthful of the three inch strands of thread lawn that I had decided to suck on from time to time. I had puke in my nostrils.
Gramma came into the bathroom and started wiping my mouth and nose with a wet rag. Whatever she was dabbing off me turned the rag black. Momma moved to her right, bent down, and with her left hand twisted two shiny dials on the wall. Water started to fill this oblong shaped white tub. She grabbed an adjacent bottle and squirted some lotion in the water. A bazillion bubbles began to form on the surface of the water. I wanted in!
Momma stood up and I was face to face with Gramma. I screamed my brains out at the sight of Gramma smiling in my face making those weird cooing sounds – without her teeth – they were gone! My bowels blew. She literally scared the you know what out of me. Momma took my diaper off and wiped me down. Gramma handed my mom a plastic contraption. She slowly slipped me into the device within the bubbly mass below, attaching the two straps above my shoulders to a clip between my legs. The water was warm. Momma began to talk very calmly to me as she ran a smooth cloth soaked in warm water over my arms, legs and torso. I smiled. I was happy. I giggled. This was amazing!
Gramma said something from the other room and momma got up and went out to see what she wanted. At the moment momma disappeared through the bathroom door, I saw it – floating toward me – coming out from under the cover of the suds in the right corner of the frothy ocean in front of me. It was bright yellow. I desperately kicked my feet in the water. The motion seemed to make the thing angry – it bobbed up and down – then shot toward me out of the bubbles. I screamed my lungs out! Once again, although I thought I was screaming for help with every ounce of fright that ricocheted through my being – there wasn’t an audible sound coming out of me.
As the thing got closer, I waved my arms and feet as frantically as I could. I could see its horrifying features now; it had a disgusting, disfigured mouth that extended from its face, accompanied by an evil, smirk-like grin. The mouth was orange. It had dark black eyes, a weird hat and a blue kerchief around its neck. I looked to my right and grabbed something in the soap dish that was indented into the wall next to me. I flung it at the floating beast as hard as I could. I missed. I grabbed another object in the soap dish. I gathered myself, let out a blood-curdling scream, and chucked whatever I clutched in my hand toward the monster. I hit it squarely on the side of the head. It wobbled for a second and then seemed to float in retreat, back into the bubbly suds in the corner. I was now audibly screaming as Momma and Gramma both seemed to crash into the entrance to the bathroom at the same instant.
Momma snatched be out of my water chair and whisked me into a dry towel draped over her chest and shoulder. Momma turned and I saw Gramma bent over the oblong tub filled with bubbles, with her hands probing the depths of the pond. She straightened up, turned, and wagged that smirking sea monster in my face. Still without her teeth, Gramma was looking at me, waving this horrific thing in my mug, mumbling: “Wack, Wack! — Wack, Wack!” I shrieked, buried my face in momma’s shoulder and puked again.
It was at this juncture during my human development experience, that I began to ponder several things:
a. Why are these people who surround me so different from me?
b. Why is it – as time goes by, even though I seem to become more familiar with my surroundings, I continue to encounter new experiences that I don’t understand?
c. How is it that these people clearly know things that I don’t?
d. I have the distinct feeling that I have a whole lot to learn.
This was my first recollection of what I now refer to as the the vaQuum – the chasm that exists between what we think we know and what remains to be known. Imagine standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, looking across the expanse to the other side. When standing on the edge of a cliff, most people look across at the terra firma in the distance. Sure, you might look down into the depths of the canyon. However, what we typically miss is what fills the gap between each side of this amazing creation of nature. Until a bird soars into our visual field as we gaze across the vaQuum, it appears as if this void isn’t filled with anything at all. Yet, as the bird reveals, the vaQuum is filled with the essence of the bird’s ability to soar. We can’t see it, taste it, or smell it – but it’s definitely there.
VaQuums are everywhere in life. They appear when we compare ourselves to others; when we compare one nation to another, when we stand in the comfort of our own beliefs and listen to the beliefs espoused by a stranger from another community or culture; when we hear a language that’s not our own; when we hear or experience things that we cannot easily comprehend. Every language in humankind has words that describe the chasm that inhabits vaQuums. These words include some of the following; inequality, injustice, infinite, inadequate, incomprehensible, ignorance, intolerance, misunderstanding, implausible, unknown, mystery, and impossible.
One author characterizes the reality of vaQuums in our world today as follows:
“Life requires us to dance, to dance between the order we are sure of and the chaos that we are not, between the known and the mysterious. It is impossible to live without the fiction of order. It is impossible to live if the fiction of order is absolutized into a belief that this is all there is.”[iii]
People have different reactions to the appearance of vaQuums in the human experience. Consider the vast diversity of reactions folks have when faced with the opportunity to stand at the edge of the Grand Canyon. Some refuse to get out of the car and walk to a clearly marked public observation point to more deeply appreciate this awe inspiring site. Why? Because they’re afraid, scared, and paralyzed with the thought of what could happen to them if they get out of the car and meander toward the edge. (Ask any tour bus driver who has shuttled sightseers to vantage points overlooking the Grand Canyon. They’ll admit to you that they almost always have one or two who will stay in the bus – They might say, “I’m just not feeling well at the moment” or “I think I’ll pass on this one thank you”). At the other extreme are those who walk briskly toward the edge of the chasm (paying more attention to the settings on their camera than where they are walking). They’re so busy snapping pictures the whole time, primarily concerned about what they’ll have to show others when they get home, they miss the essence of the depth and breadth of the beauty before them. In the middle of these two extremes are those who find a vantage point and stand silently, motionless and speechless before the grandeur that surrounds them; seemingly absorbing something unique, that the other folks just don’t seem to recognize.
Another important human reaction to the reality of vaQuums is the attempt of some to defy their existence. Once again, we humans develop words, as the phrase from the quote above illustrates, where we venture into absolutes whose mission is to lead us to believe that this is all there is.”[iv] These words might include the following: only, solely, finite, and the truth.
Questians recognize vaQuums for what they are; sources of inspiration. VaQuums represent a challenge to homo sapiens. This has been true since the first cave person wandered outside and saw the moon in the evening sky. VaQuums represent an essential dimension of the human experience whereby we are challenged to span the gap – to move beyond the fiction of the boundaries of knowing that there is no more beyond what we claim to know. VaQuums create visions. Human history is replete with people who were dissatisfied with what they knew, and were inspired to move through the artificial boundaries of the known — and discover the gifts the unknown was not thought to possibly possess. I could take several pages here and give you obvious examples (space exploration, incredible discoveries in medicine, etc.). I’ll spare you from that.
Yet, throughout human history, there are periods or epochs, where the inspiring, inviting nature of the vaQuum, has called certain people with specific skill sets to fill the current void. Craftspeople, farmers, merchants, sailors, poets, teachers, musicians, authors, manufacturers, scientists, architects, philosophers, lawyers, teachers, carpenters, playwrights, printers, engineers, pilots, bankers, retailers and MBA’s. What would the industrial revolution have been without engineers to design machinery and the assembly line? What would the information technology revolution have become without software entrepreneurs to create the code? What about the essential role the legal profession played in fashioning intellectual property rights and patent laws so that proprietary value would attach to unique inventions and advancements? Today, there is a vast chorus evangelizing the fact that we are in yet another transition phase; one where, (as author Daniel Pink suggests in the quote that began this chapter), the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. It is a recognition that the future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind. Those being called to serve in the emerging vaQuum today are distinctly Questians — creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. These people — artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers — will now reap society’s richest rewards and share it’s greatest joys.”[v]
This is not some sort of an elitist statement. Remember, it is the thesis of this author that the ‘Q’ gene exists in all of us. We’re all Questians. It is a capacity we are equipped with that can be enhanced to improve our lives, the lives of those around us, and the world we inhabit together. That’s the truly good news this book is intentionally designed to distribute. Listen to Richard Florida, author of the highly acclaimed book, The Rise of the Creative Class:
“What is elitist — and inequitable, inefficient and even dangerous — is the persistence of a social order in which some people are considered natural creators, while others exist to serve them, carry out their ideas and tend to their personal needs. Keeping creativity as the province of a select few is the real prescription for trouble of all sorts from injustice to inefficiency. The good news is that creativity has been spreading broadly across our society and will continue to do so.”[vi]
The vaQuum – is the chasm that exists between what we think we know and what remains to be known. It is an enduring historical fact, with a persistent presence; alive and well today. As Rabbi Harold Kushner has said, “Human beings are the only creatures capable of recognizing the gap between what they are and what they can be expected to be, and of being embarrassed by that gap.”[vii] The VaQuum motivates rather than serves as a source of embarrassment for Questians. Although the vaQuum has been an inspiration and an invitation to Questians throughout the ages, this living, breathing dimension of human existence has a tragic, ugly side that we would be remiss to overlook. Author and social justice advocate Jim Wallis succinctly characterizes it in the following: “A great chasm separates those who benefit from the world economic order and those who are victims of it. Now out of the canyon of our great human divide a violent rage has emerged; and we are in danger of being overcome by it.”[viii]
As stated above, we are living in the midst of a transition phase, from one form of vaQuum to another. We are experiencing what one author has referred to as “The Shift Age, a time of transformation that will be regarded by future historians as one of the most significant periods in human history. How we navigate these next 20 to 30 years will determine whether these future historians praise our perspicacity or wonder why we failed to grasp the evolutionary imperatives so obvious to them”[ix]
How will you respond to the current challenge? What about your children, your colleagues, your friends, your community? Perhaps I can help. In the next chapter we’re going to consider the things that prevent us from transitioning effectively and experiencing the possibilities for living as Questians. Keep reading.
NOTES – Chapter 2 – The vaQuum
[i] excerpt from – Kling, Arnold and Schulz, Nick From Poverty To Prosperity – Intangible Assets, Hidden Liabilities and the Lasting Triumph Over Scarcity, Encounter Books, New York, NY Copyright © 2009 by Arnold Kling and Nick Schulz. P.81.
[iii] Ouradnik, Robert Growing Spiritually – Without Getting Bogged Down In Religion, BookSurge, Copyright © 2009 by Robert Ouradnik, p.65.
[v] Pink, Daniel H. A Whole New Mind – Moving From The Information Age to the Conceptual Age, Copyright © 2005 by Daniel H. Pink, Penguin Group (USA) NY, NY. p. 1.
[vi] Florida, Richard The Rise of the Creative Class – And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community & Everyday Life, Basic Books – A Member of the Perseus Books Group, New York, New York Copyright © 2002 by Richard Florida, p.323
[vii] Kushner, Harold S. How Good Do We Have To Be – A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness,Little, Brown and Company Boston, MA Ó Copyright 1996 by Harold S. Kushner. P.35.
[viii] Wallis, Jim The Soul of Politics – A Practical and Prophetic Vision For Change, The New Press, New York, NY Copyright © 1994 by Jim Wallis, p. 65.
[ix] Houle, David The Shift Age, BookSurge, Copyright © 2007 by David Houle, p. 3.
Chapter Page Quote:
[i] Pink, Daniel H. A Whole New Mind – Moving From The Information Age to the Conceptual Age, Copyright © 2005 by Daniel H. Pink, Penguin Group (USA) NY, NY. p. 1.