The New Individual And The New Society
February 18, 1972
I was thinking earlier today of what I'd say, and
I decided maybe candor would be the context. I stand before you
as a somewhat classic example of the economic animal. When I got
out of the service in world War II, I went to work. I was 19.
This morning one or more of you mentioned the Puritan ethic. The
Protestant ethic is mine. I've lived out of that al1 my life.
I'm a hard worker, successful. I spend -- I was going to say half
my life I average 100,000 miles a year on airplanes.
I'm a sales manager. And would you believe I'm going to talk to
you about culture?
I'm going to tell you two things before I tell you
about culture. One is that I'm extremely enthusiastic about the
subject. I'm sincere. And because of my background or lack of
it, I'm being to have weave myself though the culture lecture.
I looked up culture in the dictionary a week ago, because after
working with this course for a few weeks, I wasn't sure what that
word meant. I found that, at least in the dictionary I looked
in, it had a very qualitative meaning. It talked about the stage
or state of a civilization's advance. It said culture included
the characteristics and the attainment of a people, improved discipline,
improved education, and a refinement of moral and intellectual
nature of life.
We talk about the cultural process in this course
as I will do now. We will be dealing with the cultural triangle,
which has symbols or myths at the top, which Mr. Campbell whom
we mentioned earlier, says direct or evoke the psychological energy
of a people. He says that symbols and myths express the attitude
toward life, death of the universe, of a people. Wisdom, of course,
accumulated knowledge which a people has. The style is how the
people act out the use of their wisdom, and how they act out the
symbols and myths and self-stores which they tell themselves.
We are familiar today with the word style. I remember not more
than six or seven months ago, Fortune magazine had a lead article
on life style.
Now we know -- sorry, that article in Fortune was
on corporate style. That is kind of a common thing, to see the
word style used. What is the context of our style? If style is
acting out what we call our culture, what are our symbols and
myths that we are acting out? How have we used our wisdom? History
says, you talk about the old civilization, the Egyptian civilization,
the Greek civilization, the Roman civilization, the great civilizations
of history had great cultures, and great style. They had unbelievable
myths and symbols. Today if we were to go back I point
to Campbell again and try to find a myth and symbol
in this country he takes us back to the opening of
the West go West young man, and for a fleeting moment
Those were the last symbols, the last stories that
this country could tell itself, that held some kind of community
together in the United States. There were others in the Western
World, like the RAF in World War II did it for England. But: really
today there is a dearth of that part of cultura1 life. We don't
have stories to tell ourselves about what it means to be in our
But there is a stirring, a very definite knowledge
on the part of many people in our society today that something
is missing. You have heard it alluded to this weekend as "the
other". There is something else to your life, beside the
economic and political, some way to get meaning in our lives that
we are not able to come to grips with easily.
I'd like to tell you a story about people I know.
One of them, a very good friend of mine, I've known him all my
life, he lives in New York. This name is Jack. Although he is
not my brother, he is close to me. I had dinner with Jack a couple
of months ago. He knows that I am doing something weird. He knows
that our family is - to use his word -- odd balls; that we live
a chaotic life. When Jack and I had dinner, we had a couple of
martinis, to kind of help us start to talk to each other. Before
we started he had decided that he was going to push me. He said,
"I'm going to push you, Don You are going to tell me just
what you are doing so I understand it.'
He is a very, very sharp, smart, hard guy. He is
a sales manager, too, Jack owns three houses. One out in West
Hampton out in Long Island, a forty thousand dollar summer home.
He owns a $68,000 home in Bronxville, New York, which he didn't
like because his wife didn't like the neighbors. He had just purchased
a 75,000 dollar house Bronxville and he doesn't make that much
money. He was up tight.
That was the context he was working out of. He not
only wanted to know what I was doing just so he could get the
story put together. He was having a little bit of a struggle himself
in terms of what he was doing at age 46, with his life. 1 to1d
him in about 20 seconds that if I just netted it out, made some
German statements about what our family was really like, what
it meant to us, I could reduce it to the very minimum with which
he could not argue, they were: that I was getting a good education
never having had a good education. I have been enthralled
with the opportunity. I was detached.
While Jack was struggling with 70, 100, whatever
some 180,000 dollars of real estate, I told Jack, we were selling
our house, which we are doing this spring, and we are trying to
find a blue collar apartment, which is convenient for my wife
to go down to the Institute and for me to get to my office. I
have a '67 Jeep, and a '55 Ford. That's my only wheels. Jack has
two new cars besides the house, I told him that I was free, that
I thought my life had meaning and significance, because I was
detached from the values which I had had, and he still did have
- in the economic, and I told him that I tried to literally live
for something outside my family and outside myself. And I told
him it was exciting.
He asked me to make it a little clearer to him..
I told him that the only way I could describe it was to say I
was able to get outside where I had been, to look at my 1ife and
realize that I had been living in a very closed environment, along
with obviously a supporting peer group, and that I had thought
it was airless, and although I wasn't conscious of it at the time,
having made a dramatic switch for someone like me. I had a certain
objectivity about what I was doing and I found had a life to be
lived that was not tied down anywhere, the economic, the family,
job, houses, care, kids, you name it. Only then was I able to
say that I had a kind of freedom to be able to go back to my job,
back to my kids, back to my money, or whatever I was doing.
Jack said that if that is true, that is fantastic
-- I am in awe of that. He told me, "This is the first conversation
I've had in a long time that had any kind of meaning". Naturally
I felt good about that. I used a story to tell Jack about myself,
not about him, that in retrospect, I had been riding on a track,
an economic track, that society had laid out for me, for people,
a train that I called vocation, and we are headed for a stations
that are made of accomplishment. What I found was that I got off
at a station, I didn't stay where I was. That wasn't where I was
obviously bound. Sometimes maybe you don't even get off. But the
point that I was making to Jack about myself was that there wasn't
any station. I was not going to get there.
To end that story, I was so impressed with my conversation
with Jack that I've had other conversations 1ike that with my
peers, guys I can talk to that way. 1'1l say more about that later.
I'd like to look just for a moment at the relationships
in what we cal1 the cultura1 process. I was very interested in
reading social anthropology recently, which is new for me too,
to find that the socia1 anthropologists -- symbols and myths is
their bag, too. That's what they would point to as being the guts
of the civilization. They, at least the one that I read, says
when you go to a foreign land where you don't know the language
and don't know the culture, don't know the civilization, the first
two years you 1earn their language, and you push and prod to find
out what the symbols and myths mean in that odd culture you are
visiting. He gave several. examples of the one truth that he held
to be absolutely the sound and solid, was that there are no symbols
in any culture unless they had power. If they are no good, the
culture drops them and gets rid of them. Sometimes not as soon
as they should.
The symbols and myths that are there are not weird
manifestations of the culture or social life. They are there for
a reason. In one instance, exogamy, where a certain tribe's culture
and customs precluded men marrying women from that tribe. The
reason for that was that it precluded the possibility of any jealousy
within the tribe amongst the men relative to their own women.
They had to marry outside the tribe. That kept peace, because
you kept a bond between them with the tribe with which the inter-marriage
took place. In other words there was a definite rationale for
the customs and symbols.
Wisdom -- there is a reason for the symbols being
created, And it comes out of a man's wisdom; the wisdom creates
the symbols. And the myths. The style portion of culture is obviously
where the use of the wisdom creates the myths and the selfstories
is lived out, the style of the culture has lived out. It is the
son or the offspring of the mother and father, wisdom and symbo1.
Right now we have heard a lot about the economic
tyrant which has resulted in the negation of culture. Just for
the sake of making a point I'm going to at least offer the possibility
that the culture part of the social process triangle is like a
gyroscope. It should be what gives the social process meaning.
It should be what gives the social process ends. It should he
where it is going. Within the negated cultural part of the social
process, today, there is a tyrant also. The tyrant obviously is
wisdom, because the wisdom that the society uses to create culture
is all used up in the technical, the economic domination of men's
minds, for instance, negated philosophy. I don't think I'11 speak
for myself - I don't know anyone who knows anything about philosophy.
If they did know anything about it it was 25 years ago when they
were in school. They haven't thought about it, read about it or
used it since. Philosophy mean 'love of wisdom'. It is gone. Men's
technical proficient mind is fantastic. But he isn't using wisdom
anymore to tell him what this fantastic machine he put together
is going to do. It's like we have this great ship of state that
we call our social process, running pretty efficiently, good motors,
fast, amazingly fast, you know that, but there is no gyroscope
operating to give that ship any kind of direction. Where is it
going? The style that comes out of this distortion is deforming.
There is no way to have style when your wisdom is not used to
create some kind of ends, which you are going to act out with
your style. As a result of this distortion that is taking place
with us as Western men, he does not have any way to have style.
It is impossible.
I had dinner with a guy last week, as a matter of
fact, my wife was present at the dinner - he's a business associate.
Talking to John about the Institute - he's going to take RS-I
- my wife asked him, when did you last have a conversation that
you thought had meaning? He alluded to the fact the previously
that he was having a interesting conversation with us. He said,
"I can't remember. I just cannot remember." That rang
bells with me because I so vividly remember my conversation with
Jack. I don't think these are unusual. Men just don't talk with
other people about anything that has any meaning or depth to it,
normally today in the secular world.
What is happening in our land today is that the roles
that we are going to act out are in utter chaos. The youth is
shouting out his concerns, not only here but all over the world.
He is calling out society, world society into question. The elders
are restless. There are more of them. They are not respected the
way they used to be. They are farmed out. They are drifting, yet
there is a little glimmer in their eyes. Their gums are flapping.
They want a piece of the action. They don't want to be nobody.
While the establishment, or the adults, are frantically
trying to keep the lid on the youth, this problem with the elders,
they are raising the kind of concerns that Jack expressed. They
are frustrated. It doesn't make any difference who they are economically.
That is not relevant. It doesn't make any difference. Something
is wrong. Something is missing. They are concerned about find
some kind of meaning in their lives which are absolutely symbol
and myth. Void. They don't have any story to tell themselves about
their lives. They are frustrated. They are upset.
There are many trends. One of the things we talked
about this weekend which is obviously going on is that the youth
are questioning the educational system. They are questioning the
use of the their wisdom. They don't like what is happening to
them in our educational structures. They are traveling. They are
exposing themselves to other cultures, to other possibilities.
They're tough. As a matter of fact 1 have nothing but admiration
for the miracles that have been wrought by the youth with all
the fringe problems that have gone with that in the last 15 years.
I think it is the greatest thing that has happened to this country,
and I think it could be said of many others. They are throwing
hard questions at a society which doesn't know where it is going.
The very fact that they are doing that is a gift. With the established
adults there some things that are happening that are very encouraging..
There is a trend on the part of many American corporations. Western
Electric, as an example, has spent a tremendous amount of money
sending its men to courses in the humanities. I don't know how
many 100's of 1,000's of dollars they spend in a year sending
their different levels of management to very fine humanities courses
- philosophy, the Great Books, anthropology - a tremendous thing.
We mentioned Xerox which gave 100 men leave for a year at their
regular salary to work in some social cause. My next door neighbor
was an overseas manager for Ford Motor Company, in Germany. So
when they had these meetings with the German employees, all the
conversations were in English because the Americans couldn't speak
German. This man decided finally knowing how difficult it was
to carry on a dialogue with someone when you didn't really speak
the language, he could learn German. He took a 90-day leave; took
a blitz course, went to a German monastery for 30 days to put
the finishing touches on, and be could speak German. Then he could
have dialogue with the people he worked with. He thinks it is
an absolute necessity in the future for multi-national concern
to have. Never mind the fact that everybody can speak English.
He says the imperative on us is to learn to speak the language
of the countries where we have plants.
There are some good trends. There is an awareness,
backed up by signa1 events which show that people are aware of
the possibility of doing something about things.
Coming back to our domestic life now, we are pretty
well trained quite consistently at school and on the job, In the
wisdom arena, we are trained to develop skills, skills which can
be put to use in the economic arena. We have become serfs of this
one-sided input to our educational process. We are given data
and not models. We are given how to do things, not why to do things,
that is, in the larger context of why. Our families in this day
and age reflect the same emptiness that is in our society. I don't
think that in the normal family there is the opportunity to use
your wisdom in the family, to have conversations, to discuss
objects that have depth and meaning, any more than there is the
unit, the greater the potential there would be to have meaning,
to create dialogue, to reach understanding, to create a new life,
or whatever - I'm thinking of an individual family unity. It makes
sense to me to think that with a very, very small number of people
you have some powers. Those people changing things, trying to
get hold of living together as demanded. I think what really happens,
it's like Mission Impossible, that small and closed unit that
self-destructs. Instead of getting something done that is good
and positive, because it is a small reduced unit, whatever their
distortions were in the way they were thinking, are magnified
and enhanced by being closed in on themselves . So the family
sinks, or blows up if it stays in its own circle.
The roles in the family have certainly - the same
as in society- are all messed up. I have lived through hell in
my own family, with my wife being involved missionally, working
full time, her duties neglected groceries, house,
bed -- my God. When she went away for a weekend or longer, on
a teaching trip, it was a whole new world opened up. I didn't
have to clean up after her! "There is no place like home"
- no place! On the other side of this I would like to say that
I admire my wife, no matter, because on the other side of this
is Jack's wife, who never leaves home. She does nothing but wait
for him, with the slippers and the martinis and all that stuff.
And bitches! I used to confront my wife with a list of her faults
and omissions relative to these menial duties which I though were
her responsibility. I soon became aware of a new tactic that she
had which was called, "that's your problem not my problem".
You're being upset with me because I leave this house in a mess
is your problem not my problem. I finally either put that aside
or attacked from a new angle. I found out that all she was doing
was on my behalf. She was pushing me to be a man and live in a
totally different family relationship than I have ever experienced,
or anybody like me ever experienced. Somebody here mentioned about
women being good at details. Twice I've heard about it as a feminine
characteristic. I am an exception.
One of the manifestations of our age is a different
relation to our covenants. You want to live together but you want
to live together with everybody taking their step, and you take
your step, and there is some kind of balance. That is supposed
to come out of this covenant. For me it is a kind of reduced image
of marriage-that is a covenant where two people decide to live
together, in partnership. If you put a period there, there is
trouble. It would manifest itself in trouble. If that is the way
two people live together, if that is the reason, is each other,
or the family, period, I think that is a problem. Even if you
talk, and I'll just skim over this lightly, about sex, if your
relationship to your wife, your physical, sexual relationship
with your wife is just that, that is the context, you're in trouble.
Or your family, or your immediate little group, where you want
full appreciation for whatever it is your are doing, you're in
trouble. One of the things I am still famous for, is my checklists.
I have lists of everything. I really believe in them. That is
the way I remember things. This is probably the biggest area of
disagreement that my wife and I still have. But I still make lists
and give them to her. If any of you meet her this weekend and
ask her - cold, straight turkey - watch her face. Purple. Absolutely
no way to come to my side with that. I can't push her with checklists.
Anyway, in the home today the king of the castle,
and castles are hard to come by, as you know, is not a king anymore.
That bygone time is gone. There is a cartoon, I think, called
The Roadrunner. I think it is a rabbit, and there is a poor wolf
chasing him. One of the things that almost happens, at least in
some of the sequences, the rabbit somehow gets across a great
gorge or chasm, and the wolf blindly follows, and in mid-air he
knows he isn't going to make it, and he gets that funny look on
his face. Just before he goes down, and I think a lot of men feel
that way today, about their life or their family life. They look
around and there are a whole flock of wolves who are doing the
If I had to say to you or anybody else in one sentence
what I thought would hold the frustrations of life that so many
of our contemporaries have, I would call it a devastating feeling
of irrelevance. You know, like, life is almost a joke. It is a
drifting process, and the insidious part of it is that there seems
to be a suicidal tendency to accept it, to not fight it, or at
least to not fight it any way except to stay where you are and
bitch or complain. It that speaks to you, so be it. I really do
believe that Jack would say to me, "My life is devastatingly
Now, what can you do? I'll speak for myself. I don't
want to make out that I was a desperately unhappy guy, but I was
like what we were talking about. Then everybody has some little
thing happen to them. What happened to me was-right now I would
say that I learned how to accept the ambiguity of life. Another
way to put it is that the past is received. Or, as they say in
RS-1, I am accepted. But I think in terms of what we are talking
about here, it goes beyond that. Your life is accepted, your situation,
your job is accepted, you wife is accepted, everything, jut like
it is, has to be accepted. And I don't think anything is going
to change until I learn to say that, over and over and over again,
and to understand that the only reality is change. If that happens,
I thinks that a person has a change to expand his style. If that
happens, your community - which let's say, is Dallas, and your
family, if that was your community, then the world is your community,
once you decide that it is. It is no big deal. It is not like,
as Steve and David discussed with you earlier, that is just the
way it is. You don't live in the globe because that is a trick
thing to say. That is where you live, period. I don't think anyone
can be objective about anything if he stands in the middle of
it. I think that is a pretty well-chosen fact. You cannot be objective
about anything if you are inside it. You have to get outside to
look at it, like other people, to be objective. And I'd say that
is true about your life. You have to let air in. You have to let
your life be what it can be, and not let circumstances shove you
in a little box and then you try to live there. You don't have
to. That's the beauty of it. I don't care who anybody is. They
can get out of that box and just decide, just like that, that
they have a life to live. Talk about a crummy job. Somebody could
make that decision but then it comes, "I have to go back
to that same office Monday morning. I don't like the company,
I don't like my boss. I don't like what I do." Well, I submit
that you can go back to that job and make that job a stage for
whatever your expanded style is going to be. Period. One little
thing-it isn't funny, to me it isn't our company, our staff meetings,
start at 6:30 am. The president cooks breakfast and we are using
4 x 4s that you guys are all familiar with. I have stolen everything
I can get from this latch-up, because it is good, it is valid.
The message that this course is trying to bring people is: however
well done or not well done it is, it is telling a person that
he can have an expanded style, he can go back to that job wherever
it is, and decide to have a new relationship to it. He can make
changes whatever his responsibility is. Then your vocation is
subservient to your life - it doesn't t run your life. The same
thing with your family. You have the same kind of possibility.
It is like having a secret. All of a sudden you have a secret
thing going. You have a new way to talk about life, and it is
all yours. I an even get excited just thinking about it. But it
does demand participation. You can'' just think that and let it
go; you have to put out. You have to decide to live that expanded
style, not just play with it. When your blood starts to run, you
can even call yourself an adventurer like you used to, with your
kids, when you pretended you were all kinds of things. I can still
One of the things that happens in a marriage - at
least it happened in our marriage - we fight all the time. There''
no way out of that. I understand that. But what happened is an
absolute miracle, an absolute miracle. What we used to have is
that when we would have an argument, it didn't make any difference
about the subject, that was totally irrelevant because we were
both out to win. Every time, someone would come out not winning
in that argument. Very seldom do you have a draw. You have someone
with their nose out of joint. They get hurt, bad, whatever. Then
there would be that kind of delicious victory of holding it for
two or three days, hours, - hold your invective, hold your hurt,
hold your anger, whatever your petty reaction was. We don't have
time to do that anymore. If I am ticked off at Mary Warren, and
she gets just as ticked off at me, within 20 minutes we have to
do something together or something happens, and there is just
no time left. So our recovery rate is fantastic.
You won't believe this - well, maybe you will believe
this, but it's true. Two years ago my wife told me she was going
to go overseas teaching. This meant maybe two weeks. Obviously
you don't fly to Hong Kong for a three day weekend. So I said,
"You have to be kidding. Whom are you going overseas with,
a bunch of men? You leave me for a couple of weeks while you weave
around the world with a bunch of these guys from the zoo!?".
I was deadly serious. And do you know that my wife took two trips?
On one trip she literally took a trip with three men from the
Institute, and was gone five weeks. I don't know what your experience
has been with this kind of story. When I tell that story to Jack,
I mean there is no way for our peer groups even to understand
that kind of freedom and honor. No way, no way. I honestly can
tell you that I have accepted that. I really have. And I am extremely
proud. I really am. I take all my steps one at a time, and that
was a giant leap.
Something happens, the kind of honor, trust, of relationship,
security, which I can say that that is OK. I feel, as I have all
along, in whatever some of those anecdotes that I have made mention
of tonight, you understand that every time that I do something
that would be called "good", with my money, my time,
my wife, or whatever, the only time you do any good is when your
sacrifice. That's the image we have. You do something good, like
give money to the Church, and there is a connotation that that
is a sacrifice. If you spend 13 our of 16 weekends, as I have
recently working, not on my sob, but on this kind of stuff, that
is a sacrifice. By the way we measure things, that is a sacrifice.
That is like giving something up. The miracle of it is that that
isn't what happens. You don't sacrifice anything. You get back
so much more if you are living - I don't want to sound like a
converted whatever - but you get back so much more if you give
of yourself that isn't in that little hold that we had drawn on
the board earlier, if you are smart you do it. If you are selfish,
you are self-less. That is one of the things I told Jack. He likes
trick phraseology. I told him that if you are self-less, you are
selfishly satisfied. And that has certainly been the experience
I think with a lot of people.
Certainly as far as our marriage goes, using it as
an example, we never had a bad marriage. But we have a recreated
marriage now. There is no question about that in either of our
minds, in every way you can think of. Our family is, well, I feel
more or a man, my wife feels more of a woman. We really have a
common mission. Our ring, our bond of marriage, means something
to us that it never did before. Our kids, this is an aside, which
might be of some interest, we have never shoved our kinds into
the movement. There are 17 and 13. I can tell you that was my
decision. We talked about freedom, and I insisted that at that
age we were not going to decide that they really were not free
to decide, and as a result they have not participated in the movement
to the extent that the youth of the other people that are involved
with the Institute in Chicago.
But let me tell you what has happened. Both of these
kids, they have all kinds of funny stories to tell about what
we do about our life, the whole bit, they admire their mother.
I know that. And I hope they admire their father. Because when
they get through making fun of what we do, I know that they tell
their peers about what we do, with pride. They are proud of it.
No longer is it a funny inconvenience, that is, our life style.
Moff, the older, who is out of high school, he is just 17, is
down a the Academy now, of his own choice, for a month, and having
a fantastic time. But he made that decision. Jimmy, he's a little
guy in what I call a holding pattern. He will decide what he wants
I think in the end, what I am really trying to talk
about, under man and his culture and what it means for an individual
human being to get hold of that, is to come back somehow to grips
with authenticity. That subject was brought up today in one of
the conversations or one of the workshops. I think that that is
what man really wants to find. Maybe the old word was integrity
or authentic integrity. He wants to feel authentic, that he is
somebody. Man has been called today to the cross roads - everyman.
He has been called to the mark, uniquely in our society, with
a tremendous demand on him to make a decision, an obvious decision,
a decision to lead his life in such a way that he can appreciate
the possibility, or appropriate the possibility of his life, and
he can only do that if he lives outside of himself. There is no
other way to do that. In so doing he will contribute to tomorrow's
history. He will affect the future. He will find reward. He will
become an adventurer, just by deciding. He can appropriate the
gifts that he has had that he has boxed up for so long, and create
a new culture, and use his wisdom to create the symbols and myths
that he can live by and that all men can live by.