Adam Blatner

February 17, 2006, draft 3 (revised and with added items suggested by friends and readers. Please feel free to email me and suggest other items:  mailto:adam@blatner.com

The world has many troubles, and negative tendencies abound. It is easy and entirely arguable to be not only pessimistic, but overwhelmed with pessimism. I choose to attend to optimism, as a practical life strategy. It is an act of will and faith-ing, a turning-toward what can be done. Yet this also has some basis in fact: There are positive tendencies that I can think about, imagine, a sort of listing of “my favorite things.” In a recent philosophical discussion group among friends–a variation of the movement called “Socrates’ Café”–, this theme was raised and we were asked to bring our list of positive trends that gave us hope to the next meeting. The following pages reflects some of my ideas. (Of course I must begin with a disclaimer: A not-insignificant part of my optimism is based on the more personal elements of good fortune--a wonderful family, community, friends, health (so far) and many other blessings, for which I am grateful, and about which I at frequently feel pride, joy, and other positive attitudes.) Relating, though, to those cultural developments that seem to be helping the world move in a positive direction, here they are:

 1. Advances in science-- biology, astronomy, physics, embryology, medicine, chemistry, engineering, design, many other fields.
      A. Genetic engineering, DNA testing, stem cell research, many other bio-technological areas. (Of course, many of these developments also threaten problems of cost, pollution, unintended consequences, other spin-offs of technological advancement, so socio-cultural and legal-political developments are also needed to address these "side effects.)
      B. Philosophical, ethical, and cultural review of the meanings, implications, problems associated with technological advance.

 2. The Human Potential Movement, beginning in the early 1960s.
  A. Growth Centers, like Esalen Institute, Omega Institute, the Crossings and their programs for holistic education.

  3. Advancing Western Philosophy, with continuing developments and re-discoveries from the classics (e.g., Pythagoras) through the Enlightenment (e.g., Hume, Spinoza), the Idealistic 19th century thinkers, existentialism, holism, postmodernism, integral visions, etc.
   A. The contributions especially of
    Alfred North Whitehead, Charles Hartshorne, David Ray Griffin, John Cobb, and other “process philosophy” thinkers.
    Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the mid-20th century Jesuit mystic.
    Ken Wilber and integral psychology

  4. Asian Philosophies, and the influx and fertilization of the intellectual worldview of Western cultures by
    A: Zen Buddhism
    B. Taoism, the I Ching, Confucianism
    C. Tibetan Buddhism
    D. South Asian Buddhism, Vipasanna, “mindfulness”
    E. Various Indian teachers, gurus, swamis, many of whom have introduced powerful “memes,” complexes of ideas, both in their aggregate and through their own creativity. These sages have teachings that complement and build on each other as do the Western philosophers:
    Muktananda, Chidvilasananda, Neem Karola Baba (Ram Das’ guru), Ram Das
              Parahamsa Yogananda (author of Autobiography of a Yogi, and founder of Self-
              Realization Fellowship in Southern California), Krishnamurti, etc.  Many others
   F. Other South Asian teachers from Sikh tradition, Meher Baba, etc.
   G. The Sufi Tradition and its permutations and variations (Islamic mysticism)
   H. Bahai as an integrational religion
  5. Emergence of trans-denominational, interfaith, trans-faith, Spirituality. The idea that one can be spiritual without having to believe anything in particular, spirituality without the need for dogma.
    A. Increasing numbers of less-dogmatic and integrational churches
        (1) Interfaith, Unity, Unitarian, Universalist, New Thought, Mind Science
        (2) Increasing numbers of authors and books about theologians and other thinkers who are opening to pluralism rather than exclusivism, moderating dogma and emphasizing spiritual values that may be shared by peoples in other faith systems, seeking continuing evolution within their own religion, less prejudice (e.g., Hick, the later Albert Schweitzer, later Thomas Merton, John Spong, etc.)
      B. Increased interest in personal experience, mysticism, personal development, not just superficial community participation.
     C. Interfaith movements, International Meetings of World Religions, the work of the late Brother Wayne Teasdale, etc.
     D. Transpersonal psychology, Noetic Sciences, Journals of Consciousness Studies, Shift, ReVision, and the like, books, movies on the cutting edge.

  6. Resurgence of Interest in Tradition
     A. Without having to buy the whole package, seeking to re-discover and distill out the wisdom in:
    Native American cultures, religion, ceremonies
    Jewish Mysticism (Kabbalah), other mystical traditions
    Celtic, druidic, and other north European
    Australian Aboriginal, dreamtime, digeridoo, art
    African, South American
    Central American, Southwest Indian psychedelic practices
        (E.g., Carlos Castaneda)

     B. Various arts and other interests
    Sacred geometry, calligraphy, Ikebana (flower arranging), Bonsai (small tree cultivation)
           William  Morris and other traditional crafts, music, instruments, etc.

   7. Re-Enchantment of Life
      A. Angels, faeries, sprites, leprechauns, little statues, children’s stories, coloring books, grown-up books,
              magic, Harry Potter, wizards
       B. Science fiction, Star Trek, Star Wars,
       C. Renaissance Fairs, role taking, medieval re-enactments
        D. Interesting new forms of art, personal altars, special symbolic objects

     8. . All the good people trying to change the world for the better! The peace-workers,
              social organization developers, social service program builders, ethical entrepreneurs,
              and thousands of other roles!

    9. Developments in psychotherapy with applications for healthy people (see Human Potential Movement)
      A. Group work, encounter groups, support groups
      B. Body work, massage, voice work, touch, nudity,
      C. Cognitive therapy and its overlap with critical thinking training, logic

 10. Critical Thinking Training
      A. Semantics– the study of how words mean
      B. Semiotics, the study of how images impact
      C. Media studies, communications studies,
      D. Topistics, studies of place and its emotional, psychological implications. e.g., Feng Shui?
       E. Propaganda analysis, rhetoric analysis,
    Journals such as ... (forgot name)

  11. Science and Spirituality. Those trying to find the ideal balance of the factual and mythic.
    Organizations, newspapers, books, explorations, philosophy
      A. Stretching beyond science: Noetic Sciences.
      B. Stretching beyond traditional religion. Deism.

  12. Computers, the Internet, Blogs, Listserves, Websites, opening communications.

  13. Broadening the Circle of Caring
    Beyond tolerance to respect for “other people”
          Decreasing in rank racism, prejudice
     Including the previously marginalized, minorities, the disabled, differently abled
    Animal rights
    Challenging Abortion

  14. Conscious Dying
       A. Books, right-to-die, how to make it sacred, music and dying, etc.
       B. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Near-Death Experiences, support groups, talking about it openly, living wills

  15. Sexual Revolution
    A. Masturbation, devices, breaking down the taboo
    The growth of types of pornography, erotic literature, – a mixed trend
     B. Talking about, debunking myths, and lifting the taboo on
    menstruation, menopause, sex in older people’s lives
     C. Increased sensitivity to sexual molestation, harassment, pressure, date rape
        Domestic abuse, etc.
      D. Contraception ... with some hope for less morally ambiguous, less expensive,
             more accessible forms with fewer side effects

      E. Venereal Disease, Sexually-transmitted disease (STD) awareness
      F. Sex Education

   16. Psychopharmacology, psychotropic drugs, the “third psychiatric revolution
       A. Increased sensitivity and diagnosis of mental illness, greater effectiveness of treatment
       B. Expansion of sensitivity to “shadow syndromes,” such as ADHD in adulthood,
   Chronic mild depression (“dysthymia”), responsive to SRI meds like Prozac; to mild OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), social phobia, etc.
      C. As yet-undeveloped potential of MDMA (“Ecstasy”) as therapeutic aid; LSD or other “entheogens”

  17. Popular psychotropic drug use. Marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, etc.
       A. Clarifying degrees of danger, types of use.
       B. Growing critique of drug war

   18. Social and Emotional Learning in Schools
    Affective education, anti-bullying programs, practical psychology classes
    Adult education, extension classes, communications, workshops, empowerment

   19. Re-Popularization of Drama, interactive and improvisational drama (instead of scripted and rehearsed traditional theatre), many forms
    Playback Theatre, Art of Play, Interactive Theatre, Improv Games, Bibliodrama,
    Drama in Education, etc.

  20. Anti-Smoking Trends

  21.  Anti-Alcohol Trends, MADD (Mothers against drunk drivers), more stringent laws
           Being drunk is no longer so funny
    AA, Alanon, Twelve Steps

   22. Addiction Rehabilitation Programs, increased sensitivity to all kinds of addictions,
 Recognizing certain activities as near-addictive, variably addictive, thinking about the dynamics
    Shopping, Going into Debt (Debtors Anonymous), Compulsive Sexuality
    Twelve Steps
    ? Television, Video Games

   23. Increased sensitivity to Trauma, abuse, types of abuse, changing parenting styles, preventing bullying, looking at emotional as well as physical abuse

   24. Recognizing needs for play, adequate amounts of time, supplies,
         A. Looking at questionable forms of recreation–television, video games
         B. Needs for youth groups, activity groups
         C. Sensitivity to boredom

  25. Challenging the pernicious influence of the doctrine of Hell

   26. New developments in medicine and nutrition, exercise

    27. Appreciating and even highlighting certain aspects of cultures of those who had been previously marginalized–Gay, Lesbian, African-American, Hispanic, etc.
    A. Recognizing the phenomena of Trans-gender activity, cross-dressing, etc.
    (La Cage aux Folles)

  28. Increasing casual dress, comfortable dress,  relaxation of the boundary between formal and informal
           Releasing women from their many types of  subtle oppression of phony standards of beauty,
              the cults of youth, thinness, flagrantly provocative sexuality, pressure for sex, etc.

   29.  Increasing adornments, variations in jewelry, tattoos, piercings, hair, more variety, sub-group styles, forms of personal expression, unique combinations

   30. Free-er speech, talking more openly about all sorts of things, from cussing to opening to previously taboo topics in all areas, thinking the unthinkable, religion, politics, sex, social norms

   31. Feminism

   32. Elements of the Hippie, New Age, renewal of romanticism, innocence, Rainbow Coalition, get-togethers, burning-man, wandering

   33. Nature activities, mountain bikes, hiking, rock climbing

   34. New sports, snowboarding, surfing, sky-diving, parasailing

   35. New styles of management, more facilitating, less bossy
    Refining emotional incontinence (anger management)
    More role playing, learning experientially
    Creativity in thinking

   36. Creativity Studies, expanding field

   37. Spontaneity studies, Flow, Inner Game of Tennis, Golf, Archery

   38. Alternative Healing
    (Even if 80% or more is found to be not effective, the proliferation of approaches may well generate some significant breakthroughs.)
      A. Chiropractic becoming more acceptable as limits of mainstream medicine become apparent re certain conditions
      B. Acupuncture, possibly.
   39. Meaning in Life, memoir writing, ethical wills, philosophical salons,
    A. Transpersonal psychology, integrating of meaning, spirituality in personal development and therapy

   40. Simplicity   movement, books, de-cluttering, letting go as value to counter consumerism, reaction to get more, be more
       A. Acceptance of graceful aging, countering the “beauty and youth” myth

   41. Refinements in exercise allowing for it to be enjoyed much later in life, and for a wider range of people, people with disabilities, etc.

   42. Expanding access and activities for people with disabilities

    43. Dream groups, lucid dreaming

   44. Jungian psychology–bridging mind and spirit, depth psychology, refinement of dynamic psychology, celebrating art

   45. Applying creative arts therapies to human potential , for normal people. “It’s too good for just patients.”  Art, music, poetry, drama, dance-movement–various approaches that allow people to partake in “the everyday use of art.”

   46. Access to more types of music, classical music, via MP3, CD-players,

   47.  Midi-music, increases ease of composition of music.  Programs that will write as you play.

   48. Word-processing makes writing easier.
    Desktop publishing makes pamphlets and catalogs easier.
    Genealogy, photography, computer art.

   49. Fractals and chaos theory, expanding science of complexity and its implications for philosophy, postmodernism

  50. New materials for construction, ceramics, hay (for homes), plastics,

   51. New sources for energy. Home heating, back-to-nature.

   52. Heightened animal communication, equestrian, dog, companions, therapies

   53. Co-housing, intentional communities, various arrangements
            Relatively more self-sufficient communities

  54. Whole Earth Catalogs, Whole Science Catalogs, Google, Amazon, Marketplace of Ideas...

   55. The concept of “memes,” ideas that catch on (see communications studies)

   56. Sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, re-thinking patterns.

   57. Frontiers of entertainment, circuses, clowning, computer generated graphics in movies,

   58. Satellite technology, geographic aids, multi-channel communication, radio, television, broad-band?  Fibreoptics.

   59. Flossing and dental hygiene. Saving teeth well into senior years.

   60. New frontiers of eye surgery, cataracts, restorative vision (laser), etc.

   61. Other types of prostheses, –new technology
        A. micro-technology enabling re-implantation,
        B. laparascope and other ‘scope - surgery, robotic micro surgery, etc.
        C. Advances in physical therapy, rehabilitation
        D. Advances in plastic surgery
    Applications of botox for spastic dysphonia, dystonias

    62. Family planning advances, contraception, ? abortion , morning after pill (controversial).

   63. Videos for lifelong education, elderhostel, other greater access to extension, online, easier many kinds of education, job training

   64. Hope for universal health coverage

   65. Hope for increased estate and graduated income taxes, larger portion payed by rich, constraints on tendencies for drift toward rich getting richer, poor getting poorer..

   66. Beards coming back into fashion
            Long hair okay   – big savings in grooming

   67. Natural look, big savings in money, time, as cosmetics become more expensive

   68. More questioning as to priorities, what we can afford (a kind of conservativism)

  69. Continuing valuing of peace, non-violence, Gandhi, Martin Luther King,

    70. Cultural critics, e.g., Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death
      Alfie Kohn, on competition, rewards; etc.

   71. Psychological-ization, a growing norm of expecting people to integrate the best insights of psychology, classes, readings, self-help books
    A. Increasing degrees of self-reflection, self-questioning, becoming a norm
    B. Problem-solving, conflict-resolution, mediation a norm.

  72.  Challenging and re-thinking, re-developing the ideal of strength, to include tact, diplomacy, counter bare aggressiveness, “attitude,” “in your face,” and physical confrontation and battle as only or even primary ideals.

   73. Wisdom-ing
    A. Use of projective devices, Tarot Cards, Astrology, not for divination or occult belief, but as symbols of principles to facilitate meditation
    B. (See my recent article on wisdom-ing, in ReVision, Summer, 2005)

   74. New developments in education–Montessori, Vygotsky, Rudolf Steiner, etc.

   75. New developments in food, agriculture, new products, fruits, vegetables, grains, hybrids
        Food irradiation (still too much prejudice)

   76. Do it yourself, back to the land, related trends.

   77. Developments in Dancing
    A. Community dancing– square dancing, clogging, contra dancing, folk dancing
 (With special groups for Scandinavian dancing, Israeli dancing, Zydeco (‘Cajun),
     B. Ballroom dancing, swing, new variations, break dancing, continued developments
     C. Dances of peace–Sufi–simple movements, partaking of Shaker-like ideas, associated with simple songs (see songs)

   78. Developments in Singing:
     A. Uplifting songs, pop songs, kids’ songs, funny songs, pop music,
    Folk Songs in the 1950s, with continuing resurgences
      B. Sing-alongs, collective songs, choirs, choruses, chorales, Barbershop groups
      C. Simple heart-songs, brief, chants, etc.
   79. Career flexibility, multi-career life. Broadening of skill sets. "Re-potting," vocational guidance

   80.  Increasing variety in groceries, fruits, vegetables, other products

   81.  More holistic and organic farming, radiation for reduction of contamination (alas, still not widely accepted)

   82.  Increasing valuing of quality of life and less of mere economic wealth

   83. Positive psychology, laughing clubs, conscious enjoyment, research into optimism, expectation

  Please email me and make suggestions for additions, refinements, perhaps relevant websites.