Thriving in the Crosscurrent:

Clarity and Hope in a Time of Cultural Sea Change




Why This Book, Why Now?

Chapter 1

Rhyming Hope and History

Chapter 2

Just Changing . . . or Evolving?

Chapter 3

Four Strong Winds

Chapter 4

Three Crossings

Chapter 5

Modernity: How Can a
Sea Change Go Wrong?

Chapter 6

Who Says It’s
Getting Better?

Chapter 7


Chapter 8

Life in the Renaissance

Chapter 9

The Second Axial Age

Chapter 10

Thriving in the Crosscurrent

Chapter 10

The most critical existential moment of life in the time of crossing comes when one realizes that it has actually arrived. It’s no longer “coming” or “fast approaching,” It’s here. Old cultural patterns decline in influence, though often retaining at least inertial energy. Still-viable traditional values are transformed, often in surprising ways. New values, new ways of thinking, and new priorities increase in influence. Self-organizing structures of understanding and behavior emerge. In short, ours is a time that will energize, disorient, and enrage. It will also change everything.

So how do we get through it? Do we merely survive? Or do we thrive and, in the process, help to bring a better, fairer world into existence? To answer these questions, I need to show that our crosscurrent is the dawning of a new day rather than the replay of an old movement.


I’ve wrestled with the idea of cultural evolution for many years. When I’ve shared my thoughts about this subject with others, I’ve been surprised and fascinated by the frequent assumption that I must be talking about the New Age movement. For this reason, I considered opening this book with a disclaimer, but eventually decided to save this misconception for discussion in the final chapter.

The New Age movement arose in the late 1960s, and exhibited early signs (both anomalies and ahas) that a major cultural transformation might be underway. Although its influence has declined since the vaunted 1987 Harmonic Convergence, New Age concepts still boast many adherents.

Never well defined, the New Age in its early stages thrived on deep inquiry into the most important spiritual, political, social, and ecological issues of the time. It proclaimed the decline of irrelevant values and inaccurate assumptions about the universe as it celebrated the rise of a new value system. In many of its manifestations, the New Age recognized interdependence as the core principle of existence. It called for the deep engagement of ancient wisdom with modern science, psychology with spirituality, and East with West.

The best of the New Age does indeed resonate with sea change and the two-wave hypothesis. And many of the most important early indicators of our crossing were woven into its core concepts. But the movement soon became less a mature early stage of the twenty-first-century transformation than a cautionary tale.


Buddha gave the world the Noble Eightfold Path. It addressed three modes of existence: the cultivation of the inner life, the proper relation to others, and the understanding of important aspects of the real world.

The following principles for a time of crossing touch the same critical areas. Like the elements of the Eightfold Path and many other models for personal growth, these several areas of effort should be approached simultaneously rather than sequentially.

I hope that this brief section will serve several functions. It provides a useful general summary of the key ideas in the book. It serves as a brief compendium of inspirations and insights, a sort of Handbook for Yeasayers. Most important, however, is its role as a guide for cultural evolutionary explorers. It captures the essential vision of life in a time of almost unprecedented culture shift. It’s not the first word about sea change, and I hope it won’t be the last.

Figure 10.1. Sea Change (original art by Lonnie Hanzon)

Framing: A Preamble

Three thematic frames can help to envision an evolutionary lifestyle appropriate to an extraordinary time. The frames are just that: borders that set off an area for particular attention. The three I’ve identified should be familiar to you at this point: self, culture, and science. Reflection on the three frames is a discipline that generates clarity in thinking and prioritizing.

The first frame, Discernment, facilitates the examination of the interior/subjective aspect of the cultural journey. The second, Cultural Creativity, highlights potential areas for constructive engagement with other persons, groups, and communities in the evolutionary flow. The third, Walking in the World, directs our attention to the most important objective dimensions of the horizontal sea change. In more detail, they are:

  • Discernment: Life decisions seem, at least in my own experience, to work out best when they proceed from a place and time of personal clarity. Most of the great spiritual traditions, for example, counsel their followers to engage regularly in a process of study, distillation, reflection, and contemplation/meditation. The initial aim is to maintain a relatively clear vision of oneself and the world one inhabits. Sometimes called discernment, the practice has application in a secular context as well. Discernment is the process of “getting to know me . . . all about me” and about the deeper levels of existence that are egoless but intensely real and sustaining. In the context of life in the crosscurrent, the process of discernment begins with critical questions: What is my strongest Yea? My cultural evolutionary center of gravity? The mode of knowing in which I’m most at ease? What are my greatest strengths, weaknesses, and openings for evolutionary growth? And what are the blessings I have to bestow?

  • Cultural Creativity: As Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson have made clear, millions of “cultural creatives” are changing their own lives and enriching planetary society.3 This frame thrives on interdependent engagement with individuals, groups, and cultures to improve and safeguard our world. Cultural creativity enriches social, political, and economic discourse and decision making. It is a powerful wellspring of evolutionary energy, and it creates the spaces in which I will encounter my kalyanamitras (see below).

  • Walking in the World: Like a walk in the forest or along the seashore, our walk through the world finds immeasurable enrichment through right understanding of its rich, interdependent complexity. The true pioneer is eager to learn as much as possible about the scientific insights into the origin and evolutionary development of our universe, our planetary system, our world, and all the life it has ever hosted. Once one has begun to cultivate a real appreciation for scientific and systemic insights into the world we inhabit, walking in the world gives rise to a strong sense of opportunities for constructive engagement with a planet and a planetary community in transition.

The ongoing assessment of one’s changing environment, interior capacities, and opportunities for action clarifies vision and generates hope. Moreover, the framing process combines the easily acquired discipline of examination with the more elusive skill of constant renewal of one’s commitments. Most spiritual traditions, for example, teach that vows are not promises made for all time, but avowals, constantly renewed assessments of one’s inner and outer realities, reappraisals of one’s capacities, and then renewed commitment. Frames help to center that process in one’s daily life. “How’s my discernment coming along?”

As you proceed through the following twelve principles, consider each in terms of the three frames. What are its implications for my discernment, inner clarity, and centered self-aware life? What does it mean for the nurturing of my cultural creativity? And how can it shape my walking in the world?

Order Thriving in
the Crosscurrent

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