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 8

Despite what you’ve read, when you watch the news today you may be struck by the chaos and confusion in the world and think accelerated cultural evolution is a distant dream. As we saw in chapter 7, however, many of the most disturbing cultural phenomena of our time belong neither to the older wave nor the newer. They are eddies of resistance to change. Some eddies draw their energy from resentment of the decline of the older values, others from fear of the new. If the cultural evolutionary premise is correct, however, it will become more and more difficult to sustain such whirlpools of opposition.

Still, understanding the forces of resistance may not be enough to persuade you that we’re really living through a sea change. Where are the signs that our culture itself is undergoing an evolutionary transformation?

These signs aren’t always as visible now as they will be in the next decade or so. Remember, ours is not a time of ascendancy of the new wave but a period of crossing. The influence of the rising culture complex is in many ways nearly equal to that of the declining one, but the structures of power are still dominated by the older set of assumptions and behaviors. Nevertheless, the new wave is clearly ascending to take the place of the slowly ebbing tide.

As the two meet and pass, how does culture itself change? In chapter 6, we focused on twenty-first-century value changes, but what are the more concrete signs of change in a culture or a community?

How, in other words, does culture itself change in response to changing values? What will it feel like to live through the shift?


Culture is the organic matrix within which we make our choices and are in turn shaped by them. The culture of a particular society comprises the beliefs, knowledge, practices, and institutions that structure its life and are transmitted to its next generation.

As important as values are, they are only part of the cultural whole. Values change drives cultural change, but think about the relationship between these two dynamics. The benchmarks of a progressive values shift are increasing creative complexity, greater awareness of interdependence, and the further integration of ways of knowing. As these values evolve, what happens to the way people in a culture think and behave?

A good friend once asked me, “How many people do you think lived through the Renaissance?” I’ve never forgotten his question. He wasn’t asking about population figures, but about the atmosphere of the time. How many people knew then that they were witnessing the rediscovery of the human being in relation to the world? How many knew that theirs was an age of revolution? How many woke each morning eager to fi nd out what the next promising development might be or where the next challenge would arise? How many went about their daily tasks simply unaware of the new world taking shape around them? Who responded to new ideas and opportunities? Who exulted?

The situation that confronts us today is similar in many ways. We live in an era in which evolving values are reshaping culture, yet we are often so preoccupied with simply “coping” that we overlook dramatic, positive changes. Instead, we fixate on the seemingly intractable problems that confront us and are drawn into the naysayers’ camp.

To grasp what is changing for the better all around us, we need to focus on the relationship between changing values and evolving cultures. With this understanding, we’ll be better able to develop strategies for life in a renaissance that’s not always apparent.

Order Thriving in
the Crosscurrent

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