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On whose terms?

Isn’t it true that conversations happen using terms as they’re set? Civilisation, generally speaking, being this process of picking things up at the point previous generations handed them over. Life as this long, ongoing “conversation” humanity’s been carrying forward through its ideas, beliefs and activities over the years.

That in mind, it’s interesting to consider what’s happening with modern society. We’ve got the entire wealth of civilisation at our fingertips. And we’re gleefully pulling all its visual or philosophical reference points into new and original relationships – this endless potential for juxtaposition and re-presentation (Notes One).

But there’s also this sense that we’re not happy with the past: constantly re-evaluating and reinterpreting it as we revisit our history with the eyes, ideas and sentiment of the modern day (Notes Two). In many ways that’s fair enough – our path’s often been murky and not what we’d hope for when looked at with the ideas it’s led us to.

The experiences, knowledge and capacity history leaves us with is such a questionable inheritance. What are we to make of where we stand? How are we to pick up words with all their history or handle the powerful fruits of those dubious actions? It’s understandable humanity’s most recent generations struggle to reconcile the facts and responsibilities they’ve been handed (Notes Three).

Yet, somehow, we still need to talk about where we’re headed. It doesn’t seem we can just discard what’s brought us here, throwing out this old, tainted terminology and completely redefining everything. Much as we might want to, it doesn’t quite seem the most respectful, sensible course of action.

People might’ve been living in questionable and unsustainable ways, but it’s never easy to see where blame lies. Where do ideas and beliefs come from? How much were people encouraged to trust rather than question the authority around them? Looked at from the limited national perspective that was all we once had, how were people to judge realities they couldn’t see?

Civilisation arguably walks a moral path from limitation through expansion to increased awareness – crossing lines and moving forward we “can” turn around and see that path with fresh eyes (Notes Four). Not to say that anything bad is ever justifiable; but isn’t life itself a journey of growth toward greater understanding? Aren’t we always, hopefully, learning and gaining perspective from where we stand?

The present day seems this strange awakening of global consciousness: we’ve explored it all, terrible as many routes have been, and now “have” this insight into humanity’s position on this planet. We receive the entire body of ideas people have spun around the world as they came to understand it.

How best to work with the words and realities we’ve inherited seems important. Rather than turning on one another, maybe it’s wise to handle our inheritance cautiously? Respecting and understanding what’s brought us here while still actively, compassionately involving ourselves to resolve the many undeniable problems we’re left with. Perhaps we can redefine and reshape society on far better terms.

Notes and References:

Note 1: How ideas find their place in the world
Note 1: Meaning in a world of novelty
Note 2: The world we’re living in
Note 2: Entertaining ideas & the matter of truth
Note 2: The value of a questioning attitude?
Note 2: Old meets new, sharing insight
Note 3: Can we manage all-inclusive honesty?
Note 3: What it is to be human
Note 3: Overwhelm and resignation
Note 4: Culture as a conversation across time
Note 4: “Quest for a Moral Compass”

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