I left some important things out of what I said to my Harvard Classmates (quoted here in the “Introduction”) about both the “understanding I’m trying to convey to the world, and about why I feel driven to play hard until the clock runs out on this “fourth quarter.”
In my letter to my classmates, for example, I speak as though that “understanding” is all about that Big Idea I got in 1970.
But that Big Idea was just the first big piece of the picture that I’ve continued to build in the half-century since. I’ve been calling that picture, for want of a better phrase, an “integrative vision” of the story of humankind and of the challenges we face. (At this point, I’d estimate that the idea in The Parable of the Tribes –whose main idea is laid out briefly in “What Rules the World?” –constitutes roughly one-sixth of that whole “integrative vision.”)
(I wasn’t hiding anything. I just felt I had to choose how much to tell how soon. I thought it would unnecessarily complicate things, in such a statement, to even allude to the several other big pieces – and additional crucial dimensions — that have been integrated into that picture.)
Those additional components of that “integrative vision” connect also with what drives me now. While The Parable of the Tribes did get out there into the world reasonably well, much of the rest of it has not. With The P of T, with tens of thousands of copies sitting on various bookshelves, it is conceivable, if not very probable, that someone after I’ve gone will pick it up and for whatever reason – cultural climate, global circumstance, or whatever – that Big Idea might catch on and maybe do some good.
But I regard the whole integrated understanding as being the heart of what I’ve got to offer. And I cannot see that “integrative vision” being out there well enough that it would be available in any plausible human future.
(That vision has been substantially articulated in my 2015 book – WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST: The Destructive Force at Work in Our World—and How We Can Defeat It – but, for various reasons, it’s not out there nearly enough for its future discovery to seem plausible to me. Either there, or – as things stand now — in the articulations I’ve developed since: like the series “A Better Human Story,” posted in 2017, and this current 2022 series, “The Fateful Step.”)
So what’s driving me, and what was left out of my statement to my classmates, is the almost certain knowledge – it does seem clear to me – that if I were to die tonight, most of the potential value of the “understanding” I’ve put together would die with me.
Hence a feeling of urgency. Despite my generally good health, I cannot help but realize that the road ahead is limited. And while I probably have the normal degree of “fear of death,” by far what most troubles me about that “end of the road” is the idea that something I strongly believe might contribute to healing the world might simply go to waste. Buried with me.
“Waste not!” is one of the major principles governing my life. And if that applies to food, time, money, and other resources in my own tiny microcosm, how much more it would surely apply to something that might contribute to humankind’s meeting that Central Challenge that would confront any civilization-creating creature.
It is that prospect of waste – permanent and irrevocable — at a time when the human future seems so perilous, that has driven me to feel like that NFL team, which I conjured up in my statement to my classmates, well behind in the 4th quarter but still leaving it all on the field.
Hence the statement for the 55th Reunion Book. Hence this series.
(Hence the more accurate title for this current series/book would be not “An Insight that Might Help Human Civilization to Survive,” but “An Integrative Vision of the Human Story that Might Help Human Civilization to Survive.”
So let me now go beyond that 1970 Big Idea to present other dimensions of that “integrative vision.”