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Archive for March, 2006

Lord Knows I Love Pink

I am going to hear this guy called Daniel Pink speak tomorrow about the shift from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age, a shift he explores in his book A Whole New Mind. So I was on Google to get some initial information about him and what this book is about, and I ran across this other guy’s mind map of the book’s ideas on his blog.

I’m not sure but I believe mind maps are a big deal in the book, a “build your creative skills” kind of activity the author suggests, among others. I don’t think mind maps are a particularly new idea. I like them, certainly. I tend to learn things visually, and I’ve even found that I can benefit from processing information visually. When I make lists, for example, I tend to group things into mini-lists all around the page in no particular order. It’s interesting that my mind-maps are actually visual arrangements of words, and not pictures, but I digress.

This chap’s mind map is quite good (I think – I haven’t actually read the book so I don’t know how accurate his map is, but it seems so) at encapsulating the major content of the book, so all props to him. However, the glibness with which this map scatters precious and heavy concepts onto the page like confetti was somehow disturbing to me. I also found the links of these concepts to “The Way We Live Now” awfully vague – I mean, what is this guy really talking about? Is an MFA really the new MBA? And when have stories not been the best way to convince and communicate?

I’ve encountered this kind of person before. I’ve gazed upon them from across the gulf of difference and within the cloud of persuasion their conversation excites. I find the practical side of my mind batting at the smoke even while the idealistic side of my mind is trying on the concepts to see if they fit. My roommate has that kind of effect on me sometimes. She’ll be speaking in quasi-hushed tones from behind a half smile of shamanic journeying or star readings or vibrational cleansing and the longer she goes on, the more skeptical I become, not of the value of her subject matter, but of her grasp of it. She is seeking right now, snorkeling all over the wide map of possibilities, never going too deep. My conversations with these kind of people don’t usually disturb me; they usually fascinate me with the benefits of diversity in personalities.

Mr. Pink, on the other hand, disturbs. (I suppose I should really say, his ideas disturb.) I get the impression something is being pulled over my eyes. Something psychic in me pops up a hand and says “Um, excuse me? I think you need to watch out for this guy. Nothing he is saying sounds offensive.” (I’m always a little wary of people who seem to have nothing offensive to say. It makes me think they have left the room and are about to sneak up behind me.) He says we are entering a new age of abundance, an age in which EQ is far more valuable than IQ, an age in which the skills of design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning are paramount. Oh! How wonderful! Look at that dazzling tapestry of arranged concepts and information! Let me just gaze on it awhile. I want to live in that age.

But as I begin to sink into these concepts like a deep feather bed, I begin to notice two peas poking at me, like a sliver in my mind. How are we able to come to into this abundance? How is the wealth being created? Because we might be moving into an age of abundance but the continent of Africa sure as fucking hell is not. Trend gurus and investment bankers and health care industry executives might be moving into an age of abundance, but Bartender Dude and I, my brother and his wife, my godson’s parents out in Seattle—we are still challenged every day to find ways to stay afloat economically, raise children, save for retirement, find the energy left over to play or be creative (two of Mr. Pink’s key skill sets in this rising age of abundance). I do not speak this last from a defeated, bitter place, or a place of blame—I speak it from the truth of where I live and what I observe. The creation of wealth not only in this country but across the globe is based on the centripedal force of capitalism distributing the concentration of resources further and further into an increasingly small layer of society.

This is the hidden back of the shimmering tapestry of ideas woven by Mr. Pink, the tain of the mirror, the neuroses of the American psyche. I am not trying to be hysterical or doom-saying. This post is not my ‘Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall’. I am simply trying to reveal the complexity I see beneath the beautifully simple and comfortingly seductive ideas in his book.

The other pea under my feather bed is my astonishment at the ease with which words such as “joy,” “empathy,” “purpose,” and above all “meaning” are tossed around like whiffle balls. These are heavy words (well, meaning isn’t—it is an in-between word, as in “x means y”), concepts that cannot be actualized in the time it takes to be introduced to them. How fitting that the little graphical symbol in this mind map that accompanies the spindle on “meaning” shows a woman meditating in the lotus position. Yay! GO BUDDHISM. Hooray for the Kabbalah! Spiritual enlightenment is as easy as tying a red string around your wrist or buying a Zen rock garden with one of those cool little plastic rakes!

There is nothing wrong with the West’s current fascination with Eastern and mystic religions, but true spiritual growth, the attainment of joy, the understanding of what one’s life means, the evolution of the soul, can only be attained over a sustained period of time and commitment (or, if you prefer, desire). The aims of joy and purpose and meaning have been and continue to be sought in all ages and places—they are not “new” goals of this “age of abundance.” They are not dependent on material concerns or a moment in our smoothly upward evolution. It is a chronological snobbery to assume so.

So tomorrow I will go and hear him talk about the concepts in his book, and I’ll find out if all my alarm bells rang in ignorance. Many times I find this is the case, and I can’t really comment with any intelligence on his ideas until I’ve read the book or heard him defend them himself.

And after all, a guy named Pink can’t be all bad.

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