I know it’s been a while but I’ve been deeply engaged in my “Whatnowness”. Setting up a healthy routine, constructing a gentle work life and doing research and reading to help me understand what happened to me so it does not happen again. If I look back at photos from what I am now calling my “lost time”, I see that I’m never smiling nor do I look particularly happy, fashionable maybe happy no. I think I have come to grips with how fast the world is changing and at times in ways that do make me worried and unhappy. I was feeling all of this heaviness but it was what the brilliant analyst Christopher Bollas calls an “unthought known”. I knew it but could not access words for it and so could not make sense of what I was feeling.
I think what is happening is that the world is moving so fast, we don’t have the time we used to have to adapt and make sense of it and innovate all the new structures we need to keep us human and safe. Old ways of doing so are no longer working and we need to find new ones. I was caught in that vortex without a vehicle or a seat belt to contain me. So I just stopped. But guess what the world hurled forward without me. I feel that this is the essence of where we come to when we enter a “What Now” time. In this case, the answer is not withdrawing from the world but engaging with it on our terms and coming up with innovative responses that use all of this technology to make life better, not to keep the status quo going or to make a lot of money but to improve the quality of our lives. We need to ride with the current or go with the riptide. We know what happens when you try to fight it or brake in an ice storm. In this time, “What Now” might simply be to design a vehicle and comfortable seatbelt so we can go along for the ride and not fall off into oblivion before our time. I think for me it’s going to be writing, researching and talking to people who already figured out a vehicle.
My nature is to always err on the side of pragmatism and optimism so I have shifted my gaze to ferreting out small, local innovations that are tackling some of the issues that face us with that in mind. The thing about these innovations is that they are pragmatic. In a world where daily decisions are increasingly based on ideology, I support pragmatism. A pragmatic solution is not perfect but it is realistic and practical and not necessarily based on theory. It can help us right now, not far in the future because we have to change huge structures. Recently I have seen so many good ideas shot down because they aren’t perfect or “ideologically correct.” Those of us who have had a lifetime of asking ourselves, “What Now?”, accept that everything is constantly evolving and what or who we were before is not who we are today. As lifelong learners and thoughtful people, we are always refining, correcting, doing trial and error, or style and error as it relates to this blog. We understand that the process is everything and that we will never be perfect. That’s okay with us as long as we feel fulfilled.
I recently got approached by two technology initiatives in some ways addressing the same issue: the problem of falling, something that as we age creates some risk. One company invented an undergarment and work-out gear with technology that kicked in when it sensed muscle fatigue, supporting, balancing and holding the body upright. What I love about this is that it supports independence, movement, and expansive living which I for one want to embrace right now (as you can see in today’s photo). It does not deny that I am getting older and may need some assistance but it does it in a way that is so very respectful of the life I wish to have as an older person. It also meets my criteria of inclusion because it can be used by anyone, at any time of life or after any kind of occurrence that creates muscle fatigue or weakens them. The other was actually from a university innovation lab and excitedly wanted me to promote a device that would attach to a walker and transmit data to an app on my family’s phone such as the risk of falling and other status information like blood pressure. Why would I ever want my daughter in the middle of her busy workday to get a text that I was in danger of falling when there was nothing she could immediately do about it? So, of course, there will be a critique that one is for more privileged who can afford it and the other for those who can’t. But what if we started with the idea that quality of life is important for all persons and that should be where we start? What if fashion was something that all people could enjoy? So maybe this sounds idealistic but how about optimistic? Maybe it’s not there yet but it could be. What if we took all of the resources devoted to maintaining the status quo and put them to things that focus on the quality of life? Think of how fashion would need to change if that was its mission? Designing for the good of all the systems it interacts with, not the individual. Well as an optimistic pragmatist I am going to try and find more of these new ways of innovating. Maybe in our What Nows, we can discover things that never existed before as we are reinventing ourselves in a world offering the endless possibility and “unthought knowns”.
How is your “What Nowness?” going and what are you discovering about innovation?