Friday, November 14, 2014

Clue Four: Steppenwolf

These clues are coming from all over the place. But when patterns come together, it is because the pieces of the puzzle resonate with things that you might not even notice otherwise. That is what makes them clues. And I would also emphasize that they are clues because they are useful patterns for organizing your thinking about nagging hunches and intuitions. They are not messages  from beyond in some weird mystical way. Well, let me take that back. I suppose they are messages from beyond in some weird mystical way. Just not the weird mystical way that most people might think of them.

In this case, however, there was a connection. The Mad Men epiphany got me to thinking about the turbulence of the 1960's which brought to mind a novel by Herman Hesse which was very popular at the time. The novel was entitled Steppenwolf and the name was popularized by a rock band who adopted the name. The novel was actually published in 1927 and republished in the 1960's due to its popularity at the time. And, surprisingly, it was republished again just a few years ago.

The main character in Steppenwolf was an individual caught between cultures who did not belong to either. He came to represent people caught between two cultures in the case of cultural change. Any culture, according to Hesse, has good things and bad things about it. But, on the balance, the good things out weight the bad. So, for anyone living in a given culture, life is generally tolerable. However, for people caught between cultures, life can be brutal. Consider, for example, a modern person transported back to Medieval Europe. Life would be horrible. However, if you took someone from Medieval Europe and transported them to the modern age, life would be equally as horrible.

People in the 1920's were undergoing substantial cultural change in a Post WWI environment, with prohibition, bath tub gin, flappers and a run away stock market. They were caught between the dying world order of the previous century and the nascent new order which would take a while to form. In the 1960's the Baby Boomers saw massive cultural change as well, which is why the book became so popular again. It is interesting to note that if you add 40 years to 1927 you get 1967. And if you add another 40 years you get 2007. All at the brink of impending massive social change. I don't want to make too much of this. But, it is an interesting pattern.

Nonetheless, this notion of transition between cultural norms gave further credibility to the idea that was brewing in the back of my mind. It suggested that we might be in chaotic times because we were at the brink of another wave of massive social change which has yet to take form. And we might be able to get some insights by looking back to the 1920's and 1960's.

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