Who do we need to be and how do we need to understand? (if we are to successfully confront the magnitude of today’s new questions)

Our questions on which it all depends span the human experience—they could not be more different.   But what each asks of us, both personally and collectively, is remarkably similar.

As we’ve seen, each of our questions, to be at all effectively answered, demands a new kind of human responsibility.  The new questions are indeed god-like, both in what they ask and in their implications for the future.  Again and again, today new questions require not just that we responsibly participate in the human story, but that we, in an important new sense, take responsibility in that story’s creation.

Along with this, each of our questions on which it all depends demand a new creativity and sophistication in how we understand.  They require a new subtlety in the distinctions we make—whether the distinctions of moral choice or the nuances of leadership.  And they require that we better see the whole of things, recognize interconnections, think systemically — whether the connections are environmental, social, political, psychological, or spiritual.

Such finds dramatic illustration in how often answering today’s new questions demand that we link concepts that in the past we have viewed not just as different, but opposite—for example, with gender, the polarity of masculine and feminine; with international relations, the polarity of ally and enemy, with health care delivery the polarity of life and death, and with governance the polarity of government and governed.  Indeed, if we look deeply enough we discover that answers to any of our ten questions bridge not only just such specific opposites, but also understanding’s most eternal polarities—determinism and free will, humankind and nature, the scientific and the religious, and on.  The future demands that we think with a complexity and completeness not before necessary, or really possible.

We can only guess where the future’s new maturity—and the new robustness of understanding it makes possible—will lead us.  What we can know is that it will demand much of us.  And we can know that most certainly it will reveal possibilities that today we can only begin to imagine.