I first read about the large but invisible group of culture changers known as cultural creatives in 2000 when Paul Ray’s and Sherry Ruth Anderson’s book, The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People are Changing the World, hit book stores. I believe I heard about the book on a CBC radio show, but I can’t be sure. What I can be sure of is the electric shock of recognition I felt when I heard the authors describe their research into a sizable but largely invisible segment of Americans whose values set them apart from mainstream culture.
Most of us are positively and negatively affected by weather changes. On sunny days we smile (for the most part), and when it has been raining torrents for what seems like weeks, we grumble (unless we are building our Arks.) While there is something to be said for the glories of every season, we here in the upper half of the Northern Hemisphere appear to revel in our summers more than any other season. Perhaps this is because local fruits and vegetables are with us in such abundance, or because digging in the dirt and walking in the sunshine connect us with our essential humanity. Not many of us let go of summer without a few bittersweet sighs. We may delight in the autumn colours and brisker temperatures, but there are those boots and coats we have to dust off and slog with us wherever we go. While summer is an expansive time and expansion is always exciting, once fall comes, its contractions announce the birth of a whole new way of being in the world.
We usually get our wood for the winter in early summer. This timing creates the luxury of a long slow stacking process, something we enjoy because there is no rush in getting it accomplished. Sometimes we stack as little as a cord a week. Our young strong friends scoff at our slowness, telling us they can stack a cord of wood in an hour. We admire their strength and speed even as we luxuriate in living in life’s slow lane, at least some of the time. The slow and steady rhythm appeals to us because stacking wood comes with certain risks, pinched fingers, bruised arms, legs, and feet, and complaining backs included. And yet, all of these possible injuries are overshadowed by the wisdom of our relationship with wood. As the sages tell us, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
What we believe about aging influences how we age. If we doubt this, there are numerous scientific works proving the role of belief in aging, including Ellen J. Langer’s Counterclockwise, and Bruce Lipton’s The Biology of Belief. Both books offer convincing evidence about the pivotal role our beliefs have on the way we age, develop illness, recover from illness, and live life as glass-half-full or glass-half-empty people. Once we become convinced that our beliefs influence our lives we understand that to live with greater energy and joy, we simply need to shift our beliefs about our bodies and our world. However, we quickly learn our beliefs are often resistant to change.