Thriving in the Crosscurrent: Clarity and Hope in a Time of Cultural Sea Change

Thriving in the Crosscurrent: Clarity and Hope in a Time of Cultural Sea Change

Jim Kenney
Wheaton: Quest, 2010. 253 pages, paper, $16.95.

In this book, Jim Kenney outlines the shift of values and structures as humanity moves into the Age of Aquarius. “We live in a time of transition from mechanistic and reductionist models of experience to models that may be characterized as holistic,” he tells us.

Kenney calls this period of transition a “sea change”—that rare time when old values and beliefs withdraw and a new wave of values and beliefs arise. He uses the image of two waves on the ocean of life. “Imagine an ocean moment: two waves converging in the same time and space. One is powerful but subsiding, the other just gathering momentum and presence but not yet cresting. At the moment of their meeting they are nearly equal in amplitude and influence. As they cross, who can say which is rising, which descending? In that moment only the chaos of wave interference exists. . . . What we are experiencing today is the seemingly chaotic complexity of a genuine sea change.”

As Kenney argues, it is necessary for leaders to discern the differences between the incoming and the outgoing waves. The newer wave has momentum and direction on its side. As Ewert Cousins, an observer of religious trends, writes, “Forces which have been at work for centuries, have in our day reached a crescendo that has the power to draw the human race into a global network and the religions of the world into a global spiritual community.”

The New Age wave has cumulative power, as countless independent variations in thought and action begin to converge. “As activists around the world have learned, the paths that lead to peace, justice and ecological sustainability are intimately intertwined.” The New Age draws much of its energy from its emphasis on synergy—parts working together for the common good. As the anthropologist Gregory Bateson has written, our task is to discover “the pattern that connects,” the wholeness underlying the diversity. This implies thinking in terms of patterns and wholeness, of interconnections and reawakening.

There are four clusters of attitudes and practices that are the marks of the new wave: nonviolent conflict resolution, universal human rights, social and economic justice, and ecological sustainability. As these continue to gain power, Kenney writes, negative aspects of the old wave will lose amplitude; these include the legitimacy of war and imperialism, racism and patriarchy, the exploitation of the majority for the benefit of a powerful minority, and pollution and the exploitation of nature.

The new values and practices thus threaten established structures of power. The opposition to the new wave is centered in the determination of the old holders of power to preserve the structures of wealth and influence that have served them so well. Thus, Kenney observes, “militants are to be found at every point of resistance to real cultural evolutionary advance. Their world view is simplistic but powerfully motivating. It takes shape in antipathy, in the creation of lists of enemies responsible for the cultural disempowerment and disorientation that poison their lives.”

Nonetheless, Kenney says, the defenders of the old age are on “the wrong side of history.” There is an ever-growing network of groups, nongovernmental organizations, intergovernmental agencies, and committed individuals who are striving every day to build a better world on the basis of cooperation, fairness, solidarity, and creativity. New forms of society are being assembled.

As Kenney has written, “in the context of human cultural advance, we can predict the emergence of progressive new values in every key sector but not their precise shape. Sufficient indicators are already in place, for example, to argue for the likely emergence of evolved human attitudes toward war and peace, injustice and justice, ecological degradation and stewardship. We cannot predict the precise forms these new values will take. We can, however, persuasively argue that they will involve new levels of creative complexity, awareness of interdependence, and— most important—integration of the principle fields of human inquiry and endeavour.” Jim Kenney has written a clear guide to this coming new wave.

René Wadlow

The reviewer is editor of the online journal Transnational Perspectives, which focuses on world politics and social policy.