While walking around Köln recently, discussing my reactions to visiting the massive cathedral there and my antipathy towards organised religion, my companion Thomas Koch said “maybe we need a new religion”.
The church and its myths predominated for centuries until Darwin, Freud and the carnage of the first world war trenches knocked a big whole in those assumptions. People weren’t ready for the vacuum left by the undermining of those stories though so the totalitarian regimes of Fascism and Communism filled the gap. When those myths too fell apart we were left with the myth of capitalism and the market and isn’t this beginning to look decidedly suspect since the collapse of the banking industry? Even watching the farce of the old them and us story of the right and left politics running out of steam in the UK general election is like watching another big story die.
So what do we have next? What sense making frameworks would best suit our current state of evolution? What would form the basis of our new religion? What stories will help us make sense of the world we find ourselves in? I am wary of replacing one ideology with another and my inclinations are anarchic rather than ideological but maybe we do need a new framework within which to make decisions. Maybe we need loads of them. Maybe we need individual ones! Maybe we don’t need big stories anymore? Maybe we can play out the universal themes of being human on a more human scale with our own stories well told?
David Weinberger once wrote that by blogging we were “writing ourselves into existence”. This is where I believe our future sense making lies. In the collective and shared stories we are beginning to learn to tell using the tools made available to us by the web. This is not some overarching ideological story or some rigid dogmatism securing the influence of a small group over the crowd. This is collective sense making happening on the fly and at a rate that has never been seen before in mankind’s history. We are just learning how to do it and just beginning to grasp how immensely powerful it can be. Isn’t it exciting?