I just returned from St. John’s Hospital where Fr. Frank Johnson, Jan Henderson, and I represented St. John’s Church at a ceremony in which the hospital board recognized the church for founding the hospital in Jackson Hole 100 years ago. It is inspiring to see the first rate medical center that has emerged from that log hospital. It made me think about what lies ahead in the future, for this hospital and for all of us.
On the way out of the hospital, Jan Henderson reminded me of former White House speechwriter and author Daniel H. Pink. Ten years ago, he published a thoughtful and informed commentary on how right brain thinking is superseding left brain thinking as we make the transition from the Information Age and enter the Conceptual Age. The book is called A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, and even though a decade has passed since its publication, I believe it provides an important perspective for us as we look to tomorrow.
In this new age, high tech is no longer enough. Well-developed high-tech capabilities will have to be supplemented by high-concept and high-touch abilities. Pink contends that in much of the Western World, the demand for left brain directed emphasis is diminished due to three causes: Abundance, Asia, and Automation.
Abundance - Our left brains have given us an abundance of things and that has lessened their significance. So, we look for those things that stand out. What makes things stand out is often a function of their design, a right brain directed activity. We want not only utility but significance in our stuff. We have a desire for beauty and transcendence.
Asia - People in other parts of the world are capable of performing left brain directed work at a fraction of the cost. That usually elevates their quality of life but reduces the demand for similar positions here. Pink suggests that we think of the increase in outsourcing of jobs to other countries as an opportunity to develop a new set of aptitudes, using right brain directed abilities “such as forging relationships rather than executing transactions, tackling novel challenges instead of solving routine problems, and synthesizing the big picture rather than analyzing a single component."
Automation - Many heavily left brain directed professions and pursuits can now be done by machines. However, machines have not yet been able to accomplish what our right brains do. So, software can now write software that was formerly written by human programmers, leaving them free to devote more attention to creativity, tacit knowledge, and the big picture.
Much of medical diagnosis can be guided by computers that process the binary logic of decision trees used by physicians, moving this profession more toward empathy, narrative medicine, and holistic care.
In the Conceptual Age, we will need to complement our left brain reasoning by mastering six essential right brain aptitudes. “Together these six high-concept, high-touch senses can help develop the whole new mind this new era demands.”
- Not just function but also DESIGN.
- Not just argument but also STORY.
- Not just focus but also SYMPHONY.
- Not just logic but also EMPATHY.
- Not just seriousness but also PLAY.
- Not just accumulation but also MEANING.
Of special interest to many of us is the author’s treatment of meaning. He stresses the importance of taking spirituality seriously. "At the very least," he writes, "we ought to take spirituality seriously because of its demonstrated ability to improve our lives - something that might be even more valuable when so many of us have satisfied (and over satisfied) our material needs."
A Whole New Mind offers a positive look at a future that has already dawned and leads us to a new way of thinking about what we'll need in order to thrive in it. There are significant implications for those in positions of religious leadership as we consider how to chart a course for the future and reinvent the way we go about being the Church.
I invite you to think and pray about this during our time of transition as you envision entering a new era of mission with your next Rector. Get involved, build relationships, share your spirit, and receive what others have to offer.
I’ll see you in Church!