Future Shock or Future Shape: Looking ahead by looking back

Overwhelmed? Disoriented?

Now, as then, we do have a choice – to allow ourselves to be invaded and overwhelmed by change, or to maintain an enlightened self-awareness in resisting disorientation and depression by harnessing that energy to steer it and point it toward the future we choose for ourselves.

W. Edwards Deming

Years ago I worked with and studied with Dr. W. Edwards Deming, the internationally recognized quality management authority. His advice then remains relevant for us today.  “Man’s job,” he said, “is to govern the future, not simply be a victim of the wind blowing this way and that way. I know, the best plans are upset. But, without a plan there is no chance. Best efforts will not do it!”

If we are to govern our futures we must also govern the changes in our lives and society which will engulf us and blight our futures if we do not.

Future Shock or Future Shape

Order of Worship

The title of my remarks this morning is “Future Shock” or Future Shape?”

Alvin Toffler, in his best-selling, incisively written FUTURE SHOCK, explains what happens to people when they are overwhelmed by change. All of us are caught up in our daily lives in a roaring current of change, a current so powerful that it overturns institutions, shifts our values and shrivels our roots.

Change, he explains, is the process by which the future invades our lives. As such, it is important that we look at it closely. Mr. Toffler coined the term “future shock” to describe the shattering stress and disorientation which affects people subjected to too much change in too short a time.

Western society for the past 300 years, has been caught up in an ever increasing fire storm of change. Waves of change sweep through our industrialized society with ever accelerating  speed and with unprecedented impact. Its spawn is curious indeed. From Op to Pop art, free universities to psychedelic churches, the rich playing poor, poor playing rich, anarchists who’are conformists, conformists who are anarchists, married priests and Jewish Zen Buddhists, amphetamines and tranquilizers, anger, affluence and oblivion. Much oblivion.

During one incredible newscast this past week, we were staggered by the news of more war, the Mets winning the pennant, and the resignation of our Vice-President to avoid criminal prosecution.

A strange, foreign new scene has burst on us. How can we understand it, shape its development, come to terms with it, as individuals, and as a church.

Future Shock is the dizzying disorientation brought on by the premature arrival of the future. Take an individual out of his own culture and set him do~ suddenly in an environment sharply different from his own, then cut him off from any hope of retreat to a more familiar social landscape and the dislocation he suffers is doubly severe. Add to this the intensification resulting from the new culture itself being in turmoil, with changing values and the individual may not be able to behave rationally.

What is the major force of this firestorm of change?

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About Tracy Connors

Tracy D. Connors graduated from Jacksonville University (AA), University of Florida (BA), the University of Rhode Island (MA), and Capella University (Ph.D. with Distinction, human services management, 2013). Ph.D. (Honorary), Leadership Excellence, Jacksonville University, December, 2013. Designated a "Distinguished Dolphin" by Jacksonville University, Feb. 2, 2010.