Dr. Johnathan Storlie’s Blog

International Mission for GiantsHeritage.org

Some seed will fall on good soil

To promote multigenerational stewardship through:

1. Honoring the “giants” in every family and community whose life work helped subsequent generations to receive a true heritage: health, good will, self-control, and understanding.

2. Helping people reconnect with their long-lost cousins across the oceans by helping ordinary people make use of the latest genetic and computer technology.

3. Building stronger local community interaction by serving as the umbrella organization that unites all heritage-conscious organizations.

4. Promoting intergenerational interactions and good will.

5. Helping people to deconstruct their personal heritage narrative and rebuild it in a way that treasures the uniqueness of the patchwork quilt they are.

6. Giving members the empirical tools, through their own actual personalized family history, to set realistic life goals, and to critically analyze what has and has not worked in order to help each of them creatively live a proactive life as a fellow shepherd of Being.

A Revolutionary Paradigm Shift

Commentary by Johnathan Storlie, PhD

(The views in this commentary, and all writings on our Giants of the Earth Heritage Center site, are those of their author.)

Giants of the Earth Heritage Center, at GiantsHeritage.org, is poised to appeal to a great audience because of its uniquely personal approach. To quote the late Stephen Covey, PhD, “What is the most personal is also the most universal.”

The approach I suggest we take is personal in two senses.

  • First, we can encourage people to look at their own experiences and their own family as a source of relavant information for learning how they can best take care of all that is entrusted to them. 
  • Second, the approach is personal in the sense that we can encourage people to develop their own judgment through personal reflection and not just defer to the tyranny of a perceived “majority opinion”.

The rationale behind the personal approach is found all the way from ancient philosophical heritage of humankind to contemporary research at Emory University on heritage narratives and family resilience. From ancient philosophers to Reinhold Niebuhr, there is a consilience of experiences with the poor stewardship of majoritarianism, perhaps best summed up by Henry David Thoreau, who wrote, “A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men.”

There is room for more than a “one size fits all” approach within both the collaborative family tree and our heritage forum. Everyone is in a process of development and different opinions among members are a healthy sign that intellectual freedom exists. I do not care to be a member of an institution where everyone espouses the same dogma and there is no room for conflicting ideas–because such an institution obviously nurtures conformity over personal development: Even if I were to happen to agree with a certain dogma now, how do I know that I will never change my mind as my understanding of the world increases? What would such a dogmatic institution do with me then, if I were to develop a more advanced understanding than I had had when I was in step with them? People changing their minds is a healthy sign of growth. With an open, philosophical approach we can best promote multigenerational stewardship. It is in the exchange of ideas that true choice emerges.

Extensive research conducted by Drs. Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush at Emory University has demonstrated that one of the best ways people can improve their own personal understanding and build resilient families is by creating a family narrative through researching their own family’s history over many generations. In the creation of the family narrative facilititated by Giants that I envision, everyone has a right to their own opinion, as always, but they also have a new forum for collaborating with others who are also trying to glean insight from their own ancestors’ experiences. I hope that in the dialogue that ensues, people may intuit how their own and others’ opinions have been shaped so that they might more critically examine their own assumptions about life, and enter into a new paradigm that promotes sustainable happiness for their whole family. To paraphrase Socrates, “only the examined life is worth living.”

Only when each generation deconstructs its own conditioning and rebuilds it anew can the chaff of mere habit be winnowed from the seeds of empowering heritage. When we fail to winnow out the chaff, and try to pass down too much information to the younger generations, they shrug off everything and ultimately fall victim to the slippery slopes that a truly winnowed heritage would have prevented. Mostly, in an age when many non-profits first (and sometimes only) mission is to keep the organization financially alive, I hope that we can carry on with integrity a uniquely personal existential mission without the pandering that is evident in the nonprofit world, to the point of compromising all lofty goals.

Although it is always tempting to justify means with ends, it is my hope that we do not resort to means simply because they work. It is my hope that we do not cajole or crush people with advertising and psychological rhetoric to persuade them to support what we tell them the “majority of [their] fellows think”, even though other institutions take advantage of the fallacy of social proof and people’s propensity toward wishful thinking. I hope that we not promise people things that no institution can deliver, (even though there might be a huge market of wishful thinkers with money in their pockets wanting to be told that they will receive X, Y, or Z in “the next life” if they only support our institution). It is my hope that we can separate the merely comforting, idiosyncratic, nostalgic chaff that some people tend to cling to from the meaningful family stories that bring true insight that leads to sustainable stewardship of existence.

For at least 3 thousand years sages have been saying that the majority of people do not think about the things that matter most for the survival and success of humanity. Further, any one of us, including myself, is likely to be wrong, either in what we are saying, or what we are leaving unsaid, so don’t accept anything without evaluating it yourself.

In an age when each person is concerned first and foremost with conforming with what others believe, we first ask people to reflect on whether or not consulting someone about a topic who has not thought about that topic is all that useful or conducive to good multigenerational stewardship. When people think about this, they soon realize there is one tenable answer. Consider our national debt. Our debt is massive, and has been called by Pentagon officials the greatest threat to our national security. This debt has arisin largely because of too much believing and too little thinking on the part of our public servants, who are not always really serving us as much as trying to tell the majority of voters what they want to hear. To think requires the personal self-assurance to retreat into one’s own mind and synthetically create an understanding that will help one to better steward those things one cares about. This understanding one creates from the union of empirical and a priori truths. To think about the good of future generations requires us to care about them–and this care comes only out of a sense of identity with them–an identity that is destroyed by hedonistic generationalism, and the egotistic metaphysical myths that buttress monogenerational thinking.

In the absence of wisdom, a human is not really a Homo sapien, or wise hominid. Many are good at calculating behaviors that are in their self-interest. Few are good at understanding behaviors that are in the interest of sustainable community. Because we cannot directly ask future generations whether or not our behaviors will be beneficial or not for them, we rely on each person to cultivate wisdom within themselves by looking to the past to understand the variables involved in history. We rely on them to understand how it is that certain men and women had the love, the self-confidence, the vision, and the strength to refrain from the merely calculative, self-advancing behavior and instead choose, wise behavior that promoted sustainable community.

Only by re-empowering the sages that arise in each community can we counterbalance the prevailing existential myopia. Any person can nurture their inner sage and in so doing receive their true heritage as homo sapiens, or wise hominids. Thomas Jefferson referred to those who received this heritage as as “the natural aristocracy” who should and must lead a democratic Republic if it is to survive.

“If a nation expects to remain ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be.”-Thomas Jefferson

To the extent that each one of us has actualized our inner sage we will be in a better condition to predict the outcomes of various behaviors and to recognize the few others within our communities who have done likewise. Further, we will be able to stand up against the wolves that come in sheep’s clothing to our people.

Drawing inspiration from sages who have gone before, we hope that new leaders might arise within every local community around the world who will both have autochthonous love for their communities and an understanding of the variables that matter for good stewardship. This combination is necessary for mature stewardship of a community, which in turn is necessary if that community wishes to remain free.

Read how our true heritage is one of thoughtful questions.

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