THE BLOG

The Core of Every Crisis of Imagination is a Crisis of Identity

03/20/2015 06:02 pm ET | Updated May 20, 2015

By Dr. Marc Gafni and Kate Maloney

Every one of us holds an inner image of what it means to be successful. That inner image determines our decisions and drives our destiny. That image is often not articulated in the explicit values of a culture. But it is etched by society in the unconscious lining of our hearts and minds. The success myth of a culture speaks most clearly to its vision and values. It is the very essence of the culture. The success myth of culture, even if implicit or unconscious, either inspires or corrodes the soul of every individual who lives inside of its invisible net.

Let us state it clearly. The dominant success myth of much of Western society is primarily woven from the strands of financial prosperity, fame, and power. While these are not the only values of Western society, they are the primary barometers of success. Honesty and integrity have some real cache in our culture. They are, however, not associated with success. Spiritual practice has some value in society, but it is not equated with success. Goodness, truth and beauty still hold some sway in our minds and hearts, although those associated with such values are not necessarily held to be successful. In our culture a successful man or woman is one who wields power over others, is financially prosperous or well recognized.

Now, all three of these success standards have some truth associated with them. The ability to become prosperous, to attain power, and to be recognized requires something of a human being which in many contexts deserves to be lauded. These are true values. However, they are true but partial. In and of themselves, these standards of success leave us feeling empty, alienated and depressed. Those who do not achieve them grasp for them and those who do achieve them are not fulfilled by them. The incidence of teenage suicide in prosperous and powerful families is but one of the many grave reminders that our standards of success need to be re-imagined. It might be fairly said that the need to imagine a new vision of success is the core crisis of imagination at the root of Western culture.

We live at a time of contradictions. It is both the best of times and potentially, the worst of times. We are at a moment of intense objective crisis even as we are at a moment of intense creativity, technological innovation and new resources. The crises facing our society on the objective front are real and daunting. Whether we are talking about overfishing the seas, the structure of our debt, global poverty, climate change, governmental overreaching, the economic gap between rich and poor, failure to cultivate innovation, global terrorism, rogue weapons, methane gas under Siberian tundra, it is clear that the challenges before us are substantive and in dire need of being addressed. The environmental and economic pessimists rightly sound the alarm bells.

At the same time, this is a moment of intense good fortune. More and more people are enjoying a level of literacy, education, possibility and potential than at any other previous time in history. More and more people are being connected to the deep wells of education and knowledge available through the web. More and more people are crossing the poverty line. The techno-optimists are correct to sound the trumpets of progress and innovation. Resolving the gap in projections between the techno-optimists and the economic and environmental pessimists lies in a deeper view of reality itself. All three of these schools focus their investigation on what we might call exteriors, the exterior and objective facts of economics, technology and the environment.

But the techno-economic structures of a society are insufficient to animate its core or chart its future. Societies rise and fall based on an elegant dance between exteriors and interiors. The evolution of objective structures is critical but insufficient in charting the trajectory of a society. The evolution of technology and economic structures must be complimented by an evolution of consciousness. Otherwise the result is air-conditioned and educated despair and alienation. The pessimism can only be mitigated and the optimism can only be overcome if we factor in interiors; if the evolution of exteriors is accompanied by an evolution of interiors, an evolution of consciousness.

The core crisis facing a society is often not a crisis of funds or resources. It is a crisis of imagination. And at the core of every crisis of imagination is a crisis of identity. Imagination and identity are interior structures of consciousness. We need to re-imagine ourselves.

We can only re-imagine ourselves if we reimagine what it means for us -- in our heart of hearts -- to be successful. The intent of Success 3.0 is to boldly and tenderly reimagine Success and transmit that new emergent vision in the very source code of culture itself.

Dr. Marc Gafni is a visionary thinker, social artist, wisdom teacher and friend to many. Together with integral thought leader, Ken Wilber, he co-founded The Center for Integral Wisdom, a leading activist think tank, and serves as its president. Marc is also the co-initiator and co-director of the Success 3.0 Summit. He is the author of ten books including the ground-breaking works Your Unique Self, Soul Prints, Mystery of Love and Radical Kabbalah, and is known as a leading public intellectual committed to impacting the source code of global culture.

Kate Maloney is co-director and producer of the Success 3.0 Summit. She is also an executive consultant, entrepreneur, business owner, investor, author, and serves as board co-chair of the Center for Integral Wisdom along side John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods. She is active at creating a transformational workplace, and implements cutting-edge business practices which have created a best in class company with a hip, fun, high-performing culture. She is known for being a social visionary and for her commitment to community development and personal empowerment.