Most people are familiar with the popular definition of insanity, yet rarely do they ever reflect on its application in their own lives. We see it over and over everywhere in the daily lives of people, organizations, and political institutions. Insanity is rampant in cultures across the globe.
All examples of what I call cultural insanity rely on the false assumption that the context in which one’s success was achieved has remained the same over a period of time. The key to success is the ability to adapt, to grow not in number/strength/influence/etc., but in knowledge and to use that knowledge to change in the most effective way. As Charles Taylor wrote in regards to hermeneutics and on understanding a new and different context, “If you don’t understand, change yourself”. Understanding is the result of change.
The definition of evolutionary success (or fitness) is the ability to reproduce successfully, and your offspring’s ability to reproduce as well. You are considered successful or fit if you are able to have offspring that can also have offspring. The more offspring, the more successful. You can’t have offspring though if your dead. You have to be able to survive, and to survive you need to be able to adapt and change or evolve. In some cases you might even adapt so much, that you no longer are who you once were.
The idea of changing oneself is frightening. It debilitates people’s ability to think clearly about how the world around them has changed. Add on top of this, that change often occurs at such a slow rate that we fail to notice it happening, and you have an obsession with a nostalgic history that never was. We need to ask ourselves everyday, what did I learn yesterday, and how can I change in order to improve today. The security history offers is your destruction disguised.
The best institutions, and people are not those who are visionaries looking into the future, but those who have good ideas about what today can be.