The New Copernicans

Turning Our Hearts Toward One Another

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Life can put one’s emotions into a pressure cooker. Nothing does this more than family challenges. My tight knit family is dealing with the combination of a funeral and wedding within a month of each other. All of the wounds, past tensions, and unresolved relationships as well as the joys, love, and shared memories find their way to the front burner. Our millennial children are right in the middle of this. It is not easy terrain to navigate.

In general, millennials are not alienated from their parents. There is much less generational conflict between boomers and millennials—as both feel a mutual responsibility to care for one another. This is a beautiful thing, another point to celebrate, though it is often overlooked in the negative press about millennials.

In some ways the economic realities of millennials make this a necessity. Pew Research Center data shows that about 36% of women and 48% of men ages 18-34 lived with their families in 1940. For the first time since 1940, these numbers have crept higher today. There are certainly economic benefits gained by living with one’s parents, especially with the strangle hold of college debt and the high cost of real estate.

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Giving Up on Millennials

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Perhaps the most important lessons one can learn in life are from failure—even better if you learn from the failures of others. The restaurant chain Applebee’s announced last week that it has “given up on millennials.” In response to brand and menu changes they made in the past year aimed at millennials, sales are down by 6% and poor customer experience has risen and as a result 130 of its restaurants will be closing by year end.

Their response is indicative of the problem: they weren’t really committed to a millennial audience. No one is saying that the restaurant business is easy. You are defined by what you’re willing to struggle for. Clearly, millennials did not make Applebee’s priority list of struggles.

And while millennials are an enigmatic market segment, one can hardly imagine a consumer brand writing off so publicly the largest and most influential market segment. It is short term thinking that guarantees long term failure. John Cywinski, Applebee’s brand president, age 54, should know better.

Millennials can smell inauthenticity from a thousand paces. Posers do not warrant re-tweets. It is always the case that companies that try to be all things to all people lose a distinctive identity.

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BURNING MAN… Embracing the Juice of Reality

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Preparations are being made. Lists are being checked and rechecked. Exotic wardrobes are being assembled. Art pieces are being carefully packaged. Social media is a buzz. So go the final preparations for the annual pilgrimage to the desert that attracts 70,000 persons for a week of carnival known as the Burning Man Festival. It is not a casual party for the unprepared or faint of heart.

Burning Man is the zeitgeist cultural event for the emerging New Copernican ethos. Widely misunderstood, its cultural importance cannot be under estimated. As a rule, one’s awareness of Burning Man will indicate whether one is a settler or seeker—the two basic attitudes one can have toward life.

Comic-Con explores the mythological universe of Marvel and DC. Its exploration of an alternative mythic world is safe, air conditioned, and at arms length. In contrast, Burning Man is in your face.

It creates a temporary immersive experience of a New Copernican world. The contrast for many is shocking. In providing such a venue, Burning Man is both a critique and affirmation—a critique of status quo modernity and an affirmation of a still emerging post-postmodernity in a host of neopagan flavors.

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Game of Thrones: House of Lannister, Clinton, Targaryen, Stark, and Trump

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Why the cultural enchantment with Game of Thrones? The answer to this question reveals the dominant frame through which one assesses reality. The anticipation for the arrival of Season 7 of GOT begs the question: “Why this broad appeal?”

Ivan Dikov in the IntelligencerPost suggests that it is our enchantment with Feudalism. He assumes a political frame. In a world where chaos reigns and the horizon of transcendent meaning has been wiped away, he argues that we have “an insurmountable craving for being dominated by some sort of a ‘lord.’” Psychologically, chaos and anarchy breeds a desire for an authoritarian order. The logic behind Napoleon was Robespierre. Some have made a similar argument about Trump, i.e., rapid change breeds the need for populist authority.

But is it Feudalism that is the appeal behind the show or something perhaps even more sinister? The ersatz feudalism of GOT does not have the unified transcendent moral order of the late Middle Ages. The strong cohesive force of Christianity and the Church then held society together. This is not found in the GOT or in the A Song of Ice and Fire story line.

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Gravediggers in the Pew?

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The church is creating the conditions for its own demise. It’s resistance to this fact only serves to make it a more likely self-fulfilling prophecy. It is facing a ten-year sunset.

It is not simply the fact that young people are leaving the church in droves—over a three-fold increase in the past 25 years (7% in 1990 to 25% in 2015)—but that the vast majority of those now identified as “religious nones” or “religiously unaffiliated” are young people who come from churched backgrounds. Seventy-eight percent of “nones,” those whose future participation is critical to the churches’ survival are being spawned in the church. The religious gravediggers are to be found within the church walls. Some have compared this situation to Blockbuster and Netflix. The church does not want to be Blockbuster. “Everyone is concerned about millennials because if you have a business, and you don’t capture their attention, you’re going to die,” says church consultant John Poitevent.

Understanding the dynamics of this phenomenon is timely and crucial. We can be grateful for the forthcoming release of a documentary film on this topic, Becoming Truly Human, by writer/director Nathan Jacobs.

Erik Lokkesmoe’s Nashville-based distribution company, Aspiration Studios, is distributing the film.

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