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Next Time, a Different Color

It wasn’t like it was a forever kind of thing. If I didn’t like it, the color would eventually fade and it would grow out. Consider it an experiment.

With words to that effect, my son-in-law got me to color my hair. It wasn’t really so much a different color (a cool green or shocking red, say, like the kids do) as a different shade, but it was different enough that I figured the family started thinking about a home for dad. People said it was different, interesting—whatever you say when you’re too polite to say what you think. When the last of it faded away, the experiment was not renewed.

That’s the thing about experiments … in light of new data, we try a new color.

Between the pandemic and climate change, we are definitely in the market for new ideas to guide necessary experiments that will make a difference for persons and the planet alike.

(For persons and the planet alike … as if we could fix one without addressing the other, as if persons were somehow separate from and so exercised control over the planet, its benevolent protector and guardians? Would we not be better served speaking of the planet and all its creatures who share a common home?)

Anyway, here’s a big idea worthy of experimentation, those who challenge the notion of limitless economic growth. More than a decade ago, for example, Wendell Berry published an essay in Harper’s Magazine called “Faustian Economics” in which he speaks the unspeakable by calling into question the notion of limitless economic growth. He writes, “Our national faith so far has been: ‘There’s always more.’ Our true religion is a sort of autistic industrialism” (emphasis added).

He may be on to something, an idea worth testing—but first we must be up to the test without knowing the outcome of the experiment.

Along with the wisdom to weigh alternatives, our times require the courage actually to do so.