Mazeway Resynthesis? Fortitude as a Better Endings Practice

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for·ti·tude   fôrtəˌto͞od/

noun

1.

courage in pain or adversity.

“she endured her illness with great fortitude”

synonyms: couragebraveryenduranceresilience,

mettle, moral fiber,

strength of mind, strength of character, strong-mindedness,

backbonespiritgrit, true grit, doughtiness, steadfastness;informal guts

******

This week at Better Endings we have been focusing on the difficult “rite of passage” of unemployment. People often feel “locked out” from the Doors of opportunity when they try to re-enter the workforce.

On Monday I shared how the anthropologist Victor Turner would describe the experience of being un- or underemployed as a “Liminal” condition, a feeling of being between and betwixt a job identity one has had stripped away and a new identity someone is trying to achieve. Turner also said that when a group of people experience this “marginal” feeling of liminality together over a prolonged time period, at some point they might group together to share empathy and to try to develop common strategies to regain a stable place in society.

Turner found that many historical ‘cultural renewal’ movements have come about because a group of marginalized individuals came together to collectively forge a new pathway. Such cultural renewal movements can result in a whole new way of thinking—for example, about the value of work or identity—that Turner called a ‘mazeway resynthesis’.

Big words for a blog post, maybe, but I believe it might help people to hear what Victor Turner might have to say about our structural unemployment situation if he were alive today.

The US Great Recession hit in 2008. In 2010, it blossomed for many liminal people into the Occupy Wall street movement. Turner would likely view this as a predictable, cultural revitalization movement that could result, over time, in a new way of framing values and thinking about work and social identities.

This leads me to recognize the Better Endings principle and practice of FORTITUDE; something we might well learn more about from listening to the voices of today’s underemployed.

Fortitude. Check out its definition at the top of this post. You endure what must be endured, while never losing sight of your deepest goals. Your goals might shift, from being external goals—like getting a specific job you are qualified for—more to internal goals, like expressing your personal integrity and creativity or redefining yourself in ways that are meaningful and fulfilling to you. Fortitude could involve joining with other people who are also feeling locked out from opportunities, to forge a new pathway forward, together.

Do you know full the story of Hiawatha? During a time of social disruption with a vicious blood feud going on among tribes, Hiawatha’s wife and three daughters were murdered by a chief from his own Onondaga village. Hiawatha wandered alone and bereft in the woods, nearly driven to madness by his grief. Then he had a Vision of a godlike figure, Deganawida, who told Hiawatha what the Iroquois peoples needed to do collectively to restore peace and balance to their society and to resolve the blood feud.

Hiawatha delivered Deganawida’s message. This led to the formation of the League of the Iroquois, which developed into a harmonious confederation of six Iroquois speaking tribes who agreed to share a council-based, democratic form of government. This resulted in what Turner would describe as a mazeway resynthesis for Hiawatha, and one could say eventually for the Iroquois people overall. The League of the Iroquois was so successful that Benjamin Franklin used it as an example of democracy in the Articles of Confederation that formed the basis of the US Constitution.

Out of the forge of Fortitude, new forms emerge; a new Season, new Hope.

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