It has seemed to me for some time that there is a space – perhaps even a need – for some new institution to emerge in the world.
Our modern human landscape is one of tremendous diversity and specialization. More than ever before, individuals are free to choose from an almost infinite palette of cultural elements: fields of academic study, professional specializations, languages, works of art, athletic pursuits, ethnic traditions, cuisines, styles of fashion, political parties, modes of sexual expression, philanthropic efforts, sacred texts, religions, sects, spiritual movements, and so on. This ever-expanding palette presents us with a huge range of opportunities for exploration and self-definition.
In most ways, I believe, this cultural freedom is tremendously liberating, and therefore beneficial to human society: people are no longer prisoners of the cultures in which they were raised, but free to choose cultural elements that allow them to be their own individuals.
At the same time, though, it sometimes feels that this diversity is giving rise to ever-increasing fragmentation of our culture, to the point that it even becomes difficult to speak of culture as something shared by members of a society.
And yet, of course, none of us wants to be a culture of one: it is part of being human to want to belong, to feel that we have some set of interests that we share with others within our tribe.
But what are these shared cultural elements? And how broadly can they be shared? And what are the elements that need to be most broadly shared, in order to form a workable foundation for a functional and nurturing human society? And can these common cultural elements be consciously shaped, not just to satisfy personal tastes or commercial interests, but in service of some higher purpose?
Traditional religions offer one set of answers to these questions. Despite their diverse tastes in other areas, members of an established religion can claim a shared set of beliefs that provide them with a common orientation towards life and towards the world around them.
But can we construct another option? A new institution that provides another set of answers to these questions?
The Practopians is an experiment attempting to answer this very question.
– Herb Bowie
November 15, 2016
Seattle, Washington, United States