The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

The things that worked in the past

For years, being a member of a “Verein”, that is a club or association, has been an important aspect of the German culture. They existed for almost everything, you could assemble around soccer, breeding rabbits, collecting stamps, carnival, or other activities.

These associations brought people together. They gave them a sense of community and connection. Being a member was associated with contributing to the community. Being a member of the main associations in town was expected.

With individual interest becoming more diversified, traveling becoming easy, distances being less relevant, and a population less rooted in their home towns the culture was seen to shift. Associations struggle with keeping membership up and complain about less committed members.

A seemingly natural reaction is for many to romanticize the past. It’s either that everything was better or that people were more committed.

It’s based on the desire to keep things as they were. It leaves aside the task to integrate how society changed.

And it is buying in, into marketing and its endless stories of ease without pain.

This fits the memories people keep from the successes and pleasant moments of being a member of their association. The satisfaction people experienced gives meaning to the work done. It’s a process in which the effort brought to the task has now transformed itself into pleasure. Once the result is known, the effort has become learning and the pain seems to have disappeared.

None of the effects of learning together, finding pleasure in achieving successes together, or receiving support when things don’t work out as expected have disappeared.

However, what is disappearing is the time and availability of people for one another and for activities that don’t seem to be efficient. It has shortened the stories people share. When they talk about their time together in the association, they now either talk about what the new generation should do or they share how much fun they had.

They have lost the art of sharing how they did it. They search for words when it comes to describing what it meant to them to be involved like they were. Over thousands of years people invented stories, they shared myths, legends, fairy tales. They used these stories to help each generation have their compass and find answers to timeless questions.

Many in the last generations hoped to make it easier for the coming generations. The external pressure they experienced made it natural for them to gain strength from being together. Looking forward it made sense to them that making it easier would strengthen the community.

Reinventing ourselves from generation to generation may not always be about doing different things. But it most certainly means doing them differently.

We learn to do so by updating our stories.


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