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Solutions for Creating a Whole New Culture
By Gail Bernice Holland
New World Library, 1998

Gail Bernice Holland surveys a wide range of developments in science, medicine, business, education and the arts, suggesting that they are rooted in a common impulse. In many segments of society, she says, there is a shift taking place toward a more integrated and holistic outlook, one that emphasizes whole-systems thinking, integrity, compassion, and spiritual values. She takes this as a sign that the culture is advancing in a positive new direction, even though the changes themselves have not yet cohered into a bona fide social movement.

"We have experienced impressive leaps forward," she says. "The movement for ecological sustainability has motivated many corporations to become more socially responsible, and compelled many to reject the materialistic lifestyle. Whole-person medicine has helped other disciplines accept a whole-systems approach. And the technology of the Internet has closed the space between cultures and countries at a time when scientists are confirming that all life is interdependent and interrelated. Above all, people are earnestly searching for meaning and purpose — anything to make sense of it all."

A Call to Connection is largely reportorial in style. It is not surprising, perhaps, given Holland's background as a feature writer for the San Francisco Examiner. The form has its advantages. She reviews ideas, trends, and innovations in a variety of fields and summarizes interviews with leading thinkers and practitioners who are advancing promising new perspectives. She also documents creative and progressive initiatives, from projects to combat crime, prevent environmental destruction, and counter corporate greed, to efforts aimed at bolstering personal well-being and overhauling outmoded educational and economic systems.

But the journalistic approach also has its limitations. The book reads more like a report from the field, or perhaps a series of sketchy case studies, than a work of real analysis and reflection about the cultural shift taking place today. I would have liked to see a deeper look at the ideas and values driving this change and how they are likely affect society in the years ahead.

It's probably unfair to hold Holland to the same high standards as, say, Future Shock or The Aquarian Conspiracy. Alvin Toffler and Marilyn Ferguson gave us more than a reading of the latest trends or a compendium of hopeful case studies. What they put forward was a powerful and galvanizing social vision. In their case, the whole was considerably more than the sum of the parts. Here I'm not so sure.

Still, this is a hopeful and inspiring book. And Holland is right on the money, I believe, in observing that "a new way of living lies within our grasp if we are prepared to recognize and understand how these positive piecemeal changes fit together, and how they can be emulated." When we are able to connect the dots and see the larger picture, she is saying, "then we can detect the vigor of unbounded possibilities. Then we can create a world that is more whole, compassionate, and balanced."

Copyright 2000 by Scott London. All rights reserved.