Flying Close to the Sun

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I am writing to share my latest article which is in the summer edition of the Nonprofit Quarterly and to ask for your thoughts on it. It is very much a work in progress.

I am a big believer in fables and mythology to reinforce life lessons, but there are some that simply never sat right with me. These either contradict others or what I know to be true, but they still sit in my consciousness, waiting to caution me. Some of these iconic stories are powerful and speak louder than reality. We cling to the instances where they are proven true, and ignore the fact that overall they could not be more untrue—for instance, the rag to riches archetype, which underwrites life in the United States as we know it. 

I have always felt a sense of dissonance with the myth of Icarus, as I remember it, because it seemed to me that it was cautioning us against risky innovation and vision—but this is really not so. I went back to look at it again the other day, and saw that the wings he used to fly so close to the sun were made by his father, who warned him that the components would collapse in the heat. Icarus did not want to pay attention to the person who had put his hands to the work. He wanted the wings and rejected the knowledge of their very real limitations. Limitations, of course, are improved on incrementally, over time, as we share our experimentations and create a whole new set of problems.

Anyway, I wanted to share with you my latest article for the Nonprofit Quarterly print journal, “External Influences on Nonprofit Management: A Wide-Angle View.” In it I attempt to capture what I believe to be a profound change in the code driving the economy, and what it means for civil society.

The article is the result of three decades of watching the technological base of the economy shift, and my thought is that this will and is driving many other changes in behavior and structure that we all need to get on top of because I believe that if we understood our role as activists, civil society would be the first, not the third, sector of society in the twenty-first century—the driver of change.

But we need to change our stance and our game in order to understand the profound nature of the change and step up to its challenge. Yes, we may at times fly too close to the sun, but if we are attentive to one another’s experience, we may be able to think up and achieve a future that is more sustainable and just than our present.

P.S.: Icarus’s story could send me off on plenty of tangents about listening. And speaking of listening . . . that’s what we’re here for at NPQ! To listen to you. And to keep us around to listen more, don’t forget to make your donation today.