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‘Tree of culture’offers hope for the future

Even if we are seriously contemplating divine intervention during these woeful days in the marketplace, I know that we will be inspired to look elsewhere for understanding the answers. So I reached for two historic 20th-century geniuses and wondered what their reaction would be to our present dilemma: Henry Ford and Oswald Spengler.

Spengler, a German-born polemic style philosopher, describes civilization as a cyclical, organic culture displayed as a growing tree that over a period passes through the phases of life-birth-death. His “Decline of the West” received surprisingly widespread acclaim in 1926, and I figure today’s students suffered through his great work as a world history assignment. Woven throughout his work is the notion that events of the day can only be interpreted in global and “total-cultural” terms. Significant influence is played by technology interwoven with politics and the rule of money. He deciphers those economic riddles with, “Genuine statesmen want to rule intelligently; genuine merchants want wealth. One may aim at booty for the sake of power, or at power for the sake of booty.” The human fallout is immeasurable when greed takes over.

Henry Ford, American icon, did not invent the automobile, but he created a marketplace that provided our citizenry with an affordable and accessible car. We can smile about the “Tin Lizzie,” but Ford’s genius in mass production and innovation established great industrial achievement in this country.

It is unfortunate that the industry today does not apply his example of genuine concern for both the employee and the consumer and his shared wisdom: “The marketplace is never saturated with a good product, but very quickly with a bad one.”

If we accept for a moment the symbolic living and ever-changing tree of culture then all that we are is alive. Our feelings, needs, desires, our very existence, grows and feeds each cycle. We flourish and branch out from the core of truth. All that is good sustains us, all that is bad destroys and brings pain.

The good stuff brings joy and prosperity. The bad stuff drains it away. New technology, better living through invention is comfort and joy. Greed, ignorance and exploitation are sorrow. All the branches may die but the truth remains and we hang on.

The philosopher and the industrialist offer us great food for thought, gifts of insight and artful models to develop. Ford offered up ways to drive into the future but never expected us to fall asleep at the wheel. Spengler offered a look at life directly in the face or heart, all the time warning the world that what was happening to Germany in the 1930s would shake our very foundation and would significantly change all of us.

Have faith and hope but always remember that no bridges are really for sale, there is nothing free except your will, and credit is a compliment you get for doing the right thing.”

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