Nouns and verbs for a New Year

The New York Times ran an op-ed piece visualizing the significant cultural dynamics of the last decade (00's):

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Notice the bottom two categories: nouns and verbs.  Words matter and can succinctly sum up cultural moments and collective consciousness.  Looking ahead to the next decade, here are some of my own nouns and verbs (along with definitions) that I believe will be key signifiers in the years to come:

NOUNS:

Joy: The smoldering internal ember that refuses to be extinguished despite repeated external attempts to douse it.  Happiness is embedded in our constitution and is a protected right.  Yet happiness is fleeting in our attempts to capture it.  Joy, on the other hand, captures us.

Scola: This is the Latin word for "leisure" and the root of our English words for "school" and "scholarship". It is not used in the sense of nursing an umbrella drink while lounging in a hammock.  It means to have unencumbered time to explore a topic or idea deeply and thoroughly.  Ask any teacher today and they will tell you their classroom is the farthest thing from leisure you can possibly find.

Frugal: To enjoy the fruits of one's labor in such a way that their value is intensified and their good effects multiplied to everyone. It has little to do with consumption and everything to do with contentment. It is a nasty and debilitating word to our consumer culture.  You watch – it will be attacked and squelched at every turn.

Bipolar: I am hearing this description used more and more in reference to our cultural situation. Listen for it as we attempt to describe the extreme oscillation of change we will continue to experience in the next ten years.

Hypers: This is the moniker I have bestowed on the youngest generation alive today (born after 2000). Though not everyone will agree, I think it aptly describes the metabolism of our contemporary culture and the subsequent challenges that commitment and contemplation will pose for them.

VERBS

Contract: In my training on generations, I use a "c" word to describe the formative themes of each age group. I am using this verb to describe the formative theme for the Hypers (see noun above). The last ten years has seen a steady contraction of perceived freedoms and assumptions that we in the West once enjoyed.  The youngest generation is going to be defined by the restrictions placed upon them by emerging global realities.

Beautify: This is the process whereby aesthetic improvements are undertaken to refurbish decaying infrastructures.  Not only is the infrastructure of many of our urban centers in need of beautification, but the infrastructure of our souls as well.  I predict that artisans will become more relevant and sought after as producers of meaning and beauty.

Pornify: This is the saturation of our culture with the graphic images and demeaning values of an oversexed population. It might even be the reality of an undersexed populace devoid of the intimacy that gives sex its depth and worth.  You watch how this dynamic increases the personal loneliness as we relate more and more on a digital level. This might inspire an earnest search for beauty.

Obviously these nouns and verbs are by no means exhaustive or definitive, but they are on my mind as I look ahead at the changes that await us.

Posted in adaptation, Attitude, Change, Current Affairs, Depth, generational stereotypes, Hope, Meaning

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Jeff Vankooten is a speaker and author focusing on the power of resilience to effectively engage the challenges of change. He helps leaders, businesses, and organizations develop the skills necessary to thrive in an increasingly unpredictable business environment.
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