Watching television over the years, we notice how t.v. executives try to spot trends and jump on them. They may start trends but usually they try to ride them. We notice one decade, 60% of prime time shows are Westerns, then the next decade they are cop shows, then the next, sit-coms, and so on. These trends may solidify into a movement, a wave traveling through t.v. land, but they change in response to what the public taste is. Where the trends come from is investigated and it’d be interesting to read something on that.
Then there are trends that solidify into institutions. They start on the margins, become a trend, then a movement, and are finally institutionalized. For example, in the 50s, meditation and other Eastern practices were found mainly in Zen Buddhist circles and Beatnik practices of searching for truth in Native American spiritual practices and so on. In the 60s, meditation and other spiritual practices of the East, including Islamic and Christian mysticism like Sufism, became a trend, found still somewhat on the margins but much more commonly, less a matter for the cognoscenti than a matter for the sophisticated, the college crowd, etc.
With Transcendental Meditation, Tantric Buddhism, Hindu practices like yoga, Chinese practices like acupuncture, martial arts like karate, kung-fu and Aikido, merging into the mainstream, the whole idea of meditative, contemplative, mindful, and even mystical and shamanistic well-springs for self-improvement became a movement. Enthusiastic adherents to one form or another of Eastern practices journeyed to the East or imported masters and gurus to first the coasts, California and New York, but then spreading the movement inland to the heartland so zendos and yoga schools and ashrams could be found in the deepest precincts of middle America. Once the universities and medical researchers began advancing into these practices and confirming their effectiveness in Western terms, esp medical terms, they became institutionalized, with certifications, degree programs, and integrative programs designed to set and maintain high professional standards that will allow integration into mainstream medicine.
A quick glance at a book on Chinese medicine or Pure Land Buddhism principles will quickly disabuse anyone of the notion that we in the West have taken over these practices whole hog. We have completely modified them and reshaped them to fit our culture and expectations. Nevertheless, ideas and practices that were on the margin in my youth have now become institutionalized and will perhaps reach the top of the acceptance pyramid and become the dominant paradigm.
I’ll try and do this for other modalities of thought and practice, e.g. language teaching, food, child rearing, education, automobile transportation, prisons, race relations, book dealers, and how could we leave them out computers. I would love for old folks like me to bring their recollections and impressions to these discussions.