The continuing pressure of pandemic restrictions and worries, the omnipresent atmosphere of dissonance in our communities and the dysfunction in our politics: all of this collectively has led me to wondering about the forging of steel. I am, of course, no expert on the topic, but have toured through a few factories and they left a strong impression.
Forging steel is about the shaping of solid, strong metal through processes of high temperatures, hammering and other forms of intense pressure. Sound like anything we have been experiencing?
And there is clear purpose in the forging of steel: because of its strength and the potential to creatively shape that strength, steel has become a foundational part of myriad aspects of our lives. From a simple nail to the awe-inspiring spans of our most famous bridges and buildings, steel not only makes things possible, but makes them strong and long-lasting. All that heat, all that hammering, all that pressure results in something that we can have confidence will endure.
And that is what we must start to envision for our futures: what can come out of this recent period of misery and high pressure? What does the human equivalent of forged steel look like? What can it accomplish?
Certainly, we have need for new bridges – both literally and figuratively. Forged steel and its human equivalent will be absolutely necessary.
We have need for new kinds of structures – both physically and organizationally. Forged steel and its human equivalent will again be essential.
It seems to me that the human equivalent of forged steel must have some of the same qualities as the physical metal. To come out of the process strengthened, not weakened or broken; to have the capacity to be shaped by the process, into forms and purposes well-suited to meet the challenges presented, some small-yet-essential purposes like a nail, some awe-inspiring like a bridge-span.
Can we find enough forged steel within ourselves for the challenges ahead? Will we recognize those essential properties in ourselves and in those around us to build a strong, inclusive future? How to begin assessing where our own forged steel is best suited to a new purpose?
Certainly, forged steel isn’t the only supply we need to rely on: plenty of the work ahead involves elements with very different properties.
Creativity born out of vivid imaginations, enabling us to collectively envision our future.
Empathy rising out of spiritual connection and faith, enabling us to commit to shared fate.
We have a lot of work to do together. But we have been getting prepared for it through the forge of the recent past.
Take stock of your own changed properties and begin to imagine how your aspirations have evolved. Reflect on the extent to which your assessment of shared fate has been strengthened. Be ready to be part of building what comes next.