Home Concepts Adult Development Essay XVIII: The Heritage Drive: Preserving Societal Values

Essay XVIII: The Heritage Drive: Preserving Societal Values

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William Bergquist and Gary Quehl

Generativity is about caring for that which should be cared for, and this includes the ongoing presence of critical societal values. It is about caring not just for a specific person, organization or community. It is about caring for an idea, for the history of action and achievement, for a particular artifact (e.g., painting, building) that represents a lingering value or exemplifies an ideal of beauty. In Generativity Three we are guardians of something that already exists – or existed in the past. McAdams (McAdams, Hart, and Maruna, 1998, p. 15) hints at this third generativity role when identifying the way in which cultural demands serve as an external motivating source of generativity.

Specifically, like us, McAdams and his colleagues suggest that the extension of time places an important role in generativity: “In its linking of generations, generativity links past and future time.” Like Kotre (1984), McAdams believes that generativity is about our desire to outlive our self. It is about stretching time beyond the boundaries of our own lives. We specifically suggest that this extension of time often takes place by honoring our heritage and preserving that which we most value and about which we most care.

We guard that which is still valuable. We care for that which may no longer exist but should be renewed, re-appreciated, and re-engaged.  Generativity Three is about visiting the graves and placing flowers near the headstones of our great grandparents. It is about scrapbooks, telling tales around a campfire, and Veterans’ Day parades. It is about the birthdays of Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington. It is about Jackie Robinson, and why many of us still root for his baseball team, the Dodgers.

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