Goodbye Armonk: Gratitude, Reflection, & Vision for a Prosperous Suburb 👋🏼🏘

  • For all readers, it’s an invitation
  • For current and prospective parents and youth, it’s a reflection of unconscious aspects of our culture, and inspiration for the path forward
  • For those who have also grown up here, it’s food for thought and an opportunity for healing
The famous Armonk Eagle (source). In many indigenous cultures, Eagles are symbols of great power, while North is associated wisdom, elder, and earth. Castle also has a quality of power. What is possible with the integration of wisdom and power?

Dear Armonk community,

eh, suburbs, fine, uneventful. bubble. yaknow, lots of pressure of expectation. 3 stars? “SATISFACTORY” lol

🤑 PART I: Bringing Shadow Into Light [Achievement, Materialism, & Mental Health]

Senior year homecoming look

Designed to Achieve

Mark Henson: The Winner. The last man standing looks over his field of glory, death and destruction. Growing up, my ultimate concern was winning: first at games and sports; then academics, sex, and social life; finally business, self-actualization, and saving the world. What if yesterday’s ideas of success and prestige turn out to be a lousy deal for ourselves today, and a fatal deal for the world tomorrow? What if this same spirit of achievement that has united our community to date, is actually a major part of the problems facing humanity?

Get the good grades, to get into the good schools, to get the good jobs, to afford the good things, to have the good life for self and family, to repeat the cycle.

  • What should kids learn in order to succeed? What is success?
  • What is a good life? What is a meaningful life? What ultimately matters?
  • Is raising kids in a safe enclave to succeed academically and professionally a good path forward for them, and for their kids? Is it a sustainable path forward for life on Earth?
  • What is one’s responsibility to people and planet?
We’ve made it. Will we continue to push the next generation towards the same finish line, to achieve something larger than life and lucrative, no matter the personal and collective costs? It’s a tragedy that the pressure of expectation embedded in our culture of academic achievement causes many children to settle for vapid life and career paths. I’ve written further on the topic of achievement culture.

Mo Money Mo Problems

The top Urban Dictionary entry for Armonk. What does this culture of wealth mean for those living here? Wealth can be harmless, but excessive wealth can be full of landmines, with possessions possessing us and relationships warped. America glorifies wealth. Interestingly, studies show that happiness tapers off after $105,000 in annual income, and some kids don’t even want their family’s wealth.
I wonder how severe the shocks to the system will need to be in order for us to seriously consider the personal debts our lifestyles have racked up to Earth for resource extraction, and to marginalized communities for stolen land, labor and lives. What will it take to see the connections between our personal choices and the interwoven crises? To acknowledge our complicity?
How to Create Safety and Security Without Accumulating Wealth. How much is enough and what comforts we are willing to part with in order to lead a values-aligned life? If you retire at age 65 with $5M in the bank, but the planet has risen 5 degrees in temperature, and half of your generation is houseless, how safe and secure will you really be? Money may hold power to create change, but do the ends justify the means? Whew, money stuff. I’ve wrestled extensively with wealth and class.
  • Does affluent suburban life exercise or atrophy our capacities for resilience?
  • What is the justification for climbing higher and higher when more of our neighbors are just trying to stay afloat? What is the role of the 2% who may have more flexibility to take social and economic risks? How might excess wealth create unintended consequences on the mental health of ourselves and family members?
  • Do we really want to go “back to normal” if that normalcy is only made possible through violence against people and planet, that is undermining our own ability to survive and thrive? (acknowledging it’s impossible to do anything without causing harm to some body or some thing some where)
  • How would we live our lives if the future of the planet depended on our behavior? Who can we look to for guidance? What are we willing to give up in order to create a more equitable and viable future? How can we transition to a more sufficiency-oriented lifestyle? What do we actually need?
  • How can we shift how we allocate our time, attention, financial and labor choices to be in more alignment with the world we want our children and grandchildren to live in? Do those in our position today have a responsibility to make different lifestyle choices?
  • What stories do we want people to tell about Armonk?
New Yorker Cartoon. What do we do when the well traveled main stream heads for a cliff? There’s no blame on anybody. It’s a culture we all feed. Like a mist that grows thicker with every acknowledgement of somebody else’s prestige. Yesterday’s best students, leaders and winners become teachers of what to avoid. Jobs that have long been considered “prestigious” or high paying are shrinking and losing their luster.

Mental Health as Wealth

The rat race leads us to continuously exhaust ourselves to reach some finished line, that is always fleeting, if not illusory altogether. When John D. Rockefeller was asked how much money is enough money, he answered “just a little bit more.” I’m nervous about the nearly 50% of Gen Z planning to start their own business and invent something world changing, when the playbook is still solve an often desperately random market inefficiency to get rich quick, regardless of the negative externalities to life on Earth (including one’s own health). We lionize the venture-backed startup founder, but don’t talk about the accompanying loneliness and despair, or the pain on the backs of burnt out workers.

How can we nourish their inner world, so they can be more resilient as their outer world falls apart?

[interlude]

🙌 PART II: A More Beautiful Armonk

😌

Resilience — Living in Right Relationship

  • How can we cultivate the skills and awarenesses to anticipate, prepare for, and respond to challenging events?
  • How can we come into right relationship with the land and the traditional stewards of it? How to create a sustainable livelihood, in harmony with the health of people and planet? What does it mean to make an honest living today?
  • What lifestyle changes can we make today to not only prepare ourselves, but also demonstrate leadership that can inspire others? What other communities and bodies of wisdom can Armonk and its citizens draw inspiration from?
  • How can we make Armonk a more inclusive place to live for folks of all backgrounds, bodies, identities and abilities?
  • What is my role in The Great Turning (shift from industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization)? What is your role?
  • How can we enrich community fabric to remediate loneliness, nihilism, apathy, sleep deprivation, anxiety, depression, addiction, reckless driving? What untapped gifts do we have to offer each other? What if a portion of the energy poured into achievement was funneled into research, experimentation and stewardship of our community?
Octavia Butler: science fiction author

Education— Cultivating Paideia

“Children should not be designed or worked upon as objects manufactured to our ideals.”

  • What are schools for? Who do they serve? What kind of civilization do they perpetuate?
  • How can we prepare children for forms of life we cannot anticipate? Is rote memorization of “official knowledge” valuable, relevant, fun?
  • How do we confront the almost unimaginable design challenge of building an educational system that provides for the re-creation of civilization during a world system transition? What and whose knowledge ought to be preserved in the educational systems of tomorrow?

Religion–ReMembering the Wisdom of Tradition

Mark Henson: Paintbrush Warrior

Civic Engagement–Everybody is a Leader

Grace Lee Boggs: author, social activist, philosopher, and feminist

Purpose–Self & Community Actualization

What would it look like if the “paid for” was taken out of the equation, or simply de-prioritized to reflect the realities of class privilege? Who are we lifting up as role models? See here for my favorite self reflection questions.
Wampus Pond: my favorite place in Armonk :)

☕️ Last Call

Mark Henson: New Pioneers. We are at a major choice point. Will we make the shift from global to local, outer wealth to inner wealth, me to we, bubble to interconnection?

Continuing the Conversation

  • Discuss with your friends, family, classmates and teachers! Share the piece in groups and forums. What tickled you? What challenged you? What inspired you?
  • Feel free to contact me with your reflections and feedback (andrewmurraydunn at gmail dot com). I’ll be in and out of the area until December and would be happy to discuss the material here with individuals or groups, virtually or in person. Bonus points for a hike; show me your favorite spot!
  • On Mon Nov 1st from 8–9pm ET I will be hosting a Zoom call for those connected to Armonk (current or former resident) who are interested in discussing this piece. Please register here and come with kindness and reflections to share.
  • On Wed Nov 3rd I will be hanging in the gazebo at Wampus Brook Park from 3–6pm, weather permitting.
  • Subscribe to my email newsletter to read past essays and receive future ones
  • Consider returning the gift if you feel like you received substantial value from reading this writing (Venmo: @andrew-dunn)

Offering Support

  • 1:1 Mentorship to students who feel aimless, stuck, constricted, overwhelmed. Parents who want the best opportunities for their kids, and see how those best intentions are stressing them out. Office hours. Life advice. Lifestyle transition support.
  • Workshops on purpose discovery, self knowledge, creating an expanded sense of possibility for studies, career, alternative lifestyle.
  • Entrepreneurship Coaching. Nearly half of American high school students think they will start a business that will change the world. But neither the existing economic approach nor the startup lifestyle is sustainable. How to create and live in a more ethical way? This is my main shtick.

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Regenerative Tech | Business | Culture | Life. Co-founder @getsiempo, Digital Wellness Collective, @Wharton Wisdom. www.andrewmurraydunn.com

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Andrew Murray Dunn

Andrew Murray Dunn

Regenerative Tech | Business | Culture | Life. Co-founder @getsiempo, Digital Wellness Collective, @Wharton Wisdom. www.andrewmurraydunn.com

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