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With my daughter’s completion of her studies and move to another town, I’ve been thinking of tipping points, i.e., the changes bound to happen. Change, as we know, can be positive or negative, and is hard to predict but clear in retrospect.

A few years ago I read a book by Chris and Ted Stewart called “Seven Tipping Points That Saved the World.” Usually we don’t recognize tipping points until much later, after we’ve seen the results, but surely we can speculate on the pros and cons and figure what’s likely to happen, at least on a personal level.

As I said, my daughter had been living with me for 14 months as she finished her graduate degree in social work. At times I resented her attempts to practice her skills on me, yet I welcomed her offers to retrieve things like my glasses when I sat down to read, or to feed the animals, or to make dinner.

I had done all those things for myself for years, but it was easy to let her take my arm in crossing the street on a windy day or to let the dogs outside for the tenth time after I’d settled in to watch Jeopardy! I am going to have to resume all these little activities or they could turn out to be larger tipping points. Will I resume my total independence or will I slide downhill into dependency? Will I be fearless or worry about sounds in the night? Will I embark on new activities or read my way through the winter?

The Stewarts listed things like how the New World saved the Middle Ages, how the Battle of Britain saved democracy, and how the Greeks saved the Western world. These were big events and, in retrospect, explain the miracle of individual freedom. At least that is the thesis of “Turning Points That Saved the World.”

Most of us would agree that we are in a crisis-like period where no one agrees with anyone and we seem to be on the cusp of change. Personally, I think the situation is alarming and that we may be at a tipping point in history.

Though the changes in my life may seem like tipping points, they are well-balanced by years of juggling family, jobs and neighbors. If the Stewarts were writing today, would they believe that the U.S. and the world is going through a seismic shift socially, economically and politically?

If we are poised on the edge of a tipping point today, do we have to wait for the results or can we speculate?

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With our tendency to want to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world by our trade and immigration policies, and self- interest, will we destroy the strength of world cooperation, or add to our own wealth?

What are consequences of a pervasive distrust of government, the press, our neighbors and other countries? Are we more likely to preserve our individual and collective freedom if we can’t trust anyone that views life differently than we do? At what point do we insist on conformity if we view everyone as “bad,” i.e., the enemy?

Does it make a difference whether we believe in a punitive or a loving God? If there is only one God, what happens when we believe the only God is OUR God? Will intolerance tip us over the brink that destroys Christianity or strengthen it? Does it make a difference if we hold our beliefs that we alone are saved, but don’t take action against other religions?

What are the effects of separating ourselves into tribes that exclude others? Will a society consisting of all blacks, all whites, all Asians produce more superior individuals? In what sense? Does a country, open to a variety of people, enrich itself or bankrupt itself?

Are political parties obsolete? Do they divide rather than build responsibility, dictate rather than guide? Are we at a tipping point where political parties no longer encourage dialogue and choice but are a barrier to citizen participation in their attempts to limit rather than expand voting? Did democracy, i.e., government by the will of the people, all people, ever really work for long?

If the earth is really warming, is there anything we can do to preserve it? Were earth people destined to find another planet to inhabit? Are we at a tipping point?

Can older people withstand the withdrawal of little comforts like delivery of the morning paper, feeding the animals, prepared dinners? In the scheme of things, does teetering on the edge of inequality, injustice and anarchy outweigh our petty concerns about personal comfort and convenience?

I suppose age does affect our physical and mental balance. The trick is to pay attention and plant both feet on reality as the world spins.

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