[The following is an excerpt from my book, From Egos to Eden: Our Heroic Journey to Keep Earth Livable, available Valentine's Day, 2017.]
The Great Work now, as we move into a new millennium, is to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner. This historical change is something more than the transition from the classical Roman period to the medieval period, or from the medieval period to modern times. Such a transition has no historical parallel since the geobiological transition that took place 67 million years ago when the period of the dinosaurs was terminated and a new biological age begun.--Thomas Berry, The Great Work: Our Way into the Future
I want to make two obvious statements regarding the size of our Great Work. First, our Great Work is bigger than we may think. Second, the more we know, the bigger it becomes. The epigraph to this chapter cites Berry saying clearly that our Great Work is larger than anything we have done in our lifetimes; even larger than what humans have done in the entire history of civilization. The empires of ages past and the superpowers of today have given expression to amazing human cultures. Such achievements, however, shrink in scale when compared to the challenge of moving to Earth-size consciousness, and to its corollary: adjusting to Earth's move into a whole new geological epoch.
Even when we extend the history of civilization back to the Sumerians by the rivers Tigris and Euphrates in the Fertile Crescent, or to the Omo River Valley of Africa, there is still no precedent for what our work is now. Our work answers the call jointly extended by Earth and the deep Self to move out of all multi-Earth forms of progress, development, economics, and patriarchy, as well as all hierarchical rule by the wealthiest and most powerful. Such forms work in ego consciousness, but are too immature, too spiritually and psychologically undeveloped, to work in Earth-centered consciousness. When we respond to Earth and Self, following their urgings into greater consciousness, we mature and develop into OneEarth thinking. We change how we live, not because it makes life easier or more convenient, but because of a priceless prize: it connects us with our evolutionary, creational purpose as a species. Earth and Self jointly define our great work and help it happen.
Our great work moves us out of the current structures of multi-Earth civilization--including multi-Earth models of economics, finance, recreation, entertainment, religion, education, business, enforcement, and government. We move into topographies alive with OneEarth thought and practices. Even if we resist such a move at first, we soon discover that our souls inherently long for it. Our souls shrug off ego consciousness and feel the liberation of being able to assume greater responsibility for relationships of caring and sharing throughout creation. The further we get into the larger topographies of consciousness into which our great work takes us, the more ready we are to leave behind orientations focused on "me and those like me." Our dormant capacities to cultivate feelings of love for all species awaken. Awe and amazement become valued avenues for gaining knowledge that differs from what a strict scientific approach can deliver. Practices of humility and spirituality are also more present in the topographies of consciousness required for our great work.
In The Great Work, Berry exhibits enormous capacity to speak of all the ways that human activity and inventiveness throughout the 20th century were devastating Earth; yet he spoke with visionary possibility, not despair. He deeply believed that we humans could make the meta-changes in consciousness necessary to undertake the great work. As he saw it, both we and our children had a special role: Our own special role, which we will hand on to our children, is that of managing the arduous transition from the terminal Cenozoic to the emerging Ecozoic era, the period when humans will be present to the planet as participating members of the comprehensive Earth community. This is our great work and the work of our children.
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