"With so many dramatically interrelated problems, the world would seem to be not just in crisis but on its last legs, in that violent condition where the forces of death grapple with those of life. We are simultaneously experiencing the crisis of the past, the crisis of the future, and the crisis of transition."
Former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has described our world as moving through a time of "Great Transition": "Throughout the ages, people have said that the world is in the midst of big change. But the level and degree of global change that we face today is far more profound than at any other period in my adult lifetime. I call this period the Great Transition."
This piece is designed as an introduction to a series of occasional notes, based in the idea that we have become inured, and in a sense "addicted", to a worldview/paradigm that is ready to be outgrown. These ideas, of necessity, will be developed in a step by step format -- each step building on former entries.
When I consider the external world situation and mindfully observe my inner world, I am aware of sadness, anxiety, pessimism and outrage - alongside an intention to make a positive contribution. Also, given the overcoming power of warm-heartedness, truth, eventual insight born of consequences, and the potential each of us has within to awaken, - I feel much optimism, and trust in the long-term unfolding of events. I also notice a thread of equanimity, a natural joy in others' happiness, and a sense of solidarity with all beings
Never before in the known history of our species have we confronted such complex, interpenetrating and multidimensional challenges. Edgar Morin, among others, has clearly articulated the growing sense of planetary disarray, accompanied by a rising awareness that our current ways of thinking about and framing problems is unlikely to save us from ourselves.
It should come as no surprise that various forms of numbness, overwhelm and paralysis have set in. Our growing list of problems include serious resource depletion, major loss of species diversity, pollution, overpopulation and epidemics, expanding economic exploitation - a rapidly growing gap between the rich and the poor - political oppression and apathy as well as reverses in the development of democracy, a steady rise in authoritarianism, violence, addiction and child abuse/neglect.
A number of highly respected systems theorists have suggested that we, as a species - Homo Sapiens Sapiens -- (human beings whose potential for wisdom arises from our capacity to be self-aware and reflective) are about to face a fundamental test of our maturity and resilience -- an initiation challenging us to grow.
Still, it would seem that the adversity trends listed above, though already quite serious, are not yet compelling enough to focus our collective attention and galvanize us en-mass into concerted action.
Obviously, our greatest opportunity is now -- having into the already entered into the early stages of this initiation, with its imperative of immediate action. Will we as a species be able to begin the process of maturing in time?
It is absurdly short-sighted to crash blindly into an evolutionary wall and only then to decide we need to take corrective action. We need to begin to consciously develop a more integrated kind of awareness, conscience and compassion.
Will we experience what Duane Elgin has called an "evolutionary wall" or an "evolutionary bounce" - or a simultaneous emergence of both? The essential question is whether we will make the choice to pull together and cooperate or pull apart and perhaps perish.
The primary issue is readiness for change. I would suggest that, as activists, we embrace the role of "catalysts" for change, rather than as change agents per say. The idea is creating conditions in which change is optimally possible (taking into account circular causality and a willingness to utilize resistance to change, rather oppose it, vs. the notion of a linear approach which pits current conditions against their (assumedly positive) opposite.
World conditions are worsening overall. Duane Elgin, a futurist trained at Stanford University suggest that the decade of the 2020's is likely to create a whole-systems breakdown.