Hello, Humanity: What You're Doing Now Isn't Working
But collective shifts aren’t impossible; they’re the stuff that history is made of
I notice how in the space of a week I’ve gone from “I can’t take my eyes off the news” to “I can’t bear to turn on the TV.” I went from a need to track every Russian and Ukrainian move, to now feeling I can’t bear to see any more examples of Putin’s brutality. I’m feeling the collective state of low grade depression experienced by several million if not more of us at once. No one can believe it. No one can stand it. And yet the horror just goes on.
There’s something so important in all of this, not just in terms of Russia or Ukraine or the United States or Europe or NATO or the nuclear arms race. There is some larger lesson for humanity — a message screaming at us from other areas as well, of course: Hello, humanity: what you’re doing isn’t working.
It’s not just America’s foreign policy, as unwise and imperialistic and stupid as it has been. It’s not just our environmental policies, as ignorant and irresponsible as they have been. It’s not even our political functioning, as corrupt and undemocratic as it has become. No, there is some deeper problem at the root of all those, some more sinister resistance to life and love. Beneath the material horrors there is a spiritual dysfunction, a deadly forgetfulness regarding who we are and why we’re here. Like Oedipus, we killed the father (erased the spirit), slept with the mother (bonded too strongly with the material), and as a consequence we’ve become blind.
There’s no incremental fix for any of it at this point. A little tweaking here and there isn’t going to fundamentally heal the gaping wound at the heart of our civilization. We’re so out of alignment with our deeper nature - not so much as individuals (I actually think people are pretty wonderful), but collectively, in how we organize our societies, run our economies, care for other peoples, and treat the earth. It’s not enough that as individuals most of us might be nice. Collectively is where we’re so off track, and collectively is where we’ll need to get it together… or else.
Collective shifts aren’t impossible; they’re the stuff that history is made of. And it’s important to remember that the majority of a system doesn’t have to change in order for it to tip in another direction. The majority didn’t wake up one day and say “Let’s free the slaves.” The majority didn’t wake up one day and say “Let’s give women the right to vote.” The majority didn’t wake up one day and say “Let’s desegregate the South.” Social change occurs on a vertical, not a horizontal axis: it’s not a majority awakening to the need for a new direction that begins the change, but only a critical mass, and that makes all the difference. When a critical mass in any system - usually a group of outliers considered outrageous radicals by the status quo of their time - stand with conviction and courage for a better idea, the rest that needs to happen will inevitably follow.
What’s the better idea today? That humanity should decide to survive. That we awaken to how perilous our current trajectory, and to our need for fundamental change. That we surrender who we are, what we have, and what we do, in service to that change. That we embrace the possibility that there might be another way.
From there, everything will change - in our minds and in our life experience. It’s like a spiritual conversion from “I thought I was alive for one thing” to “I realize I’m alive for something else.” It’s a shift in our internal operating system from serving ourselves to serving the ages, from trying to figure out what we think we should do, to making ourselves available to whoever love would have us be. Then and only then will we really know what we should do.
All of us need to be the immune cells now in the sickened body of humanity. The body can take a lot of injury and disease, as long as there’s a healthy immune system. And civilization can take a lot of decay and destructiveness, as long as enough of its inhabitants are willing to become its healers. Just as the cells of the body are led by a natural intelligence, so are we when we are willing to listen to it. Gandhi said the leader of the India Independence movement was “the small still voice within.”
A civilization repairs itself much like an individual does. First we have to come out of our denial that what we’re doing now is working - because it’s not. And once we face that, another kind of thinking sets in, another kind of life force. The wisdom of the world is replaced by the wisdom of the heart. And from that will emerge our collective genius. It’s not like we don’t have other options for how to live on this earth, because we do. We just need to forge them. It will take all our strength, individually and collectively. It will take a willingness to embrace change. It will take courage. And it will take love.