When the Decision to Change is the Only Survivable Option
Looking darkness squarely in the eye, we begin to see the light.
Having had a long career in the field of personal transformation, I’ve often had someone come see me after they’ve already spoken to the doctor, the accountant, the lawyer and anyone else they thought might provide the solutions to their woes. I’m often the visit of last resort, someone you talk to after you’ve gone through the entire rigmarole of thinking that by tweaking the problem here, you can fix it, or tweaking the problem there, you can fix it. Sometimes, though, problems are more intractable than anything that can be handled only on an external level. Only when we’re ready to look within can we find the real source of our problems, since so many of them derive from our own attitudes, energies, and patterns of behavior. We can’t permanently eradicate a symptom until we’re willing to look deeply at its cause.
People are struggling to process what’s happened to this country, and are beginning to recognize that whatever the problem, and however we got here, we need to turn things around pretty much right now. At the same time, our traditional problem-solving options seem inadequate to the task at hand. It’s not as simple anymore as thinking that all we have to do is decide is whether Democrats or Republicans should run things. We’ve seen too much now, and the patterns are clear. The problems are deeper than either of them seem prepared to handle; in fact their way of being, and their way of functioning, in many cases create more problems than they solve.
We can’t just continue to play whack-a-mole, hoping we can swat down this problem here, or fix that problem over there. The problem is more fundamental than any one individual issue. People realize that the demands of the market have replaced democracy as the guiding principles of our society. And that means, in essence, that we have chosen against democracy. Only when we face the depth of the problem, will we be able to rise to the heights from which it can truly be addressed.
It’s sort of like the first step of Alcoholic Anonymous, when someone admits the problem is too big for them and their life has become unmanageable. We’ve gone so long thinking “Well, maybe the Republicans can manage the country” or “Maybe the Democrats can manage the country” and are finally, finally at the point of realizing, “Neither of them can manage it. The country has become unmanageable.”
So many challenges face right now, it’s hard to identify which is worst. It isn’t just climate change. It isn't just lack of health care. It isn't just whittling down the infrastructure bill and taking out its climate measures, reduction of drug prices, help for seniors etc. It isn't just the 44 million Americans with college loan debt. It isn't just the low minimum wage. It isn't just subsidizing and coddling corrupt corporations. It isn’t just outrageous lies about our elections and efforts to suppress votes. It isn't just the refusal to fairly tax the ultra-wealthy.
It's the whole damn thing. It’s the hollow, increasingly depressing feeling that something has gotten out of control.
Of course we look to governmental institutions to uphold the pillars of our civilization. But more and more, expecting either major political party to fundamentally repair what’s broken has begun to feel naive. Yes, yes, one is so much worse than the other - but at this point we’re talking about the difference between a total nosedive and a managed decline. While the parties in some ways are very different, in other ways they’ve become far too much the same: looking out for the interests of their corporate donors first and the American people last; even then, only if and when convenient. Whether we’re talking about the defense industry, fossil fuel companies, Big Pharma, or any other corporate giant running roughshod over our democracy, there is a corporate matrix that regulates the government and not the other way around. Looking to the problem itself to provide a solution is ridiculous. The status quo will not disrupt itself.
We need more than another bill now, or another piece of legislation, or even another candidate. We need a massive metanoia, a change of heart, a miraculously different way of thinking that pierces the wall before us and changes the dynamics of the world. Enough with trying to prop up a system that’s dying. It’s dying for good reason, such absence of compassion for people and planet lies at its core. You can’t make an old paradigm new; you have to replace it. You can’t put new wine in old bottles. And that’s the good news, not the bad.
We simply cannot create a sustainable future for ourselves, our children or our grandchildren, if we continue to put short term profit for huge, faceless multi-national corporate conglomerates before the health, safety and security of the people and the planet. The profit motive has no place anymore in issues that determine our collective survival. Humanity is being challenged to change, and the only two choices that lie before us are either something beautiful if we do, and something really, really terrible if we do not.
When we get that, when we really and truly get that, then we will be no longer be vulnerable to propaganda from those who would argue the fundamentals are basically still okay. The fundamentals are not okay. Either corporations can run the world, or the people can survive. Either fossil fuel companies end their tyrannous rampage upon the earth, or humanity will have a chance to survive. Either the defense industry ends its drive toward militaristic madness, or humanity will have a chance at something other than endless war. This is not a moment for passive acquiescence to what amounts to species suicide. We must stop our magical thinking that “somehow it will all work out.” History would prove otherwise. Sometimes it does not.
As those of who sought my counsel on issues of personal transformation have often asked me, “So wait, would that mean I have to change my whole life?” To which I usually respond, ‘Yeah, pretty much.” Because when the life we’re living now isn’t working, that’s a sign that it’s time to make a change. You drink too much, you might die. You take drugs too much, you might die. For what reason would we ever believe that humanity can flirt with disaster as much as we do now, and “somehow it will all work out?”
It will all work out if we decide to change. And if we do not decide to change, then it will not work out. In our resistance to change lies our greatest danger. In our willingness to change lies the hope for humanity’s future. We can change from a dirty economy to a clean economy; we can change from a war economy to a peace economy; we can change from the tyranny of a soulless economic system to the liberating influence of economic forces driven by humanitarian concerns. All of that good and reparative and regenerative is possible, when enough of us decide to change.
In the words of Deepak Chopra, “It’s a minute before extinction.” But where the heart is aroused, and the willingness is there, then a minute is more than enough. In the space of the awakened heart, nature rearranges itself and the miraculous becomes possible. Do not deny the darkness, but deny its power over you. Look at the darkness squarely in the eye, then see through it to the other side.