It seems to me that there are three fundamental relationships that we all share as human beings: 1) our relationship with ourselves and other people, 2) our relationship with our circumstances and 3) our relationship with time. When we are inflexible or stuck in habitual ways of being in any of these areas, we become trapped in a condition from which we cannot extract ourselves: we are caught in a "self-referential" spiral in which the more we attempt to improve a situation, the more intractable it becomes. In the extreme, this condition becomes an addiction-- whether to a substance, a behavior or an ideology.
Self-referentiality is a condition in which we believe our own point-of-view. It is a form of "cognitive blindness" in which we think our perceptions are more or less "true," accurate reflections of reality and in which we become unable to distinguish other possibilities. The consequences of this phenomenon can range from "denial" (as in the case of most addictions) to "self-righteousness" (as in when we're attached to a belief) to cynicism (as in when we're attached to believing in no possibilities) or just plain ignorance (as in when we refuse to even consider alternative possibilities).
This week I am a meeting with a group to consider possibilities for creating a world that is "environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling"--for everyone. The sheer size of the challenge is daunting. How can 6 billion people arrive at some degree of alignment on any approach that involves large numbers of people adapting different behaviors, having radically different relationships with one another, and remaining more or less open to constant change? By any measure, this sounds like New Age idealism--an "Age of Aquarius" that is "unrealistic" and naive. By the same token, many serious leaders, recognized experts and esteemed "think tanks" are pessimistic about humanity's chances of effectively dealing with many of today's intractable problems--at least in a timeframe that can make a difference--if we don't achieve some sort of a planetary "breakthrough" of this magnitude.
With respect to our relationship with ourself and others, there is a great deal of philosophical and spiritual work being done.
With respect to our relationship with our circumstances, new and exciting technologies are appearing constantly. Paul Hawken's book Blessed Unrest reveals there are millions of organizations around the globe involved in some sort of "change" projects.
With respect to our relationship to time, very little is being done. FourYearsGo (4YG), a global communications campaign, is attempting to accelerate the rate at which people are approaching the demands for radical and transformational change. Specifically, the 4YG strategy is to 'turn around' the negative and downward trends that are threatening our environment, the quality of life of all humans and the long-term survival of all life on this planet.
Do we have time to "evolve" or transform or to become sufficiently "enlightened'" to bring about a world that is 'environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling' before our systems collapse? Or do we join the list of 'endangered species'?
I am optimistic that a global transformation of consciousness is possible--and perhaps even possible in my lifetime (assuming I live for another 20 or 30 years). Transformations happen all the time and they don't take time. Google, for example, has globally transformed our relationship to knowledge and information: what was previously a capability of the few and a source of power only a decade or so ago is now available to every individual human being with a computer and internet access.
If "necessity is the mother of invention," then there is plenty of "necessity" for all of us to individually and collectively focus our time, energy and talents on what is important to our future. We need to concentrate on our true values and what is missing for us to create the future that we want. We need to examine our relationships with each other, our circumstances and time. We need to begin to shift how we relate to these aspects of our world. We need to stop reacting to what doesn't work. It's time to act in ways that express what we stand FOR--a vision of a world that works for all of us.
Copyright 2010 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.