I’ve been following Charles Eisenstein’s work and thinking for many years, and his recent essay about what we are facing collectively today stirred me.
I highly recommend reading it, but if you don’t have the time, here are some brief personal responses to it from me.
He focuses on two concerns: the reflex of control, and the war on death, pointing out that “today, most of our challenges no longer succumb to force,” and then continues with a call to connected community, interdependence and stepping into our personal sovereignty.
I’m sure you’ve all seen the various memes circulating right now about how great it is to see the world standing in solidarity against Covid-19. In part, they give me hope that profound changes are possible for us when we are united in purpose, mission, and vision.
There is something about the idea of human coherence that is intuitively appealing to me. I want to honor all interdependence-wisdom that emerges within us collectively. As Einstein says, “none of the world’s problems are technically difficult to solve; they originate in human disagreement.”
However, when we look at what is actually driving “decision-makers” these days, a different story emerges.
Instead of being motivated by a desire for the common good, from a place of internal motivation, natural giving, openheartedness, Eisenstein points out,
“Covid-19 is accelerating pre-existing trends, political, economic, and social … what among the things that are being taken away right now – civil liberties, freedom of assembly, sovereignty over our bodies, in-person gatherings, hugs, handshakes, and public life – might we need to exert intentional political and personal will to restore?”
Framing this crisis as a war against a virus has mass appeal, but it keeps us stuck in the kind of threat-response cycle that got us here in the first place.
I have been teaching for a long time that systems of domination, control, separation and war perpetuate, obscure and reinforce the deeper, human-life issues we need to address and transform.
Marshall Rosenberg warned against the dehumanizing and destructive effects of creating Enemy Images when we are afraid, confused and looking for someone or something to blame. Eisenstein points out,
“What kind of problem succumbs to domination and control? The kind caused by something from the outside, something Other. When the cause of the problem is something intimate to ourselves, like homelessness or inequality, addiction or obesity, there is nothing to war against. We may try to install an enemy, blaming, for example, the billionaires, Vladimir Putin, or the Devil, but then we miss key information, such as the ground conditions that allow billionaires (or viruses) to replicate in the first place.”
His essay thoughtfully examines issues including control, holism our relationship with death and the meaning of life, and he ends with a new vision – one that I wholeheartedly embrace: “Instead of doubling down on control, we could finally embrace the holistic paradigms and practices that have been waiting on the margins, waiting for the center to dissolve so that, in our humbled state, we can bring them into the center and build a new system around them … we can take advantage of this pause, this break in normal, to turn onto a path of reunion, of holism, of the restoring of lost connections, of the repair of community and the rejoining of the web of life.”
As always, we have the opportunity to contribute to a new normal by our next action, our next choice, our attitude, our relationship to our fears. More than ever, we need to slow down and examine ourselves:
Are we continuing to be driven by fear, looking for a rescuer and willing to give up our freedoms for temporary relief?
Or are we stepping up into our compassionate, generous nature and working thoughtfully to set up connected, humanizing life-affirming systems – in our hearts and in our cultures – that truly serve life for all on our planet?
Finally, he invites us to step into our authentic power – something I talked about in my membership call last night and have been teaching for years.
We cannot keep approaching our lives, ourselves or each other from a victim/bully stance.
We need to develop the habit of relating to ourselves and others from vulnerability, shared humanity, empathy and interdependence.
As Ken Wilber puts it, we’re each invited to Grow up, Clean up, Wake up and Show up as sovereign, empowered, compassionate and functional adults.
I found his essay (it’s long: take your time and digest it like a fine, multi-course meal) inspiring, hopeful and grounded, and I hope – whether you agree with it or not – that it enriches your thinking, your understanding and your responses in similarly fortifying ways.
I’d really enjoy hearing your thoughts and responses –
What resonated for you?
What additional questions emerged for you?
Where do you see this differently?
What else would you add?
Please leave a comment below.
WANT TO GO DEEPER IN THIS WORK?
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