the art of being human
Each person’s life story is unique, and after 250,000 years of the human narrative we can look over our shoulder and see how all the individual stories weave together into a collective myth that stretches along an invisible timeline—like a living tapestry of human existence. In my mind’s eye this tapestry is rich with colors and variations, undulating and flowing, waving against a backdrop of deep space… if you look closely you can see the stitches holding it together, sewn by each of the one hundred and seven billion humans that scientists estimate have lived on Earth.
Perhaps what is most remarkable about this flowing tapestry is that it is always changing and yet eternally constant; how it first appears to be a random patchwork and yet patterns emerge; how it perpetually reiterates like a fractal; and how it radiates with the human spirit, even as the unknown future threads are still being woven.
In the scale of human affairs it is literally five minutes before midnight on the Doomsday Clock, which hangs in an office of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago. The rate of change within all spheres of human existence—planetary, biological, mental, and social—is accelerating, and simultaneously it seems we are running out of time to adequately respond. Each change activates great upheaval, and this throws us out of our security and inertia, which in itself precipitates further change. Will we keep spiraling in accelerated ecological intensity, destroying the biosphere and each other? Or will we break though the old stories and agree to a shared understanding and purpose of common ends, based on a humane perspective of a global family?
The accelerating chaos and breakdown surrounding us now is a reliable indicator for what must lay ahead—a new version of humanity—and therefore the dissolution of what was before. But precisely what that looks like, how we get there from here, how it applies to our lives personally, or if the change will be beneficent or timely, we don’t yet know. The evolution of the human species, of course, is inevitable. But how this will arise, and what manifests as a result, is entirely dependent on collective will.
Mystics of antiquity who anticipated this time called it the “Age of Truth,” a time when all falsehood drops away. But truth is not something to be discovered: it has to be realized. And the wisdom to recognize Truth cannot be taught, but it can be learned. In order to adapt, to thrive, we have to be honest and wise about the issues we face. This is the first Truth. When we can agree on and be truthful about what is working and what isn’t, be it personal, social, or global systems, then we liberate ourselves to focus on and do what does work instead—and in turn, what we do works.
So, as the comedian Phyllis Diller would quip in her comedy skits, “Can we talk?”
Let’s just be straightforward about the current situation: we humans have set in motion processes that could preclude the survival of over seven billion people, as well as all other sentient beings and Gaia herself. For anyone who is paying attention it is crystal clear that the Earth’s ecological crisis and humanity’s psycho-spiritual crises are reflections of each other, stemming from the same cause: how we think. How we think (and therefore behave), and the stories we tell about our place in the universe, is of supreme importance.
The good news is that the upheaval is also what releases the necessary energy, knowledge, and impetus within us to fuel the leap of adaptation needed for humanity to reinvent itself and co-author a new story.
The story of our lives is marked by a profound and radical shift in human consciousness: we are changing our thinking! Not just what we think but how we think, and how we perceive ourselves in evolutionary terms. And as this shift in how we think gains scope and momentum, we are changing the very definition of what it means to be human. The degree to which we can experience in our own lives this greater human story, and thus discover our evolutionary potential, is key to designing our future.
That’s my story and I’m sticking with it! What’s yours?