This is an amazing time to be alive!
“Yeah, right,” my inner cynic says, “crumbling economy, peak oil, peak everything, melting ice caps, mass extinctions… and you have no idea how you are going to survive in your old age.”
The list goes on and on… all woven together, I remind my cynic within, by the incredible, inescapable fact that we are living in a time when the old is crumbling, which is when there is the greatest opportunity to create something new.
And that IS an amazing time to be alive!
This was the conversation swirling inside me on the first day of this new year, as I stood on a rock ledge jutting out into the ocean. A large remnant of an ancient cliff blocked my direct view of the horizon. From around its edges, I watched the waves coming in, crashing on the rock ledge, sending droplets of seawater in my direction.
Somehow this felt very much like where we as humans stand today. We know an evolution is needed. We know that evolution is being birthed within the crumbling of the old ways of being and doing that for so long have not served us or our earth. We see shapes of what is rising, the many new ways of thinking, feeling, being and doing now being created and embraced by increasing numbers of people. Yet much of what will evolve is still blocked from our view. It is a time of complexities, challenges and deep hope.
If you are reading this, you are alive today, and that means you are part of this Great Unraveling/ Great Turning, or whatever name we choose to call it. If you, like me, are middle aged or beyond, we have lived through the apex of a global empire now passed irrevocably into decline.
When exactly that point of turning was passed is the topic of many discussions. I am not sure how important it is to know that precise point. We can see that it happened sometime as we were following our dreams and passions, pursuing careers, raising families, paying mortgages… or however we chose to spend those years of our lives. We know that something big happened on the way down with the economic crisis of 2008, even if the mainstream economic pundits keep assuring us that prosperity is just around the corner.
If you are middle aged or beyond, you may remember how in our parent’s time (the World War II generation) a “blue collar” worker in union auto and steel plants had medical care for his entire family and a modest pension when he retired. Today many of us know we will never retire, and wonder if there will be social security in our old age.
If you are of “The 60’s Generation”, as I am, you may remember that many of us worked our way through college, paying tuition and living expenses by working minimum wage jobs, emerging into the world debt-free. Today’s young adults often leave college many tens of thousands of dollars in debt, with no commensurately well-paying job in sight.
We are experiencing this great crumbling from within, as it is happening. We will not experience it as an academic lecture or experiment (although some may try), with us standing outside of and observing some scientific process. We are each in different locations as it unfolds. One analogy I have heard is that it is like a long, slow train wreck. The people toward the back are still riding along comfortably. They may not have even noticed that something is amiss.
That we experience this Great Crumbling from within is an inescapable and ultimately a very good (if at times painful) thing. Everything on our earth is intricately interwoven. Each thing interacts with a multiplicity of other things that in turn interact with a multiplicity of other things.
So everything we do interacts with a multiplicity of other things. Every thing we do makes a difference. In times of crumbling, of instability and change, when the old way of being and doing can no longer hold itself, can no longer hold us in its grip, there is a greater fluidity, a greater opening. It is in times like these that even small actions can reverberate widely into the future.
And that makes it an amazing time to be alive.
Think about all the humans that have ever lived. They lived through times of joy and plenty. They lived through wars, famines, natural disasters. They lived through the rise and crumbling of empires. Yet none of them lived in a time like ours.
We live in a time of crumbling of a global empire – an empire unprecedented in its scope. It is an empire that knitted the human experiment together in ways unimaginable to previous empires whose reach encompassed only part of our earth. We live at the turning-crumbling point of an empire built on a way of thinking-living-being that some say began with the industrial age. Others trace its origins all the way to the beginnings of agriculture, with its concurrent rise of hierarchy, patriarchy and private ownership of land.
There is a vastness of historical sweep to what is happening right now, as we go about grocery shopping or our to-do list. Such times don’t come along every day.
Think about it! Galileo did not get to live in these times. Rilke did not get to live in these times. Jesus Christ and Buddha did not get to live in these times. Yet you and I do get to live in these times, with their long view of history.
What will we do with this incredible gift we have been given?
It is the vastness in sweep of this apex-crumbling-turning that allows us to see, in a way previous generations could not, the trajectory of our civilization’s way of being and doing, and its results.
It is this same vastness of sweep that opens an opportunity to deep visioning of the new, as the hold of the old way of being and doing reaches its limits and crumbles around and within us. This vastness of sweep calls for a fundamental change in the way humanity has defined and experienced itself for centuries, perhaps millennia, a change that goes all the way to the core of what it means to be human.
Yet the magnitude of this Great Turning stretches even beyond the reach of human history.
Humanity has lived through times of extreme climate change, such as the ice age approximately 20,000 years ago, when ice sheets covered large parts of North America, Europe and Asia. Yet never before have we lived through a time of global climate change created by us and our way of life, by our dominant culture, civilization and its values.
When future generations look back they will remember this as a time of mass extinctions and radical climate change – the repercussions of which we can barely imagine, and with which future generations will live with for millennia.
We will be known as the apex and turning of the time when humanity brought this about by the dominant beliefs of the dominant culture – that hierarchy and dominance were natural and even good, and that the best, and in fact the only way to be in relation to the earth, was to take from it for our immediate gratification, with no regard for the results.
There is a vastness of scope to the new story crying out to be written, as vast as the change now happening to our planet.
In the history of life on our planet, periods of mass extinction were followed by periods of abundant evolutionary growth and explosions of new forms of life.
The extinction of the dinosaurs opened the way for the rise of mammals. In the same way, this global empire based on the belief of man controlling and taking from the earth, the inevitability and even rightness of hierarchy, the idea that (as a bumper sticker I once saw said) “whoever dies with the most things wins)” is now crumbling. This opens the way for a rising of new ideas, new practices, new beliefs, new technologies rooted in and grown from knowing humanity as one group of beings nestled among many other kinds of beings within a living being we call Earth nestled within an even grander living being we call the Universe.
What will we do with this incredible gift we have been given?
We live in a time when the stories and mythologies of this great juncture are yet to be written. There are people already beginning the writing and telling of these times. Some of my personal favorites are Brian Swimme, Thomas Berry, Joanna Macy, Bill Plotkin. There are many, many others, and more joining in all the time. Each of us has a voice in the grand tapestry of this writing and telling.
There is an abundance of visioning now emerging from our collective human imagination. It is a time when much has already been created, is being created, that points the way toward birthing new ways of being and doing in relation to the earth and each other.
In relation to the earth, there is the marvelous flowering of Permaculture, conceived by following nature’s own design, based on the understanding that all things are interrelated and creating systems in which all elements support and feed other elements, within which humans are simply one part of the whole. From this flows new ideas in agriculture and ways to gather what we need for a good life together with this earth, living in reciprocal relationship, finding ways to enrich our earth and other life forms rather than taking from and destroying them.
At the same time there is what may be seen as the emergence of Permaculture principles applied to how we humans live in relation to each other. There is an abundance of approaches to egalitarian, non-hierarchical structures; a reviving of circle traditions; a flowering of new ways of listening, hearing and being with one another; new ways of living, co-creating and building communities together.
Perhaps the over-reaching element of this abundance of new visioning, understanding the depth and breadth of the times we live in, is what is called the re-visioning of what it means to be human. This species leap being called forth requires reaching far back into our history, to ways of feeling and relating to the earth and universe dreamed and intuited by our indigenous ancestors, largely forgotten in the bustle and clamor of our industrial growth society. It requires a reaching back, not to replicate, but to reclaim and weave together with the scientific understandings we have gathered over the past centuries, to birth something new.
All this is not something I thought of. People like Brian Swimme, Thomas Berry, Joanna Macy, Bill Plotkin and others write about it in ways so eloquent and deep it takes my breath away.
If you are alive today, you are living within the vastness in this moment of human and earth time. That means you have something to offer these times and that what you have to give can have much greater impact than if we lived in “normal” times of war and turmoil and natural disaster.
Hold that in your heart, in your breath, in your upturned palm.
We are the ones gifted with this long vision of the human endeavor on this planet we call earth, within this galaxy we call the Milky Way, within this grand mysterious living being we call the Universe.
I am awed and humbled by the fact that I am alive today.
We live in a time when each of our voices and visions are vitally needed for earth’s and humanity’s future. It is a time when the question is not so much how we survive the demise of what has been, as how we each contribute to what is new and arising. Rooting ourselves in what we bring to these times and share with the future is much more than a way to anchor ourselves through the storms of this great crumbling.
As you read this, you may already have an understanding of your gifts and how you bring them to this world, your role in the grand drama of our times, your note in our shared Earthsong. You may be gathering clues and listening to your intuition. You may feel it like a treasure hunt, the echo of a sound reverberating in your heart, or the leaping of a gladness within. You may be in one of those moments in your life when who you are and what you give expands, shifts, or changes directions. You may be just beginning to ask this question.
Wherever you are, it is a magic moment in the vastness of time.
We are all dancing on history’s edge, weaving the new story with our words and songs, dreams, and visions.
This IS an amazing time to be alive!
Dianne Monroe weaves her dreams and visions in Sebastopol, California. She is an Expressive Arts Facilitator, writer, and photographer offering workshops and personal mentoring for personal evolution and transformation, supporting people in the discovery and deep understanding of their voice and place in this world and these times. (In some situations she can work by phone or Skype)
Contact her (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit her (www.diannemonroe.com)