paradigmReposted from Collapsing Into Consciousness


The term, paradigm shift, was coined by Thomas Kuhn in 1962 in his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolution. Kuhn argued that scientific advancement is not evolutionary, but is a “series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions”, and in those revolutions “one conceptual world view is replaced by another.”

For the purpose of this essay, I’m going to define a paradigm as a typical example or pattern of thinking, such as a system model or a worldview. A paradigm shift occurs when there is a radical change in thinking from an accepted point of view or system to a new way of thinking, a worldview, or a system.  In that sense, a paradigm shift is evolutionary, as it represents a transformation – or a metamorphosis – in thinking, which may also include a physical change.

Some examples of evolutionary ways of thinking that created new paradigms are the shift from hunter-gatherers to agriculture, barter to money, The Ptolemaic system (the earth is at the center of the universe) to the Copernican system (the sun at the center of the universe), the invention of the printing press, the dark ages to “the enlightenment” and scientific-rationalism, the discovery of fossil fuels and the automobile and airplane, Newtonian physics to Relativity to Quantum Physics, the internet, smart phones, changing from a manufacturing based economy to a service based economy, the now disappearing middle class…and those changes just keep on coming

The term, Paradigm Shift, has completely entered mass consciousness. Everyone has heard the phrase, “the only constant in life is change.” Never has that been more true than today. We seem to be moving at a dizzying rate of speed and our consciousness must change and transform with it or we could very well go the way of the dinosaurs, or one of the other previous five great extinctions on this planet. In fact, many reputable mainstream scientists now believe that we’ve already reached a climate tipping point that can’t be reversed, resulting in higher planetary temperatures that humans will not be able to live in. How high? Perhaps as little 3-4 degrees in as little as a decade away.

Speaking of tipping points, we’ll define a tipping point as a critical new and irresistible development, like a new paradigm. Malcom Gladwell, in his book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, defines it as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point,” where “ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread like viruses do.”

We’ll also apply the term to dramatic changes in social and cultural events, governments, and particularly its impact on human behavior. Before something  reaches a tipping point, there’s no telling when the critical mass needed for that tipping point to boil over will occur. But once that tipping point has been reached through critical mass, the process increases dramatically and becomes self-sustaining and creates more growth.

Paradigm Shifts and Tipping Points are neither good nor bad in and of themselves but may have serious harmful or beneficial consequences. The rest of this essay is going to address some of those possible negative consequences.

Negative Paradigm Shifts

We’ve already touched one of the most serious paradigm shifts we’re experiencing: Climate Change. The paradigm of Infinite Growth is also undergoing serious stresses as more and more of us are waking up and realizing that we don’t live on a finite world and that the infinite growth paradigm was never sustainable and has an impact on oil and water resources, population, economics, and energy. Collapsing into Consciousness readers will recognize these and many more. These stresses turn into resource wars, like what we’re watching unfold in Syria and the Middle East at this very moment. Innocent people die, become refugees and are forced to relocate as governments and the powerful become even more repugnant and self-serving as the stakes around resources and power increase. The paradigm of the Infinite Growth Monetary System is designed only to serve the powerful few is collapsing under its own weight and the above mentioned stresses.

There are a lot of people who still believe and teach that anyone can be rich if they are willing to work hard enough. That if we have the right attitude, if we just do the right things, and that if we’re willing to do “what it takes,” and know how to game the system, that we, too, can have it all. But what many of us are beginning to wake up to is that the current monetary and economic paradigm only works with winners and losers. It creates scarcity and separation and it’s never been more obvious than it is today with more and more money and resources concentrated into fewer and fewer hands…leaving on the other side, more and more people struggling to live – survive, including children – on less and less. Winners and losers.

To paraphrase James Carville, “it’s the paradigm, stupid,” and it’s totally rigged against you. It doesn’t mean you can’t win, but the game is seriously stacked against you. What will you do to win it?

I recently played a game that encouraged and rewarded bribery, where the consciousness of “what can you do for me?” prevailed while teaching that the Universe will provide if we just trust. “What can you do for me” is not the language of love or of a bountiful universe. A truly benevolent and bountiful universe asks “what can I do for you?”, but also asks that you don’t take so much that others are left with nothing. Someone who truly believes in the bountiful abundance of the universe asks, “what can I do for you?”

Can you play that game ethically and still “win?” It depends on how wide your vision is and what you’re willing to pay to win. A limited vision – or perspective – could play the game ethically and “win,” but you would still be winning in a paradigm that creates losers and you would still be supporting a system that is broken and ultimately unsustainable.  A “big picture” perspective would see the inherent problems in that system and look for a new paradigm…one that would support life and abundance for all.

Is it possible for 7 billion people on planet earth to be rich? No, but if we were wise and compassionate, and truly believed in a universe of abundance, there might be enough so that no one had to go hungry and no one had to die of starvation.

This is another place where many people are waking up and asking questions about our collapsing system. Why are so many people unhappy? Why are people starving? Why do I have to work so hard that I can’t spend time with my loved ones? What can I do?

Have our lives gotten easier or harder? It’s an irony of modern life that we think our material abundance and our technology has made us happier, when, in fact, we now know that indigenous hunter-gatherers had – have, in some places – far more leisure time than we do, and enjoy rich and satisfying lives without material possessions, and are, in fact, affluent in the sense of having everything they need. According to John Goudy, writing on Hunter-gatherers and the mythology of the market:

Economics is defined in most textbooks as “the study of the allocation of scarce resources among alternative ends.” Humans, it is said, have unlimited wants and limited means to satisfy these wants, so the inevitable result is scarcity. We cannot have everything we want, so we must choose what we would have. Every act of consumption is thus also an act of denial. The more we consume, the more we are deprived. In this dismal state of affairs, our job as economic beings is to allocate our limited incomes so as to get the greatest enjoyment possible from the relatively few things we are able to buy.

What is enough? Will we ever have enough? Can we create a new paradigm around what it means to be “wealthy,” and where we redefine what the very word “wealth” means to us? A new paradigm that serves the planet and everyone on it, and not just a few? Then, can that paradigm reach a tipping point? A place where it becomes so powerful, so compelling, that it can’t be stopped?

Can we step out of that paradigm, now? Not likely! At this point. It is 3rd dimensional reality out there, all the way up and all the way down. So we almost have to work within the old paradigm, a left-over paradigm that is clearly collapsing before our very eyes. But we can work on creating that new paradigm.

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”  – R. Buckminster Fuller

Coming: Paradigm Shifts, and Tipping Points, Part Two.

Author Gary Stamper is the founder and manager of Collapsing into Consciousness, a website that is a  first-of-its-kind community of like-minded visionaries, problem solvers and early adapters focused on real world transition solutions. Gary is in the process of converting the website membership in to a gifting community.

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