The United States and the whole world are in a time of deep conflict and we're simultaneously facing serious challenges to our ongoing existence. Despite the current framing of the challenges we're in. This is not a situation where one side is going to win while the other side loses.
We all win or we all lose.
We have been here before, yet this time we have a rare opportunity. We face the potential collapse of empire, civilization, and maybe even humanity, but this time we (collectively, not individually) actually know what's going on. We know where we are in time and space. We can see more clearly now than ever before, that it is us, the sentient beings on this planet that are going to have to figure out together how to sustainably survive on this planet. It is up to all of us, and no one else to make the course correction.
While at this time over half of the world has relatively easy access to the sum of all human knowledge, it's important to acknowledge that an intrinsic part of existence is that we all have an absolutely unique perspective on the world we are in. We are all living with a different set of information. We have all have experienced different things and seen them through different lenses. We all live in different cultural and geographic contexts. We have all learned and been taught a different set of knowledge about how the world works and how to understand what this place is. We each live on our own unique branch on the great family tree. We each receive a unique set of lessons and advice from our parents that is the product of a long chain of lessons and advice from previous generations. Each generation clings to and rejects the advice of their parents, all the way back. And with each cultural transmission from one generation to the next time the advice is always slightly out of date, because the only thing anyone can see is the past, and things are always changing.
That is the tension that we all feel:
On one hand, it seems clear that if things could stay the same than we would know just how to act. There must be ways to make it more predictable, more value driven, and more stable.. It seems like we would thrive if we could have confidence in how the world works and not take the risk of trying to change it. It seems that if we could only stay the same, we could avoid all of the new problems happening in the world.
On the other hand, it is seems clear that we can improve upon the past. There must be ways to make it more inclusive, more free, and more loving. It seems like we could make great improvements if we could only untether ourselves from the past and move freely forward. It seems that if we could only change, we could be free of all the things that caused all of these problems.
That debate is not one that we are resolve. It has always been with us and it always will. The obvious problem of this debate is that we can't prevent change from happening and we cannot (and don't want to) abandon or ignore the path that got us to where we are. Whether through nuclear war or environmental collapse, we seem to be dancing at the edge of a civilizational catastrophe. A board of scientists and experts have just set the Doomsday Clock to 11:58, the closest to midnight (the end of humanity) that it has ever been since it was created in 1947.
We know that civilizations have collapsed before. We can simply look to the ruins left by Egyptian, Mayan, Greek, Roman, Babylonian, Assyrian, Khmer and many more civilizations and empires that thought they would last forever and obviously didn't. We now know that there have been at least 5 mass extinctions on Earth, each killing over 75% of all life on Earth. One killed over 96% of the species on the planet. The last one, made space for the mammals to take over the planet.
This doesn't have to be bad news. We have something going for us that we have never had before: we know what's happening and we can choose to act differently. Our collective human knowledge puts us in the position to understand the gravity of the threats we face, to realize that they total catastrophe is actually possible, and our knowledge give us the ability to learn from our past and not respond in the same way. We can see now that the question we've been asking not the right one. We are not facing a choice about whether to go forwards or go backward. We are not facing a situation where one side will win and the other side will lose (all apparent wins and losses are temporary).
The question we are facing is: How will we, the 7+ billion people people on planet earth (or even the 320+ million U.S. Americans), work together right now in the present moment to co-create the future we can all live in? How can we learn from our past, integrate the lessons of our successes and failures, while also creating the space for us to proactively and continually improve the situation we're in. How can we make the ongoing process of ending and beginning, of grief and hope, be less painful, less divisive, less destructive and less terrifying? Or even better, how can we make this ongoing process, more joyful, more inclusive, more generative and more easeful?
To do that, we need to return to the fundamental truth that we face in existence: that we all see things from a different perspective and with different information. That is our greatest asset. That is the magic gift that we have been given. Through all of our different experiences we have all the information about what's happening. We already know what we need to know. In the process of our great differentiation as humans have branched out from our origins to explore the whole planet. We are actively exploring and learning every question about life that we can consider and we have learned so much. What more, we all know about each other's existence, and we can see that are all connected and interdependent. Many people have traveled far and returned home, allowing us to have deep empathy for the collective human endeavor. It is now impossible for us to unlearn, forget or unsee the vastness and complexity of the situation that we are in. What more, there seems to be a growing global consensus that cuts across nationality, culture, class, race, religion and politics: The status quo seems to be fundamentally broken. Our old strategies (representative democracy, authoritarianism, protest, revolution, and traditional values) are not working any more.
We can stop asking what we need to do, and start asking how we are going to do it.
It's time to see how we can begin to have the difficult and important conversations that are on deck for us. We need to have these conversations with the people who see things differently from us, because it is only with all of our voices in the room that we can begin to build something that serves all the people. We need to all admit that we all have blind spots in our own minds and that none of us have all the information. We need to look at and see our own (individual and collective) flaws. We need to make amends and we need to forgive ourselves. We need to learn how to love, embrace and integrate the long path that got us here. We need to find compassion, gratitude and forgiveness for our journey and the journeys of our ancestors that brought each of us to this point. We need to learn to love ourselves.
And from there we can listen closely to those who see things totally differently than we do with the same compassion that we give ourselves.
And if it seems like we're (you're) not ready for that yet, we can remind ourselves that we don't have a choice. And guess what, there are a ton of people who are ready to help us. The world is now swarming with skilled facilitators who are trained and ready to help us have these difficult and important conversations in ways that are practical, healing, and generative.
The first step, is for us to admit that we can't help the world alone. We all have to do it together, and each one of our perspectives and dreams is vitally important and irreplaceable. We need you in the game and you need everyone else.
Team humanity. That's us. Now let's get out there and start building a world that we can all be proud of.
Here's a song to inspire you: