Yes, things are largely a mess but, strangely enough, that is always a prerequisite for an evolutionary shift.
Too much media isn’t good for my soul, I’ve realized.
Sometimes when I’ve been on the web, reading posts that illustrate the state of things in our world, I feel utterly discouraged. Depressed, even. Our escalating social problems and rising violence, rapid and destructive climate change, a polluted environment, the increasing gap between wealthy and poor, the frenetic consumption of resources to fuel our materialistic lifestyle while earth’s population increases exponentially — it often seems humanity is on a dead end course.
There are times when I catch myself thinking that we’re so messed up, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it all ended and society had to start over.
Then I catch myself again and make a shift in my thoughts.
Away from the headlines and the endless parade of bad news, there is actually a tremendous amount of good happening in the world. Everywhere. Yes, things are largely a mess but, strangely enough, that is always a prerequisite for an evolutionary shift.
If we look at the history of humanity and earth — and that of the cosmos — repeatedly we find situations and scenarios that initially seemed catastrophic, and yet they resulted in a profound and irreversible change going forward.
The Universe and everything on Earth has developed through a sequence of irreversible, profoundly transforming steps. The explosion of the original supernova, Tiamat, resulted in the formation of the basic elements of the Periodic Table, necessary for the subsequent formation of galaxies. From this massive destruction and cosmic dispersion, stars and planets slowly coalesced over millions of years, each one acted upon by unique forces of gravitational forces.
In Earth’s evolution, the atomic combustion (and eventual exhaustion) of hydrogen prompted the cooling of matter into a solid sphere, followed by the creation of an insulating atmosphere.
As single-celled, anaerobic bacteria (prokaryotes) appeared — the first forms of life — and swarmed in the primordial seas, they created such an abundance of oxygen (to them a by-product and poison) in the atmosphere that life was forced to creatively evolve or be destroyed completely. Defying the million to once chance, eukaryotes appeared — bacteria that fed on oxygen.
Such a massive, seemingly impossible shift allowed life to continue in its evolution, yet it has been just one of an amazing string of similar transformations that have preceded humanity’s arrival on the planet. Each evolutionary event has involved an irreversible change, allowing life to continue in a new, unprecedented manner.
Humanity, as an element of the cosmos, has progressed in exactly the same fashion. Each age of our existence has come to its dramatic end, and through a period of chaos and turmoil, births itself into the next stage which was previously inconceivable.
Emerging from the forests and savannahs as hunters and gatherers, we evolved into agriculture-based societies; from tribes our social structures transformed into city-states and nations; then into an age of early empires and their eventual collapse.
In European history, the Dark Ages and medieval times gave way to the Renaissance and an explosion of new thought and ideas––along with economic changes, industrial changes, and social changes, an awakening of the masses––far beyond what had come before. A new colonialism generated new empires, which slowly gave way to the Industrial Age that, in turn, yielded to the Technological and Scientific Age. Now our popularly called Information Age.
Looking around, reading the headlines and faced with climate change, it strikes me that humanity stands again at one of those pivotal moments where, out of chaos and an old worldview crumbling, a new leap in evolution will take place.
Visionaries such as the cultural historian and spiritual ecologist, Thomas Berry, have called the challenge we face “the Great Work”: re-envisioning humanity and transitioning from being the most destructive force on the planet to becoming a life-enhancing element instead.
In this shift, men have their own evolution to face:
The Great Work of our time will not be successfully accomplished without men who acknowledge and embody a different sort of masculinity; men that understand and value the interrelatedness of all things, rather than those who view the world solely as a resource to be exploited and capitalized.
The male principle is one of action; certainly it is necessary for change and making things right again, but it also requires empathy, consciousness and compassion.
As Einstein is often quoted, “No problem will be solved by the same level of consciousness that created it.” We must thus rely on new ways of thinking, feeling, knowing and being; a more embodied, intuitive and connected mode. The linear, mechanical and disconnected mode of our current existence must shift. We must evolve past the ‘fight or flight’ part of our reptilian, lower brains, and also unplug from our typical, left-brain dominance as men.” (excerpted from The Bones and Breath: A Man’s Guide to Eros, the Sacred Masculine, and the Wild Soul, by L. R. Heartsong)
While for now an expanded, evolved definition of manhood remains largely on the fringes, from an evolutionary standpoint, that is always where evolution begins — never in the status quo.
When I occasionally feel discouraged or doubt that we will succeed in the massive undertaking we face, I remember the advice of an eighty-something year-old artist living in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Still working and abundantly creating, in a local interview (which is where I learned of her story) she was asked about the secret of her vibrant longevity. She replied that each day she sought out something that inspired her — at least one thing, every day. Sometimes it was as simple as a perfect, blood red rose at the peak of its fragrant bloom in a neighbor’s flower garden. Other times it might be people she encountered, or the stories of others, but every day, she consciously sought inspiration.
I realize that I cannot change the world, much as I might wish to. I can only shift my own life and evolve myself through the choices I make each day: working on my personal growth and transformation; buying less and choosing local options; making small steps towards sustainability; building community; practicing stewardship; improving my relationships and opening my heart; practicing compassion and kindness.
And I look for people, places and things that inspire me daily (nature is especially brilliant for this).
Despite the general bad press, men are changing. There’s a quiet evolution — perhaps even a revolution — underway, and it’s a timely one.
Brother, in the collective shift we’re trying to make — for men, for our children and humanity, for the planet — here’s hoping that you’ll find something each day that inspires you. May you reconsider your roles in life as a man, challenge the status quo, toss away any limiting stereotypes, and be true to your soul.
Collectively, we can steer a new course and inspire others along the way.
Sometimes it seems impossible that humankind can make the leap we need to. Yet somehow, against all odds, it will happen. On a cosmic and human scale, every great shift has occurred in just the same way — a million to one chance that succeeded. Again and again. If I widen my perspective a bit, I remember that evolutionary change won’t happen until it is forced to, and I realize that our shift is already underway.
Choosing to transform, we become a positive change that ripples outward.