See, I am doing a new thing; now it is starting; will you not take note of it? I will even make a way in the waste land, and rivers in the dry country.Isa 43:19
Many might think about the now and how to survive the day right now. Thus, the corona virus lockdown has a very centering, meditative awareness effect. If you can leave panic out of the picture, that is.
In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or step back into safety. –Abraham Maslow
Even though I do not have context (#30), I need to build some foundation for the vision I am going to paint.
Humanity has been faced with changing life conditions many times in the past, and sometimes big. Let’s look at some of those big changes.
I am a Christian, and thus will reference the biblical narrative throughout. But I am also a well-educated science aficionado. As many fundamentalists on both sides see those as exclusive, they will have reasons to dismiss the storyline. I feel sorry for them. But if you have the courage to read on, kudos to you.
OK. Let’s start with the moment mankind became conscious. What a big leap that must have been.
Here, the archetypical story of Adam and Eve presents a wonderful narrative of this process. Human beings existed unaware of the dualistic differences, merely in oneness with everything, yet not consciously, rather instinctively.
The beginnings of language–and God ordered Adam to name all things–together with color vision to spot the fruit amidst the leaves, and pattern recognition to see the serpent in the grass, all this and more culminated in the birth of consciousness. And their eyes were opened and they saw that they were naked.
The first thing they needed to learn is to live in a family or tribal structure. Think of Cain and Abel, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the like.
Next, it was necessary to defend your own tribe against others (think Abraham freeing Lot), and you needed to wage the big wars: Moses vs. Pharao in the light of slavery.
You can see that those changes were reactions to life circumstances, and that they took their time.
Next, people learned to live in structures bigger than tribes and blood lines. Interest groups, nation states, held together by common values, culture, laws, structures, belief systems, you name it. Moses comes to mind, David, the Pharisees.
The next biggy came with reformation and the industrial revolution, bringing about the notion of the individual, strive and success, science and business. And yes, Christianity had a major role in this: just think Luther, Zwingli, Huss, Wycliff.
And the last big shift was in the last century, again enlarging the group with more inclusion.
All this just to say that we have adjusted to new life circumstances in the past, and we can do so again.
Why I think that this is a time to leap
Now, all those prior leaps where due to enormous changes in the life conditions. Why do I think that this is such a time again?
I do not think corona virus only, but look at the culture war that is ongoing in most of our Western world and, thanks to globalization, worldwide.
We have three major cultures coming after each other at the moment that I will loosely name traditionals, moderns, and post-moderns for the time being.
They stem from the last three leaps of humanity. All of them have decided to have their values centered in one of the three last changes of life circumstances.
Traditionalists believe in the one absolute truth, structure, law and order, and see solutions for the most pressing problems in their belief system. We Christians tend to think that if everybody would believe in Jesus, all problems would be solved.
Modernists tackle all problems with theories and products. Human creativity and strive will solve all pressing problems.
Post-Modernists see the solution of problems in harmony and inclusion, valuing everybody, disposing hierarchies of all kinds.
They all tend to ridicule each other as they cannot see the problems the other one is talking about, much less the necessity or validity of the solutions proposed.
This has left us with a polarised world. Nobody knows what is true any longer, whom you can believe or trust, and hyper-individualism flourishes alongside of identity politics and fundamentalism.
And in the midst of all this, the climate is changing, and a virus is bringing life as we know it to a halt.
A personal parallel
I would love to give you an illustration from my own life.
In the last 4 years, I have lived through quite some life changing events I have written about here already. Let me repeat some of it:
I did not smell nor taste for more than 4 decades. Both senses were restored back to me one morning some 4 years ago when I ate some mango, and the taste exploded in my mouth. I was very thankful and happy, and was on sick leave for the next 6 months due to sensory overflow.
Shortly thereafter I was diagnosed with prostate cancer that was soon removed with follow up radiation. Still, the cancer markers keep on rising in my body, while nothing can be seen even with the most advanced imaging devices. It is now called a systemic cancer.
Now it does get really personal: surgery left me with strong incontinence (I cannot hold my pee). This brought back emotions for me, starting with shame. But since one cannot suppress any single emotion, one cannot revive any single one either. They come as one package. This revival takes some time, but with shame also came love, joy, and many more.
It was only some weeks ago that I was diagnosed and hospitalized with bilateral multiple central pulmonary embolisms on a close call.
This brought back survival mode feelings like panic due to breathlessness and has me understand corona symptoms on a very personal level.
I used to be a very heady person, using my body to carry around my head, and seeing emotions as a hindrance for objectivity, merely observing life. That is changing, as you can imagine.
But what has all this to do with our current situation?
I see culture war and climate change as cancerous diseases of humanity and earth respectively. Cancer is slow death that first has to be discovered, believed, and at times seems to be healed after some actions taken. But it is systemic. At the moment, it seems to lack acuteness.
Corona virus does not. It has come and left us vulnerable and breathless. It has hospitalized us and stopped most activities. It can mean imminent death, and has to be faced with strong measures.
Together, they might just bring awareness of the need for change, heightened consciousness for the complex system we live in, far bigger than just humanity.
And finally, the aftermath
What kind of change?
Cultural war can only be ended when we recognize that is it not either or, but both and. We depend on the solutions of each of the worldviews, in a combined effort to solve all problems.
An example would be dealing with migration. Integrating cultures needs holistic approaches.
We need to fight the causes of migration. We need law and order as well as good strong structures to keep migrants in line, as they might not know the values that our culture was built upon and have not been imprinted with the same behaviours. We need jobs for them so they can make a living. And we need to help and value them wherever possible.
So no welcoming culture without police and business opportunities.
Climate change is exactly the same. We need an holistic approach to all of our most pressing problems, and I believe that the corona virus pandemic will install some life circumstances that will make this more obvious to more of us.
What will change?
One of the necessary solutions to climate change is a slowing down of our lives. Our carbon footprint has been substantially made smaller due to the worldwide lockdowns, and with this going on for some more time, business will adjust to new life circumstances.
One example: why would we want to go back to commuting into our offices once we learned to be more productive from at home, using modern technology along good old personal check-ins to prevent isolation and loneliness?
I see a world with a heightened awareness of our need for each other. This will help to overcome hyper-individualism.
We will realize that we are all in this together. That will help overcome racism as much as identity politics.
We will value creativity more than before, and that will change our school system. It will be more individualized than before and include skills we have not valued for so long.
It will also change the business world. Along with automation, this surge for creativity will bring about UBI and change our view of work and life profoundly. Maybe we will, as Star Trek predicted, find our motivation in becoming better people instead of getting paid.
We will value the technological breakthroughs and scientific findings that allow us to live and connect without sacrificing fresh air and clean water.
Will all this happen fast? Probably not. If this crisis only lasts a few weeks or months, we will bounce back and make up for all that we missed, resulting in a peak of travel, fun, and production. And then, back to normal.
If this takes long and is handled badly, we will most likely end up in a war over toilet paper and kill each other.
If this takes long, and I am talking a year or more at least, we have the chance to adjust as we have in the past, and it will be for our good.
Leaning into our strengths will certainly help us adjust. My futuristic tells me that we can do it.
Will all make the leap? No, but hopefully enough people will to have a lasting effect on society.
Yes, I am a dreamer. I urge you to dream with me.