Consciousness, Transformation

Slouching Towards Global Transformation | Waking up in Time

Great changes are blowing through the world: it is, as the ancients
understood, “all things change.”  Yet even the Greek philosophers would
have been more than a little startled to witness our current planetary
hyper-acceleration. Five thousand years ago humans were carving their
best wisdom in words and symbols into rocks, today we can take their
words and symbols and transmit them instantaneously around the globe. 
We 21st century folk excel in high-tech, high-speed change: we can
remove a cataract and restore sight in a few minutes to a person blind
for most of their adult life, we can traverse continents in hours and we
can evaporate billions upon billions of dollars in a day’s trading.
From war to commerce, from medicine to media communications we can
change the landscape of experience for the people of planet Earth
literally overnight.

But the companion maxim to “all things change” is “the more things
change, the more they stay the same.” Witness the behavior of the
marketplace these days, and it doesn’t take long to see that the
contortions of the materialist dream represent a chronic attachment to
the same old ‘make a buck at any cost’ modus operandi. Even when
confronted with nightmare scenarios of catastrophic economic ruin
involving hundreds of millions of people across the globe, international
bankers and corporate executives are positioning themselves for the
next ‘killing.’ Bouncing right back with more of the same old
materialist fixations, which have persistently disconnected profit from
an encompassing moral vision, is obviously not to be understood as
anything close to transformation. Now is the time to be particularly
watchful for the newest guises of the same old same old.

So we don’t necessarily focus on changing conditions to find our way
into the heart of something as profound as transformation. And since our
subject is global transformation, let’s draw our attention away from
the frenzy of world changes for the moment and see if we can find a
deeper understanding of the nature of transformation.

The Heart of Transformation
As if to warn us away from superficial change as any kind of guide to
transformation the old Zen adage reminds us “Before enlightenment: chop
wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.” 
Transformation can, of course, bring radical changes but radical changes
can also serve the status quo. So we are looking for something which
changes the whole axis of meaning rather than preserving the old in a
different form. It is worth a moment’s meditation on this question: what
is it that can transform meaning itself? Lest we get too abstract and
philosophical, here is a real life example:

During what the Irish call the recent Troubles, Frances is walking
down a street in London Derry, Northern Ireland, and talking to a member
of The Royal Ulster Constabulary when a gunman shoots to kill the
officer. He misses, and Frances receives the bullet which gets lodged an
inch from her heart. The doctors cannot remove the bullet and she is
expected to die. But she lives, only to be greeted by a co-worker on her
first day back at work with the hateful wish that she hadn’t survived.
Today, if you visit Derry, you will find Frances alive and actively
engaged in peace and reconciliation. The bullet is still there lodged
close to her heart, but all the velocity of hostility with which it
entered her body has been transformed into a powerful force for healing
the sectarian divide.

So what is it that can transform meaning itself? It is nothing less
than contact with a more vivid and accurate picture of reality. The
bullet that almost took her life served to waken Frances to the deeper
reality of human oneness: the truth that she now lives is an expression
of that reality. Whenever we align with a greater reality we shift the
axis of meaning in our lives from the artificial constructions of psyche
and society to more faithful representations of a morally coherent and
deeply inclusive universe, which seeks to be known through our
awareness. In other words, transformation involves a movement from
unconscious, fragmented and conditioned responses to consciousness,
greater wholeness and presence. Transformation is not concerned with a
sudden conversion moment but with the process of immersion in a wider,
more inclusive reality. What we want to keep our attention on is the
process of awakening.

It takes a commitment to life-long learning to stand evermore deeply
in the presence of a universe which invites us to experience greater
wholeness in ourselves, in our relationships, in our communities and
nations, and with all sentient life.

Transformation, in the sense used here, is always a coming home to
what is after we have sojourned in worlds of contrivance, illusion and
projection.  The spiritual heart of transformation is a rich
appreciation of the truth that we are: we come home to our own larger
story. As we experience genuine transformation, the universe becomes
less alien, and alienating, more kindred and mysteriously familiar…or
another way to put it, we come to experience consciousness itself as our
greatest resource and as we do so, it draws us upwards into more
expansive states of lucidity, insight and peace.

Within this general framework we can now explore what global
transformation might be about. First, although hardly needed, a quick
reminder of our current predicament.

Global Tower of Babel
Let us face it: human civilization has been careening out of balance for
some time now. It is impossible to catalog the damage we are doing to
our earth home: what other species willfully destroys its own habitat?
Even when the evidence demands a complete change of direction, our
leaders have lived in denial. Since the first Earth Day in 1970 one
third of the planet’s species have become extinct. This year, 2009, we
are beginning to see catastrophic global crop failures and unprecedented
levels of severe drought throughout the world which stem from the
myopic policies and planning of the world’s largest economies, or those,
like Zimbabwe, caught in political turmoil and the last remnants of
despotic rule. At the same time the credit that is needed for
community-based economic/ecological renewal, in a time of equally
catastrophic financial collapse and globally depressed economies, is
largely being directed towards the paradigm which gave birth to these
problems in the first place.

This represents not only a collective learning disability, and
attention deficit of epic proportions, it suggests we are collectively
further adrift from reality than we care to admit.  We have created a
Matrix of media distraction, and materialist fetishism, and relied on
extravagant military expenditures to secure ‘the dream of peace’ and
ward off threats.  Adding to this contemporary Tower of Babel are the
maniacal voices of assorted fundamentalisms trying to set themselves
apart from the blatant hypocrisies and values erosion of ‘western’ mores
and ideology. Some are so inflamed by perceived injustice and ‘moral
decay’ that they are willing to slaughter civilians in the name of God
and enforce their strict orthodoxies through fear and hatred.  It seems
as if we are surrounded by multiple distortions, unable to find any
sound basis for dialogue or a path which could lead us resolutely out of
cultural wars, sectarianism, economic disaster, carbon addiction and
assaults on the ecosphere.  

We are ripe for more than ceasefires, detente, re-vamped economies,
techno-fixes and New Age spiritual placebos: we are ripe for global

Big Shift In How We Identify
The poet Carl Sandburg noted that one of the most unpleasant words in
the English language, which has nothing to do with profanity, is the
word ‘exclusive.’ The truly big news in this global era is that we live
in an age of dying exclusions, when race, ethnicity, class, religion, or
gender can be used as impenetrable walls of exclusion. I say ‘dying’
advisedly: there is much exclusion in all these and many other
categories, that still persists, and which maintains the harsh and even
violent exclusion of those deemed to be ‘other,’ ‘lesser,’ ‘inferior,’ 
‘infidel,’  ‘impure’ or simply too poor. But the death-knell of these
exclusions has been sounded ever since the signing of The Universal
Declaration Of Human Rights sixty years ago—with its compelling vision
of inclusion and protection for all human beings. Despite many blatant
examples that could be cited which represent egregious human rights
violations based upon exclusion, the world is increasingly adapting
towards a normative stance of greater and greater inclusion which has
expanded the rights of women, children, and provided other protections
relating to sexual orientation, disability etc.

We are in the midst of a huge planetary shift in how people identify
with ‘otherness.’ We live in increasingly media porous and information
saturated environments where people are constantly exposed to a reality
which challenges narrow sectarian belief, caste superiority, and the
unsupportable claims of narrow and exclusionary beliefs. Increasingly we
come to see each other in the common mirror of the human condition…in
spite of the media distortion referred to above, humanity increasingly
witnesses its relatedness and interdependence in a complicated global
mosaic. Falteringly, and with great cost for the sluggish pace of our
learning, the average person sees themselves in the context of a world
story.  Paul Ray’s breakthrough sociological research conducted in 2008
confirms this idea: people have a growing sense of connection to the
planet as a whole. 

Shifts in how humanity in general identifies with other humans has
great significance in relation to the concept of transformation: slowly
but inexorably the axis of meaning is shifting away from petty and
tyrannical isolation and exclusion to accommodate a planetary reality, a
multicultural reality, an-interfaith reality and the reality of a
shared ecosphere. Our attention is often riveted by the painful,
threatening, violent and vocal resistance to this reality, or by the
manipulations and distortions of global powerbrokers and financiers
whose consciousness too often mirrors stages of uninitiated adolescent
development.  Yet despite a deficit in both corporate and political
leadership, which often seem pulled down by the structural entropy of
outmoded institutions, there is a tidal shift towards a common humanity,
greater tolerance and a willingness to address our ecological crisis.

When a space emerges where even a little more of your truth and a
little bit more of my truth can both be heard, what opens is the
possibility for more authentic dialogue and communication. Here then,
quietly, in the hearts of average citizens the world over a sea-change
has begun; it has begun as people loosen the tightened and clenched fist
of their particular nationalist, religious and cultural identities and
recognize that some part of them is reflected in what they had been told
to think of as the ‘other,’ as the one to be kept at bay, the one they
were told was a threat, the one who would ‘pollute’ their race or caste
or creed.

One by one, not trumpeted by philosophers or claimed by politicians,
and surely not glitzy enough for sensational media treatment, the common
folk of planet Earth are opening up a space for the universal human to
emerge. Despite all the odds, they are transforming the bedrock of our
shared meaning from exclusion to inclusion.

Yet the human enterprise is currently like an express train heading
for a cliff with no single lever to divert it or hit the brakes. It is a
nightmare scenario.

Waking Up In Time
The only way out of a nightmare is to wake up. What is needed now is for
a new generation of leaders to both experience and represent the full
potential of the emergent shifts in consciousness now underway in the
general population and apply the levers at their disposal to help
catalyze whole system transition.  A new covenant in governance is
called for: one in which servant leadership engages in distributive
power sharing. As Paul Hawken and others have noted there is an
extraordinary potential in the hundreds of thousands of social profit
and civil society organizations around the world to constellate a global
bridging force between governmental, financial, and corporate
institutions and the power they have to effectuate transformative
change. For too long, prophetic voices like David Korten have been
crying out in a policy wilderness: his work, and many others across the
planet has been detailing templates for a global economy based on
sustainable communities, humanistic values and ecological principles.

There are also a host of other templates for the complete
transformation of those outmoded meanings, which collectively no longer
serve human progress. These templates, which are emerging from the
creative interplay of science and spirituality, psychology and the
social sciences, systems theory and public policy, offer us pathways to a
radically changed world.  They include the education of the whole
person: emotionally expressive, psychologically nuanced and
intellectually creative. They include new templates for health, healing,
inner renewal and even spiritual enlightenment; templates for peace
building, social healing, conflict resolution and restorative justice;
and templates for systems thinkers to demonstrate how an interdependent
world consummates the marriage of economy and ecology, peace and
prosperity and communal values with global governance.

Every minor shift in mass consciousness is an invitation to leaders,
social entrepreneurs and change agents to take these templates and offer
them as the source code for the evolution of peaceful and sustainable
planetary civilization. One thing is certain; the time for global
transformation is now to be counted in years rather than in centuries or
even decades. But we know deep in our hearts, this time, we are beyond
cosmetic change and that, however painfully, we have never been more
ready to give birth to a new humanity.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

                THE SECOND COMING

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
    The darkness drops again but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?