In my last article on Transition Towns I talked about the blocks to change, and listed the ‘7 Buts’ addressed by the Transition Initiative. Since then, I’ve been reflecting on blocks to action – surely the most critical issue in tackling the crisis of civilization. What are these blocks? Where do they come from? and How can we overcome them?
What stops us acting? Well, of course, there are our fears and traumas, emotional and psychological blocks, our busyness and other commitments to family and job and ... They’re all very real. And yet they can be transformed by seeing Reality differently; by changing our worldview. This is the key starting place – a conclusion I reached many years ago before I began writing my book “The Science of Oneness: A worldview for the twenty-first century.” To become a revolutionary, change your mind!
So what’s wrong with our worldview? Well ... lots of things actually. But here’s a simple image. To make a stool that will stand firmly on an uneven surface, you must give it three legs. With two or one leg, it will fall over as soon as you let go. With 4 or more legs it will wobble. Just so, a stable worldview must be based on three aspects of Reality – what we might call Physicality, Mentality and Spirituality. Today, we have fragmented our view of Reality as if we’ve made a stool with hinged legs and now wonder why it keeps collapsing.
This fragmentation began in the European so-called Enlightenment which led to the scientific revolution. Philosophers and scientists of the day rightly rejected the authoritarian dogmatism of the Church. But in throwing out the bathwater of religion, they also threw out the baby of Spirituality. So existence became reduced to nothing but mind and matter. And today, we’re so besotted with materialism that we regard mind as nothing but an epiphenomenon of matter. It’s like we’ve removed half the second leg, or put a hinge between the two. We are thus left desperately trying to prop up this tottering one-and-a-half-legged stool with Physicality, but this can’t take the load. The consequences of this fragmentation run deep in our psyches and lives.
Let’s start by taking a closer look at Mentality. Some of us try to build a rational worldview on the basis of science, philosophy and logic, and to lead lives consistent with our conclusions. In some cases, this leads to commitment and service to the material world, but in others, without the support of Spirituality, it results in disengagement and self-service. Many others (particularly in the USA) seek to replace the broken Spirituality leg with fundamentalist religion, but destabilise the stool again by rejecting the critical mind.
What of the majority? Most of us in the developed world, I think, are simply asleep a lot of the time, inhabiting dreamlike virtual worlds. We live, if it can be called living, inside our heads, disconnected not only from Spirituality but also from Physicality. We live in a pretend world of TV, films, books, magazines, avatars, the web ... Even at work, we mostly inhabit a digital domain removed as far as possible from contact with real people and the real world.
Whenever we leave our mental bunkers and venture into the material world, we don our blinkers, pacify our minds, and enter a strange Physicality of addiction. Addiction to drugs: legal or illegal, recreational or pharmaceutical. Addiction to foods: sugar, coffee, chocolate ... Addiction to the acquisition, operation, care and protection of possessions: houses, cars, electronic playthings ... Addiction to habits and routines that give us an impression of control, stability and security. Addiction to sports and leisure pursuits. Addiction to sex and dysfunctional relationships. Addiction to any and all distractions from the painful, meaningless, scary, lonely, insecure, unpleasant experience of here and now as it really is. Addiction to anything that will blank out the fear when the ice gets too thin over the turbulent cold waters below. Like Charlie Brown in the Peanuts cartoon, we hang on for dear life to our security blanket of materialism and virtual reality.
Unfortunately, the global crisis is not a computer game; climate change, war and poverty exist outside Second Life. If we’re to survive, not only as a civilization but also as a species, we must wake up and leave the security of our virtual worlds and our addictions. We must move boldly into the here and now and dwell there. Just think what we could do for planet Earth by releasing all the creative time and energy!
It takes courage to wake. I’m as reluctant as the next person when my inner fears and traumas rise. I head for the coffee and sugar, if not for stronger things. I take refuge in my routines – like writing blogs! I’m as addicted to stability and security as the next person, but I can see that it’s a mirage enticing me to destruction. Life could throw a big spanner in the works at any moment: sickness, accident, death, ... Or fantasy world on which I depend may collapse as the credit crunch, energy prices, ‘natural’ disasters and terrorism bite. My best hope is to face my fears and take action. But boy, am I resistant!
It’s fear that locks us into our virtual world and our addictions. It’s fear that blocks action. Fear born of trauma. Until we face our fears, heal our traumas and move through them and beyond them, we will remain stuck on the road to destruction. But when we do face them, we will discover great treasures. This is the universal myth of the hero’s journey. The hero (male or female) sets forth into the unknown, facing their terrors, encountering hardships and dangers along the way, and ultimately returning home transformed and with a great gift for their community.
Real security can only be found within. Not in the world of virtual reality, but in the confidence that we can cope no matter what, that we have a valuable part to play in the journey of humanity, that we can trust the process of life and learn from it. Only those with the deepest spiritual lives can stand alone in this way. But we don’t need to. We can stand together as family, friends and community in mutual support. We can replace electronic relationships with good, old-fashioned, local, flesh and blood ones!
If we’re to survive and transform ourselves and the planet, we must learn to stand in the real world on the three-legged stool of true Physicality, Mentality and Spirituality. A Physicality based on our intimate relationship with the Earth and Cosmos. A Mentality grounded in scientific knowledge and spiritual wisdom. And a Spirituality rooted in the Spirit of Life, the Source that enlivens and unifies all that is. A Spirituality stripped of the trappings of religious dogmas, doctrines, rituals, practices, scriptures, priesthoods ..., and open to the power of love, compassion, truth and wisdom.