Seeing The Future Anew, Through Ancient Eyes
By Earon S. Davis, J.D., M.P.H., L.C.M.T.
Writer and Policy Analyst, Evanston, IL
Our new eyes are actually old ones we've learned to disbelieve after centuries of technological growth and spiritual stumbling. Will we humans open and refocus them in time to create new ways to live sustainably on this diverse planet? Will our ancient lenses be able to filter out the overwhelming chaotic complexity of our current human cultures, our ever-expanding kaleidoscope of competing schools of thought, ideologies, disciplines and interests? Will we be able to see humanity, and our world at large, through our primitive, primate minds, and reconnect with that curious beast whose pulse beats beneath the grey matter computer filled with facts, figures and rationalization?
When individuals face major challenges, we often look deeper into who we really are. As a culture, we need to do the same thing as we face enormous crisis and uncertainty in our future. Our world is shrinking and we need to learn how to get along with other peoples, other species and to understand our environmental constraints - and to commit to conservatism for those constraints we clearly do not understand. Contrary to popular misconceptions, the human race does not behave productively when under crisis. We engage in finger pointing, paranoia, greed and denial, which lead to uncooperative, competitive attitudes which encourage divisiveness and war. When we open our primitive eyes during a crisis, we most often see red.
If we open our eyes today, we must look first at the human race. With eyes of compassion and knowing, we must begin to see our species as it is - a remarkable race of primates with utterly amazing creativity and incredible data processing, and yet primates nevertheless. We like to think of ourselves as divine beings, angels just waiting for our wings. Yet, we are also mischievous and manipulative, constantly rationalizing our internal, subjective needs through our quests for power, popularity and wealth, just like our primate cousins.
Frankly, we don't much like what we see when we open our primate eyes. So we tend not to use them. Who wants to see their species as puffed up monkeys strutting around feeling omnipotent and omniscient? The original peoples of North America saw this. Countless traditional cultures, when confronted with the materialist monotheistic cults that emerged from Europe were overwhelmed and shocked. They must have felt that they were being invaded by insane people, by some sort of alien species that was crazed and yet invincible. So, here we are. We've expanded our populations and taken over the planet. We've increased our activities and populations to the point that we threaten the very planetary ecosystems that serve as our life support system. What now?
We know this is going on, but we seem powerless to do anything about it. We sit here, divided into disciplines and departments, corporations and governments, divided in politics, economics, religion and spirituality, education, profession, technologies, health and cultures. We partition our world into theologies, ideologies, methodologies and processes, each with a language of its own, a veritable tower of Babel.
And yet, there are eyes inside each of us that see life very much the same as everyone else. Do we dare own those eyes? And maintain our awareness of what they see? They are the eyes of the human primate, and they always ask the same questions. Am I safe? Do I fit into the social order in a way that gets my needs met? Do I have a secure source of food and water? Do I have people to love and care for, and to care for me? Abraham Maslow used those eyes when he developed a conceptual model for a hierarchy of human needs, as did Margaret Mead, but all of our great thinkers of the past have owned those eyes.
Dare we look more deeply at our species, and at our own primate-ness and look at our world with these "new" eyes? If we do, we will see not only immense challenges, but wonderful opportunities - not only failures but astounding successes. When we see that we are a species of primates, our accomplishments become all the more amazing. And we will be closer to opening our hearts in ways that acknowledge our humanity and extend our assistance and cooperation to peoples and species we have only begun to understand.
On a practical level, there are steps we must take in order to sustain a more balanced way of living. We need to take better care of ourselves and to reduce the stresses our populations are currently living with. It is not useful to replace the stresses of struggling to find adequate food and shelter with the stresses of struggling to raise a family while working full time. It is not useful to simply transfer our stresses from one form of survival to another - from waiting for rain to assure that our crops will grow - to waiting for the stock market to rebound so our stock portfolio will yield security. We live in plenty, and yet feel just as challenged as those struggling for subsistence survival.
This corporate, materialistic, consumerist realm we have invented, or stumbled into, and increasingly inhabit, simply does not work as our old eyes believed it could. Opening new eyes, we will be better able to work for, and accept, changes that are driven by our real needs - and not by the greed and rationalizations of those people in government, industry and religion who seem intent on being the alpha males and females. Sometimes with the best of intentions, they tend to dominate others and shape the world in ways that satisfy them, rather than ways that meet the needs of the larger majorities who are simply doing their best to live good lives.
Opening our primate eyes is not an appeal to work at what we may fear is our lowest, animal, common denominator – but rather an invitation to see what is actually our highest animal, common denominator – our love of community and humanity, our intense curiosity and joy, and our capacity to expand our tribe to include all humans and eventually all of life, our global realms and beyond. While we have the opportunity, living in relative peace and plenty, let’s transcend our various ideologies and disciplines and methodologies and grasp the best of our possibilities. Through primate eyes, I can see a wonderful future for us all.
BIO: Earon Davis has combined a number of different roles in his journey, leading to some remarkable experiences and the integration of numerous aspects of intellectual and nonverbal domains into a distinct world view. He earned degrees in sociology, public health and law, has written numerous articles on environmental health, culture and ethics, has been a lawyer, advocate and consultant, newsletter editor and publisher, stay-at-home Dad, healing bodyworker, and has directed and advised a number of nonprofits. Currently, Earon is working on a book project that more fully presents his observations on human nature and what we can do to create a culture that is more rewarding and sustainable. He is a member of the World Future Society and the Society of Environmental Journalists.
Earon S. Davis
P. O. Box 630
Evanston, IL 60204-0630