Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds
This reflection by Charles Eisenstein is based on his book of sacred activism, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible.
Our civilization is entering a profound transition. For simplicity, I call it a transition from the story of Separation to the story of Interbeing. As this shift gathers momentum, the old answers to questions like, “Who am I?” “What is important?” “How should one live life?” “How does the world work?” “What is a human being?” “What is real?” are becoming obsolete.
So for example, on the collective level, we no longer believe so firmly in old paradigms like the conquest of nature, the “onward march of civilization,” or better living through chemistry. The converging crises of our time make them impossible to hold onto, and their unraveling induces the same on all the systems built atop them. It is the time when the old story of who I am, what is real, and how to navigate life has broken down. It is the time when my familiar ways of making meaning are no longer relevant. I don’t know who I am. What had seemed so permanent, reliable, understandable and real is revealed as an illusion. It is a state of “I don’t know.” Usually some kind of crisis initiates it, perhaps in work, relationship, health, or money. It could also happen through a powerful experience that irreparably breaches one’s story of self and story of the world. Either way, we know that normal isn’t coming back again.
Only from the emptiness, the letting go, the unknowing of this state can something truly new emerge. It happens in its own time, according to its own unknowable wisdom and logic. Sometimes the new story (and the ways of thinking, being, and doing that accompany it) emerges gradually, in glimpses and revelations, disappointments and setbacks. For others, it seizes them and plunges them into a new world so quickly that they hardly know what happened.
Even so, because we live in a society built upon the Story of Separation, those living in the new story face great challenges – economic, social, psychological – that come from that disconnect. Please understand that this process is not necessarily linear. Also, I do not mean to imply that some are in the old, some in the new, and that the latter are therefore more evolved. This transition has many dimensions. We can be bound by the unconscious habits of separation in one area, while free from them in another. But I find that each breakthrough invites others to happen, until no aspect of life remains untouched.