Monday, August 30, 2010

New Paradigm Series, Part 1

This is going to be harder than I thought. I tried offline today to get my first post on this topic written, but I ended up bogging down. So instead perhaps what I need to do is write around this issue for awhile and see what eeks out. I won't stop trying to write about it directly, but until that works for me I've got ways I can still explore this indirectly.

One night this summer I had a dream in which I was being shown that the bow and arrow were invented when someone recognized that if bird and snake were conjoined they could be sent together into the future to retrieve bounty for the tribe. It was obvious to me in the dream that the head and shaft of the arrow represented the snake and the feathered fletching represented the bird. The feathers brought flight to the snake and the snake provided the biting ability lacking in the bird. Together they became a powerful object capable of providing sustenance to the tribes.

What a neat way to invent something! So different from how we invent things in the Mental phase--where the natural world has no meaning and invention is a purely rational exercise. In the Mythic phase everything in the natural world had meaning and significance, and we could take on the attributes of those natural objects and beings ourselves, or place them in the objects we created. Our inventions weren't just lifeless mechanistic objects, they were living embodiments of various aspects of the natural world.

With all the converging catastrophes we're facing today, one thing that's clear to me is how grossly inadequate our current way of problem-solving is. We can't solve our problems from within the current Mental paradigm--we will only be using the same inadequate and now dysfunctional set of skills that got us into this mess in the first place. But if we can move along to the next paradigm, we will have a much broader repertoire of problem-solving skills at our disposal. We will have access again to magical and mythical solutions, as well as mental solutions--but actually I believe it will be a mingling of all three approaches and something greater than the sum of the parts. Solutions will arise out of the earth and flow through us. What wants to manifest will manifest. We'll be led to meaningful actions through instinct, synchronicities, mythical symbolism, and the mental 2+2ing we're so good at currently--all rolled into one fluid, fused experience.

Nearly impossible to describe! That's why I'm bogging down in writing my personal account. All of these ways of being are beginning to co-exist and co-express themselves in me. Instinct, magic, myth, and reason all informing one another within me and sending me down a most fascinating path. It sounds crazy, I know!

Here's a Mental exercise for you. Yes, I realize a Mental exercise is kind of at cross-purposes with what I'm trying to get at, but...

Let's take the end of the carbon era--this crisis of what to do to fuel our human endeavors down the road. Imagine you are an Archaic human plunked down here--what would be your solution to the problem, how would you advise the powers that be (ignoring for our purposes the fact that you haven't acquired speech yet)? Now imagine you are a Magical human--how would you solve our energy problems? And what if you were a Mythical human? Now how about if you were Archaic, Magical, Mythical, and Mental all rolled into one?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Human/New Paradigm Preliminaries

Okay, I've got to get this post out of the way before I get into the nitty gritty of describing my personal forays into the new paradigm. Maybe I'm just stalling here since I sense I will be challenged to the limit trying to describe/paint a picture of a way of seeing and being that stands so far outside our normal modes of perception.

So this post is strictly a Mental post (see Envisioning the New Human if I'm losing you). My more Integral posts will follow soon (I hope).

The first preliminary is explaining why I think all of this new paradigm stuff is so important. It's important because we've already extracted all the benefits the current Mental phase of our evolution can provide, and staying here any longer becomes dysfunctional. We've exceeded our stay--we should have moved on long ago--but we've become entrapped by the flashy constructs and technologies this phase has given rise to. According to Gebser, each phase contains all previous phases, but the curious thing about the Mental phase is its vehement denial of the preceding phases. Not that the realities of those other phases don't live on in us, rather here in the Mental phase we've repressed and denigrated them, and in the process distorted their truths. All we acknowledge as "real" is what can rationally be perceived. Myth, magic, and instinct are beneath us, irrelevant in this world of superhighways and cyberspace and resource extraction and stock markets. Our richly nuanced world has been dumbed-down and we find ourselves asking, "Is this all there is?" No, it isn't, and it's time to move on because if we don't we're going to end up self-destructing.

The Mental phase is an extremely dangerous phase because in it we are (or perceive ourselves to be) completely separate from nature. As long as we stay in this phase we will continue to see the earth as a mere resource, something "out there" and "other", something to use and abuse without compunction.

Our only hope is to evolve into the next paradigm. And quickly. In the next phase, one of consciously reintegrating with all that's "out there" and "other", the earth will be recognized as the ground from which we spring, the matrix which births us and of which we are a part. We won't continue to rape and pillage the earth and those others who dwell here because it will be obvious we're not separate. To harm one part of the matrix is to bring harm to all, including ourselves. Obviously I'm stating this in a very Mental way--"the earth will be recognized as the ground from which we spring"--but understand that the lived experience is something else and something more entirely. To describe it in Mental terms is to miss the nuance, the richness, and the sheer beauty the next paradigm promises.

So we need to get there quickly. But is it overly idealistic for me to suggest such a feat might be possible? I'm not sure, but I know we need to try. I already see evidence that others are making forays into the new paradigm--it's something that seems to want to emerge--and I think there are developing conditions in our world that might help precipitate this change.

For me what has precipitated the change has been my deepening experience with voluntary simplicity. I've been giving up things, habits, and technologies--all of which were birthed in this Mental paradigm and all of which enforced a (false) sense of separation from the rest of creation. Freed from these flashy constructs and technologies I begin to live directly. Life is no longer mediated by these things--by machines, by bizarre mental constructs like the idea of perpetual growth, by office cubicles that shut out the natural world. Instead I start to have my own unmediated experiences. I act directly in the world, I interact directly in the world, I allow the world to directly act upon me. I give and receive in an unmediated fashion. And in this way I begin to have a direct perception of what Is. And that direct perception shows me a fluid, nuanced, unified world--one where it becomes difficult to discern where do I start and where do I leave off?

I think there's hope that many other people will have these experiences soon. Some voluntarily, like me, but more will be forced to adopt a simpler lifestyle--because of economic conditions, climate conditions, the end of the carbon era, etc. And whether by choice or by necessity, once people start to live more directly again, I believe they will begin to slip into the new paradigm (and out of, and into again, until it finally takes hold for good).

The other preliminary I want to cover is a distinction I need to make. In my upcoming posts I'll be making a case for a revival of myth and magic in the next paradigm. As Gebser states, each phase contains all previous phases. In the Mental phase, the previous phases were largely obscured. That won't be the case in the Integral phase. Myth and magic will live again. But I want to be clear, I won't be talking about mythical or magical thinking--all of that mythical, magical, religious explaining we did in earlier phases--I will be talking about real magic and real myth, underlying truths in this universe. Yes, myth and magic are real, just as reason is real too. We tend to think of these things as relics of our primitive past, misconceptions we've outgrown--and we're right if we're talking about mythical thinking, magical thinking, scientific thinking--but not if we're talking about myth, magic, and reason themselves. All of that thinking arose in our Conscious But Separate phase--when we were trying to make sense of what was "out there" and "other". But in the next phase we'll lose that sense of discreteness and so all of that theorizing and sense-making will be unnecessary. What we'll be left with is a direct, lived experience of the magical, mythical, mental creatures we are (and instinctual too--I tend to gloss over that).

We're evolving towards something fantastic. I don't believe we have the merest inkling of what powerful and marvelous beings we are--but we need to survive the death of the Mental phase first and that may prove to be an insurmountable challenge. I want to attempt to give voice to my experiences because I think we really need people to begin to paint a picture of what (potentially) lies ahead for us. The world needs my voice and countless other voices sharing our initial forays into this new realm. People need to know this isn't all there is!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Some Recent "Letting Go" Successes

Before I launch into a series of posts about the New Paradigm, I wanted to get this more practical entry out. In the past few weeks I've given up three more things in my life--each of which at one point or another would have been nearly unthinkable--so I wanted to share my successes.

1. I went through my boxes of personal letters and mementos and tossed/recycled almost everything. Now you have to realize I have kept every single letter anyone has ever sent me my whole life (friends/family/co-workers that is--not, say, the electric company telling me they need my payment NOW). *ahem* I had all the letters my best friend sent me when she moved away, from 1978 up until our last contact in 1992. I had letters from my next best friend, which he sent me mostly in the summers when we didn't see each other (although we lived only 5 miles apart). I had letters/pictures/postcards/currency from a strange Egyptian pen pal who seemed to be stalking me--if that's possible from another continent. I had stacks of the most beautiful love letters from my college sweetheart and one other wonderful boyfriend (both stacks lovingly tied into bundles with ribbon) and a more troublesome stack of letters from my ex-husband. I had funny notes from my college roommate and other college acquaintances. There was a great big pile of letters from my friend Di, with whom I've shared so many major life events--we were co-workers, she was in my wedding (and even came to my divorce!) and I had the extreme privilege of holding her as she gave birth to her daughter. Letters from my lifelong friend Khrystle (since age 3) and from my brother. I had birthday cards from my grandparents from when I turned one and two. You get the picture. It all went, all except the letters from my mom--and those may go someday too. For now they seem like such an important part of my family history, containing all of those trivial little things you tend to forget but which really tell amazing stories collectively.

It was wonderful going through these boxes and being reminded just how loved I have been all my life. I feel so incredibly lucky. All of those letters represent time, energy, and love that others have directed at me throughout my life. I think I've held onto those letters precisely because it's such a tangible reminder of that. But I've also come to a point where I know the place to carry all of that is in my heart. (That's a lot easier than hefting those boxes around every time I move too!)

Another box contained ridiculous things like a Girl Scout uniform, high school sports trophies and ribbons, academic awards, and report cards from kindergarten through grade 12. Those went too. Seriously, why have I been lugging this stuff around for so long?

2. This will sound trivial, but my hairdryer broke. I seem to go through those things with absurd frequency and finally I realized I just don't even need one of those darn contraptions. As you probably know, my plan is to go off-off-grid in a few years, so I won't be using electrical contraptions of any sort then. It just makes sense to start weaning myself off of them now. I always considered the hairdryer necessary because my hair is so thick and takes forever to dry, plus I have this weird thing about going out in public with wet hair (to me it's like going out in a bathrobe and slippers), AND with my body's inability to stay warm in the winter I get too chilled with wet hair. BUT in my a-ha moment I realized I simply have to make sure I only wash my hair right before I go to bed. It has all night to dry and in the winter I can huddle under as many blankets as I need to stay warm while I sleep. How simple is that! It just requires a slight shift in habits--to showering at night instead of first thing in the morning.

3. When I'm off-off-grid I will be doing my laundry by hand. My intention is to get a hand-cranked wringer, some galvanized tubs, a washboard, and a tool to agitate the water. Well, what do you know--a few weeks ago my washer broke. Since I'm renting it's really a simple matter to call the landlord and have it fixed--and I think it's a very simple problem like a bad belt or coupler--but instead for the past few weeks I've been washing my clothes by hand. And it's the oddest thing, but I find it so immensely satisfying. Now I don't enjoy the wringing part (by hand, since I don't have the wringer yet) but I find I actually look forward to doing laundry! It gets to something I've repeatedly tried to articulate (and failed miserably at)--that something vital is lost when we let machines take over. What it is I regain when I do something myself rather than relegating the task to a machine is the thing I can't find words for--but I feel it, and it's good, and I'll have to leave it at that for now.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Envisioning the New Human

When I created this blog it was with the intention of exploring how to live simply and sustainably, but more than that I wanted to explore who we might become as we made these outer changes. Our outer and inner worlds give us the illusion of being separate phenomenon. We think what exists beyond our skin is wholly Other and what is contained within it is this thing we call the Self. But really these two worlds are one, and changes to one of these worlds creates changes in the other. We’ve been in a phase of our evolution where it was necessary to harbor this illusion of separateness—but it’s a phase I believe we are about to leave behind.

In our earliest days (perhaps even before we could technically be called humans) we were unconscious beings, primally fused with the surrounding environment. There was no sense of self yet, just a fluid merging with all that was. Then as we developed tools and language and began to separate out from the environmental matrix, we began to develop a sense of self, of discreteness. We became conscious. It was a gradual process taking hundreds of thousands--if not millions--of years. Over time the sense of self became more and more defined, more self-reflecting, and more isolated. An internal world developed, something which could symbolically represent what was out there, or even grossly distort it. We began to think we were just these isolated dots of awareness, forgetting our true (huge) Identity. Everything that wasn't the self--this isolated dot--was Other. And we needed to create these false dichotomies in order to become conscious.

If one essay helped shaped my thinking more than any other, it was Jung's "Answer to Job". The gist of the essay was that God needed us in order to become conscious of Himself. When God existed alone he couldn't know Himself, as there were no points of reference. He created a physical universe so there could be Self and Other, so parts of Himself (including us) could look at other parts of Himself and compare and contrast and therefore wake up and become aware. It was a radical new way of thinking for me when I first read it (as a teenager), at a time when I was just starting to break away from traditional Christian thought. It seemed almost sacrilegious to speak of God as needing us. Nowadays couching the creative force or life force in such Christian terms doesn't really speak to me, yet it still helps me to envision the process--the evolution of consciousness. When we were unconscious we were essentially God--we were one with the whole universe, but we just couldn't know it. We lived it--that was all. Then we became conscious and separate--believing God was somewhere else and something Other. One day (hopefully soon) we will consciously fuse back with that fuller identity--becoming God aware of Himself.

The shorthand I like to use for our evolutionary trajectory is: from Unconscious Union to Conscious But Separate to Conscious Union. We can break it down further if we want. For instance, Jean Gebser saw five distinct phases in our evolution: Archaic, Magical, Mythical, Mental, Integral. The first phase, the Archaic, represents what I call our Unconscious Union while the last phase, the Integral, represents the Conscious Union we're evolving towards. The three middle phases represent distinct steps in our Conscious But Separate phase.

In the Magical phase we had only a very rudimentary sense of self. Language was developing, blossoming organically out of our interactions with nature. We had barely started to separate from nature and at this point words were magical and potent. We couldn't know that eventually words would alienate us from nature--at this point words still had the power to fuse us with the natural world. Also in this phase there was no individual ego and no differentiated sense of space or time.

In the Mythical phase we became tool-makers, language became more developed, and we began creating mythologies--stories to explain the natural world which now was something outside of ourselves. As self separated from nature and ego began to crystallize we developed a sense of space. A conception of linear time wouldn't appear until we entered the Mental phase.

In the Mental phase we completed our separation from nature and perfected abstraction. Causality could now exist because of our linear concept of time. The sciences were born and with them the Age of Reason. Ego reached its full development and nature became something entirely Other.

And that is where we now stand, as separate from nature as we possibly could be and facing all the horrible consequences which that entails--but finally, at long last, we are awake. We've achieved full consciousness--and our fullest sense of alienation from the more-than-human world.

And now we stand on the cusp of a new paradigm. What will that look like? How will it feel to be that new human? How will we perceive the world? How will we interact with it? Gebser saw the next phase, the Integral, as one that would include all previous phases but would be non-temporal and non-linear. He believed we were moving towards a global type of awareness that would be relational in nature--more about the connections and relationships between things over time rather than focused on the things themselves. And while the previous three phases have been about trying to create meaning (through magical thinking, religious mythologies, and scientific reason) the next phase won’t involve all of this explaining. Rather it will be about experiencing the living, embodied meaning of things and relationships. As we begin to fuse back with the natural world, there will be less and less need to explain and our lives will become more a form of performance art. Our actions will harmoniously arise as expressions of what wants to manifest—the earth (or the universe or God) expressing itself through us.

All of this becomes difficult to express in words. Words after all are products of our Conscious But Separate phase. They create Subject and Object as tools to help us See. But in the next phase—one of reintegration—they will lose much of their significance. Language will be important, but speech not so much. And it will be the language of being, the language of life as improv.

What I want to do in upcoming posts is try to express how this new paradigm is beginning to birth itself in me—a challenging thing to attempt with words! But I find myself more and more slipping into this new way of seeing and being, and the beauty of it so overwhelms me I feel the need to attempt to share what I’m experiencing. I don’t even know if it’s possible, but I feel like I’m finally getting at what this blog is meant to be about. Who might we become? <--I’m becoming that! Now how do I express it?