The light at the end of the tunnel is a mirror.

neals-light-smYour life story, your total allegiance to the content of your consciousness, your commitment to the continuity of your identity as an individual “me”, your preoccupation with its travails and triumphs, all this is a trance, a spell, an enchantment.  You — your “me” — is an apparition, an image on a scrim, a stage trick, a ghost.  The only thing that makes it seem so real is your continual fixation, truly your unending need to fix it.  To mess with your made up self, to fine tune your imaginary friend, to get it right. Because it is wrong.  You are wrong.  And you need to make it right.

Your memoir, your three-act play, your biopic is being written by you as you go along.  Most of the plot is based on what happened in the previous chapters, avoiding the mistakes of, improving on, regretting what we call the past. So for those of you who are smack in the middle of that epic entitled “Life as Me”, Spoiler alert!  The hero dies at the end.  Your person-ness, your “prisonality” your sense of that “me” that you think yourself to be is a reality show in which you are the central character and also the biggest fan. The show will come to an end, the last page will be written and read, the curtain will come down, the credits will roll, but you, the you that has been here all along thinking of itself as “me”, that you, will remain.  That you cannot die.  That you is eternal.  Let me say it this way:  You are eternal.

There is so much more to you than your “me” could ever imagine.  And if you knew the You I know you to be, you would laugh, and relax.

Frankenstein’s Other Brain

Did you ever wonder what would have happened to the monster in Mary Shelly’s classic horror tale, Frankenstein if he hadn’t been mistakenly given the abnormal brain, but instead was given, as the good doctor intended, the brain of a genius?

Other than being an interesting question, you might well ask, what does this have to do with anything?  Well, I was thinking about the fact that we have created a kind of monster of our own in the industrial juggernaut that is now on the lose and running around the planet threatening the safety of our whole (and I do mean whole) family.  Mindlessly oblivious to the consequences of its actions, the industrial, commercial, economic system is doing what it was designed to do: pursuing profit. Certainly nothing wrong with that.  The profit motive has brought us to great heights of civilization and wealth, though not for everyone.  And given our relatively recent discovery that contrary to our assumption that the planet and its resources are infinite and unlimited growth was possible, we find we are actually living on a very finite interconnected spaceship with no lifeboats, it seems to me that some rethinking is in order.

We were taught in Econ 101, that the magic of self-interest would guide the Invisible Hand of the market, so that the most good would be produced for the most people.  It was accepted as a truism, that an unfettered private commercial system — free enterprise, no fetters whatsoever — would continually and automatically improve society until eventually the world would work for everybody.

Well, the invisible hand of the market is now firmly around the throat of Mother Earth. Harnessing the power of greed to fuel the global economic engine is a little like using nuclear power to generate our electricity.  It works fine in the short run, but the waste products are toxic and long lasting.  It seems to me that a much more sustainable and natural approach, is to harness not only the traditional fuel of personal self-interest, but also the deep human power of compassion and altruism.

By making strategic plans with the entire ecosystem considered, with nature taken into account, by holding profit not as an end goal, but as the outcome of achieving our true goal, to provide value for stakeholders, business and commerce is starting to become exactly what the world now so desperately needs.

The plain fact is this: business, as the most powerful institution on Earth, has a critically important leadership role to play in moving human society away from decline and toward a sustainable and prosperous future for everyone. People who run businesses know this better than anyone, and are working diligently to transform the raison d’être of the free enterprise system from pursuing profit to producing value.

Given a brain that computes the bigger vision of long term impact and a sense of the common good, and a heart that treats both its cohorts and customers as human beings, instead of inputs on a balance sheet, what might such a compassionate and cooperative “monster” achieve?  We are about to find out.

Time to Hand in Your Resignation

BubbleTo be awake is to straddle the canyon between where we can be, and where we are.  We are called on to witness this disparity and actually allow it to touch our hearts and sear our minds, and still stay in the game This is the deep challenge of being awake.

If you consider yourself an activist, if you have, like me made a sacred promise to engage with the issues and the challenges head on and not turn away, you know what I am talking about.  You know you can’t be an effective activist without learning the facts about our collective impact on each other and on the living systems of our planet.  And yet, how do you do that without going numb, or turning away, or going back to sleep? Our choice seems to be either to remain asleep and blissfully ignorant or to wake up and become deeply depressed.  But is that true? And what are we surprised about anyway?  It’s like deciding to become a doctor and then being bummed out because you have to deal with sick people all the time.

As our dear friend and visionary environmental writer Paul Hawken has said, “When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.”

So, yes, we are being alarmists.  And why not? What is happening to our world is indeed alarming.  And alarms are designed to warn us of danger and to wake us up.  But hold on.  Let’s do something radical here; let’s question the very premise that something is going terribly wrong.  My study of cosmology and the brilliance of the unfolding 14 billion year dance of evolutionary genius that has lead to us, has me suspicious about reading the tea leaves of our times in a way that lands us in despair and resignation.  A way of life, a worldview is collapsing, yes.  And yes, we are in for disruptive and turbulent times. But at the same time that something is dying, something else, something wonderful is emerging.  You can see it in the faces of the people around you, in your cohorts who, fully aware of the immense challenges of we face, arise each morning committed to bringing forth an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, socially just human presence on this planet. So when people tell me that the world is contracting, I say great. How far apart are the contractions?


Specializing in the study of Everything in particular