28 Oct You are the Master of your Destiny
Communities and countries are currently being disrupted by acts of violence, cumbersome bureaucracies, financial difficulty and now COVID-19. Chaos can be a generative impetus for people to lash out, to be angry, fearful and depressed. It can also be an impetus for creating new systems, technology and solutions to humanitarian crisis. The current chaos is triggered by unmitigated changes to the environment, but also by new unexpected issues. These changes are forcing us to abandon the old ways in many instances and respond with new ones. What will those new ways of responding be? What will they look like?
No matter where we live our personal patterns of thought, belief and action are experiencing disruption. During the millennia, the phenomenon of change at all levels has disappeared and re-appeared more through a process of revolution than evolution. Change has often taken place through conflict with the result frequently creating more divisiveness than unity unless you were the one to benefit from the conflict. In the 21st century, technology allows for a level of connectedness that challenges our beliefs about the benefits of so much access to information and in a global pandemic the effect of information can be seen in the way it contributes to revolutionary change and the opportunity for evolutionary change. For the constant is the pressure to keep things moving.
Associated with the pattern of socio-economic and technological explosion, there is increasing disorder at the institutional level caused by the motivation of too many people to maintain their power, their control of money and the preservation of the status quo. I believe it creates a loss of identity felt by many people as evidenced by Black Lives Matter, the LTGBQ community, refugees and women rights. Without identity, there is loss of connection to purpose in life. Cultural identity has been and continues to be challenged by wars and famine, forcing millions of people to relocate, adding a challenge of an unprecedented scale to the countries of the affluent world. These people dislocated from their homelands do experience profound loss of identity and disorientation in an already confused society.
A culture focused on individual freedom and entitlement can only result in conflict. Hate and haters, divisive rallies, social media misinformation, addictive on-line behaviors have intensified, disrupting individual lives, families and whole communities. It appears to me that the unmet need of human beings is more about the need for intimacy, communication, contemplation, listening, compassion and being present. But we are dealing with increasing speed in technology, new apps, and artificial intelligence, and it seems to be the wrong connection. Instead, we are marginalizing groups of our society who must speak louder to be heard. Contradictions and falsehood do not matter anymore. Neither does evidence. Ethics and moral principles have been rules for how to live together providing guidelines of a sort on how to behave. Without ethics, and increasing self-focused individualism, there is no social coherence.
Information is no longer a source of order, of truth. With all the media available, information is being used intentionally to create disorder, false impression, lies and this attitude is alarming. People feel free to dismiss any scientific research, any valued information in any field as bias, just an opinion or just to be discarded. People form their own opinion based on influences that they may not even be aware of. Unfortunately, younger people who have grown up in the age of the Internet seem to have no or very little frame of reference or experience assessing the validity of information. In fact, the sophisticated analysis, charts, graphs and dashboards used by the media are not giving us information, they are submerging us with data and we need a perspective lens to filter this information. With our lifestyle of too much to do, too many responsibilities and too many activities it makes it even more difficult to process the vast quantities of material that come at us each day.
Anywhere there is disconnection, division, disruption, there is pain. As isolation increases, so does the experience of pain. This tells me that we, people, need to belong, to be grounded as a community. When people with no grounding or identity funnel their pain, their despair into violence of any sort, another group of people, most often the governments, will blame, will shame and with police control, violence escalates. It is what we experience now. Our present culture is engaged in this thinking that technology and science will help us but we are not broken people in need of a new technology fix, we are in need to repair our relationship to bring us back to balance with the earth, our health, happiness and calm.
The rise of hate-driven people, divisive political parties, self-driven groups even in reasonable countries that we would call democratic, and the increase rhetoric from all sides, is evidence of how cognitive dissonance has replaced rational behavior. The power for change comes for identifying the narrative, and as a collective society, choosing the one we want to live in. It is not strategic planning that creates changes, but to see clearly the narrative and consciously choose the story line or life-line we want to be in.
Mindfulness practices teach us to watch our mind and notice what triggers us. It allows us to create a space before we react, to stay present and develop the ability to stop even momentarily, when we are challenged by other’s people aggression and fear. Ultimately, the intent is to learn about yourself, to decide who you are, and stay engaged in difficult situations without loosing your control. When one looses his or her control, then irrationality sets in. Developing a stable mind is our own personal work. To bring insight and compassion to our self and challenging events is the work we face as individuals and collectives.
We do not need to be perfect, to be the best, to always succeed, even to never create harm, but we do need to trust our capacity to learn our triggers. We can learn our fear and anxieties, learn to recognize them and develop strengths and resilience. Our motivation can be to be more in control of ourselves.
Finally, in this current climate of chaos we do not want to loose hope. As we are the master’s of our destiny, hope remains an important attribute. Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well or good, but the certainty that something is worth doing no matter what. Hope is the embracing of the unknown.