The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
As the national election looms large I, like many people in the world, am contemplating our future. My musings caused me to recall this Quote of the Day from gratefulness.org. In a world that is changing, roiling really, in increasingly chaotic and unpredictable ways, how do we give our children reason for hope? What can our generation possibly do that will inspire the next generation to act from a place of hope rather than the place of fear? As I pondered this question, one of my coaching clients offered an insight that inspired him, “your unconscious is your children’s reality.” “What better reason,” he said, “for working on myself!” Then almost inevitably, the lyrics to a favorite song of my youth started playing in my head . . .
You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good bye.
Teach your children well,
Their father’s hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you’ll know by.
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young had it right; becoming yourself is a powerful way, perhaps the most powerful way for each of us to give the next generation reason for hope. Since the journey to become yourself has been the focus of my career for thirty-five years, let me say just a bit on the subject. The past 100 years has seen an explosion of information about the workings of human’s interiority. In the west of course there has been an intense focus on the individual, on self-actualization, which is to say becoming the best “me” I can be. Beautiful and necessary to be sure, but this disconnected self, this skin-encapsulated ego, to quote Alan Watts, simply doesn’t have the capacity to make the connections or develop the context of meaning that we need if we are to give our children hope. No, our goal reaches beyond this skin-encapsulated ego.
Researchers of adult development tell us that humans have the capacity to move well beyond this sense of a separate self. Add to this the opportunity to access all the world’s spiritual traditions, an opportunity people in generations past did not have. We can avail ourselves of both the knowledge of adult development and the wisdom of the world’s great spiritual traditions to chart a path of growth.
While it is true that each of the religious traditions has a different face, a different narrative for creating a context for meaning, each of them also points towards practices that finally draw us out of our skin-encapsulated ego and into the experience of “true self.” True self is that connected place where we recognize that we are part of what de Chardin called “the seamless coat of the universe.” We can come to know that we are woven into the fabric of One or said differently, “the number of true selves is one.” From this vantage point so many troubling things fall away; jealousy, war, self-centeredness and greed all begin to become irrelevant.
But beautiful as that realization is, there is still a more beautiful dawn that rises when we come to understand that we are each a unique expression of that unity. Each of us is expressing divinity by offering our own amazing particularity. Living from within this context of meaning, a place connected to the power driving creation’s emergent beauty, we are filled with a realistic hope because we can see what we have to offer the world. The level of complexity necessary to thrive in this chaotic world requires us to embrace the very real necessity for growth. It requires us to reach towards our own unique expression of true self. Seeing each of us as an integral part of evolving the world is the hope we give to the next generation.