A Time to Shift

moe2muslimBy: Kabir Helminski - May 25 2009

In the midst of unprecedented crisis, we are being shown everything that does not work. The vestiges of exploitive, authoritarian, dogmatic, and puritanical attitudes are making their last stand. Meanwhile popular culture offers us narratives of magical human capacities-from Harry Potter to the internationally acclaimed television series, Heroes-as if the subconscious mind were calling our attention to some new human possibility.

When a caterpillar enters its cocoon, does it realize what's about to happen? Comprehending what is happening to our world and our lives presents unprecedented challenges. We are in the midst of something we do not understand. Parts of ourselves may be in denial, rationalizing that this is a temporary state, a deeper than usual dip in the business cycle, a temporary deviation from "normal." Other parts of ourselves sense that something is up.

How much understanding or realistic analysis can the mainstream, corporate media offer, if the media is, literally, a "product" of a system that is fundamentally bankrupt? If what we are undergoing is not a recession, nor even a depression, but a quantum shift in human life, where can we look for understanding?

Though many tend to ignore the facts, at the purely observable, measurable level, life on this planet is undergoing an intensification that is not only unprecedented but breathtaking in all its aspects. We have already passed through an explosion in population that has seen a 400% increase within the lifespan of many who are now alive. Human knowledge (or at least information) has increased far more than that. Technologies are changing human life more rapidly than any natural cause ever has. And, perhaps, economic realities are confronting us with a situation that may demand a fundamental rethinking of how we work, spend, live, and conceive of our lives.

When a caterpillar enters its cocoon, does it realize what's about to happen? Does the caterpillar of contemporary society foresee its chrysallisic possibilities?

Does the caterpillar of contemporary society foresee its chrysallisic possibilities? Are there butterflies on the drawing boards of the automakers, in the strategic plans of the military, in the theologies of the churches?

What we are in the midst of is more than a shift in lifestyle attitude, or even consciousness. The crisis we face combines the blowback of delusional economics, the constraints of a finite material world, the self-reinforcing feedback loop of monumental climate change, and the very unpredictable equations of human decisions in the political sphere. Finally, we cannot discount the possibility that the net interaction of all these forces signifies not only a dramatic change in outer economic conditions, but a shift in the psycho-spiritual context of humanity.

And what could that mean? Let me suggest a few possibilities: Apocalypse has the etymological meaning of "Unveiling." For people who have lived within a narrowly materialistic conception of reality, and a Newtonian science that recognizes only the simplest quantitative interactions, and who believe that our thinking egos are the ultimate units of reality, this unveiling could be of truly apocalyptic proportions, though the word "apocalypse" if fraught with too many inappropriate and devastating connotations.

This "unveiling" may be as significant for people of religious belief as it is for the secular mind, for now the reality of what religion has been mouthing (often without real understanding) stands revealed before us.

We are at a moment when we are forced to face the consequences that we have managed to ignore or hide from until now. Perhaps we will recognize that we have created a world where our technological means have overwhelmed meaning and values. Where media offers the entertainment of virtual lives increasingly bereft of real relationships. A world in which unbridled selfishness and greed has produced illusory profits but real poverty and suffering.

We are at a moment when we are forced to face the consequences that we have managed to ignore or hide from until now.

Among other things, we are being shown what does not work. We are witnessing examples of the most brutal, unabashed, and insane cruelty and injustice. What these modern day fanatics have in common is the willingness to justify immoral means to attain their selfish, utopian, or imaginary goals. If I started naming names I would offend and attract the opprobrium of too many camps, so I will leave it to your imagination.

Each of these groups justifies its evil with a theory of "exceptionalism" and the claim that we have been given a divine purpose or an ideological purity (the secular, godless version) that allows them to disregard common decency and morality, or international law, because they are "chosen" or possess the "true religion" or represent some "shining city on the hill" and thus are to use whatever means to attain their ends.

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