In trying to comprehend some of the recent natural and social upheavals taking place in the world, we can find ourselves entering into a realm of uncertainty. Earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, cyclones, fire. Social revolutions unfolding in country after country.
On the one hand it is tempting to look at each event as an isolated occurrence and attempt to understand it as something that stands on its own. On the other hand it is tempting to somehow lump all these events together and pronounce the ‘end of days.’ Both of these viewpoints approach reality from a certain perspective. But we must have the courage to walk a path between these two extremes and see if we can discover there any kind of truth.
Observing the situation at hand solely with our intellects can leave us doubt-filled about our own understandings. Observing solely with our emotions can take us into a realm of illusion. The question is whether or not we can objectively perceive all that is taking place around us – and within us – with the faculties available to the whole human being.
We have been witnessing the ground shift beneath our feet. The recent earthquake near Japan is one of the largest in recorded history, and comes soon after earthquakes in New Zealand and elsewhere. Tsunamis have followed, and bring back memories of the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. In the country of my birth – Australia – there have been, in recent months, wide-spread flooding, cyclones and fires. Australia, of course, has not been the only country to experience such activity.
All of these natural events have had very real impacts on the lives of human beings. Many people have died, and others suffered terrible loss. The question of the relationship of nature to the human being has been brought more and more to the forefront of our consciousness through these events. Yet, there are more questions awaiting us in this direction.
In social life, we have been witnessing revolutions taking place across the Arab world. We have also seen social unrest and protest in many states of America. Numerous other protests and expressions of social discontent have been unfolding around the globe. Very real instances of human un-freedom and social inequality have all been brought into question and directly challenged.
Speaking pictorially, we could say that a kind of social earthquake has been taking place across the world. The social structures which have existed beneath our feet are being brought into question. No longer are human beings content with the social common-ground that has existed, routine-like, for the last decades. The social earth is shifting. And we can ask, What is it that is seeking to arise?
Social life is brought about through the activity of human beings. The human being stands in the centre of all social activity. We can also ask, therefore, What is it that is seeking to emerge within the human being?
As we have already touched on, there are many commonly-used cultural expressions and phrases that employ pictures of natural events in order to describe social conditions. ‘It is like an earthquake.’ ‘The ground is shifting.’ ‘We are completely flooded.’ ‘We were completely blown away.’ ‘The world is on fire.’ And so on – there are many others.
It is important to observe that social pictures such as these are now taking place at the same time as physical events. Natural and social ‘earthquakes’ are unfolding together. Both the social imagination and the natural event are occurring simultaneously.
And so we may ask, How does this relate to the human being? How and where does the human being stand in relation to both natural and cultural events?
In reality, the ground beneath the feet of the human being has also been shifting. It cannot be otherwise. No social change would be necessary if this were not so. We find, in truth, everything that is taking place within the outer natural and social world also unfolding within the human being.
‘I have lost the ground beneath my feet.’ ‘I am completely inundated / flooded.’ ‘I feel completely blown over.’ ‘I am fired up.’ The natural and social ‘climate’ of the human being is changing. We are not immune or separate from all that is taking place around us in natural or social conditions. On the contrary, we find ourselves, truly speaking, right in the middle of it.
The question then becomes, What is seeking to unfold within the human being, as well as in the world around us, and how can we help this process unfold in healthy ways?
If we have lost the ground beneath our feet – if we have lost such firm support and foundation – we must seek such ground elsewhere. We cannot find such a foundation in the past, for the ground there has been torn up – has been completely thrown into chaos. Nor can we find such support solely in the present, for the ground there is continually shifting. In truth, we can only find solid ground – can only find new foundations for ourselves – in the future; in our own becoming. Only in our own becoming – the person we are ‘not yet’ – the person we are growing into – our own highest potential – only here can we find the sure ground that we need in order to withstand all that is taking place within the human being today, and all that is taking place around us.
It is the same, thereby, with social life. We cannot turn back. When the ground shifts, as it did during the recent financial crisis, we cannot – or should not – re-build the same structures on the ever-shifting ground of the past and expect that a different outcome will unfold. A different outcome will not unfold. We must build, instead, our foundations out of the future – out of the becoming social situation – out of the highest potential of the social organism. We must rebuild the social organism upon the foundations of its highest potential in the same way as we must build our own foundations upon the ground of our own becoming.
Only this will suffice. For, in reality, that which is causing the social and human earthquakes – that which is seeking to arise, volcano-like from the rubble – is nothing other than our own and society’s highest potentials – the ideal becoming of both the human organism and the social organism, which are seeking to be.
We ourselves – our own future possibilities – are causing the disturbances in our own inner lives, as much as the archetypal social organism is causing the disturbances in outer social life. This is happening because things are currently so desperately out-of-line with what they could potentially be. Only by building human and social foundations on that which is seeking to be in us and in the world will we be working in healthy ways with the highest potential of the human being and the world.
And yet this is no easy task, precisely because we must cross the ground that has fallen away – the abyss that lies between our past and our highest future possibilities. This takes great courage. This takes the whole human being. Our highest future selves (and all that is able to work through them) are the very bridges we are looking for in order to cross and become. The activity becomes, and becomes the goal. We can and must grow conscious of this process.
In this way will we move from violent and destructive experiences to activity that works in a conscious and healthy way with that which is seeking to emerge in the world through us. No longer will we falter under shifting social and human earthquakes – we will find and build new ground in the ideal future of both the human and social organisms, for in truth we find the one in the other. No longer will we be formed by destructive flooding in ourselves and in social life – we can work consciously with the creative forming forces of life in ourselves and in society. No longer will we or society be blown about randomly – we will breathe the air of highest possibilities. No longer will fire be a destructive force in ourselves and in social affairs – we will instead burn in the fire and light of our own and the world’s highest becoming.
In this way can a new light enter into the human being and the world. In this way can we find the courage, strength and enthusiasm to overcome the abyss that separates us from our true common ground and our true ‘common wealth.’ In this way can we work practically, creatively and in true freedom with that which is seeking to express itself in the world and in ourselves.
We shall enter then a field of certainty and sure ground out of which we can work in very real ways towards the further progress of social life so that it supports the full unfolding of the capacities of the human being. We shall find ourselves, thereby, as true human beings with a true relationship to natural and social conditions in order to bring about the ideal development of ourselves, of one another, of social conditions and of the world as a whole.