These are some strange and interesting times. Covid-19 and social distancing. Businesses and what we consider our normal life “shut down”. Culture wars “trumping” medical advice over wearing masks in public.  Police killing unarmed black men leading to continued protests. Calls to “defund” the police. Things reopening too soon.  The virus is returning.

Will we be able to move beyond these challenges and create and live in the world that we desire?

Through the years, I have written here about many “worldly” crises and conflicts.  Gun violence. Lack of health care.  Political polarization. Racial conflicts and injustices. Income inequality. Climate change.  Many more other issues probably in the last ten plus years…..

Although I believe that we should acknowledge the situations in the world that are “less than” what we want to experience, I also am called to move beyond the outer experience.  Those outward challenges are opportunities if viewed from a higher vantage point.

How are they “opportunities”? 

First, they give us “contrast”.  They allow us to experience the world that we don’t want so we can create a firm image in our minds eye of the world we do want.  They allow us to turn to imagine the world that we know is possible.  They allow us to focus upon that world in our thoughts, our words and our actions. The racial inequities that we are seeing (finally) are allowing us to see the possibilities of a world where these inequities are discarded to the “dust bin of history”.

Second, they give us “lessons”.  We may not know what we don’t know.  That sounds obvious.  Yet when we are living in or creating experiences that may not be for the highest and greatest good for our collective world, we may not always be aware of it.  We may be asleep to the negative conditions we are creating because we are somehow insulated from them.  The racial inequalities that we are seeing (finally) were there all along but many of us in our lives of privilege could not see them until now.

Third, they call us to grow or “evolve”. As we learn the lessons and visualize the world possible, something inside us changes….we expand in our consciousness…..we leave behind the person we were before and become a new person seeing things freshly and acting with a new determination to change things for the better…..both in our own lives and collectively.  The racial inequalities that we are seeing (finally) are stirring within us a desire to leave that old way of being behind and to create a new world where we recognize our unity and oneness.

This is not new stuff if you have read my blogs over the years.  For example, back in 2013, I wrote a multi part series on the issue of gun violence in the United States.    I pointed out that the guns were only a symptom of the real problem.  Here is what I said the true root of the matter was:

“Most Americans are stuck in egocentric or some small range of ethnocentric behavior. The people they have care and concern for is all too often a very small circle. This lack of feeling bonded to others allows violent behavior to be a natural response to “those out there” whom we don’t care about. This is the root cause of America’s violence which we truly need to address!”

AMERICA’S VIOLENCE: THE REAL PROBLEM

Time and time again, I have stressed that our major choice point is in how we see ourselves in relation to the rest of the world —- Are we truly a separate individual living in competition for limited resources with all of the other separate people in the world?  Or, are we at the ground of our true being connected to everyone and everything and living and acting from that truth to create a world that works for all expressions of the one?

This past week, David Brooks, columnist for the New York Times wrote an article whose central point was that our current challenges, especially in regards to America’s handling of the coronavirus and our racial issues were creating “the national humiliation” that we need.  Americans are unhappy.

According to Brooks, there were two positive trends in our responses to the challenges. One, we were shifting our attitudes on race to a degree that there was little to no “white backlash”.  Two, we are deciding to get rid of Trump (based on current polls).

However, Brooks goes on to point out that these actions weren’t getting at the root issue that led to our long time acceptance of racism or our election of a “Trump” in the first place.  He correctly points out that the election of Trump was symptom of other crises.

What did he see as the “root issue” or “core problem”? Brooks writes:

“Damon Linker is on to a piece of it: ‘It amounts to a refusal on the part of lots of Americans to think in terms of the social whole — of what’s best for the community, of the common or public good. Each of us thinks we know what’s best for ourselves.’ “

David Brooks, NY Times

Yes, as Brooks describes, Americans as a group pride themselves on their rugged individualism.  Our country was built on the protections of our individual freedoms and liberty.  These are important characteristics that we should cherish and protect.  The wonderful evolution of our country has been built on the release of the creative spirit of the individual.

Yet here is an important point that we all need to really understand…..if America is truly going to live up to that vision of the “shining city on the hill” that has been held up to the world as the “dream possible” for a country on this planet, we Americans need to find a healthy balance between our individualism and our desire for what’s best for the common good for all.

The more we retreat into excessive levels of individualism and what’s best for me, the more we fail to address the needs of the common good for all.  We curtail our collective growth and higher evolution when we retreat into a world where only the needs of the individual parts of the whole are important even at the expense of other parts.  Metaphorically, “in support of our individual hand” we are “shooting ourselves in the foot”.  One part may temporarily “win” but the cost to the “other” will ultimately harm us both as we are really connected.

Yet if we deny our individual needs for the good of the all, we both turn our backs on the individual freedoms which have grown our country and fail to recognize the value of each of our unique expressions.  To put it bluntly, if we kill the spirit of the parts that make up the whole, we end up killing the Whole anyway.

It’s been said that it is the healthy creative tension between two opposites that bring about the energy of change and the birthing of a higher and newer “more evolved” expression.  Our entire physical evolutionary process has been driven by individual cells having to both maintain their unique “agency” as an independent cell while also allowing themselves to shift their actions and expression in the world to become part of a greater whole.  No plant or animal on this Earth would have evolved into being if the cells that make up our physical bodies had not learned how to “stay a rugged individual cell” while also finding a way to “commune with other cells for the common good” that allowed something greater and grander to be birthed.

If mastering this dynamic tension between individualism and collectivism, between agency and communion, were important catalysts for our physical evolution, might it not be important for us to master this tension in our awareness now for us to evolve to higher levels of consciousness?

Perhaps the strangeness of these interesting times are really just the push we need….the humiliation we need…..the call we need…..the opportunity we need….to allow us to find that healthy balance between the individualism we have been expressing and our creation of the greatest good for all.  Perhaps in so doing we are giving birth to a new evolutionary expression of our Oneness.

Mark Gilbert