At an accelerating pace over the course of the modern era, we human beings have been adjusting ourselves to political, social, and economic models that too often treat our humanity as an inconvenience, and diminished our understanding of who we are and who we were meant to be. This is reflected in how we measure the success of our economy – things like productivity, the stock market, and GDP – which completely ignore quality of life measurements like equality, health or education outcomes, leisure time, and other things that have a much more direct relationship to quality of life. Even the inventor of GDP, Simon Kuznets, recognized this, saying “The welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income”. This misguided focus means that we have not truly developed ourselves as the creative beings we are. For the most part we haven’t accessed the depth of love we are capable of, nor do we live into the beauty of who we are and powerfully represent that in the world.
2020 has us confronting many things that seem like an ending – facing layoffs, school closures, protests and long-overdue reckonings with many injustices- all have been massive disruptions to our ‘normal’ lives. This is an end of one era, but it is also potentially the opening of another. We have the opportunity for a new beginning, to face ourselves and ask questions about what is actually essential to our quality of life. Answering these questions will allow us to declare the future we want to create, one that includes the possibility of restoration, and more of the things that bring joy and flourishing to the human experience. At this moment in time we actually have a chance to create, to quote the author Charles Eisenstein The more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.
For too long, we have accepted a paradigm that turns everything, including our attention, into a commodity. Many of us have been treating ourselves like things. Something to be managed rather than the beautiful expression of the love and authenticity of who we are. In so many domains of life, we are conditioned to think this way. Especially with the technological trends of the past couple decades, we are all now generating troves of data to quantify, analyze and evaluate our productivity at work, performance while exercising, our children’s development, our romantic lives – there is an app for everything, and every human interaction we have is just more grist for the digital mill. We are more than this. When we come ‘out’ of COVID 19, and as we continue to confront the human failings we have historically made in our society, we will have choices. So many of us are expressing that we do not want to go back to how it was, even in the midst of more uncertainty than we have ever faced in our lives.
I am reminded of this quote from A Tale of Two Cities:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us
These words were written about a revolutionary moment, when anything was possible. Then the choice was a backslide to despotism or forward to liberté, egalité, fraternité. We are in a similar revolutionary moment, when all of our assumptions about who we are and how we relate to each other are being challenged. We are not things, we are human beings facing a choice point.
What if we focused on what we have gained during this time, the initial sparks of kindness and connection, the desire to grow and learn? It is in our hands how this next chapter goes. What are you choosing? We were hardwired (in our brains) for connection, empathy, and understanding. What if we chose to expand those capacities, skills and abilities. What if this is our moment?