What is going on then? Why do our institutions now constantly fail us and even act to make the situation worse? Why do so many people that work in institutions feel so bad and so helpless - even if they are its leaders? Why is it that while we can see the predicament that we face now as a species, we cannot organize to find a way out of it? Why do so many people obsess with celebrities, money, their house, their car etc when it is clear that we stand on the edge of a precipice? Why do so many of our kids seem to have given up?
I think that the core reason is that we are lost in a species-wide Mid Life Crisis.
I think that just as every human life has its stages of development so does mankind as a species. I believe that we are in one of those messy transitions like the Terrible Twos, the Teens or worst of all and I think most likely - Mid Life Crisis.
I speak now as a 56 year old man who has had a typical messy, funny and in the end somewhat tragic mid life crisis. For all of you who have yet to encounter it, here is what I feel to be its essence.
This is the point in our development, as both an individual or as a species, where we have to choose to move forward out of the extrinsic world of needing to belong to the tribe and where satisfaction is met by the acquisition of tangibles to the path to reunion with the universe where all growth now tends to be spiritual and where honor and personal growth are the motivators. Where the idea of family and tribe extends ever more widely until in encompasses all life and all things. Where children expand from being ours to all children. Where home expands to be the world. Where life itself melds into the eternal.
To move forward, the "old us" that was anchored in the tangible, in the tribe and in the young body has to die. No one wants to grow old and then die and few choose to transform without either a terrible struggle or a retreat back to the familiar where development stops. We see this at every stage of development. The Two year old wants to be free from her mother but often wants to become part of her again. The Teen wants to be a kid and yearns to be an independent adult. Under stress we regress. We want to live here for ever. In wanting life as an end in itself, we risk losing our soul.
So the middle aged man or woman, like Dante wakes up one day to find themselves lost. Our body used to work well and now it doesn't. We used to know what to do and we had strategies that worked but now they don't. So what do we do? We tend to look very silly for a while. Being lost we act out.
Yes I bought a red sports car. I did all - I mean All - the silly things that mid-life crisis men do. For me, all this silliness, bad behaviour and doubt created such despair that a dam broke in me and I began to awaken as a person now on a spiritual path. I wonder if the story of the Passion, the Crucification and the Resurrection is really the story that all men and women can experience as they struggle with the choice to awaken? I am not here talking about being a born-again Christian. That is a response to being lost but I fear it is a misplaced one. For at its heart, institutional religion is a tribal response where an outside force is in control. No I am talking about the Mythic Spiritual path than some men and women have walked for all time. This path is the Natural Human path that if chosen and walked brings us home to being that spiritual being that is the highest developmental achievement of mankind.
".....The modern hero, the modern individual who dares to heed the call and seek the mansion of that presence with whom it is our whole destiny to be atoned, cannot, indeed must not, wait for his community to cast off its slough of pride, fear, rationalized avarice, and sanctified misunderstanding. "Live," Nietzsche says, "as though the day were here." It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse. And so every one of us shares the supreme ordeal - carries the cross of the redeemer - not in the bright moments of his tribes's great victories, but in the silence of his personal despair." Joseph Campbell - Hero of a Thousand faces
The choice to take the path often demands death, misery, humiliation and rejection. So many in their own garden of Despair, choose to return to the Matrix.
They turn away from the hunter gatherer life of the natural human and they go back to the predictability and the helplessness of corporate life. They leave their wives and marry a younger woman and have a new family when they could have witnessed their grandchildren. They become obsessed with their own tangible condition and seek out more wealth at any price. They ignore the world around them and focus in the end only on themselves. They in fact regress to maybe a two year old again where the world is only them. This is the essence of Tragedy itself. Where the protagonist, like Macbeth, seeks the tangible reward above all others and ends isolated and in the end defeated by forces that could not even be seen in the self obsessed perspective of the Tragic hero. This of course is playing out now as the Corporate Giants obsess about their own needs, blind to the threat from Hobbit like new organizations that will destroy them.
Do you know people like this? Are not our institutions like this? Is this not the shift we see?
So this is what I think is going on
I believe that mankind is in its "Garden of Gethsemane". We are Dante at the opening of the Inferno. We are Odysseus leaving Troy. We stand at a choice and we compete also in a race. The choice is to say yes to growing up or to say no and revert to being like a spoiled child. The race is that, if enough of us say no and buy the red car and return to the Matrix, nature herself will punish us. She may still do that anyway but at least as a grown up I can cope with even that.
Here is another way of seeing the map of the seven stages of man. It is an image that I will use often. It is part of the Icon of this site. It is called a Fibonacci Curve and it is the trajectory of development that nature uses in all situations where the environmental conditions for development have allowed an entity, whether a galaxy or a human community, to reach its full potential. I won't go into a lot of detail here - (Here is more information if you want it now) the stories will take you to a deeper understanding without a lecture - but my point now is that until the age of 34 we are ideally still in the thrall of the Extrinsic demands of obedience to the Tribe's norms. We still live in an extrinsic world.
If we are on course to fully develop into the spiritual being that is the truly human, spiritual being that only a self-conscious and self- aware person can become, then we have to make the painful transition to leave the rules of the Tribe and to leave the thrall of Stuff. We also have to embrace the reality that we will grow old and physically frail and that there will come a time when it is right to die. If we don't accept this path, we seem to fall back into the box of early childhood and all the narcissism that that choice represents.
So this then is what I see is going on.
Today there is a rapidly growing group of people that are making the choice to grow. In growing themselves as individuals, they seek to act in a new way.
So they are starting to build a new world based on the principles of an intrinsic motivation. They are raising their kids in this way. They are starting businesses that are organized like this. They write software that enhances this movement. They are designing places that help us develop. They are setting in motion new ways of helping our kids learn and helping us to become healthy. They are finding new ways to finance what we need.They are taking back the power of community and the individual to have a voice. They will reinvent politics and even how we settle conflict and go to war.They are developing the foundations of a new society.
The more that we can help each other make this choice, the more of a chance that we may win the race and that we may indeed return home to where we can once again become fully human.
Please join me in this Trusted Space where will discover who these people are and how you too can join this great work.
We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us - Joseph Campbell