“The truth goes in and out of stories, you know. What was once true is true no longer. The water has risen from another spring” - Ursula K. LeGuin
As individuals we are in transition between two stories that each define what it means to be a human. Our civilization is going through the same crisis. A convergence of crises is birthing us into a new world.
The story defines what it means to be human – it is the story of self. Who are you? You are a separate being in a world of other. The world outside yourself does not have the properties of a self. It’s just a bunch of Newtonian forces pushing masses around. Therefore in this alien universe your wellbeing comes through exerting as much control as possible over that universe. That’s where the technological utopian idea comes from. If we somehow master the random forces outside our self we will finally be safe; we will finally be happy.
The purpose of a gathering like this is that we can all come and be crazy together. Insanity is culturally defined. Insanity means you don’t participate in the real. Yet what we’ve been given as real is a tiny sliver of what is actually real….when we have an experience of something our existing story can neither explain or dismiss; when we experience an event that doesn’t fit with what we have been told is real; that kind of event is a miracle - an invitation into a larger view of reality. A miracle isn’t the intercession of some higher power in violation of the laws of nature. A miracle is simply something that is impossible in an old story but possible in a new one. A miracle is an invitation into a new story that says come over here – here’s a bigger reality. Miracles happen with more frequency as the old story cracks.
When things fall apart, when you are stuck in that liminal space the light from the new story shines through the cracks and lands in your life as miracles. It says, “You were right all along. That lonely knowledge that you may have hidden from yourself – that was true knowledge.”
This is good news because if you are an informed environmentalist it all looks pretty hopeless. Ian McPherson can make an airtight case for extinction. He’s is right according to what he takes for granted as real.
But from a larger story, a different story that is not a story of separation, anything is possible.
Because from the story of separation, if you are just a separate self in a vast universe of other; if your only power to change things is to exert force on a mass; then you are not very powerful. Maybe if you marshal great force you can be a little more powerful but the forces at work and the powers that be are so much bigger. They have the money, the guns, a surveillance state, armies, prisons. They have more force, so what can one little mass-pusher like you do? You cannot do much.
But when we step into the new story of inter-being and understand we are not separate selves but that we are the mirrors, the reflections, the holographic image of everything and everyone; when we understand that anything that we do affects everything; that every act has cosmic significance; that anything that is happening to any being on this planet is happening to ourselves; when we understand that we begin to step into our true power. This is not necessarily something that an intellectual argument can convince you of. It has to happen to you through one of these miracles that causes your jaw to drop; that delivers a powerful invitation that says reality wasn’t what you thought it was; that invites you to discover who you really are; to discover a different answer to “what creates well being”? If not control then where does wellbeing come from? If everything that happens to you happens to me then the more wellbeing I will experience.
People often ask me - who are your heroes?? I admire the people with platform, power and influence, but I admire even more the humble people who are doing the small invisible things that our theory of change does not validate or think is important. Our theory of change is an old, Newtonian theory. It doesn’t recognize the power of small, simple acts of compassion. The famous woman with the best selling book, the billionaire with lots of political influence that we see being effective in the world makes sense in our old story. But what about the woman who sacrifices her life to take care of a dying parent? Or the young volunteer who gives up a year of his life to empower a person with learning disabilities?
The new story of inter-being offers the way to marry the logic of the heart with the mind. Any change that happens in one place creates a field of change that allows the same thing to happen everywhere else. When you understand that, you can let go. When you understand that any action creates ripples through a matrix of causality that you can’t see; when you live in that truth, you don’t have to worry about whether the message will go viral; whether you can scale it up; how people will find out about it; because you know. Standing in this place, I think it very important to validate that. Most of us aren’t going to do big things but live small lives of care that are actually very BIG lives.
I have had some opportunity to interact with politicians struck by how powerless they are. They say, “I agree with you Charles but I can’t do anything about it because of this and that.” I realized they are just functionaries, puppets of a system even they don’t believe in. The real power is with we the people when we stand in a different story and allow everything we do to tug at reality through invisible subterranean threads. We cannot predict what the results will be but we can follow the call of what makes us feel alive. We are listening to a different way of knowing that only makes sense when we believe that the universe is a purposeful, intelligent, alive, sentient conscious place and we are not separate from that universe. And here we are to remind each other of that.
Mother Earth is in charge and we are being put through a transformational process that we don’t have to understand. Humanity is going through a coming of age ordeal – just like a teenager goes through in an indigenous community when put in a situation where our world falls apart, when our child’s identity is no longer functional; put into that space between stories so that we can step into the adulthood of the species – a space in which our gifts are turned towards their true purpose.
I am very grateful to be a part of that here and I am hopeful that, as we all go forth and step out of this field that Uplift 2014 has created, we will carry that knowledge within us; the knowledge that all our actions have cosmic significance; that this crystal [in front of the stage that two little girls are watering] likes to be bathed in water, that the planet is alive and conscious and that we are not alone.
The time of the lonely journey, thinking you might be crazy, is over. You know what it’s like - coming up for air into a sunlit world and being sucked back down again by all the forces around us that say that you are wrong; that normal is normal; that nothing’s going to change; that Kim K’s butt is important because otherwise why would it be in the headlines? Getting dragged down, coming up then getting dragged down again. Now when we come up for air, there is someone else there holding us up. For more of us are coming up more and more often and we are creating this human mat where we’re holding each other in this new place in this new story.
This is not a transition we can make by ourselves, because we are not separate selves. Any human being we judge as unenlightened is a mirror of something unenlightened within ourselves and we will not be fully enlightened until each person is.
So often the realization of the new story gets channeled back into the patterns and habits of the old. Even spiritual enlightenment becomes this thing you do on your own as a separate choice and, when you start thinking that way, a subtle kind of elitism creeps in because “I am making that choice and so and so isn’t, I tried and they didn’t. I will be tolerant of them and I will bless their journey…” In Buddhism that’s called “the stink of enlightenment.” You can’t smell it because you are used to it but everyone else can!
As we understand inter-being and become more familiar with and live the new story we understand that everyone we meet is on their path and brings their own unique gifts. We approach them with curiosity and we know that it’s not just a matter of raising our vibrations but that we are a symphony of vibrations – high and low. A flute is no better or worse than a bassoon. As the symphony changes and enters its next movement our vibrations begin to shift as well. In that transition, there may be some disharmony, so we listen to the disharmony and seek to heal it and move into the next movement of the symphony.
Here we all are on this journey together in gratitude for each other, in curiosity…What path of separation have you walked? What have you healed on behalf of us all? We are on this journey knowing that on this ride, everyone is coming with us!
A video of this talk can be found here.