Below is the second part of an essay I wrote for the book, Order of the Sacred Earth, authored by one of my mentors, Matthew Fox, along with Skylar Wilson and Jennifer Berit Listug. I will include part 3 in a subsequent post. Enjoy!
Our story about the world stems from and is bound by our worldview. A worldview is a collection of ideas that functions like a lens, filtering out sense data and shaping our perception of the world. The story that we hold, part consciously and part subconsciously, determines our actions. If we want to change our actions, we must change our story. We humans have long navigated our experience through story. From the stories of the great myths to the current story of science and modernity, we’ve invented tales to guide us through the uncertainty and variability of life. These stories were not randomly conceived out of nothing. To the contrary, they were intelligently considered out of real experiences constrained by a particular psychological frame of reality. As our minds developed further, enhancing our capacity to extract more subjective and objective data from our experiences, it enabled us to create more complex and inclusive stories. Well, new data is pouring in, and it is suggestive of a need for a better and more sophisticated story to navigate our experience sustainably.
Throughout our history old stories have given way to new. The old became the foundation of the new. Like now, our current worldview must be the foundation for the construction of a better, more sustainable worldview. Those of us who are troubled about our current state of affairs can easily succumb to a stymying cynicism, where everything about our current worldview and narrative is hopelessly flawed and irredeemable. Such a perspective leads one to totally disregard everything about our current construction of reality. I admittedly fell prey to this level cynicism and as a result disengaged from society. I ultimately found that this thinking undermined my capacity to mitigate suffering in a way that I desired.
It is indeed true that all worldviews have their pathological aspects, including our current one. And it is also true that every worldview has healthy aspects that promote goodness and beauty. I fervently believe that there is a significant amount of good about a dominant construction of reality that overwhelmingly embraces universal human rights. For instance, though imperfect, the current dominant worldview in the U.S. decries slavery and seeks to encourage universal human rights for all. In the not so distant past, the dominant worldview denied these rights to groups outside of white men, and justified slavery and the subjugation of women. This type of transformation into more inclusion is arguably a clear example of an evolution in worldview. It would behoove us to keep those positive aspects of the various ways humans have structured the world in place and build on top of that. Those parts of our worldview that support ignorance, unsustainability, divisiveness, hatred, insensitivity, neglect, and disregard of the other is what we want to disengage and transcend, i.e. get rid of the bath water and keep the baby.
We do not live in a world where we all see eye to eye. Some of us may adopt more or less the same worldview and still hold different viewpoints depending upon an emphasis of attention on different aspects of that worldview. For example, in the politics of the American 2 party system, you may have a member of one party who focuses their attention on economic and individual freedoms while another of the opposing party focuses attention on the social welfare of all citizens. They both value human rights, individual freedoms, and the free market; however, each one will approach how they govern in terms of their primary interest.
On the other hand, you may have folks who inhabit very different worldviews. This poses a different set of challenges when attempting to work together to solve problems that threaten our common interest. For example, continuing the analogy of our 2 party system, one member may fervently maintain that the world was created by a human like being in 7 days around 6,000 years ago. This anthropomorphic being manages and determines the course of the world from the heavens. Another may inhabit the view that the world, as we know it, came into being 13.8 billion years ago from a big explosion out of nothing. To them, the world is managed by the process of evolution and the associative laws that came into being with this big explosion. Finding common ground across these worldviews may pose more of a challenge than the former example. Yet, we are all beneficiaries of the consequences of the concerning issues that threaten our existence. Therefore, we must find a way to common ground concerning the cause of sustaining our presence on Earth.
In order to address the issues that we are facing we need to adopt a new story that extracts the best knowledge from different domains of knowing from past to present. We need a story that honestly considers the information that we are being presented with now. And right now, we are being called upon to evolve our story into more complexity and sophistication. It needs to consider honestly the historical observations of our past. Our past has so much to teach us, and yet, we don’t need to overly romanticize or denigrate it. We need to embrace what can serve us in our evolution and relinquish that which stagnates us. We need a story that recognizes our collective interest in working together. It should be a story that is able to both celebrate and transcend our differences while acknowledging our sameness. We need a story that embraces our connection to the Earth. It would recognize that the well-being the Earth reflects our own well-being. This story must be intergenerational where the wisdom of the elders is fused with the creative impulsiveness of the youth. It must embrace the best of science, acknowledging that scientific thinking and exploration has been one the most extraordinary achievements in our evolution. It must also embrace the truth claims of the various religious traditions, recognizing the value of thousands of years of exploration into the realm of Spirit. For those who are fervently against these traditions for various reasons, I strongly encourage an exploration into the tremendous amount of wisdom that they have to offer. As earlier stated, we must caution against throwing the baby out with the bath water.