Ashes, and the Phoenix
My previous post on Authenticity spoke to the shifts in our personal lives that I am seeing in 2011, as we are compelled to discard our illusions and live authentically. When I collect these shifts and experiences and look upon them through the lens of culture, I think I'm seeing some powerful effects.
When a fire is burning, it can sustain itself, or get bigger, only with the addition of more fuel, more wood. It can be hot and bright, and we can revel in the heat and the light.
But when the wood becomes scarce, the fire begins to dim. The center is still the hottest place. The edges cool first. And finally, when there is no more wood, the fire begins to burn itself out.
So it is with our unsustainable way of being.
The fire is beginning to dim. We have seen this occurring at the edges. Millions of jobs of this economy have vanished. They are not coming back. They were part of an unsustainable way of living. There is not enough "wood" left to harvest, to rebuild this unsustainable fire.
At first, we all scramble to be closer to the fire. We scramble to once again revel in it. But soon we realize that the only way we can do that is to scratch and struggle to hold on to a position that is itself receding into the center of the fire.
We've seen over the past several decades what has been called "the hollowing out of the middle class". It's not a consequence of poor economic policy or bad governance. It is the harvest of our scratching and struggling. It is the inevitable consequence of our unsustainable way of living.
Those of us who have means - those who are "powerful" in this economy - ultimately use our struggling neighbors as a kind of fuel. Some corporations are using these very people, those of us who are struggling, as wood for the fire. And many of us, not seeing an alternative, are volunteering. Volunteering, in desperation, to be consumed.
Painfully funny and sad how we are called "consumers". How things have changed.
Many of us with means are attempting to "hold on to what we have" out of fear of what is coming. We build a kind of fortress against the millions of our peers who we see struggling beside us, scraping and grabbing for the very resources we hope to use to keep our own (unsustainable) fires burning. Gated communities. Isolation. Willful dismissal of the needy. The rape and pillage of dictators gorging on national wealth.
No matter. The fire that burns unsustainably will consume itself everywhere, whether it is the central core or an ember off to the side. With no intervention, no redistribution of wealth or resources by revolution or government, all by itself. There is no gated community that will not also turn to ash.
In the end, that which is unsustainable will cease to exist.
And I posit that this end is visible; we're living in it now.
We have two choices. We can struggle and fight and claw our way to the center of the fire for a few more years (maybe long enough for us to live and then die by the heat of the flame - but then, what of our children, and our children's children?). This is the world we are used to, getting more and more cruel, more and more cold, more and more dense with "us" versus "them". More and more exclusive.
Or, we can step away from the fire. We can join hands. We can look around us, and contemplate our individual and collective gifts. We can see ourselves and every one of our peers as rich with gifts and talents. We can embrace one another. We can stop struggling and start caring for one another.
We can start giving and asking.
"Ask, and ye shall receive." "Give and it shall be given unto you." This is Jesus at his most subtle. He's not talking about God doing all this by magic. He's talking about all of us, being humble enough to do it for one another.
All we have to do is start.
The sooner we start, the easier the transition will be - the less suffering will occur as the fire burns itself out. The more of us participate, the fewer of us will be consumed in the fire.
When the struggle to be near the fire has burned enough of one away, when one has suffered through the pain required to live an inauthentic, unsustainable life, perhaps this path becomes clearer (it seems to have worked that way for me, and I'm still trying to see it).
Perhaps it will not become clearer at all, and yet, if the pain of the old way becomes so great, one may have no choice but to walk away in a desperate search for something else.
I invite and encourage every one to try this alternative way. You won't be alone. Try to simply care, love, and ask. Stop struggling for what you think you want, and consider what you need. Let go of what is false, what is illusion, what is causing you pain. Consider what those around you need, and what gifts you have to give. Start giving and sharing. Care enough to reach out.
Be humble enough to ask around for help -- for yourself and for others.
(When you are ready. I think it only works when you are ready.)
I believe this is how we will build the new economy. This is how we will build a new form of community. Simply caring for one another, rather than living in fear.
This is the Gift of the Phoenix. It's right there. I can almost touch it.
Enough for now. Coming soon - Authenticity Rising Part III: The Emerging Gift Economy.