“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.”
― Jalaluddin Rumi
We are all plants stretching towards the sun. Life clings to life, even in the harshest environments. There is an impulse in every living thing to grow. And yet, growth is difficult and messy. When we’re in the midst of it, sometimes it feels like it will never end and the process feels fraught with strong emotions. But all of us, almost as our birthright, have a drive to grow and change. Beyond our basic needs we have a desire to become a more complex, effective version of ourselves. We have an impulse to evolve.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Sri Aurobindo amongst others, describe the evolutionary impulse, that in every living cell there is a drive to evolve. This impulse is a great tide of consciousness that has been spiraling forward to right now, in which the matter of the universe is able to contemplate itself. The universe has become consciousness. This has happened like a great wave, building in complexity towards its peak, and beginning to break onto itself, moving faster and faster in exponential growth. We are the stuff of stars, contemplating stars.
We now know that across the universe, energy cannot be created or destroyed: it simply changes form. And from the moment of the Big Bang, it began transforming continuously. It started with a series of simple elements that became more complex elements that became matter that became more complex matter through sometimes explosive forces, creating the building blocks for stars. From these stars planets formed, then organic life, then sentient organic life, then consciousness. The moment of consciousness is a big one: the universe realizing itself.
At each stage of development, the universe takes what is present, and builds on it to create another. It transcends and includes the previous stage. Every aspect of life is built on the last. Sometimes maladaptive mechanisms actually become helpful, as life grows towards the sun, incorporating new operating systems to deal with harsh climates and environments. Extra protections, ways of hiding, protective behaviors that can sometimes fiercely keep the organism whole. Evolutionary biologists study this in the physical world, watching as plants and animals grow and adapt to thrive in their environments. The metaphor is obvious.
We humans have an impulse to evolve in our cells as well. And like the universe, there is no way around the law of transcend and include. Many of us have developed patterns that are indeed maladaptive. We fought sarcasm with sarcasm. We learned to perform love and to perform being loved in turn. We retreated into our inner lives to find safety, building worlds that offered retreat and meaning. Instead of destroying them, or ridding ourselves of their influence, the way forward is through understanding and integration. As we heal ourselves, and find what lurks in the shadows we build a new internal operating system and evolve past our limitations. We reflect and learn. In this, we stand in a lineage of thousands of years of ancestors; whose wounds, narratives and ways of being have been passed down through millennia, and as we become conscious and take the charge to evolve, we are doing their work, the work of our forebears. Because you are here right now and aware of yourself in this moment, you may be the first over a thousand years of ancestry that has the will to consciously grow and change. To heal, to live with greater purpose. To even know that you have to evolve. Let this sink in for a moment. Going into our depths to find ourselves allows for a rewiring and an evolution in our consciousness. The time is now.
In this burden of consciousness is the responsibility to evolve. Looking at our actions and taking account of them, making commitments to new and more sustainable forms of living and leading, and finding our own integrity and alignment are the outgrowth. We evolve with an eye towards our deeper operating system; our deeply held beliefs about ourselves and the world, family narratives, repressed emotions. These things are our operating system. As as we move forward, we upgrade it.
It can be hard, but if we can move through the valley, we find a garden on the other side and a life of meaning, richness and purpose. As this evolution happens, the ripple we send to others: our families, our friends, our communities and the world at large changes. I do this for my daughter, for my colleagues, for my wife. This impact is one drop in the great wave of evolution that is happening. With each drop, the universe evolves.
I Wanted To Change The World
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.
-Unknown Monk 1100 A.D.