Reading keeps me sane.
Honestly, I don’t know how I’d make it without books in my hands.
Sometimes I need a fictional world to escape into. Usually one of epic length, so it engages me for more than a few days, like John Nichols’ The Magic Journey and The Milagro Beanfield War, which I recently reread.
The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible
But I gotta tell you, I just grabbed Charles Eisenstein’s latest work, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible, and I’m riveted.
Published by the North Atlantic Press in its Spiritual Activism series, this book continues Charles’s spiritual approach to vitally needed social change. His earlier works include Sacred Economics and The Ascent of Humanity.
I’ll be honest. It appeals to me because praying a better future into being sounds a lot easier, saner, and safer than pounding the pavement protesting or getting out the votes. Been there, done that. Lots of hard work that might get you arrested, stressed out, burnt out.
If my beliefs can help me be healthier, wealthier, and wiser, why not the world at large, which so needs help?
I don’t have to list out all the social ills and injustices that could use some healing if not a massive systemic overall. But what’s a former leftie turned spiritual seeker to do besides study and pray?
Change our Story, Change our Lives!
According to Charles, if we change our story on a global scale, we can change our collective lives and futures, including that of our precious planet earth.
In honor of Earth Day, I committed to studying climate change and the environment during April. When I grabbed this book off my mile-high to-be-read pile, that was where I expected to go.
The book does go there but in a broader, universal, paradigm-shifting way. What he calls human cultural evolution. So let me get into some specifics.
We can’t isolate our environmental crisis from everything else, especially our economy — fueled by fossil fuels, right? Not to mention our consumeristic culture and the fierce inequities held in place by force and violence.
All of this’s buoyed up by values, laws, history, and culture, etc.
Here’s how Charles explains it:
As we awaken to the interconnectedness of all our systems, we see that we cannot change, for example, our energy technologies without changing the economic system that supports them. We learn as well that all of our external institutions reflect our basic perceptions of the world, our invisible ideologies, and belief systems.
In that sense, we can say that the ecological crisis — like all our crises — is a spiritual crisis. By that, I mean it goes all the way to the bottom, encompassing all aspects of our humanity. (bolding mine)
Charles calls the totality of the undergirding ideology and belief systems the Story of the Word and its People. By this, he means a matrix of narratives, agreements, and symbolic systems that answer our culture’s basic questions:
- Who am I?
- Why do things happen?
- What is human nature?
- What is sacred?
- Who are we as a people?
- Where did we come from, and where are we going?
The current story that answers these questions for our culture is a Story of Separation. And it’s quickly becoming outmoded, if not already.
But our society is still very much under its grip, like an invisible operation system. According to this story, we are separate beings in a separate universe, separate from other minds and from matter.
The Story of Separation:
- We’re either souls encased in flesh or a massive conglomeration of particles. We are victims of random forces of physics and/or mathematically determined interactions.
- Life has no purpose, only cause. We’re here to survive and reproduce. An in a random, potentially hostile universe, this requires expansive greed and self-interest. We seek money, power, and status at the expense of the needs of others and our planet.
- As for the sacred, pursuing the holy life requires denying all the above values of the flesh and separating from the baseness of the body to attain the purer realms. Hence, sharp divisions between mind/spirit and body.
- In this story, our destiny is, through technology, to conquer nature and use her to enhance our security. If it has us fighting each other over precious limited resources, so be it. Survival of the fittest becomes survival of the wealthy, armed, and powerful, as even recent history proves.
If we keep living this story, we’re doomed.
Fortunately, we are what Charles calls between stories as more and more of us let go of separation, floating in a limbo of exploring and questioning. Or we’re already living and co-creating the next story — the Story of Interbeing.
This got me excited!!!
So excited I had to share this good news with you at the expense of an overly long build-up to this point. So here goes.
The Story of Interbeing:
Charles also calls it the Age of Reunion, the ecological age, and the world of the gift. It answers those above-mentioned questions in an entirely new, connected way:
- Our beings are interrelated. Our very existence is relational. What we do to another, we do to ourselves. We are basically all One!
- This means every person we encounter and every experience we have mirrors something about ourselves. Life then is a school, and we, its students.
- Because of this, every act is significant and has an effect on the entire cosmos. The so-called butterfly effect.
- However, each of us has a unique and vital gift to give the world. The purpose of our lives is to express and share these gifts.
- Humanity is meant to fully join the tribe of all life on Earth, the ones with wings, fins, and roots as well as legs — to paraphrase eco-warrior, Winona LaDuke. We’re to offer our human gifts to protect and enhance the well-being of the whole universe.
- And it’s a living universe, not just a living planet. Everything is alive with purpose, consciousness, and intelligence.
And I would add, we are all beings of shimmering light.
Not just in a spiritually poetic metaphor, but in a photonic elemental sense. I’m told that every one of our cells, no matter their function contains microscopic particles of light. This may indeed be the physicalization of our Divinity.
The Unity faith comes right out and says this is a spiritual universe. We are all made of God stuff. Or, as Joni Mitchell sings in Woodstock: We are stardust, we are golden. And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.
We’ve strayed a long way from that garden thanks to our Story of Separation and everything spinning off from it. How then do we get back? How do we shift our collective consciousness to embrace this new Story of Interbeing? Besides living it ourselves to the best of our ability and sharing it with others. Like I’m doing here.
This is the point where I could say, oops, I’m out of time and space, so stay tuned for the next episode of….
But in all honesty, I just started reading the book last night. I’m eager to get to the how-to part so I can live more fully into this vision as well as share it with others.
Might we have to go through a period of chaos and breakdown to get to this paradise of Interbeing? And if so, are there any guarantees we won’t destroy ourselves and the planet in the process?
Let me end with another quote from Charles Eisenstein:
We will abide for a time in the “space between stories.” It is a very precious — some might say sacred — time. Then we are in touch with the real. Each disaster lays bare the reality underneath our stories. The terror of a child, the grief of a mother, the honesty of not knowing why. In such moments our dormant humanity awakens as we come to each other’s aid, human to human, and learn who we are.
That’s what keeps happening every time there is a calamity before the old beliefs, ideologies, and politics take over again. Now the calamities and contradictions are coming so fast that the story has not enough time to recover. Such is the birth process of a new story.
To that, all I can say is amen, ashé, and namaste!
Marilyn Flower political humor and satire to delight socially and spiritually conscious folks. She’s a regular columnist for the prison newsletter, Freedom Anywhere, where she writes about faith and prayer. Five of her short plays have been produced in San Francisco. Clowning and improvisation strengthen her resolve during these crazy times. Stay in touch!