I've just read two books about the future and where we are headed. Both authors agree that the way we are currently living is unsustainable and that we must either redesign the way we live on earth or earth will do it for us in a less than pleasant manner. Both authors are optimistic about a better life ahead if we make the right choices in the here and now, but the two visions of where we might be headed are quite different.
Rob Hopkins, in his book, The Transition Handbook: From oil dependency to local resilience, espouses a return to locality. In his vision, small, self-reliant villages provide much of their own food in ubiquitous gardens. Children are taught life skills in small, local schools. Governing is done locally. Commerce and trade still exist, but consumerism is an excess of the past that we are better off without. Thomas Friedman in Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why we need a green revolution -- and how it can renew America envisions more of a Jetson-like future – high tech has improved efficiency and we have learned to live better with less thanks to ubiquitous micro chips that manage our energy for us. We have eliminated waste by instituting cradle to cradle manufacturing, but we are still essentially consumers. Just smart consumers. And instead of more local, we have become even more global.
So who is right? Given that nothing ever turns out quite as one imagines, my guess is that reality will look significantly different from either. That leaves the question, how do we design for the future when the future is so uncertain? Enter the polar shift.
Edgar Cayce, the sleeping prophet, predicted a polar shift for the time frame in which we now find ourselves. This has always, to my knowledge, been interpreted literally – that the magnetic poles of the earth would shift as they have done in the past. That’s how I interpreted it, too -- until I got the latest newsletter from Hank Wesselman. In it, he quotes a Hawaiian elder who says that now is the time for us to move our anchors from the negative pole to the positive pole. A polar shift!
What does that look like? It looks like a shift from fear and hatred to hope and love. It looks like a shift from wasteful exploitation to no-waste cooperation. It looks like a shift from individualism to community, from disconnect to connection. It looks like a shift from the world according to Bush to the world according to Obama. The details will work themselves out. It is the shift itself that requires our attention.
How do I apply that insight to my own life? By connecting my hara line. By acting out of love and hope. By revering life and the living planet on which we live. By finding the calm center when storms of panic churn. By communicating steadfast joy in the beauty of each new day, in each breath, in each loving gesture. It is one of those internal shifts that is not obvious to the external world. It is a change in perception, better known as a miracle. I can plant watermelon seeds with fear in my heart or I can plant with hope and the faith that we are entering a brighter, better tomorrow.
I know the comparison is cliché, but I can think of nothing as apt as the transformation of caterpillar to butterfly to describe the process. In the larval stage, the one we have just left, the caterpillar is voracious. It consumes and as it consumes, it destroys. I keep picturing Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar and the way it grows bigger and fatter with every passing day. At last the critter is sated. He spins his cocoon and inside the cocoon, miracles are happening. His body is broken down and reformed into something new. When at last he emerges, he has become a beautiful, winged creature whose bright flights take him from flower to flower, sipping nectar and spreading pollen. He is no longer destructive but constructive.
We have just entered the cocoon. The next step is the breaking down of who we are that we might be made anew. It may be painful at times, but it is necessary to the metamorphosis we are about to undergo. I, for one, embrace the opportunity and give thanks that I am alive to see it.