A recalibration of the status quo requires a critical mass of people understanding the common bonds of life and demanding dignity across all layers of social and environmental interaction. This shift in consciousness will be facilitated by making decisions aimed at providing a joyful existence to everyone. To climb out of the mental ruts of thinking that all matters of life can be reduced to survival of the fittest for limited resources, we can reshape our mindsets by accessing the universal insights stored within us all.
- The Power of Humility
- Healthy Habits
- Environmental Actors
- Economic Priorities
- Lessons Ahead
Unify: Subchapter III.
Binary thinking only looks at part of a more complete picture. To expand our scope of awareness, we must look beyond our opposing views and focus on what unifies us throughout life.
“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and test of our civilization.” — Mahatma Gandhi
We feel that wedge issues with strict opposing positions confiscate too much attention in popular discourse. We can appreciate the simplicity of how categories like liberal and conservative can easily create sides for people to choose between. Yet, this divisiveness fails to address the nuances and complexities that exist within each individual.
Rigid rules and boundaries dictate expectations and control conditions, but they also put up big barriers. When it comes to complex, multi-faceted problems, single-use solutions won’t be sufficient. To work with intricately connected, and often invisible, issues, the best approaches involve agility and adaptability (a portmanteau of these two strengths could be called adapt-agility).
“If you identify with the ego plane, you’ll find you’re in time, you’re in space, you’re a little body. But go to the spiritual heart, and there will be a doorway to the next plane of consciousness: soul land.” — Ram Dass
Non-duality refers to a spiritual awareness that transcends dichotomies such as “me” and “you”, or “us” and “them”. In non-physical, formless terms, a spiritual connection to supreme complexity emerges through non-duality. Rooted in Vedic, Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, and Judeo-Christian traditions, the notion of non-duality speaks to an evolved, and perhaps primary, state of consciousness that many spiritual practices have sought to describe. There are, by necessity, countless ways to arrive at non-duality. There is not even one universally accepted definition of non-duality. This lack of definitiveness also feels appropriate. There’s room for everything.
“I’ve walked the future, I’ve looked at a record, I’ve seen a place, I have all the data.” — Paul Atreides/ Muad’Dib, Dune, p. 32
This notion of variety gives rise to a unifying principle inherent in transcendental awareness that we can apply to our search for global systemic transformation. Variation and repetition are key ingredients to achieving whole-systems integration of diverse elements arranged seamlessly like a knitted fabric.
Our inclination is to give attention to the differentiated space between dualities, binaries, and even double-entendres. Because these inter-zones function like waves between fixed points, they can offer fertile territories for positive transformation. Of course, contradictions will inevitably occur. Oppositions will pop up. What can we do? Certainly not just drop our convictions. Yet, we can also learn to see that our convictions only tell a small piece of a story. Without complete context, there’s only so much that can be understood. Oh, and how much more there always is to experience…
You are at the centre of everything.” — Adam Curtis
The notion of non-duality symbolizes the eternal: where everything exists at once. The akashic record and quantum hologram are two names for the idea that everything in existence—past, present, future—is integrated within a whole system in which all information and metaphysical phenomena are stored.
Philosopher and systems theorist Ervin László discusses the “Akashic field” in his book, Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything, published in 2004. László’s work provides an understanding of the “Akashic field” as a “constant and enduring memory of the universe”.3 This field represents a way of seeing past, present, and future all bound within the same story. The acknowledgement that everything we ever encounter—whether in a current moment, after the fact, or even in the future—is available in this field has the effect of opening our minds and vision to a profound field of experience. Imagine looking around. In each direction, you see multiple versions of yourself extend outward in the field: younger versions, older versions, alternate versions. Each version silently acknowledges the limitlessness of expression of who you feel you are or might wish to become. Each stage of life is irreplaceable and integral to the narrative we each create and live out.
How might we learn to access a field of experience that accounts for the elegant complexity of who we are or might become? Rather than live with the belief that chance encounters shape the contours of our lives, might there be a way for us to intentionally experience non-duality as a means for leveraging the power of serendipity? Do coincidences really occur by chance and contingency? Or do they reveal a larger, potentially unknowable, field of coherence? We believe that by pursuing these questions, we might discover far-reaching answers that guide our journey into unknown futures with grace and the wisdom of immense experience.
Unify Attention, Intention, & Action
The current digital space has been built around the assumptions that attention is a resource to be mined, that there are only so many potential users, and that those users have a finite amount of time to spend on a particular service. It’s time to reclaim how our attention is defined and solicited.
The seemingly unstoppable march of digitization is exacerbating the problem of uniformity. A far cry from the earlier, Wild West days of the Internet, the monolithic tech corporations now act as gatekeepers to vast repositories of information. The way these companies see fit to distribute information through algorithms is unavoidably linked with what is beneficial for their bottom line: user retention, eyeballs on screens, and the accumulation of profit.
The ad-driven monetization structure of the Internet creates a simple cause and effect: the more clicks you get, the more money you make. Hence the rise of clickbait. Clickbait is nothing more than a digital version of a practice that’s existed within human society for centuries: distorting the truth to attract attention. But this organization of online content is especially susceptible to manipulation. Shrewd creators recognize what content receives the most attention and configure their aesthetics to appeal to these baser instincts. Predictably, it is, time and time again, the most shocking and provocative content that draws in the most views.
There is much talk of the attention economy. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings identified his company’s users’ need for sleep as his greatest source of competition. But attention is much more than a resource to be leveraged against us. And it does not always need to be a means to an end. How can we redesign digital systems to try to reverse this detrimental trend and reestablish attention as a shared human value?
One answer may lie in exploring the concept of presence. To be present, mentally and physically, means to feel deep roots within your current moment of consciousness. Presence means being aware of your bodily sensations, being connected to what surrounds you, and having the ability to perceive the world with focus. Athletes speak of being “in the zone”, a state of existence wherein time seems to slow down and every complex movement comes naturally. Many types of meditation are essentially concentrated efforts to feel this heightened level of mindfulness. Yet, our digital systems seem to be manufactured to achieve the very opposite of presence. They often seem designed to leave us in a state of perpetual distraction.
The stream of experience passing through our perception, second by second, is our window to the very nature of being itself. It is all we are and all we will ever know. If we allow ourselves to just be, we can feel time ebb and flow. And this feeling can take us down untrodden paths. Perhaps even exciting ones. The concept of presence can also allow us to grasp the intangible and unquantifiable. It can become a mode not just for analysis or consumption, but for exploration. As well, presence is a helpful way to detach from the unrelenting urge to accomplish and progress. And it is a strategy to allow ourselves to have a moment of peace from stress-inducing forces. This is absolutely vital for our wellbeing. When we are calm, we are able to access a more pure mode of existence, feeling the enthralling blend of all our senses as they come together within the fullness of a moment.
Mine the Depths of Inner Experience to Instill Presence
Generate authentic action rather than reactive responses based on distracted experience. Restructure the fractured informational landscape into a contextually relevant unified whole.
“A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation, and a foundation for inner security.” — Albert Einstein, 1950
We think of the screen as something that reveals. But screens can just as well be understood by what they obfuscate. There is much information that is concealed for the sake of coherence, ease of use, accessibility, or for more insidious purposes. Those of us who use data-tracking platforms could certainly be put off if we were fully informed as to exactly what was being done with our data. But we often don’t look beyond whatever information first meets our attention.
Some research suggests that the very first page of search engine results captures 95% of the traffic for online searches.4 Is that a sign that the first page contains the best possible answers to what people are looking for? It seems unlikely. Rather, the first page of a search engine has taken on an air of authority. It feels infallible, as though it can serve as an arbiter of truth and relevance.
Depth adds complication, but User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) design has spent the last years trying to erase complication. Depth doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the most seamless user experience. To process depth takes energy and time, resources that we don’t always have in the appropriate proportion. However, this doesn’t mean we should avoid complication. On the contrary. Complication is good. It adds nuance, it creates opportunities for new ideas. Without it, all we can do is continue down established grooves. We cannot really learn from lists of bite-sized insights. Ours is a frantic, life-hacking culture in which we labor under the misapprehension that optimization always means doing something quicker than before. But when is fast ever fast enough? Going slow can root us to a feeling of presence. Rather than adapt all interactions to a scarcity of time, we must be afforded more time to experience interactions at their fullest.
Hyper digital connectivity is, for better or worse, here to stay. The trend is even accelerating, as the Internet of Things extends ever further. Rather than a full-blooded rebellion against these tools in search of a return to a mythical “purer” time, we must address the digital world on its own terms. It must be built in a way that it serves us, not uses us or sees us only as users. The digital domain must not play on our fears and exploit our weaknesses. It must not have gatekeepers. It must not become a way to reduce our complexities into a single, algorithmic state. It must not interfere with our ability to feel present within ourselves and our environments. It must reflect the ambiguity of the real world. All these things will help to prevent us becoming a writhing mass of sameness caught in an illusion of choice. Restoring our digital autonomy will serve to give us access to a wider spectrum of possibilities as generated not externally, but from within.
Dissolve Mono-Cultures So Biodiversity Can Flourish
The unique and priceless qualities of humanity require space to exist at the full potential of expression. Monocultures are vulnerable. Diversity creates strength.
We live in a time of unprecedented cultural similarity. The creep of globalization has disseminated an increasingly uniform set of cultural markers and values across our planet to such a degree that a visit to almost any corner of the world will yield some air of the familiar.
The ubiquitousness of McDonald’s golden arches is almost a clichéd representation of this very phenomenon. Both the years of sustained contact between countries, and the easy movement of digital information, has led to the adoption of many shared patterns of behavior and consumerism across all continents. That said, it is still largely Western hegemony that has dictated the global shifts of recent decades.
It could be suggested that homogenization of the human brings us closer together as points of commonality become more numerous. Ideally, this would reduce the potential for conflict across borders and help us to unify along shared goals. But it doesn’t work that way. Facebook is a prime example of how people group together with those of similar interests and endlessly repeat whatever soundbites are most popular within their particular echo-chamber.
The nature of the cultural system that is being spread via globalization is, at its core, adversarial. The accompanying institutions of capitalism do not serve the purpose of collective uplift or equality, they demand winners and losers. Adversarialism bleeds into the collective consciousness and, subsequently, social ties atrophy, and mass cooperation becomes more difficult.
The imposition of uniformity robs us of a quality we instinctively recognize as central to our being: the expression of our differences. Authoritarian regimes commonly enforce practices designed to restrict any potential deviation from an established mean. Far too many people continue to suffer under these oppressive conditions. Nearly a third of the global population lives under authoritarian regimes.5
In a dramatized interpretation of this issue, in the 2002 film Equilibrium, a theocratic government has sought to stamp out conflict through the chemical elimination of emotions themselves. In addition to the eradication of emotions, they’ve also banned all works of art out of fear of it kindling any form of passion in the human soul. The internal life of humans is determined to pose a threat to societal stability and is thus snuffed out. Now consider how our prisoners are treated in today’s society. They are each assigned a number instead of a name and given uniform jumpsuits to wear, all in an attempt to dehumanize them and destroy their individual will. This is a form of collectivity, as enforced from above. And this policy is a very different, and much more harmful, paradigm than that of collectivity formed through bonds of shared purpose and respect.
If our freedom to express our differences is suppressed, then our capacity for heretical thought is reduced and, in this process, a valuable foundation for insight is lost to us. The rejection of dominant ideas and the freedom to pursue alternatives, has the potential to transform our entire conception of our place in the universe. If we want to contribute to empowering societal change, then everyone should have the justifiable right to self-expression. It’s imperative we all be able to raise our various concerns and work toward our dreams for our shared state of existence.
- The Power of Humility
- Healthy Habits
- Environmental Actors
- Economic Priorities
- Lessons Ahead