The Painful Labor of Emergence

090622-gpeace-wI’ve been having fierce debates with neo-liberal conservatives recently, people that keep up the faith that the climate catastrophe is just ‘leftist propaganda’, that the recent and still going financial-turned-economic disaster is caused by big government, or by Marxists or similar. At the same time a report was published by the United Nations Environment Programme that climate researchers now predict the planet will warm by 3.5 degrees Celsius (6.3 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century even if the world’s leaders fulfill their most ambitious climate pledges (here), which hardly anybody believes they will – unless We The People force them to; and are you willing to bet, say 25% of your year’s salary that We The People will force them? Ah, right, you probably won’t.

In the mean time some wonderfully willing and amazingly well-connected people embark on a journey to change all that; I think it’s a couple of Million world-wide. Good people. Wonderful people. We would all love to hug them. And then we go into the next super-market and buy…. ah well, we didn’t make much money last months so we cannot afford any fancy stuff, we need to buy the cheaper things; not produced sustainably or ecologically.
We would love to do the good thing, but what choice do we have given our income?

130659051_e78c6596a1On another note, but connected – bear with me -,  just a week ago I met an amazing person, a man who remembers being in the crowd around Jesus… got crucified himself. And the way he talks about this in conversations is so very low key, and at the same time with such certainty, that it has made me reconsider some of my base assumptions which doubt reincarnation to contemplating what it would mean if the soul is indeed eternal, coming back again and again to the planet – for whatever may be the reason for this; if indeed it has a reason.
My new friend is not an airy, fairy New Age person – he made his first million by the age of 24 – and he’s also not the slick marketer of any esoteric stuff either. He’s smart, has a very good working intuition, is also quite down to Earth and with an intelligent heart. Can’t just dismiss his stuff off hand. And he reminded me of some very interesting material I unearthed years ago where reincarnation would be the simplest, most plausible explanation (some BBC stuff published years before the archaeological proof of the memory someone had from a previous life; the content of that memory not being recorded anywhere before).

Maybe all this stuff strikes an emotional chord… Almost a year ago one simple question changed my whole relational life – and started me on a deep emotional experiment. In January this year my father died. Recently the other grandfather of my son died. Last weekend a former student from the time I used to be an enlightened teacher, died of cancer – a woman the age of my girlfriend; one of the students I loved for her rebelliousness, for really wanting to know.

What is going on in the world at large and in my own life’s context seems to be about life and death, and on the grand scale it concerns the whole of humankind – and from how I respond emotionally to the active ignorance of much of the elites I take it that I’ve started to take the inactivity and the downright denial – except maybe in some lip-service of no real consequence to ‘doing something about it’ – personal.

budhaIf I still were an enlightened teacher I could easily transcend all of this; “I am not the body, I am not my thoughts and concepts and beliefs; not this, not that; net-neti.” I would simply stay with “Now”. And in a way this still holds true. There is a private way out. It’s effective. Just ask, “Is this true? Can I really know it is true?”, and since an honest answer will always transport you to the transparent Here and Now, the Still Point at the Center of Everything, and since remaining there for a while will let you taste non-dual presence, this private way out still works. I can take it. And so can you. But for whatever reason this isn’t really satisfactory to me anymore – meaning, “I don’t wanna go there, really.” Maybe this whole enlightenment thing is a much too private paradise – utterly real when there, and always good for a shot of transcendent joys. But then, really, I think the dice have fallen and the choice is… “I’m here to incarnate – become and truly be flesh, be fallibly human, be pretty much like many others; probably like you in most respects.”

That is how I keep on arriving time and again on the scene of desperate humanity, of molested humanity, of experiencing-lots-of-atrocities humanity; a bit of an activist, maybe. My contribution are concepts and practices around “collaboration ecology”, teachable experiences around “embodied collective consciousness”, and practical and implementable insights into the “living field“. And over the last couple of years through the Web and its social communities I’ve been embedded in networks and ‘meshworks’ (which I’m very much co-creating at this moment in time with Gaiaspace; that’s a disclosure, I think). And increasingly the most divine question that a friend of mine heard from Gods mouth on Mount Shasta seems to be, “So what?

Humanity at the beginning of the 21st Century is coming to know and understand it’s suffering. Some of this state of affairs has been predicted by many, me included: The financial collapse (caused by, basically, unbridled egotism and greed), the climatological disaster (only we thought it wouldn’t come so fast), societal break-down (the neo-liberal and conservative break-down into myopic pubescence in the US is just one visible sign of that), and I could go on and on singing the apocalyptic blues.

complainThis is the demons we face, the shadows that humanity must incorporate instead of polluting the whole cosmic environment with it.

What have we done to the earth?
What have we done to our fair sister?

Ravaged and plundered
And ripped her
And bit her
Stuck her with knives
In the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences
And dragged her down

(Jim Morrison/The Doors, “When the Music’s over” [I exchanged ‘they’ with ‘we’])

Maybe I’m too much entrenched in German history, the apocalypse we as a people (even though father was in the Resistance) brought upon the people of Europe and the world in World War II. Maybe the tears I cried in the Spanish Synagogue in Prague over the atrocities the Germans committed in Theresienstadt were not mine to cry, and Rabbi Löw’s laughter I heard in my soul when I prayed for forgiveness for my people’s monstrosities at his grave seemed to tell me that much. Maybe also, lying on the ground of one of the major battlegrounds, not being able to stop sobbing for hours has shown me that mourning over our collective murder, pillage, rape, plundering, imprisoning and hurting each other and much of nature is needed.

21fa2We cannot fix this. We cannot undo the damage we’ve done to each other. The European people and nations have massacred the North- and South-American inhabitants, we have enslaved Millions of Africans – to just name some non-Germanic monstrosities that have shaped the world many of us profit from – this is the shadowy past, and its consequences are what we experience today – the sins of our fathers and all the generations that have come before. Are those that profit from a crime and do nothing to stop the criminal behavior not also guilty?
The egotistical, anti-social behavior of our elites that have led to the ecological and societal disaster we witness (and that we all are part of and support by much what we do day to day) has to be faced, and we have to do what is natural when seeing all of that – mourn, and see that what we need is a true metanoia, a change of heart, a change of our core… and mourn, for this true transformation is not something we can make happen. It’s out of our hands. We cannot fix it.

We cannot fix this as we are. We cannot fix this with the systems that have supported the disaster in the first place. We need to simply face our enormous shadow, a shadow that has built up in centuries of denial and turning a blind eye. Yes, maybe, it is overwhelming. Yes, I would also love to squirm out under the weight of it and point a finger at those that are much more guilty, the captains of industry, reckless bankers, compromising politicians, inhumane bureaucracies. And as I said in the very beginning of this blog, there are those that are extremely resistant to any kind of change that would profit any larger group than their clan or political tribe. But those of us who can face this, be assured, that is what we need to do.

We need to forgive before any kind of real healing can happen. And then, having faced how we’ve become as we are as humanity at this day and age, having forgiven ourselves by the powers of our very core-nature, Beauty happens – I know, it happens again and again when I face the shadow, when I’ve mourned the unfixable past, when I’ve felt the loss of so many good, beautiful and true people, when I’ve looked our “fair sister” in the face disfigured by humanity… and she smiles on me.

And then I “hear a very gentle sound” beyond what Jim Morrison could hear, beyond wanting the world, and wanting it Now!

pregnant with EarthThe very gentle sound I hear are the beginnings of a new symphony, an emerging culture that is being born in the midst of humanities mournful and painful labor. And since it is a global being, a world-soul emerging from the womb of our defeat, a humanity like it has never before existed in history, we cannot say anything about it. We can state our hope, we can say that we expect a society that will look much closer to a non-egoic paradise than the most enlightened societies that have ever existed on Earth before. But we can neither hasten this birth nor can we stop the labor.

Knowing this the dark age of ecological disaster, societal challenge and financial-economic debacle all of a sudden doesn’t need anybody fixing it. It needs open hearts and minds doing and being what they’re called to be and do. We need humans courageously facing life as it unfolds in the flesh, in the body, in our societies so that they can lend a hand, an eye, a foot where they see a real need. We need people waking up to their embeddedness in the webs life has been weaving in and around them. We need people to hear the calling to be alive, now, wherever we are, just exactly the way we are – and having faced, and whenever it appears facing again, our individual and collective shadows we open to the incarnating emergent humanity and what it brings.

9 Replies to “The Painful Labor of Emergence”

  1. Thank you for these images and evocative attempts to understand the beautiful-terrible contradictions of being human – for the last several millennia and especially now.

    Interesting how suffering was so especially intense when many of the great religious teachers and teachings came to be – such as Lao Tzu, Moses, Buddha, Shankara, Jesus, Muhammad (thank you Karen Armstrong). Compassion was the radical key in many of these religions – and taking action to help relieve suffering. Now we can catch a glimpse of what it would be like to be beyond suffering, even though there is still so much of it. We can start to see that there is much more to attain than relieving suffering, or transcending suffering, or experiencing personal bliss, without boundaries. We can see that we can attain so much also within our boundaries, of the earth as a whole, and for all people. This is an amazing vision, not of Heaven in the Sky, but heaven on earth.

    Is it really possible? Or are we doomed to keep muddling through, or worse, with suffering and beauty always side by side? I think more of us than ever are reaching for the possible, in spite of it not being in our memory.

  2. Mushin, this is an amazingly heartfelt, contemplative and soul searching expression. You are a very enlightened writer. I would add if I may, that we all have to travel the path of neti, neti, first – not this, not this in order to sieve out the permanence from the impermanence. Once realized though we do come back to – not only this, not only this! You may recall the 12th century Chinese Ox herding pictures so aptly describe this. Picture 9 – formless awareness is growing back into forms again, without loosing its formlessness, or perfect unitary nature. Picture 10 – entering the market place with helping hands transforming the delusional human world from poison in to nectar. We have all seen that it is only transformation within each of us the will transform our world. The world is nothing but a reflection of us. So, “enlightened teacher” it is up to you/us to radiate and teach, as you/we are doing and the world will be a better place.
    Margrit Bayer

  3. The basic choice is to be supportive, which is more natural than the critical human that leads to pathology. Does consciousness choose us and we choose to be aware by personal separation?

    1. I don’t know if there is a choice involved here, Brad. Being critical is not pathological, in my view – although it can be. Being critical is mostly a sign of either ‘really wanting to know what’s what”, or of finding the present situation to be in need of change or transformation. And we’ll most likely agree on that the present human situation does require major change.

      From the moment we’re born life seems to be full of separations; first from mother and afterwards from many beloved people. The older we grow the more often we’ll experience separation. So yes, consciousness – as in self-consciousness – does require knowing a difference between self and other to make any sense, and thus some type of separation. There is of course oceanic unity and transcendent unity/non-separation, but both are very personal experiences mostly that do not translate into a more encompassing unity in social, economic or political life, for instance.

  4. Hi Mushin,

    I think you are pointing out to much of a specific period of time and specie of the mess we are currently in. Wars, killings, rapings, distruction and suffering have always been on a massive scale troughout the history of life. I also want to add to this, that these acts are not only specific for the human species. It seems that all living beings on this planet share this same behavior. Dolfins and monkey’s gang raping and killing each other for fun. Insects fighting wars for wealth and teritory. Even to the level of bactarie etc. suffering is a fact. Try to imagine the world dominated by dinosaurs, wars and killings all the time, everywhere! Our another specie for that matter…

    The human race is distroing it self with his current behavior to it’s suroundings (most likely so would a different dominant specie) it will take alot of species with it, but the world (life) will survive. So now we have a dilemma. The dominant specie is making a mess, becoming to dominant, so nature will eventually act by making the planet not liveable for humankind.
    Normally I would say this is a good thing, but…;

    As human beings we have the ability above all other species on this planet to become conscious. Consciousness together with compasion is the most valuable thing we can achieve. So to be human, to have this potency, to become consious is what makes us valueable. And therefor it would be a shame if it was extinct. So, this is what I think could safe our own asses and maybe much, much more…

    Wouter Vlaming

    1. Hi Wouter,

      you’re right, of course, humanity has been in love with war (great book on this, A Terrible Love of War by James Hillman) since time immemorial. Creating ecological disaster is also not new, the ancient Greeks’ deforestation of the Greek islands for the ships has created the Greece we know today, for instance. So we’ve got reason to mourn and grieve for our species’ ferocious past. It’s also clear that we’re not alone in that kind of behavior, even though the intensity we’ve developed is unsurpassed, and there is a world of difference there.

      Also in human being’s development there is a lot of differentiation to make: Toddlers fighting ferociously over some bucket in a sandbox is very much different from two grown ups using sticks and stones or knives and guns. And this again is a world of difference between two gangs violently clashing or nations at war as in in WW2. And I would agree that consciousness does play a role in this, even though I would say that conscious suffering or unconscious suffering is exactly the same, the only difference is that a conscious being can reflect on the suffering it receives or meats out, and that it can take things personal – having a persona that self-reflects.

      I do see the situation we’re in as an evolutionary one in which it is decided whether we will remain an important species on this planet or not. As I said in my blog, I’m sure that a new humanity, even a new world is emerging under pain, and that we are in that labor together – a situation that your wonderful wife will be in individually soon; that will allow you to appreciate where I’m coming from in a whole new way; I’ve been present at the birth of both Roosje and Felix, and I can tell you that NOT being the one who does the birthing can be very taxing indeed 🙂

      I know that you, as a Buddhist, are convinced of the first Noble Truth, that “birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering.” And that ypou believe that it is caused by what is stated in the second Noble Truth, that “… it is this craving which leads to renewed existence, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there, that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence, craving for extermination.” And I also know that you are working very hard in your own life to walk the Path that is outlined in the 3rd & 4th Noble Truth.

      My outlook, as depicted in this and other recent blogs, differs a little bit in that I do not believe that the cause of suffering is “clinging” or attachment and that therefor we can end it by (through any Path) refraining from clinging. I don’t think that suffering as a cause in the proper sense of, for instance, B is caused by A. The whole type of thinking that attributes all phenomena – like suffering – to causes – like attachment – was appropriate to that phase of human development (maybe we can call it the ‘causal phase’). In our times we’ve come to understand a bit more of the enormous complexity of both the physical as the non-physical world and how causal influences are important but equally important are intention, goal (in the sense of telos), inter-perspective (who is calling on what, and who is answering to what; a force that is part of what I would call the “Living Field”) and more.

      Becoming conscious, and then being conscious of being conscious – deeply exploring what it means/is to ‘be conscious – is part of our evolutionary development but this does move, at least that is what I’m certain of and live from occasionally, beyond consciousness; consciousness is but one fruit on the tree of life and that what we are in truth is ‘deeper’ than consciousness. Maybe this understanding helps me in suffering and crying with humanity when that is present for me, and not being too disturbed by the painful birthing process that we’re going through on this planet… who knows?

      1. I think you asume too much. I also find it interesting that you only talk about the human species in your suffering and grief. All is not so important, I think we are on the same mission here, reducing universal suffering as a whole. I do hope you can soften your grief in what ever your refuge is.
        Love and respect,


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