Humanity is in its cultural adolescence. Birthed from the primal world of nature, billions of years in gestation, we have risen out of Stone Age infancy, crawled across the land in teeming toddlerhood, and labored through five thousand years of sibling rivalry, to emerge in the present time as teenagers undergoing the transformational process of becoming adults.
Powerful but reckless, bursting with repressed libido, and hostile to any sense of limits, we have been abundantly fed by the bounty of Mother Nature since our earliest beginnings. But now every facet of our social and environmental systems is threatened or unstable: the temperature is rising, the topsoil is washing away, the skies and waters are polluted, the bees and plankton are disappearing. Mother's cupboards of oceans and forests are being emptied, no longer free for the taking.
With the Mother Goddess having long been denied, and the Big Daddy in charge of our country dangerously lacking in moral conscience, we are being asked -- both as individuals and as a culture -- quite simply, to grow up. This is our maturation into planetary adulthood, our global awakening that is simultaneously ecological, spiritual, psychological, political, economic, scientific, and mythic. With so many fronts on the verge of profound change, navigating this shift can be dizzying. Especially when we are coursing with adolescent growth hormones that have their own agenda.
As a child enters adolescence, he or she undergoes a rapid growth spurt, which stops when the adolescent reaches adult size. That growth may be in height, weight and sexual characteristics, but it's accompanied by a change in hormones that makes the adolescent, well - a little crazy - as any parent would attest. In addition, this growth spurt is accompanied by intense self-absorption and fueled by consuming everything in sight with little regard for the consequences.
But once the hormones settle down and the physical growth stops, intellectual and spiritual growth become more important. Emotions settle down as well. The former child moves out of the adolescent identity crisis and becomes a young adult. Young adulthood has its own challenges and struggles, life moves forward once again in a saner manner.
And what has been the adolescent growth hormone of our cultural expansion into a planetary civilization? OIL. Oil has made it possible for humanity to grow into its adult form as a global civilization, even if that form has yet to mature into its full potential. Oil has enabled a global transportation industry, enabling travel to distant lands and trade of worldly goods. we can visit most any place on the planet, and import goods in a complex network of exchange that brings us everything from the didgeridoos of Australian aborigines to the latest technology from Asia. With oil, we export computers and cell phones across the globe that enables, for the first time ever, the possibility of a global network of communication. Oil makes possible the formation of multi-cultural bodies such as the United Nations, brings political dignitaries into each other's presence, and is an essential ingredient in the multi-ethnic soup that forms the cultural diversity of every modern city in the world. And oil is a common ingredient in the products and packaging of most everything we buy.
But just as an adolescent's growth hormone doesn't last forever, our oil-based growth spurt is nearing its end. By most reasonable predictions, the demand for oil will outpace its production, and eventually run out. The endless consumption that is destroying the environment, the frenzied activity that keeps us stressed, and the irrational compulsion toward imperial conquest that requires an oil industry to support it, just won't have the fuel it needs to continue. With the means now in place for maintaining a global network of intelligence through cyberspace and a growing understanding of our entangled fields of consciousness, our growth will now be more spiritual than material: more about information than products, networks rather than markets, restitution rather than conquest, personal awakening and health as more important than fame and fortune. As the hormones settle down, perhaps our sanity will return, and we can begin to enter a cultural maturity that will hold blessings we can scarcely imagine. Instead of feeding our ego-system, we can live in service to our ecosystem. That's the good news.
The bad news is that getting from adolescence to adulthood isn't easy. It usually involves a challenging initiation that contains separation and loss, challenges and ordeals. Like all rites of passage, it asks us to transform or die. With a global economy and lifestyle addicted to oil, the machinery that drives this lifestyle will transform to a new technology or grind to a halt - and the jury is out as to which will occur first. It is no wonder that the head of our country is an oil man; the oil situation, and the "oiligarchy" that rules it, is clearly coming to a head - like the embarrassing pimples on a teenagers face - revealing the impurities within. There is no doubt that it will be a wrenching shift at every level of civilization, especially when combined with the other environmental crises looming on the horizon. Deforestation, air pollution, global warming, disappearing topsoil, and the ability to subject distant cultures to the terror of warfare - all are fueled by the use of oil.
Initiation represents separation, loss, confinement, challenge, transformation and rebirth. Our impending crises are evolutionary drivers that will drive us through each of these stages into our emerging awakening - perhaps the greatest awakening in the history of our kind. Separating from the old ways, confining ourselves to periods of stillness and meditation, meeting the challenges of global hardship and reorganization, transformation from a industrial growth society to a more spiritually based service-oriented society, and rebirth into an integrated planetary civilization are stages that await us as the evolutionary growth hormone peaks and ebbs. It is not the first crisis life on this planet has faced, it will not be the last. But it is the one that will surely affect nearly every person alive today.
Perhaps there is a silver lining to this impending shift. Perhaps we will lose what we don't need. Can we let go of another pair of shoes from China to have more time to walk barefoot on the grass? Can we imagine the sound of birds and wind without being drowned out by combustion engines? Can we imagine joining with neighbors to tear down our fences and grow food that doesn't have to be trucked over a thousand miles to the grocery store? Will we have more time to read and be with our kids because it's too expensive to drive to that meeting? Can we finally get in shape riding our bicycles to local jobs that serve local communities, while our minds collaborate in the cyberspace of the global brain?
Homo sapiens sapiens - our current evolutionary iteration as humans that capable of knowing themselves -- have lived for well over a hundred thousand years without the machinery we take for granted today. If we live a hundred thousand more, it will only be with greater intelligence, maturity, and eco-based technologies. If we survive the initiation, perhaps we will live long enough to become as gods.
Adapted from the book,
WAKING THE GLOBAL HEART: HUMANITY'S RITE OF PASSAGE FROM THE LOVE OF POWER TO THE POWER OF LOVE by Anodea Judith
Winner of the 2007 Nautilus Book Award in the category of Social Change, and Independent Publisher award for Mind-Body-Spirit.