The old paradigm is burning out like a candle.
I’m sure you perceive it — if you don’t in your mind, you do in your heart.
An ancient instinct has kicked in to draw meaning from seemingly disconnected facts — your ancient immune system sparking into action.
You sense something has gone awry. Difficult to explain — a vibration that seems to come from the future, similar to an animal’s skill in anticipating events.
You sense the change. The chasm. The abyss.
A paradigm shift is occurring within a single human psychological timeframe — or perhaps, what’s even worse, within a single decade.
Everything is changing at a pace greater than we can react to. The world’s prevalent economic and cultural ethos today is one of demise, extraction, and depredation of resources — and that it’s inexorably self-terminating.
If we continue to deploy our system of reckless growth in a finite system, we will destabilize our planet’s limited resources. We are already waist-deep in destabilization.
Current assumptions, attitudes, and procedures are no longer adequate for our times. What we are facing is a paradigm breakdown, where making sense of reality and of our surroundings becomes a new capacity, preparing us for the leap.
Our greatest challenge involves a dual effort — of understanding what is emerging as new and of deconstructing and freeing ourselves from the constraints of the model we have believed until now.
The current paradigm is collapsing to give away to a new, emergent way of thinking, like a flower opens up and then withers to give way to the seed. The natural regenerative decay of nature that yields its place to the new. An element is born, serves its time, and lets go when it has run its course. As the modern-day approach to life on this planet clearly has.
So, how does this process start? It starts with that awry feeling.
In attempting to convey these notions, I can only narrate my own experience — how I reached the frontiers of the current paradigm on a quest of self-discovery.
I’m a man on a quest. I realize, even as I write these words, that they aren’t too original — many of us are embarked on similar processes, striving towards self-discovery. Quest can sound clichéd. So can self-discovery. This age has afforded us an unprecedented opportunity for introspection, for an inquiry into the deepest recesses of our minds, and this very bounty can be a kind of surfeit, making us wary of words like those. Until we share our true stories and understand how they are as varied as our own selves.
My true story, then — shall we call it that? — is one of agency and intention. It’s the story of an ongoing journey that started with a thin crack, a hairline crack. And, because the crack was small and the surface glossy and polished, at first I didn’t notice that something was changing — that my system of beliefs was breaking down and I was starting to question the assumptions and dogmas I had built my whole life around.
The crack widened into a hole. I only realized this when the breeze of change rushed in — and, by the time I began to understand that a paradigm, my paradigm, had been irreversibly altered, the hairline that had become a hole was already a chasm, requiring a leap of faith.
I was on a bus. This true story — we’ve decided to call it that — that is my own could thus be said to begin on a bus I rode in the city of Montevideo. It was January of 2013. In that sea-facing town, open to the wind, a novel feeling came upon me, ruffling my mind. I thought, zephyr. This zephyr moment was triggered by a podcast by economist and philosopher John Fullerton, called The Conversation.
The podcast in question told about a senior director of JP Morgan who had had the courage to go beyond the threshold of established beliefs to construct the basis of a new story and to challenge mainstream finance with conviction and resolve. His tale was mesmerizing, and his story had me following in his footsteps as soon as I could struggle to my feet. An unexpected window had opened, one I could look through if I dared. His courage, clarity, and purposefulness enabled me to travel deep into uncharted territory, to discover fresh perspectives, and, most importantly, to realize that I was walled in by a stagnant and crippling set of cultural constructs and beliefs.
Before I even got off that Montevidean bus, I had understood that I needed to shed my paradigms — that overarching set of constraints, protocols, constructions, and inter-operability systems that regulated my life without my even realizing the extent to which my mind was shackled.
As soon as I got my hands on paper and pen, I wrote down these words. Zephyr. Hole. Wall. Paradigm. Change. I tried to make sense of them. And here is the sense I’ve made, and the ideas I’m attempting to convey: we’ve gone all wrong.
My notions and mindset, I saw then, were those of many — widely shared in modern-day society. And they had gone wrong, led us down the wrong path. The way this particular set of views and cultural dogmas has unfolded is both harmful and dangerous.
For me, the greatest effort was to remove the very thick armor of what had hitherto been my approach to living in this world; and this is a whole story in itself.
Once I felt this awakening, this call, I wanted more — I was activated, on the move, and started developing sense-making capabilities in order to better understand this new paradigm. We could say that sense-making is this new capacity to look through the wall and start understanding how a new meta-construct is emerging — and then look back and compare it to our current narrative.
I started to walk along the wall, treading this no man’s land between two paradigms, looking for and discovering more cracks. What I found was that the current construct was breaking down, as new holes kept opening in the wall and the new paradigm flowed in through them, like the wind that had shaken my notions on that bus in Montevideo. The old paradigm, I realized, was burning out like a candle.
Then came the realization that there is no wall but only a man-made narrative — Manomaya, Sanskrit for “composed by the mind”. Our chains, our shackles are a “mind-sheath” only.
The beauty of this idea is that, since the wall is man-made, it can be torn down by the mind. So the challenge becomes to dismantle this wall so that we can all see the other side and build the bridges to this new dimension.
Bridges are needed because of the chasm I mentioned above.
First, there is uncertainty.
What is unfolding is a future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things — the many possibilities in which the present can reinvent itself.
Then there is exponentiality. Things are happening on an unprecedented scale.
Lastly, there is a time constraint. We need to act fast before it is too late — take a leap which we hope will land us, steadily if not wholly safely, on the other side. Because before we as a species, as a worldwide community, take the leap, we need to find the foundational grounds, the solid basis on top of which these new constructs –our new narrative and structures– can be built. And it’s only with a new consciousness that these grounds can be found.
With this search comes the realization that we are no longer alone, that not only are we joining forces with people whose values we share, but we also partake of their intentions, feelings, and commitment. Indeed, a collective dimension is developing outside of the current worldview.
We are able to cross, intellectually at least, through this opening into a new sphere where a trail seems to unroll that gets wider and clearer as more and more people follow through.
Alas, the crossing is not smooth, but rather turbulent. There are doubts, uncertainty, breakdown of beliefs — you lose the shield you unconsciously built for yourself in order to protect an old identity,
As Marshall McLuhan said, when we are overwhelmed, we fall into simpler patterns of recognition. We fall into the profoundly ingrained knowledge that has preserved us the longest in our evolution as a species — the beliefs which held us together in times even more challenging than these and which are buried deep under the silt of dangerous and damaging modes of operating as a society.
For me, that knowledge includes the following:
- the regenerative patterns and principles of living systems,
- ancient wisdom,
- feminine energy, and
- the commons as a system of organization.
It is from these that the new story is arising. And I don’t mean just my own personal story, the one I’ve told you — but, rather, the bearings for designing our common future.
Sense-making, then, into these four dimensions — and I stress the word sense because what empowers and informs the capacity for that sense-making is not only knowing, but embodying.
We embody that sense-making in the process that combines discernment and clarity, leading us to understand that we are the interdependent parts of an overall phenomenon — that everything is interrelated — that we are only one part of a complex system.
A system that now needs us in our purest version of ourselves, at full capacity to integrate, regenerate, reconcile.
In this medium I will try to record, as in a journal, the great transition unfolding as my story and yours, diving deep into the emergent universal and ancient guiding coordinates that come to structure the bridges for the transition. I hope this expedition journal leaves a breadcrumb trail for you to follow and join.
This is the challenge and my story. I hope it will be yours.