I believe that we have another stage of human evolution on our hands, or I guess I should say, in our heads. If you’re a human being reading this, you may have noticed that the state of affairs in the world are turbulent at best. Some might say, the pilot has left the cockpit and we are in a full on nose dive to our firey deaths. Have you put your oxygen mask on?
One theory I had been presented with is that maybe due to greater and easier access to information and the circulation of the media, we simply hear about more tragic stuff. Yes this is fair. “The news always posts the bad stuff because it gets more clicks.” Also fair. Another argument is that things have always been bad, if not worse. “Look at World War II, we’re nowhere close to the destruction of the past. Not to mention ancient and murderous civilizations!” True, very true, great points.
However, I would argue that access to information about what’s going on out there grants us a new sense of responsibility. We hear it and we see it, so what are we going to do about it? Aside from complain about Trump over Thanksgiving turkey with our conservative relatives, what action can we take to move our species into a better direction than war, hate, and environmental destruction?
The Human Mind: Our Savior and Our Assailant
We are animals. Let’s get off our high horses and realize we are on equal ground with the horses. We position ourselves as better than animals. We eat and wear and mistreat animals. Sometimes, we forget we are animals.
In fact, we haven’t been at the top of the food chain for that long. Highly advanced predators like sharks and lions were way ahead of us. Just look at them! We scavenged for their scraps and tried not to get killed. That was our thing. Crouching in the corner with anxiety and eating old bone marrow and berries. Read Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind if you need the full picture.
When Construction Becomes Reality.
The development of the thinking brain is what allowed us to mobilize, form huge groups with shared goals (money, religion, political unity), and reposition ourselves on the food chain. Unfortunately, we took a lot of old habits, like intense states of anxiety, with us.
We learned intricate languages and communication. This allowed us to not only speak to each other but to narrate and judge everything we see in the world. We realized that identifying with certain groups, working certain jobs, and looking a certain way could hurt or help us. We decided that constructing identities allowed us to easily find a place in this system.
It was hard to operate in the world without structure. What do we do next? We draw lines and say, “that’s your country and this one is mine”, we said “this piece of paper is now how you exchange your labour for stuff you need”, “this is what time looks like, this is how we count the years (that we know of), and here’s a calendar, try not to be late.” Perfect, we have it all figured out don’t we?
So what happens when we function in this microcosm for so long that we forget that we’re floating on a small rock in an infinite universe? Did I lose you here? Well, what happens when we get scared of losing our tiny piece of the world so we try to make lots of those pieces of paper at the expense of the entire earth itself? This is me trying to explain how the profitability of say, an oil company, appears to be helping the small-scale system, but is hurting the environment that allows this entire system to exist.
Human beings developed a system, a series of technology, a language, and an intellectual mind, in order to evolve and thrive. This worked for a while but it went way too far. It resulted in people murdering each other over made up borders, it caused people to jump off of bridges over unimportant social status requirements, and it polluted the planet so badly that we may all be doomed anyways. Now people scoff at the idea of environmental preservation because it’s inconvenient to their business.
Reclaiming Our True Nature.
The next phase of human evolution involves reevaluating the entire system. At this point it may feel more natural for you to freak out over an ant on your freshly waxed hardwood floor than walk barefoot through a grassy field. It may feel more natural to stare at your phone screen until your brain starts yelling for an Advil than stare into the night sky at the illuminated moon. We’ve stepped too far from our true nature.
Our pain as a species is one of the most powerful forces allowing us to wake up. Pain and suffering is a gift. When tragedies happen and we see another shooting, a forest fire, an oppressive leader, we feel the pain collectively. This pain can divide or unite us. Hate or love.
The mind divides and the soul unites. As long as we’re clinging to these identities and systems and traditional beliefs that tie us to our neurotic mind, we will find a way to judge and separate from one another. If we don’t kill our species from outer destruction (atomic bombs and smog) then we will surely manage to do so from the inside (rising suicide rates and chronic disease). The state of the world is a reflection of our inner state, and it’s not looking so good.
Awakening to A New World.
The next phase of human evolution is enlightenment. I don’t mean the European intellectual movement of the late 17th and 18th centuries emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition, I mean spiritual enlightenment. Some Buddhists refer to this as satori. Satori usually refers to an experience of insight into the true nature of reality. It has been compared to the experience of opening a door, but to open a door still implies a separation from what’s inside the door.
The true nature of reality is not of the intellectual mind. The brain and the mind tries very hard to interpret reality but it’s mostly wrong. True awakening is the experience of awareness without judgement. Imagine walking around the world and absorbing everything as it happens in the moment. Your mind is quiet. You aren’t judging the things you’re seeing or experiencing, you’re just taking it in.
Imagine having a conversation with someone and instead of thinking about the impression you’re making or trying to think of what to say next, you are connecting. Imagine seeing people on the streets the way you see trees. They are all different, bending in unique ways, but they are all a part of the greater forest. Imagine disconnecting from all identification with your sense of self. You’re no longer chained to the stories you tell yourself about how your past has made you good at this and bad at that.
Every moment is a new opportunity. Every experience is a blessing. Every connection is deep and powerful. If we lived like this how would things change? Our wisdom would come from a deeper place than the mind. We would enter a sense of knowing and peace that is beyond what the surface level system can provide. This is the new human evolution.
If we continue praising the ego and worshipping surface-level stuff or people, we will all die. This is not dramatic, it’s the truth. We will drown our earth in poison, we will take our own lives, and the species will end. This will be a small blink in the greater universe, but is this the legacy we will choose? The only way to start this evolution is by waking up. We are responsible for our individual awakening.
Reaching enlightenment as an individual will create the ripple effect. Enlightenment is contagious. Once you awaken, you can make decisions out of a place of deep wisdom instead of fear. You can act out of pure love in all things you do. This is your contribution to the evolution. Will we choose a revolution or an evolution? Which have you chosen?