Our thriving may depend most of all on our courage and generosity, our ability to defy our fear, to be happy for no reason at all, to cooperate with others locally in our community, and to bounce back creatively after traumatic setbacks.
We know that both the worst and the best in human beings, and our potential for rapid radical change, can all emerge in times of crisis.
Our civilizational predicament is ecological, cultural, social, and political, and even expresses itself in our planetary biology, and this pandemic. Disruption is intensifying, and accelerating. These mega challenges will require very different tools than those that dug us out of previous harrowing emergencies. We are approaching a metadimensional crossroads.
What is being called for is fundamental “whole system change”—a broad transformation of all human civilization, something radical, enormous and unprecedented. It will require us to become wiser, humbler, more fully-alive souls. We’re called to lifelong learning and transformation — in community, and with active, generous service to others. A new project, and a whole new field of study, is opening up. How can we metamorphose?
Can we discover the design specs of a new octave of human cooperation and co-creativity? Creative cooperation can improvise. Remembering that everything is a miracle, or nothing is, perhaps we can be inspired by our meta predicament to exemplify and evolve these intentions in every new moment. This is not just a field of study, but an artform. It is also a game — the game of holistic personal and cultural development.
Our relationships, our communities, our connectedness to others, our ability to be resourceful and resilient — these are likely to be our most meaningful security…
We are called to a robust and dynamic new form of spiritual activism — and activist spirituality — that integrates the “inner work” of personal transformation and awakening with the “outer work” of service, social entrepreneurship, and activism and the “interpersonal work” of deep spiritual friendship, cooperation, and tolerance.
Our relationships, our communities, our connectedness to others, our ability to be resourceful and resilient — these are likely to be our most meaningful security under the extreme circumstances that are likely in the years and decades to come. And our psychological and spiritual resilience will become our most essential capital. Our thriving may depend most of all on our courage and generosity, our ability to defy our fear, to be happy for no reason at all, to cooperate with others locally in our community, and to bounce back creatively after traumatic setbacks. These are the kinds of virtues — and the kinds of bonds — that will probably really matter.
We can only learn to develop these essential capacities with others — particularly people who are also practitioners of serious inner, outer, and interpersonal work. We are catalyzed by one another, especially those who are practicing humility, compassion, curiosity and openness, and who can see us and meet us, at the heart, amidst whatever craziness may be unleashed. We stabilize and enlighten one another when we show up grateful, and able to grieve. We are uplifted by attitudes as simple as sincere generosity. And these are the very virtues that tend to be shut down by the fear and confusion of our times.
We’re best able to rise to these ways of being when we have really good spiritual friends.
In the era ahead, spiritual maturity will be more important than ever. This is a time for each of us to grow in our self-responsibility. And yet it’s not a time for the old “every-man-or-woman- for-themselves” approach.
How can you make a real beneficial difference in this hypercomplex world? Especially when it seems to be going stark raving mad? For one thing, you can keep “going sane.” For another, you can keep being courageous and creative about being of benefit. We’re best able to rise to these ways of being when we have really good spiritual friends. That’s one of the reasons we are drawn to communities of practice.
And practice touches every moment and aspect of life. You can practice by relaxing the racing mind and resting as open awareness. You can intelligently observe your impulses to “believe in” dark good-against-evil conspiracies or to demonize your relatives and neighbors who are falling prey to delusions. You can decline to put anyone out of your heart. You can show up as a friend, a blessing even to people who are having a mental health crisis.
We can approach each moment humbly. We can listen in a way that evokes one another’s best wisdom, recognizing that “we are wiser than me.”
As delusions intensify and metastasize — particularly in the USA, but also around the world, it’s critical we grow in our ability to stay in compassionate relationship with others, even with people who are being sucked into madness. One of the greatest dangers of our post-truth world is its potential to destroy our bonds of fellowship. Some distance is necessary from dangerous mania, yes, but it is almost always possible to care, be kind and to bless, even while standing in our clarities.
And in our deepest spiritual friendships, we can travel together through the most challenging territories, including the most extreme moments of confusion, and joy, and grief. We can approach each moment humbly. We can listen in a way that evokes one another’s best wisdom, recognizing that “we are wiser than me.”
Amidst our intensifying cultural cacophony, our depth of presence, sanity, goodwill and care are badly needed. We can help one another become a source of stability and wisdom in the lives of everyone we touch.
Terry Patten was a teacher, activist, author, and the founder of A New Republic of the Heart, which is home to a vibrant, international practice community of spiritual practitioners and change agents committed to becoming the next-stage citizens who can navigate our profound global crises. Terry died on October 30, 2021 and lives on brightly in the heart of gratefulness.
Learn more about Terry Patten’s legacy of work and A New Republic of the Heart.