I want to just play outdoors all day, stay up on the trees, get wet in the rains. Why am I sitting locked up in my classroom all day, instead?
When I grow up, I’ll build houses for everyone and make sure no one goes hungry or lives on the street!
Why don't we ask their family to move in with us? We can empty one room in our house for them to keep all their things.
These are things I’ve actually seen children say or ask. We’ve all asked such questions, within ourselves, if not with others, when we were little.
That’s how we begin our life journeys; with innocence; with wide-eyed wonder; with a yearning for a more beautiful world, where abundance, unity, celebration, equality, freedom, community, communion with nature are lived realities. The child’s innocent yearning typically gets met with control, apathy or criticism: All the unreasonable ‘No’s’ that we tell a child. Don’t play. Don’t go there. Don’t explore. All the way up to ‘You are crazy! You are naïve! What's wrong with you? Be practical. One person can’t change the world. If you resist the fact that life is drudgery, you will suffer more!’
With repeated criticism, comes a growing self-doubt: May be I am crazy and impractical! May be I can’t! May be life IS meant to be dry! May be I need to stop dreaming! May be I need to learn the game and get better at it! Things are this way for a good reason; a reason I may not understand now! Millions of people can’t be wrong!’
Innocence gets called names like ‘naivete’, and feels battered. The dreamer in us feels betrayed. We suppress our innocence and our dreams and join others in their game at various points in our lives. We try very hard to forget about the more beautiful world, but the memory lingers on. We mostly resign and “agree” with the world, but have a vague, though painful, memory of our disagreement and our dream of a more beautiful world.
Sometimes, when I indulge in the story about how I have survived this struggle, the wounds hurt. Some other times, when I recognise the growth that the totality of my experience has brought me, the narrative changes, I feel blessed and grateful, and the wounds heal.
Through my journey as a rebel who wanted to make her own meaning of the self and the world, and as an activist who wanted to change things for the better, I’ve always enquired into the cause and nature of pain: embedded in both criticism and self-doubt. The following frameworks / messages / books / essays came to me at various points in that journey helping me expand my understanding.
Naom Chomsky (Manufacturing Consent)
Wendell Berry (In distrust of movements)
George Orwell (Animal Farm)
Masanobu Fukuoka (Fallacious modern scientific framework)
Gandhi (Being the change that one wants to see in the world)
Kumarappa (Economy of Peace & Permanence)
Thich Naht Hanh (Mindfulness, Sangha as the Buddha of our times)
Eckart Tolle (The Power of Now / The New Earth)
J.Krishnamurthi (You are the World)
Ken Wilber (Spiral Dynamics)
John Wellwood (Spiritual Bypassing)
Aurobindo (Materialization of Spirit)
Carl Jung (Shadow Work)
Joseph Campbell (Hero’s Journey)
Llewellyn Vaughan-lee (Sacred Feminine, Anima Mundi)
Patanjali (Yoga Sutras - Structure of Human Perception)
Bhagavad Gita (Karma Yoga)
Marianne Williamson (Course in Miracles)
Ramana (Who am I?)
The Mother, Schumacher, Samuel, Eknaath Eswaran, ... and a few others.
As I spent time with each new framework, I was getting more and more Aha! moments; making newer and newer connections, expanding my understanding that transcended but incorporated (not rejected) the older understandings. Connections between schooling and war. Between rape and deforestation. Between erosion of local languages and industrial farming. And most importantly, between the violence outside and the violence within. Aha! JK said it right. I WAS the world. I was understanding all this in a strangely intuitive way that I often struggled to articulate. My few attempts to articulate my insights can be seen as occasional posts on my blog.
And then I read Charles Eisenstein’s remarkably well-written book ‘The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible’, where he has brought all of these messages and frameworks together into one meta narrative with a seemingly simple story-line that I can attempt telling in a few lines.
In order to actually manifest a more beautiful world,
- we need to step out of the Old Story of Separation, which we live a lot of our lives in – whether as CEOs of destructive corporations, rapists, spiritual seekers or activists;
- we need to step into the New Story of Interbeing, which we have only glimpses of, and don’t know much about; and
- we need to occupy the space between the two stories in order to do the transition effectively. In order to occupy this space, we need to understand the limitations of our older ways of knowing, and get comfortable with not-knowing. Our new ways of knowing that can help with the manifestation will be born out of that comfort with not-knowing.
The significance of this book comes from the following explanation that Charles gives. “I do not offer this book as someone who has completed this transition himself. Far from it. I have no more authority to write this book than any other man or woman. I am not an avatar or a saint, I am not channeling ascended masters or ETs, I have no unusual psychic powers or intellectual genius, I have not passed through any remarkable hardship or ordeal, I have no especially deep spiritual practice or shamanic training. I am an ordinary man. You will, therefore, have to take my words on their own merits. And if my words fulfill their intention, which is to catalyze a next step, big or small, into the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible, my very ordinariness becomes highly significant. It shows how close we all are, all of us ordinary humans, to a profound transformation of consciousness and being. If I, an ordinary man, can see it, we must be almost there.”
Charles has most gracefully captured the universe of simultaneity (paradoxes), stepping into which is necessary to resolve a lot of our inner and outer conflicts that we feel torn by. How do we practice compassion and be fierce warriors at the same time? How do we accept what is real now and work towards change at the same time? How do we remain still and act at the same time? How can we free ourselves from the burden of injunctions and hold ourselves accountable at the same time? How do I hold both your and my seemingly opposing realities together at the same time? How do I acknowledge and stay with the pain, without indulging in it? How do I be in this world, and not of it?
Just take a quick look at the chapter titles: Separation – Breakdown – Interbeing – Cynicism – Insanity – Force – Science – Climate – Despair – Hope – Morphogenesis – Naivete – Reality – Spirit – Orthodoxy – Newness – Urgency – Scarcity – Doing – Non-doing – Attention – Struggle – Pain – Pleasure – Judgment – Hate – Righteousness – Psychopathy – Evil – Story – Disruption – Miracle – Truth – Consciousness – Destiny – Initiation
With the intention of sharing them on my blog, I started to copy paste some powerful sentences, which then became whole paragraphs, which then became whole chapters. Charles has filled every bit of this book with so much wisdom that I decided to simply get copies of the book to share with others. It is full of real-life stories, including stories from his own life.
Pretty much all the points in my activist journey, all the typical inner and outer debates that I’ve struggled with and grown through, lessons learnt, have been captured so lucidly in one narrative. Reading this book took me down my 35-year long memory lane. It’s making me dream the same dreams with new clarity and courage now.
I want to build a house in the forest and move in there!
I want to just play outdoors all day, stay up on the trees, get wet in the rains.
I want to build houses for everyone and make sure no one goes hungry or lives on the street!
We can all move in together and live as one community!
I don’t know how. And I’m very comfortable not knowing how.