Evolve or Repeat

“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder – a secret order.” – Carl Jung

Many times in life when we come to a fork in the road, we have two options: evolve or repeat. We can stay the course, remain unchanged, and continue subscribing to the status quo, or we can make a change in hopes of evolving in a positive way. The coronavirus pandemic highlighted many insecurities and inequities. It caused many issues that were previously just lying on the surface, to boil over. These challenging times grabbed our attention. This was the perfect opportunity to make drastic societal and systemic changes to better our life as we knew it. With the entire world in utter chaos, we could choose to either evolve or repeat.

If we chose not to evolve, we would have consciously chosen to repeat and prolong the existing suffering. The same systemic failures will remain. More people will unnecessarily die. Injustice and discrimination will continue to thrive. We don’t have to make perfect changes to evolve. Simple progression via learning from our failures is enough. Had humanity reached a low enough bottom to say “no more”? Could we collectively put the shovel down and stop digging? Could we accept our past mistakes so we could start acting, and not just keep existing?

A social norm is an unwritten, usually unspoken rule that is adopted by society via its physical manifestation by a majority of the human collective. When a rising majority counters a norm, change is accelerated. In the times of the pandemic, amidst all of the headlines and all of the dynamic protocols, it was easy to become numb to the deafening announcement of the death counts. Unfortunately, these counts started to normalize and it was all too common to see 2,000 deaths in one day. During some periods, that figure was actually a “good day”. This emerging social norm became deadlier than the virus. Without acknowledging the gravity of this extraordinary event, we were doomed to repeat this. This pandemic was not inevitable.

There’s a beautiful Buddhist tradition where monks intricately blow colored sand into beautifully detailed images. The process of creating the image can take many days. Once it is finished, the monks ceremoniously sweep the sand into a pile and release it into a flowing body of water, returning the energy back to earth. The Sand Mandala Ceremony is an act of creating, destroying, and letting go. There is so much beauty in destruction and creating anew. Destruction is often an uninvited prerequisite for the continuance of life. The end is a cause for a new beginning, and the beginning, a cause for a new end.

It is rare that the confidence in the old way of life collapses and humanity is left to build anew. It is during these moments that new norms and institutions are forced to give rise to a new way of life. This rare window of opportunity is known as the Overton Window, a narrow segment of time in which a select number of ideas, previously thought to be unconventional, are now widely viewed as conventional. The pandemic has whipped open the curtains of this Overton Window. Previously dismissed solutions such as universal basic income and universal healthcare were being seriously discussed. When the Overton Window inevitably narrows, what structures will have crystallized? I personally hope an improved order emerges that serves humanity and all of life in the best possible way for the time that it serves. We must get on a trajectory towards evolving.

Pain and suffering can be causes of transformation if we allow them to be. Rebuilding cannot happen too soon. We need to rest in the discomfort of the unknown and grieve all that needs to be grieved before we rebuild. Our opposition to rebuild towards a global civilization that is life-affirming rather than wealth-affirming must succumb to the viral attack. The highly polar environment in which we live needs to narrow so that we do not unhinge and collide with others in a path of energetic disruption. Our dissonance must succumb to the viral attack. We need to be cultivators of health and life, rather than destroyers of our neighbors.

Evolving in the midst of the pandemic was the only way to get to the other side. We had to abandon the open-concept trend in collaborative work spaces. Physical barriers had to be rebuilt to reduce the transmission of the virus. We had to resist the ingestion of non-substantive information. Only scientific information could protect our bodies. We had to serve life, and serve each other, in order to initiate a crystallization of order within the abyss of chaos.

Each one of us has the ability to contribute to intentionally building an evolved society. One that capitalizes on all of the strength, hope, and love that is already shining through the cracks. A crisis is a terrible thing to waste. Whatever matters to you will have the power to disturb you. It is of utmost importance what happens as a result of that disturbance. After intellectual learning, comes the actions from our feet. Egoic complaining does not embody purpose, likewise inaction is affirmation of the status quo.

The coronavirus broke the grip that normality had on our lives. The discontinuation of this unconscious, cyclic nature allowed us to move from compulsory action, to one of choice. As a human species, we had come to a fork in the road. We could not repeat the same hell on earth. Using history as a lesson, we had the power to transform the negatives of our current moment in time. That is how we cross the inflection point. That is how we evolve instead of repeat. We had to emerge from this in a way we never could have imagined.

“If a catastrophic loss of life is to be averted and the quality of life improved, a complete inversion of values will be required, as man moves from an epoch based upon the survival of the fittest, in the Darwinian sense, into an epoch ruled according to the wisdom of cooperation, an epoch in which the welfare of the individual and the welfare of the species are inextricably bound.” – Mary Ellen Diefenbach