Yes, this is a “crazy” title, but it grabs important attention. The illustration says it all. When the cue ball scatters all the other pool balls, “normal” is over and the question arises “what is the new normal?” Our world right now looks much like that.
Evolutionary biology considers “catastrophe” to be anything that so upsets the normal that all kinds of responses, adaptations, innovations and reconfigurations then happen to try to find stabilization and ultimately a new normal. This is what happened when the “bolide” (meteor, comet etc.) hit the Yucatan 66M years ago leading to the demise of the dinosaur era and the resulting emergence of mammals, and eventually us! 66M years ago the huge dinosaur ruled and our beloved pets of today were, at best, only the size of “big D’s” toenails.
Catastrophe leads to inflection and inflection points:
Inflection Point: in math a point of a curve at which a change in the direction of curvature occurs; in the rest of life, a time of significant change in a situation; a turning point.
But this time the catastrophe is not hitting some huge “four-footed” (like our dinosaur) but the so-called sentient and intelligent being—Humans (the species Homo sapiens). So, whereas the dinosaurs scattered and just took whatever was coming to them, this time, for humans, it has a conscious element. And the conscious element involves decision making based on evaluating information and effecting a conscious response. Here, however, in 2022 “Houston we have a problem”.
We have now, at the global level, a second catastrophe—the “information catastrophe” where it is difficult for many, and impossible for some, to know what is actually true—what is actually a fact. Now this is not new—but it is grave at a completely new level today. We’ve seen it in the past with regional episodes where tyrannical leaders or groups created false fact-sets and counter-factual narratives– and thus distorted worldviews and divisive/destructive behaviors. Behavioral science knows today that such strategies succeed in influencing human beings, in the short run, because they have a short term adaptive value. They pump people up to believe this or that, or achieve this or that regarding a short term goal. But false narratives always dead end. The question is how long it takes for them to dead end, and at what cost? With the distorted worldview and behaviors of the Nazi’s it was 20 years and 90 million deaths later. And they joke that the Nazi’s started with getting the trains running on time, and creating the autobahn (the short term gain), but ended with the gas chambers (the long run dead end).
Looking at the world situation today people ask if we are at an “inflection point”. Will the craziness of the Trump era and January 6th, followed by the Covid-wars and now the invasion of Ukraine, finally cause humans being to say, “enough is enough” of the vicious counter-narratives, and “enough is enough” re: what is, in 2022, acceptable human behavior and what is not. It is bizarre to many, and judged as collectively “insane”, that today we have a 1940’s style war going on within the landscape of the 21st Century—neighborhoods with all kinds of modern “care” (from ATMs to supermarkets, pharmacies, cafés and leisure venues, not to mention highrise homes!) blown to smithereens by tanks and howitzers, and bodies having to be quickly dumped into mass graves. Truly insane!
So millions are asking, will these catastrophes finally lead us to an inflection point in consciousness—from which a saner new normal of love, care, reciprocity, mutuality etc. might emerge? Well, not so easy when half of the players have, as their only source of news, another set of counterfactual narratives and lies.
One has to hope that in this Internet Age of thousands of access points for information, bounced about by satellites circling the globe, the issue of controlled media might finally be overcome. But can we be sure? Today we have nuclear families (pardon the pun) on both sides of the Russia/ Ukraine border simply not believing each other’s facts. And, we just went through the same thing with “the Big Lie” and the Covid-wars in the United States. And it goes on to this day. This is truly an anthropological issue– an innate question about human beings—our species Homo sapiens— and whether it actually can create a collective environment in which it can make considered decisions based on actual facts. After all, as we know from medicine—if you can’t get the diagnosis right you certainly can’t get the right prescription. This is a challenge the dinosaurs did not have when they scattered left and right after the bolide strike some 66 million years ago.
So, Now What?
Is there hope in something possibly so innate in all human beings that, whatever it is, it might come to the rescue? Maybe so. If you ask 99.9% of humans in a poll re: “what they really want” they all appear to answer “a place of safety in which to pursue life, liberty and happiness”. That is obviously coming from somewhere. Some call it conscience; some call it dharma; some call it collective “soul” or “true nature”– but if that 99.9% is real “data”, something real is indicated.
The understanding today that the world is emerging from an older “1st Tier” consciousness (based on the millennial experience of separation) to a new “2nd Tier” consciousness (based on the emergent experience of profound interconnection or “Oneness”) makes some sense of it. If true, that 2nd Tier consciousness of love, interconnection, kindness, compassion, reciprocity, mutuality would “rule” no matter what data set, factual or counterfactual, was dominating the narrative. Will things get bad enough—re: where all the balls are scattering after having been “broken” by the cue ball—that humans worldwide will finally “wake up” to a new era of what is OK and what is not OK re: how we humans treat each other. As the great interspiritual pioneer Br. Wayne Teasdale said: “We need to understand, to really grasp at an elemental level, that the definitive revolution is the spiritual awakening of humankind.”
As members of a global “biota” (humans and all other living things) wherein evolutionary progress has always involved bottlenecks of catastrophe followed by adaptation and creative innovation, is today’s world situation (at least for now) where “bad enough” finally ends up being “clear enough”? Let’s hope so.
If the current catastrophes can lead enough people worldwide to realize an actual “reset” regarding what behaviors are OK (love, care, etc.) and which are not (war, killing) we might see a change. But, still, that does not address the prevailing fact that humans still seem to pick as their leaders, or have them forced upon them, those who are narcissistic and only self-serving. We have a long way to go, but let’s hope steps forward are on the horizon.
For sure, THANKS, to all of you who live the life of love and service.