It seems clear that the world as we know it is coming to an end. The Occupy Wall Street movement is the latest expression of that reality. Václav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic, recognized the coming changes in a talk he gave at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, July 4, 1994: "Today, many things indicate that we are going through a transitional period, when it seems that something is on the way out and something else is painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling, decaying and exhausting itself, while something else, still indistinct, were arising from the rubble."
I got my first glimpse of the momentous changes that were impacting our lives in 1995. I was with a hundred or more men meeting outside Indianapolis, Indiana, over a long weekend. As part of the experience we were invited to experience a Sweat Lodge, an ancient ceremony of cleansing and prayer that has been used by people throughout the world for thousands of years. During the Sweat Lodge I had a vision where I saw the sinking of the Ship of Civilization and the survival of millions of linked lifeboats. Since then I've been trying to better understand what the vision had to teach and how we can all survive and thrive during these times of change. Here are my thoughts thus far:
1. Open our eyes, our minds, and our hearts to the reality of change.
"People don't seem to realize it that it is not like we're on the Titanic and we have to avoid the iceberg," says Rob Watson, CEO and Chief Scientist of The EcoTech International Group, whom Pulitzer-Prize winning author Tom Friedman calls one of the best environmental minds in America. "We've already hit the iceberg. The water is rushing in down below. But some people just don't want to leave the dance floor; others don't want to give up on the buffet. But if we don't make the hard choices, nature will make them for us."
2. Understand that there is life beyond Civilization.
If it seems like Civilization is sinking, you may be right. But don't let that fact terrify you. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond says, "Civilization is the worst mistake in the history of the human race." Visionary author Daniel Quinn says, "Because it's intrinsically hierarchical, civilization benefits members at the top very richly but benefits the masses at the bottom very poorly--and this has been so from the beginning." But Civilization is not the end of the road as many fear, but just the beginning, as Quinn reminds us in his book Beyond Civilization: Humanity's Next Great Adventure.
3. Remain flexible and accepting.
The wheels of "Civilization" are coming off and things are beginning to get dicey. In order to be around for the next chapter we are going to have to adapt to get increasingly comfortable with change. The serenity prayer, originally written by philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr, and adopted by Alcoholic's Anonymous can be a powerful reminder.
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
4. Put our roots down in community.
We need to find our place in the world, plant our flag on Main Street, and make our stand. Nothing good happens until we become committed to a place. My wife and I moved to the small town of Willits, California, and helped start the WELL, (Willits Economic LocaLization to help develop a secure safety net for the coming changes. The Willits Chamber of Commerce was the first chamber in the country to join the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE).
5. Join a tribe for mutual support.
We often think of tribal culture as being dead and gone, but tribes are as essential today as they were in times past. "The people of our culture don't want to acknowledge that the tribe is for humans exactly what the pod is for whales or the troop is for baboons: the gift of millions of years of natural selection, not perfect--but damned hard to improve upon," says Daniel Quinn. In his book, Tribes, business guru Seth Godin says a tribe is a group of people connected to each other, to a leader and to an idea." Find yours and get on board.
As David Korten reminds us, we are experiencing the "Great Turning" as we move from Empire to Earth Community. In WorldShift 2012, Club of Budapest founder, Ervin Laslo says "we are involved in a shift from a path of unsustainability, conflict, and confrontation to a path toward sustainability, well-being, and peace." This is a wonderful time to be alive.