Joanna Macy calls it “The Great Turning.” Others are calling it “The Shift,” “The 11th Hour,” or “The Great Awakening.” Whether or not these descriptions are accurate, it’s clear that we are living through an exciting and uncertain time: witnessing one of the most mysterious, terrifying, and inspiring moments in human history.
Seen through the lens of Campbell’s hero’s journey, one can say that humankind is passing through the threshold of a species-wide rite of passage. Collectively, we now face the possibility of our own death as a species, as well as the reality of irrevocable damage to the biosphere.
By definition, a rite of passage must include the frightening possibility of failure — anything less would be lacking in its ability to initiate us fully. The experience will brush the initiate up against the very fibers of what she is, causing her to draw from her deepest resources, expanding her sense of self as well her identification with, and ability to serve something larger. At the species scale, this passage can be seen as an opportunity for humanity to consciously redefine and claim our relationship with the rest of the world. Should we survive the initiatory ordeal, we will return a more mature species, with a new chance to serve our community (the biosphere) in stewardship, respect and grace.
This unfolding story seems necessarily and paradoxically to happen at both the macro and the micro levels. It is happening for us as a species, and yet the only way for our species to initiate and mature is for each of us to do so ourselves. We all face the question of how to respond at this time.
When the world is so complex, when for much of the world the concept of community has become just that: a concept; when the planet’s life-supporting systems are in jeopardy; when the old ways of so many cultures have been lost, and that which remains seems to be slipping through our fingers; when the simple ecological understanding of our interconnectedness goes unrecognized most of the time; when research and special interest can argue every side of any issue, leaving doubt as the most reliable truth; when many of us pass down values out of habit rather than conviction; when we are both rich and poor beyond belief; when the need is so great; when the paths are so varied; when the opportunity is knocking; when the questions loom large above and the ground feels shaky beneath… In the face of all that is with us at this time, how do we move forward in a good way given the truth of our situation?