Inner peace in an age of chaos
How do we find inner peace in an age of chaos?
Unequal wealth, unequal power, and a growing climate and environmental crisis present grave challenges to the species.
Challenges that the species is not at all prepared for.
In terms of international relations, the ship has sailed on a peaceful and collaborative 21st century, at least for the first half of the century. Technology has not liberated the human species, but simply provided finer and more robust tools of control by warring governments. Democracy and the rule of law are under siege. And the international order is now fully anarchic, the U.N. little more than a debating society for so-called diplomats like Nikki Haley to spout threats of violence against smaller and weaker countries.
And in the background lurks the Anthropocene Extinction -- the sixth great extinction event in Earth's history, now affecting all life on Earth.
The sensitive and clear headed amongst us see a dark future.
How do we cope with this reality?
Part of why I write about the need to find a Life's Work is my own conclusion that we are headed for a dark period.
I see meaning, deep meaning, in why I was born, and why am I here at this time. To me, in fact, every person alive today chose to be here, and chose to incarnate at this time -- knowing the challenges of this era. We are here because we were meant to be here; because we were the best hope for the future, and for our descendants.
From this perspective, the only answer to the growing chaos in the world is to find and uncover the true reason we are here -- our Life's Work. I believe that every person's Life's Work is tied to a larger mission to build peace and sustainability.
And then, having uncovered that Life's Work, I believe we are here to walk the Path of the Hero and cultivate and express that Life's Work.
If enough people can walk this path, the direction of the Earth will change.
And if the direction of the Earth can change, then we have an opportunity to build a true Golden Age for humanity.
I have faith in these things. I am not sure if they will happen or not. But whether the outcome happens or not is besides the point. The outcome is out of my hands. The outcome is not mine to worry about.
It is enough for me to engage in my Life's Work, and to walk the Path of the Hero.
It is enough to do that, and that alone.
One of the most poignant books to explore the possibility of meaning in futile times was written by Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor. Frankl was a prisoner at Auschwitz, and survived to resume a psychotherapy practice. He wrote a poignant memoir called Mans Search For Meaning, about his experiences at the death camp. In one passage, he wrote:
"The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity — even under the most difficult circumstances — to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal. Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not."
I am not sure where our civilization will be in 30 years, or 50 years, or 100 years. I think it is fair to say there is a good chance that we may soon bear witness to a dark and bestial period of human history.
There is a fair chance that despite all our efforts, we may not avoid a terrible fate for the species or perhaps for life on this planet.
None of that really matters. What matters is that we can find meaning and purpose in trying our best to preserve the best aspects of ourselves, and the best aspects of our shared civilization. This is true even if our defeat at the hands of our own human infamy was inevitable, or unavoidable. And I don't believe that it is.
Thus, it is meaning and purpose that produces a sense of inner peace. Peace is the consequence; the cause is a true commitment to our Life's Work, to a sense of why we are here at this time. Peace comes from that journey. It results from a fundamental understanding that success or failure is not how any of us will be remembered. It will not be how the species is remembered. In the face of possibly insurmountable odds against our civilization--odds that are pulling in the direction of war, suffering, climate extremes and species extinction--what will be remembered is whether or not any one of us tried to do something about it. This is what our task is: to try to do something. And in that attempt one can discover a deep and meaningful peace.