Jay Earley, PhD
Are you concerned about what’s going on in the world? Do you sense that there is something seriously wrong with our society? Do you want to make a difference?
I keep hearing from people who want to contribute to a better world but don’t know how. This article may help you find a way to make your contribution by broadening the way you think about changing the world. You can have an important effect on society through changing your worldview and consciousness, through the way you live your life, and through your career or a project. Most important, you can contribute by finding your life purpose, your calling, your passion.
The Planetary Crisis and the Great Turning
We are in the midst of a major historical transformation. By this I don’t mean that society will by transformed overnight or in a few years; it may quite a while. But the degree of change will be all-encompassing. The severity of problems we are confronting is staggering: climate change, terrorism, racism, mass shootings, homelessness, extinction of species, and the takeover of our government by corporations and the rich. The list goes on and on. But it is not chance that all these things are happening at this time in history. We have come to the end of an era, and our old ways of doing business are no longer working.
For the last 3 or 4 hundred years we have lived in what is called the “industrial era.” We have adopted a worldview based on science, rational thought, and competition for power. We have treated the natural world as a machine to be analyzed and controlled. We have treated other people and other nations this way. We have even treated ourselves this way. This approach has brought us tremendous gains in knowledge, freedom, and comfort, but its very success has spawned problems that it can’t deal with.
The tremendous explosion of our technical power, our population, and our ability to exploit the earth brings a whole new set of issues which our industrial worldview can’t comprehend. That worldview can’t think in terms of limits or being part of a whole. It doesn’t understand feelings or intuition. It has outlived its usefulness, and our continued attempts to apply it to our current problems are only making matters worse. Our current lifestyle of material consumption and personal ambition has also outlived its day. This lifestyle, which once made so much sense in fueling our drive toward mastery of our environment, is now contributing to the problems and dangers we face.
As a result, our society is breaking down. This is causing tremendous stresses and dangers, but it is also leading to an entirely new social structure and world view that is appropriate to the current historical situation. Our collective psyche is erupting with signs and portents of this new way of being. We don’t know what it will finally be, but we have hints that it will be built on a foundation of cooperation, interconnectedness, and an interest in the inner life, and that it will involve cultural diversity, social justice, human scale institutions, and reverence for the earth. We won’t discard the advantages of science, analytic thought, and technology. Instead we’ll integrate them with the new emerging values in a life-affirming synthesis.
This transformation has been called the Great Turning, and it is the most important happening on the planet, though it is largely invisible to most people. That is the way it always happens with transformations; they aren’t apparent until they have progressed far enough to penetrate into mass consciousness. But even though you won’t hear about it in the news, this transformation is well underway, as has been documented by many of our thought leaders.
What You Can Do
In this time of breakdown and transition, in this time of ferment and hope, you may feel concern, even passion and want to help, but you may not know what you can do. This is because we have too narrow a view of what it means to contribute to social transformation. We tend to think that it has to be done through “political” channels—through canvassing, demonstrating, or writing letters, through working for candidates or activist groups. We think that our ordinary lives have little to do with social change.
This is a limited model of social change. If you want incremental change, you work for reform through established political channels. If you want large scale change, you organize and demonstrate as an activist. But we need whole-system transformation. It isn’t just certain governmental policies that need to change; it isn’t even just our political and economic system as a whole that needs to change, though it does. Far more than that is obsolete at this time. All our institutions and social structures must transform–our schools, our businesses, our gender roles, our ways of relating to each other, the way we treat our bodies and emotions, the way we relate to the natural world, and ultimately our view of the nature of reality.
Since the level of social change is broad and deep, the ways of contributing to change are many. The social structures and ways of being that are changing as part of the ferment of our times are highly interconnected, and everything we do in our lives contributes to and affects the larger direction of society. Everything we do that promotes a new, more appropriate way of being is a contribution to social change—from the way we relate to our kids to the products we buy, from the investments we make to the vacations we take, from the work we do to the way we care for your health, and much, much more.
We can contribute to social transformation by transforming our worldviews and changing our lifestyles to ones that promotes the new transformed society that is being born. We can contribute by helping to create healthy alternatives on a small scale—democratic organizations, inclusive communities, alternative monetary systems, technologies that are aligned with the earth, and so much more.
Your Life Purpose
The best way to find your contribution to social transformation is by exploring your life purpose. I believe that each of us has a mission, unique gifts to give to the world, based on our particular talents and personal qualities, our lifetime learnings, and our heartfelt concerns and passions. When you discover your passion and your purpose in life, you will have found the key to a meaningful, happy life and to making your greatest contribution to healing our planet.
If you are concerned about the planetary crisis, your life purpose will naturally be related to planetary transformation. It may not look like something “political.” Its impact may not be obvious. But it will be the most valuable help you can provide. After all, you will be using all of you. What could be more potent than that?
And by making your contribution as part of a larger social movement for transformation, you can redouble its impact and truly make a difference in the world.