The new film “What the Bleep Do We Know!?” strongly affirms the concept that we have choice in what we experience. Put another way, we affect what we experience by the way we feel. If you haven’t seen the film, perhaps you should. For a film like this to even be made is no small thing. It means that there may actually be a ‘sufficiency’ of consciousness of alternative ways of looking at the world. In turn, it could mean that we actually have a chance to put the brakes on this world that environmentalist David Suzuki called “a car hurtling towards a brick wall while everyone inside argues about the best way to stop it”.
Waking up every day, there is a small moment when I wonder why I get out of bed. It’s said that early morning is the lowest time of our psyche, when we are most vulnerable and open. This may well be why in that moment I really do entertain the idea that it’s just not worth getting out of bed. In that moment, the world seems not just unwelcoming, but uncaring. If you’ve also seen the film “The Corporation” then you may well agree with me. The moment that the corporation gained the legal power of the individual was the moment that we unleashed a force without guilt, without compassion and without any concept of ‘enough’. We created in its wake a new kind of human; one that can hide behind a corporation’s structure and act on an individual basis in a way that would never have been even contemplated prior to corporate/human creation.
According to mythology, the Minotaur of Crete, born of the lust of a prince for a prize bull, was cast into a deep cave for fear of the damage it may do, yet the crossbred corporation – half paper, half human – is far more dangerous and pervasive in its effect. It has all the rights of a human and none of the values.
So you may forgive me for my moment of morning indecision. The world, we may agree, does indeed resemble a very large bus full of squabbling juveniles rushing full speed at a very large wall. A feature writer in the Sydney Morning Herald recently confessed to waking up worrying about ‘simply everything’. As the corporate-run system accelerates, so do our stress levels. We are mere humans. We do not think like a corporation. We worry, we stress, we get sick from it, and we die.
But I do get out of bed. It’s such a small decision, but it seems to me that, as in “What the Bleep”, if I don’t put in an appearance, then perhaps the world won’t bother to either. Perhaps my intent, my purpose, my values do have a far larger effect on my experience of the world than I allow, and – just in case – I believe that I have to ‘show up’ every day.
Coming close to 60, I’m a Baby Boomer. My folks celebrated war’s end with a 1946 baby. I am well aware that I share this Boomer distinction with the largest class of Australians alive today. In fact a graph of population trends shows that I am the ‘bulge’ in the graph that doesn’t go away. I am the reason, I am told, that our system will go broke.
Is it my fault? I may have had no say in the time of my birth, but I admit that I have had many chances to make decisions since 1946 and many of those decisions have been – how can I put this – ‘heavily influenced’ by the corporation-supported paradigm of ‘consume, consume, consume’. We were told that to be good corporate servants we needed to conform to the three myths of scarcity. These are, according to Lynne Twist in her amazing book, “The Soul of Money”, (a) there’s not enough, (b) more is better, and (c) that’s just the way it is. In return for our mostly unspoken agreements, we were promised that we could continue to consume until we died. The bumper sticker, “Live, Consume, Die” is not far off the mark, but now we are almost over the ‘live’, and the ‘consume’ and beginning to look at part three of this cynical little saying.
Yet is it all really so bad? Is my morning moment simply that and nothing more? Here are a few facts that I like to repeat to myself.
Never in the history of the human race has a population bulge like ours lived as long as we will. We have, thanks to science, education, communication and jogging shoes, been given a gift of another average 20 years of life. Admittedly we won’t be as spritely as we might, and a few bits may not be in tip top working order, but we have still been gifted 20 years – 7300 bonus days. Yes, I know, we will be an enormous burden to society – at least that is what the corporate economist/politicians are saying.
But what if we are all a part of the master plan? Could there be that there is a whole different reason we are lasting so long?
There’s no doubt that what my world needs in giant bucket loads is compassion. Compassion for our poor who are asset-poor, compassion for our rich who are love-poor, compassion for our children who have (as David Suzuki also pointed out) grown up in a completely corporation-driven society and had never known anything else. Compassion for the animals, for the whales, for the fish, the birds, the kangaroos – anywhere we look – we need it.
There’s also no doubt that as the corporate world has engineered our society, the elder is no longer valued. His or her use-by date has come and gone, and as my Byron Bay 50+ year old friend said as we watched the passing (female) street parade, “Up to 50? Invincible. Over 50? Invisible”. Of course we hear Mr Howard exhorting us to remain in the work force, but that’s more to do with keeping the corporate economy going than any altruistic notion of the value of an elder.
No, the elder is dead, even though he or she seems to live on, because the corporation killed him and her. Why? Because it couldn’t work out how to sell things to people over 50.
It’s therefore equally obvious that an elder-less world is like a ship without a rudder, a land without horizon, a room without perspective. The elder has always passed on the cultural ethos to the younger generation. The elder has carried and communicated the essence of what we are – as a country, a people, a family, a community. Without the elder, we are eaten up by the corporate marketing plan and spat out once used up.
The elder may indeed be the most important missing link in the next decade’s society. Picture a world where there is no-one a young person can seek out to ask for advice couched in the wisdom of age, and you have a good idea of today’s society.
It may well be just a theory – but of course, as “What the Bleep” says, everything is just a theory; so why would we bother to disagree with the following idea? The reason there are more Baby Boomers available to become elders is that our society as a whole has more need than ever before in history. No elders, no culture; it’s as basic as that. An elderless society needs more elders to ‘right the ship’ – to return it to its original purpose and direction.
Lynne Twist talks about how we have lost our freedom in pursuit of what we thought was freedom, and this applies to our kids more today than ever. In their need to ‘keep all options open’ – their chosen idea of freedom – they have become paralysed with the inability to dive into and immerse themselves in life – because it threatens to lose them their ‘freedom’. Yet the result of this ‘freedom’ is a whole generation of kids sitting in front of computers waiting for their ‘freedom’ to find them.
“True freedom,” says Lynne, a 30-year veteran of fundraising for the Hunger Project, “is the freedom to fully experience life as it comes, to enter in fully, to be all that you can be in whatever life path you choose”. So where can our young people learn this? What model do they have to follow apart from those propagated by the corporation?
As a baby boomer I have a choice. I can accept the dominant paradigm that says I am too old, too slow, too weak, too stupid, too far out of the loop. Or I can decide it’s not too late to dream a new dream. My dream is of a whole new life as an elder, a sage. I choose to believe that I have been given all these extra years because my role is crucial. My role is to learn how to support, to listen to, to hear, to be there for our kids when they come looking for answers. I choose to dream of a change from corporate society to traditional society, where we all have our life phases and each of them has perfect and symbiotic relationship to the other.
The children are and always have been the new generation born to carry on our world.
The parents are and always have been the earners, the sowers, the growers, the makers, the builders as they always were. And at the right time, the elders are and always have been the holders, the givers, the listeners, the knowledge keepers, the value and ethic and meaning guardians, the earth guardians with the sacred task of passing on our deepest core values.
I know I am not that now and I know that in order to be an elder, a sage, I must continue to be open, to live open-hearted, to guard against the perils of a closed and old mind, and to learn how to listen, hear, and heed what our young people are really saying when they make that all-important call to the elder. It is not too late to dream; but perhaps the dream is all that needs to change.
The corporate dream of days on the golf course, of a retirement village with pool and nightly drinkies at five, the slick investment advisors telling us to work hard so we can rest on our stash of cash – all this holds absolutely no interest for me. The last thing I want to do is stop the progress of my life to the final and crowning phase, the sanyassin, the elder, the sage, the guardian of all that we hold dear in what we believe we are. I want to explore this thing called sage. I want to learn with all of the tools I have – the internet, books, tapes, news, group interaction, spiritual introspection. I want to re-awaken the role of the sage, the crone, the wise woman. I believe it has more meaning and purpose than any other phase of my life because it has more meaning and purpose for society itself in this most precarious of times. I believe it’s not too late for a dream like this. In fact if anything, it’s a dream awaiting us all as the dreamers. It’s an answer, a meaning, a purpose, a life path … and it’s the most excited I have been for 30 years.
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