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Cultural Butterfly


Our cultural “operating system” is defunct and dissolving. Our upgrade is good news!

Our upgrade is good news, and way past time!

You know how computer software invites you to upgrade, and if you don’t do it, the system gets more and more insistent until it finally upgrades anyhow, even if you don’t actively cooperate? That’s an analogy to what I see happening with the Earth and our dominant Western culture.

As I see it, our Western culture is, and has been, out of alignment with natural living systems for several thousand years, and the Earth has been giving us clearer and stronger invitations to realign our way of living to be in harmony. The climate changes are an expression of this disharmony, with increasing insistence for us to pay attention.

The old culture is dissolving around us, like the caterpillar in the chrysalis dissolves to nourish the emerging imaginal cells which will become the butterfly. Even though this new culture doesn’t have much structure or many systems in place yet, it is gaining substance. And, in the new one that’s emerging, the structures and systems will necessarily be very different than what we’ve been used to. Dr. Ruth Miller, Director of Gaia Living Systems Institute, writes and speaks extensively about this.

With this, we’re in liminal time between the old world we’ve known and a new world that hasn’t fully emerged yet.

We are NOT in an “era of change”. We are at, and in, the CHANGE OF AN ERA.

An article about Dougald Hine’s book At Work in the Ruins describes it like this, “ . . . our current crisis is because we have reached the end of modernity . . . The myth of progress is founded on the myth of nature. The first tells us that we are destined for greatness; the second tells us that greatness is cost-free. . . Both tell us that we are apart from the world . . . our separation from . . .[nature] is a myth integral to the triumph of our civilisation . . . The end of the world as we know it is also the end of a way of knowing the world. . . . One name for the world as we have known it is modernity; one name for its way of knowing the world is science. So this is . . . about navigating the end-times of modernity and what happens to science as its world ends. . . .” (emphasis mine)

This means we can’t keep operating on the same ideas, beliefs, worldviews, stories, and paradigms we’ve used successfully for these thousands of years. It’s like trying to navigate through a forest wilderness using a map of San Francisco.

And this requires breaking old, entrenched, often-unconscious habits of thinking about and making meaning out of our experiences of our world.

Have you ever tried to change a habit? I’m doing that right now with my diet. I recently learned that many of my staple “go-to” foods were causing serious upset in my system, even though they are typically very healthy foods (e.g., apples, celery). I’m eliminating them and finding other ways of nourishing myself that are in harmony with how my system actually functions. Talk about disruptive and disorienting! It could seem like a small thing. Trust me, it’s not.

If you’ve ever changed (or tried to change) a habit, you know it takes a lot of energy, focus, and work, even for things that are not life-threatening and seem like “not that big a deal”. It is NOT just a “learning curve.”

When we’re breaking old habits and beliefs, it is an UN-LEARNING curve.

So here we are, trying to make sense out of a world that doesn’t make sense any more with our outdated and dysfunctional worldviews, stories, and paradigms. Here are a few I’m aware of. These are all connected and interlocking. There are many others.

¨ The scientific reductionist mechanistic model of the world

¨ The “hero’s journey”

¨ Being the “omniscient conqueror”, being “in control” of the Earth and the world

¨ Being the “expert”, having the “right” answers

In his groundbreaking Introduction to Regenerative Economics course, John Fullerton discusses how we’re running the world on a fatally flawed economic theory based on the model of scientific mechanistic reductionism. He describes holism as a “new” (indigenous) way to think and see the world as it really is, because holism explains the creative process of the universe. As he defines it, Regenerative Economics is a holistic, living systems theory of economics applying nature's laws and patterns of systemic health, self-organization, self-renewal, and regenerative vitality to the design of socio-economic systems.

Our cultural paradigm/operating system of being the "hero" and “omniscient conqueror" means we’ve been treating ourselves, each other, and the earth as commodities to be conquered, controlled, and consumed. We see ourselves as “knowers,” and believe we can be and “should” be experts and know it all.

Being the expert and having the “right” answers based on a reductionist model of the world is the model we hold as a “sacred cow”, as “the way” to know and do anything. That has given us some remarkable accomplishments and also has some serious blind spots.

Imagine living at the time when everyone believed that the sun revolved around the earth. Copernicus publishing his discovery in 1543 that the earth actually revolves around the sun created a HUGE revolution in our paradigm and identity. The idea of the earth no longer being the center of universe was very threatening to the established authority (no surprise), which at that time was the church.

I see us facing, and beginning to make, a similar “rock our world” paradigm shift now. We’re being shown compelling, compounding evidence that, contrary to our beliefs for thousands of years, humans are NOT the “reason for Earth’s existence” or “masters of the Universe”. In this new paradigm, humans are not superior to, in control of, and the center of the world. Can you see and feel what a transformation this points to?

The Earth no longer supports our cultural scientific reductionist “operating system” and “hero’s journey” story. Lynne Twist says:

"In assuming the role of masters of the planet, we humans have lost our place in the universe. From this misleading mindset, we've given ourselves permission to extract, to dominate, and to destroy the very life support system we depend on and of which we are part. We don't live in an ecosystem, we are part of an ecosystem. . . . (emphasis added)

“Ending human supremacy, locating ourselves as part of Nature rather than above it, and embracing the sacredness of all of life means that we are being called to an entirely different relationship with Mother Earth. . .

“What is needed now is not only the birth of new systems but a new kind of human being who is in touch with the values of the feminine because the birthing process happens through the feminine.

“The birthing process is a great metaphor for our times and our role as midwives to a new future, which presents an awesome challenge. . . .

“In her book Letters from the Infinite, Rev. Deborah Johnson distinguishes between building and birthing: “When you build (masculine), you are picturing and creating an outcome that you can control, and you build what services you. When you birth (feminine), you are bringing into existence something that unfolds, something over which you have no control, and you seek to serve it.” [emphasis added]

“It is precisely the wisdom held in the feminine archetype needed to make the leap and give birth to a transformed world.”

In a similar vein, Sharon Blackie writes “An antidote to the all-conquering hero”:

“. . . in our endless self-obsession we have clearly lost sight of the real ‘crucial mystery’ – which is not man, and is not humankind – but rather an understanding of our place in the wider web of life on this beautiful and mysterious Earth. That is the goal of the post-heroic journey . . .

“Post-heroic stories aren’t focused on individual glory; they’re focused on community, and relationality. . . Post-heroic stories are about understanding when we’ve taken enough. (emphasis added)

“The post-heroic journey offers us a very different kind of ‘call to adventure’. . . to uncover our calling, and the unique gift that we each bring to the world at this time. . .

“Post-heroic stories are less about strength and more about compassion and humility.

Post-heroic journeys are based less on conquering the world, and more on re-enchanting our relationship with it. . .

“. . . the post-heroic journey isn’t about finding the answers – it’s about asking the right questions.

Lynne Twist again: “Rather than looking at the unanswered questions, we now need to be looking at the unquestioned answers of our time.” (emphasis added)

In Elderhood: the post-heroic journey”, Sharon Blackie puts it this way:

“American mythologist Joseph Campbell’s notion of the Hero’s Journey has been profoundly influential in our culture . . . it’s also linear, all-conquering and world-saving. It evolved out of the intensely individualistic, human-centric cultural mythology that has us firmly in its grip . . . The Hero’s Journey derives from our cultural worship of the hero: the individual who rises above all others.”

I’ve heard and seen people encountering an unconscious blind spot--a belief that there is, will be, and (of course) must be a new “hero” (e.g. science, technology) to “rescue” us so we can “keep on keeping on” with our same lives with as little change, discomfort and disruption as possible, and certainly without transformation.

As we say goodbye to the “masters of the universe” and “hero’s journey” story, we open the way for a new story and identity to emerge. It starts with a newfound respect for nature—changing our relationship from one of control and predation to one of cooperation and symbiosis.

What if we’re being upgraded from Reductionism 9.9 to Holism 1.0?

In my next blog (coming soon!), I’ll explore other possibilities for us to be more conscious and curious so that we aren’t stuck with just trying to find the new “hero” to plug into the “same old same old” story, because, as it turns out, our story (paradigm, world view) is certainly a, if not the, critical element.

Thomas Berry wrote, “We are in trouble because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. The Old Story – the account of how the world came to be and how we fit into it – is not functioning properly and we have not learned the New Story.”

Albert Einstein: “It is the theory that determines what we are able to see.”

Michael Meade in The Cloak of Humanity podcast #316: “As human beings we live and we die in the context of the stories we tell about ourselves and the world.”

George Monbiot in his TED Talk, Our task is to tell the story that lights the path to a better world.”

And storyteller and mythologist Martin Shaw invites us to do the hard work of opening to mystery:

"The correct response to uncertainty is mythmaking. . . .The creation of stories [is]. . . not to cure or even resolve uncertainty but to deepen into it. There's no solving uncertainty. Mythmaking is an imaginative labor, not a frantic attempt to shift the mood to steadier ground. There isn't any. . .

“WHAT IF WE reframed “living with uncertainty” to “navigating mystery”? Navigating mystery humbles us, reminds us with every step that we don’t know everything, are not, in fact, the masters of all. . .

“But to navigate mystery is not the same thing as living with uncertainty. It doesn’t contain the hallmarks of manic overconfidence or gnawing anxiety. It’s the blue feather in the magpie’s tale. Hard to glimpse without attention. There’s no franchise or hashtag attached.” (emphasis added)

Marcel Proust said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” May we develop “new eyes” through this transformative journey.

A final note: The path that brought us here goes no further. These challenging times are not just a speed bump. It’s becoming a whole new road, and we build the road as we travel.

I fully, freely, and gladly welcome your generosity and support for my work with tax-deductible donations here through my website, as well as your comments about this blog by replying to this email.

In the service of a life-aligned culture with humility and joy,


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