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Cultural Butterfly


Our interlocking crises: The dark night of our ego?

If so, it can be our life-saving good news!

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ― Anais Nin

Anais Nin’s quote expresses the pressure I hear many people experiencing now. With the interlocking crises we’re experiencing in what seems like every arena of our lives—climate, environmental, economic, political, relationships—we could say we’re in a “dark night of the soul”.

However, I think Chip Conley’s blog “The Dark Night of the Ego”, is more accurate. He quotes the Christian mystic Richard Rohr:

“Suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to destabilize our arrogance and our ignorance. I would define suffering very simply as whenever you are not in control.”

Chip continues that there are:

“. . . three things we have a hard time letting go of: the compulsion to be successful, the compulsion to be right, and the compulsion to be powerful (or to have everything under control). And, given our social media obsessions, I would add the compulsion to look good. It is often when our ego is being broken down that we have a breakthrough . . . when we can wrestle free from these compulsions and feel the liberation on the other side.”

A similar perspective comes from Michael Meade: “As nature and culture rattle and old forms crumble, a crisis of imagination occurs and we are called to see the world with different eyes.” In his podcast 352, “A World on Fire”, he says:

“A poet once wrote that ‘in the dark times, the eye begins to see,’ meaning that it is when we face the darkness around and admit the nightmare that has fallen upon us, we begin to see with the inner eyes of the soul of humanity and with the kind of vision and care that can come from our own hearts and we become capable of seeing ways forward.”

Lynne Twist continues this thinking in her 10/11/23 blog:

“. . . the climate crisis is a stack of crises – of environment, justice, politics, technology – but at its heart, it is a spiritual crisis that derives from the way that we humans have separated ourselves from Nature. . . We are at war with Nature, and the climate challenge is pushing us into the understanding that we are Nature and pulling us toward a regenerative world where humans thrive within Nature.”

Echoing that idea, Dean Radin, Chief Scientist at the Institute for Noetic Sciences (IONS) says:

“Crisis is an evolutionary driver. Crisis signals to organisms that incremental change will no longer suffice to survive. The materialistic worldview that has led our march toward crisis will not help us evolve. . . This is the moment to reinvest in the promise of consciousness. . .” (10/12/23 email)

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

One way to understand this comes from Chip Conley’s blog “Success is the First Mountain. Purpose is the Second Mountain” in which he reflects on David Brooks’ book, The Second Mountain:

“In many ways, Brooks proposed that our midlife crisis is when we realize that the first mountain wasn’t as meaningful as we’d hoped. That’s when the ‘second mountain’ comes into sight, which argues that the key to living a meaningful, fulfilling, and happy life is not found in the pursuit of self-improvement but instead a life of service to others. The first mountain is about building up the ego and defining the self; the second mountain is about shedding the ego and losing the self.”

I would reframe that to say it’s not about trying to “get rid” of the ego. Instead it’s about connecting with our Soul, shifting the ego out of the driver’s seat, and having a mature ego serve the Soul, because that’s where Life lives. As I more consciously begin to connect with and embody my Soul, I very much appreciate Bill Plotkin’s perspectives in The Journey of Soul Initiation:

“The Soul is spellbound by the Ego’s capacity to manifest. The Ego is moonstruck by the Soul’s visions and passions. The mature Ego wants, more than anything in life, to make real the dreams the Soul has been weaving since before our birth . . . This is the ultimate goal of the journey of soul initiation—not individual self-discovery and fulfillment, but cultural renaissance and the evolution of our species and planet . . . Soul purpose is what we’re born to accomplish in our lifetime—the numinous gift we are here to offer to the Earth community . . . The healthy, mature Ego is our means for making real our Soul’s desires. This is why it’s often said there’s a love affair between the Ego and the Soul, and that when they come together in partnership, they form a Sacred Marriage. Each has what the other lacks and what the other longs for and is deeply allured by.”

As I see it, we are in a time of collective ego-shedding, or more accurately ego-maturing. Our culture is young and has naturally been very youth-oriented. Now we’re reaching a new developmental stage, which means shedding our current paradigm in order to become the Life-centered cultural “butterfly” that is growing and emerging.

This will require a new cultural mythology and story, because we’re dying trying to live in the current one. Filmmaker Damon Gameau’s TED Talk “The story that shapes your relationship with nature” points out that humans have continued to do what we have been doing because the facts don’t matter if they don’t fit the story we’re living by, and most people aren’t even aware they are inhabiting that story. Stories are how we make sense and meaning of our world and our lives.

An example of a new Life-centered story comes from John Fullerton in his groundbreaking Introduction to Regenerative Economics course. He says we’re running the world on a fatally flawed economic theory based on the inaccurate model of scientific mechanistic reductionism. He describes holism as a “new” (indigenous) way to see the world as it really is, because holism explains the creative process of the universe.

Based on that old scientific mechanistic reductionism model, we’ve been trying to “fix” our dysfunctional culture by doing more and more disconnected, linear, masculine “solutions” without acknowledging the holism of the whole system.

Shifting our paradigm starts with a newfound respect for nature--knowing that we are part of Nature, NOT apart from Nature.

It means changing our relationship from one of “conquer, control, and consume” to one of “cooperate, co-create, and synergize”.

It’s a radical paradigm shift from how we’ve been living for the past 6,000 years.


I offer my work as a “cultural midwife”, including this blog, as a ministry for our individual and collective transformation.

I welcome your support with tax-deductible contributions here.

Here's a quick reminder of the work I do in helping people have clarity, peace of mind, and authentic power through life’s transitions.

You can send comments about this blog to or through my website.

In the service of a Life-centered culture,


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