The Power of Resilience in a Time of Extremes
If you’ve ever been on a journey of any kind, then you know the routine. To prepare for the trip, you first get an idea of where you’re going. You check the weather conditions, study maps, and then pack what’s needed to keep your routines alive while you’re traveling.
The key here is that when you know where you’re going, you know what to take. And when you find yourself going somewhere you’ve never been, you prepare for the unknown. It’s this simple idea that’s at the heart of this book.
We’re all on a journey, and it’s a big one. Our journey is leading us to a place no one has ever been. There are no travel guides or Internet trip advisors to tell us precisely what our destination looks like or exactly what we’ll need when we get there. Rather than a temporary excursion to an exotic place that we can return from after a few days, what we hold are one-way tickets. This is a different kind of journey altogether. We’re not just going to another location somewhere on Earth. We’re going to another world hidden within our everyday lives—and it’s the choices we’re making today that are taking us there.
Together we’re barreling down the fast lane of a superhighway that’s crossing the boundaries of traditional beliefs, religions, and habits of the past. In doing so, we’re also blowing right past the limits of what we thought was possible. These very experiences are our passports leading us to the new world that’s emerging before our eyes.
I can’t say for sure what our destination will look like. After the dust settles and we learn to adapt to our changing climate rather than trying to control it, after new and sustainable economies replace those that are fractured and failing today, after we embrace the technology that provides every bit of the energy we need without the devastating side effects of fossil fuels, I can only imagine what our lives and the world will be like. And when I do, I see a better place for us all.
I see a world where we’ve raised the standard of living for everyone, rather than lowering it for many in order to support only a few. I see a world where war is obsolete and using the threat of war to solve our problems no longer makes any sense. I see a world where our love of cooperation is greater than the fear that drives violent competition. And I see the shift in thinking that makes each of these things possible. To get to that shift, however, we must begin by recognizing the realities that we face and the promise that they hold. A good place to begin is by acknowledging the fact that we’re living in a time of extremes.
A Time of Extremes
We’re living in a time when we can expect big things to happen—big shifts in the world and big changes in our lives. And just to be clear, the extremes I’m talking about don’t necessarily have to be considered bad things. It’s just that they’re big things, and they’re happening in our lives as well as our world. While the reasons for the extremes will be explored in the upcoming chapters, the key here is that we’re living a rare era of transition.
We’re living the emergence of a new “normal,” and the success of our transition hinges upon: (1) our willingness to acknowledge the shift, and (2) how we learn adapt to it. Our globalized culture of jobs, money, markets, and resources means that it’s now impossible to separate the extremes in the world from what they mean in our everyday lives.
The crisis of climate change is a perfect example of this connection; the record-setting droughts caused by shifts in global weather patterns translate directly into the higher prices we pay for food at our local markets. The extreme debt and failing economies on the other side of the planet translate directly into higher costs at the gas pump and higher ticket prices for the buses, trains, and taxis that take us to work each day. Because of these and other extremes, business loans have become scarce, and the interest we’re being paid on our savings and retirement accounts is at a record low. The global slowdown of industry translates directly into the loss of jobs and benefits in our local communities.
These are the kinds of extremes in the world that are creating big changes in our lives. Among the many uncertainties they bring, though, there’s one thing that we can know with absolute certainty: our lives are changing in ways that we’re not prepared for, at a speed that we’ve never known.
I’m an optimist by nature. I see real reasons for optimism in our lives. At the same time I’m also a realist. I am under no illusions when it comes to the huge amount of work that it’s taking to give birth to the new world that lies before us. Our ability to successfully meet the challenges that are converging in our lives begins by our acknowledging what may be the most obvious yet difficult question we could ask of ourselves: How can we deal with the issues if we’re not honest about the issues?
Our willingness to acknowledge the magnitude of this simple question is the key to developing more resilience in our time of extremes.
Everyone Is on the Journey
A big difference between trips that we may have taken in the past and the big journey that we’re on now is that today we don’t get to pick our traveling companions. The reason is simple: Everyone on Earth is on our journey. No one can be left behind. Our world today is so deeply interconnected on so many levels that it’s impossible for the transformation that’s emerging in one part not to show up in other places as well. I’ve seen this firsthand in my travels to some of the most remote and isolated places remaining in the world—like Tibet, for example.
In 2005, following a number of previous pilgrimages to the monasteries of the Tibetan Plateau, I saw for the first time the eerie glow of cell phones illuminating the dark recesses of centuries-old buildings as the pockets under the robes of monks and nuns lit up. For the people living in these secluded monasteries, their former world of isolation is now on a path of connectivity. The change that this path carries is a promise that their traditions will never be same.
A Crisis in Thinking
We don’t need to go to Tibet, however, to see the evidence of how dramatically the world is shifting. Change is reflected everywhere, both in the ways in which the world works, as well as in the ways things no longer work. The era of an oil-based economy, for example, is giving way to a new economy based upon forms of energy that are cleaner and more sustainable. The centralized production of our food from corporate farms half a world away is giving way to the healthy and sustainable production from small farms that invigorate local economies. The practice of creating wealth from industries that destroy our planet is giving way to socially responsible models of investing.
And as the world of the past slips away and the new one emerges, the clash of new against the old highlights another, even greater crisis, one that we all face, yet which we’ll probably never read about or hear discussed in the popular media. It’s a silent crisis that’s like a big elephant in the room—something that everyone sees yet no one acknowledges.
Arguably the greatest crisis that we face in our time of extremes is a crisis in thinking. And our thinking is the very key to the way we deal with the needs of the emerging world. You and I are being tasked with something that’s never been done. We’re being challenged to radically shift the way in which we think of ourselves and our relationship to the world, and to do so faster than any generation in history has ever done before.
Our willingness to think differently about ourselves and the world will be the key to the success of our journey. And while it’s definitely a big journey that we’re on, it’s also a short trip, because the world we’re traveling to is already here. It’s with us right now.
We Have the Solutions
Fortunately for us, the technology to solve the biggest challenges we face has already been discovered. The biggest problems we could ever imagine are already solved. The advanced principles are already understood. They all exist in this moment, right here, right now, and are at our fingertips. All that stands between us and the new world—where energy comes from clean, abundant sources and is accessible to every member of our global family; where clean, healthy food is plentiful and accessible to every mouth on the planet; where every human is able to obtain the basic necessities to live a comfortable, meaningful life—is the thinking that makes room in our lives for what already exists in the world.
Are we willing to embrace the thinking that makes such possibilities a priority? Will we allow the science that reveals the deepest truths about our relationship to ourselves, one another, and the earth to become the passport for our journey?
From the book Turning Point: Creating Resilience in a Time of Extremes by Gregg Braden. It is published by Hay House (Available January 28, 2013) and available at all bookstores or online at: www.hayhouse.com