The “normal” state of mind of most human beings contains a strong element of what we might call dysfunction or even madness. The collective manifestations of the insanity that lies at the heart of the human condition constitute the greater part of human history. It is to a large extent a history of madness. Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth.
In 1994, I said yes to an intense calling: I set out to be my own learning laboratory. I wanted to learn how to live from a new world view: a view of the world as an alive, engaged, interwoven and interdependent living system where the human spirit mattered. I joined a movement to change how we lead, follow and work in organizations.
I completed a Ph.D. in Leadership and Organizational Change; began to write essays; and consulted with leaders and organizations. I hoped to be a catalyst to help them learn and grow as people and leaders.
The movement I joined with such excitement in 1994 did not change the organizational world as I had hoped. Occasionally leaders with insight and great hearts would elevate an organization to high levels of engagement, involvement and business results but when the leader left, the group would fall backwards. Often the decline went not back to the original starting point but a fall backwards of many generations of leadership. I retired after 13 years, my heart and soul worn out from the resistance to meaningful change. People wanted to feel better at work: most didn’t want to do the hard work to feel alive.
I now fear the same type of regression for America.
America elected a new president—an unconscious ego-driven man replaces a conscious and spiritual man. Desperate for change, even as they complained of too much rapid change, the Trump voters selected a president knowing he’s unfit for the job. In doing so, they put everyone at risk.
Many of us fear that America, having sat balanced precariously on the precipice of decline for some time now, chose in this election to return to previous states—personally and collectively–that may have seemed to work at an earlier time in our history—a more immature and unconscious time. And this choice will, many of us fear, take America into a deep and dark decline, which will threaten our well-being and our democracy.
On the edge of old age, part of me would like to drop out and live out my life in peace. But I cannot. I’ve been on my intentional personal journey in life since 1974 when I spent a month in a tough alcohol treatment center and had my first awakening.
Running away has not been my nature; going forward into the scary and often painful unknown has been my path. So I will do what I can and continue my efforts to bring some sanity to our mad world through my small contributions. Feeling alive comes from striving to achieve noble objectives. Living true to myself matters more than peace or success.
Many feel upset about the election and moved instantly into an attack mode at anything Trump or Republican related. I think most Republican approaches deserve strong criticism as so many cause human suffering. But I think we would be wise to pause and reflect on this election, how we feel about it and what we can do in positive and thoughtful response. Otherwise we will miss the opportunity for our own growth that resides in the pain we feel.
Trump is not the root problem: he is a symbol and a symptom. The human spirit suffers. Our human madness in how we live is the root problem. The suffering intensifies when demagogues convince people they will feel better by harming others. They will not. We should focus our efforts on fighting for the human spirit everywhere in whatever way aligns with our purpose and values.
If you feel great loss over this fundamental shift in America, take time to ponder what life calls you to do. Our primary purpose in life concerns the kind of person we become. Eckhart Tolle wrote in A New Earth that every human being shares a common purpose: To Awaken. Awakening brings a shift in consciousness from which we see life through new eyes. We also have our own unique personal purpose for how we use our unique talents in the world. Perhaps in our personal reflections, we can bring forth greater consciousness in ourselves.
The Roman philosopher Tacitus observed: “the desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.” Tolle wrote: “If uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear. If it [uncertainty] is perfectly acceptable, it turns into increased aliveness, alertness, and creativity.” We can feel alive by putting uncertainty aside and pursuing noble goals of our choosing.
If, under great pressure to conform to the madness of the world, we stay true to our deepest values and purpose for our lives and take purposeful actions, we will feel alive and together we will model a new and evolved consciousness to others.