We are approaching the next level of human maturity. For much of our history, human beings hunted and gathered, and in many ways, that was a phenomenally good life, requiring only three or four hours a day to gather all the food we needed to survive. Population pressures grew, and our extensive gathering patterns put us in conflict with other groups, one of the reasons that intensive farming patterns became more popular–the ability to extract larger amounts of food per acre of land. With farming came greater population density, that aided farmers in battles with hunter-gatherers a little like farmers in westerns eventually had an edge over free-range cattle drivers.
With farming came seasons, and the ability to “take time off” after the harvest, contemplate life, develop philosophy and the mathematics to drive trade, and written language…and eventually what we call society. Villages and cities and states, along with governmental systems to control it all, and centralized educational systems to bind millions of people into a common culture.
And the religions that gathered together tribal mythologies into a consistent tapestry, and the moral principles that bound us together to share lives and information and create the modern world. Somewhere in there, we became what we are, and in many ways it is good. Phenomenally good.
But we approach a time when we can make things even better.
- All humanity is in contact, for the first time in history. We can pierce the veil of lies and cultural elitism, and see that we are all one. When I was in Tanzania, and saw Masaii warriors herding their cattle, leaning one-legged on their spears…talking on cell phones I knew something special was happening.
- Automation will soon keep the level of wealth constant, but collect that wealth in fewer hands. There will be far fewer necessary jobs. At that point, the switch flips. Remember: work was never about the glory of work. It was about providing safety for our children. The rules that glorify it are about THAT, not something intrinsically important about stacking rocks or filing papers. But that’s not the Protestant Ethic: WORK! Why? FOR THE GLORY OF GOD. Or THE GOOD OF SOCIETY. THE SURVIVAL OF THE TRIBE. Moving rocks is critical. Art is optional. Perhaps. But when this shifts, we will find our children, who begin to see a new world, in conflict with their grandparents, who built the foundations of the old one.
- As we mature, we lose contact with our own childlike wonder. We did it to PROTECT AND CREATE children, the taking of responsibility that we MUST accept to mature to adulthood, to create safety for the children created by our sexuality and drive to connect.
If the purpose of life is to be happy, then the majority of what we have done up until this point in human history is simply to survive: to avoid pain. And I believe we are at a point where we can begin to ask the next question: can we regain Eden? A sense of joy and connection when we played with our children, danced and sang and made love without guilt, knew the meaning of not just every action, but our connections to nature and each other, the meaning of life and death?
Our ancestors struggled unimaginably to bring us to this point. If we are to be worthy of their sacrifice, we have to be able to set our children free, if that freedom does not place the NEXT generation at risk. How can we measure the wealth and health of our culture? Things like life expanse, infant mortality, literacy rates, free time, subjective joy in life. If we have that foundation…then we must ask “what next?”
Many science fiction fans would say: the stars.
And that’s fine. Perfect, perhaps. But to get there we will need creativity unleashed at a level we may have never known. We can do that by embracing our wildness, ending the war between men and women, black and white, gay and straight…adult and child.
It is my belief that this transformation will begin with transforming our own lives, and then sharing that transformation by communicating our dreams, and absorbing the dreams of others.
Readers, writers, actors, movie-lovers. Musicians, artists, dancers. On the foundation of a hard-won victory over the predators and natural disasters that threatened to wipe us out, we can declare a peace with nature, with each other, forgive ourselves for mistakes made along the way—and start the next epoch in human history.
One million awake, aware, adult human beings can do it. The leverage point is thousands of artists and lovers of art, bound together with the power of story. The stories we tell our selves. The stories that knit us together, help us understand how we got HERE. The stories we tell to move us to a future more glorious than the greatest dreams of our fathers.
We’ve come so far. Let’s take another step, together.