Waking Up to the Evolutionary Message of Our Times

Tao of Democracy cover

The following is a guest blog post written by my dear friend and colleague, Tom Atlee, author of The Tao of Democracy and founder and research director of the non-profit Co-Intelligence Institute.


We are clearly in crisis mode. How many times have you thought, we're on new ground?  Things are not working the way they used to. We need to radically change the way we do things.  We need to consciously evolve ourselves and our social systems.

The current crisis in our financial and governance systems is clearly revealing how these systems we've created now tie us all into invisible but extremely dense webs of interdependence.  We are now fully bound to each other, by virtue of our own creations.  This interdependence is both the problem and the solution to the crises we face.  Furthermore, within the unfolding crises are the very energies we need to make the change.  We just need to wake up to that fact.

Here are four vital truths to help us do that -- truths that are vividly obvious from a sacred, participatory evolutionary perspective.


Yes, this includes conversations with our family, friends, and colleagues.  But more importantly, it includes "conversations that matter" that engage whole communities, whole systems of stakeholders, whole societies.  Such conversations can involve thousands or millions of people talking, or they can involve microcosms of the whole -- selected people who in one way or another together embody the whole -- who are given special help to articulate what really matters to them, to hear each other well, to learn about what's going on and what's involved, to think well together, and to make statements or policies or actions that make sense to all of them.  This is a different kind of conversation than we usually see.  And it is a kind of conversation which could make all the difference in the world if it was covered well by the media and plugged into the decision-making structures of our society -- the democratic governance structures, the corporate boardrooms, and the millions of decisions being made by individuals and families about what they will do tomorrow.  Planets, stars, chemicals, animals, and plants all evolve by interacting, by living out their differences in ways that make a difference.  We humans do it with things like wars, economies, and conversations.  Conversations offer us the best way to evolve together consciously.


True, it works the other way, too.  The whole society and the whole of life also support individual and corporate interests.  But if the flow doesn't go the other way, if the parts don't serve the whole, things start to collapse, big time.  Environmentally, we've been taking from the whole earth for too long without adequate stewardship.  Socially, we've been taking from communities and working-class people, and the developing world for too long, concentrating wealth and power in too few hands, generating increasing suffering and divisiveness.  Economically, we've been creating more and more "financial instruments" to get gigantic returns speculating in ways less and less tied to real value-added production.  The time has now come to get things back in line -- through regulation, through taxes, through education, through deepening our awareness of our systemic role and our sacred connection to the whole.  The vast majority of what needs to change and evolve in our society -- all the sustainability issues, the social justice issues, the alienation issues, the personal responsibility issues, the democratic and media reform issues -- all of them can be clumped together in this one evolutionary mandate to align the well-being of individuals, corporations, and companies with the well-being of the whole of life we are all part of.  This is the same thing that individual cells did to come together as multi-cellular organisms.  We just have to do it on a global scale.


We're watching massive collective disasters unfold that the vast majority of us participated in creating, one way or another.  Very few of us, though, knew that by saving for our retirement or driving to work we were participating in creating disasters.  But the way all this has started unfolding -- especially the speed and universality of the economic meltdown -- makes it so crystal clear that our fates are all tied together now.  It is so obvious that the only real way we are going to get out of this mess into something far better is to put our heads together and transform the systems that are weaving us together so tightly, like animals and plants in the ecosystems they create together, but we need to do it consciously in a way animals and plants never had to do.  We can't just work on our little lives and projects in our little corners.  We're all in the same creaky boat and it doesn't help to drill holes in the other guy's side of the boat or decide ourselves to row faster (which just takes us around in circles).  We need to pull together, gathering people who have been previously viewed as impossibly different from each other and use the kind of powerful conversations I've talked about to figure out together what really makes sense and then focus on working on those solutions and visions together.  We have lots of technology to help us do that, especially connected to the Internet.  And here's the evolutionary kicker:  The new forms of interconnection we come up with will be exactly what's needed to create the new global life form that is trying to emerge among us.  All the crises we face are actually messages from the Greater Life telling us that this kind of connectedness and collective intelligence is exactly what we are supposed to be doing now.


We are now pioneers, strangers in a strange land, making things up, building the road as we go.  All the more reason to stick together, to get beyond the blame game into co-creativity, co-intelligence, co-operation.  All the more reason to re-member ourselves into the Great Evolutionary Story which is all about the pioneering co-creativity of Life.  All the more reason to be humble about what we know and do, to respect and learn from our evolutionary elders -- nature and the evolutionary process, itself -- and to make our peace with Mystery, Uncertainty, Complexity, Crisis, and all the other challenges to the simple answers we have held on to for so long.  When business as usual comes to an end, we have a choice of either co-creating something new, very consciously, or desperately trying to keep doing what we've been doing, expecting something different to result.  From an evolutionary perspective, it is clear which approach makes sense if we want to avoid extinction.  Sure, its scary and takes a lot of courage.  Sure, we'll be making a lot of mistakes.  Sure it will seem impossible at times.  But don't forget we're grounded in billions of years of experience we can tap into by paying attention to what nature and evolution are telling us.  And don't forget that we are embodiments of and channels for the most powerful force in the universe, the Creativity of the Whole, which is waiting within us and all around us to inspire us in this Great Work.  And don't forget that we have each other, that we're all connected, that we can be smarter and more capable together than we can  be alone, that our self-interests are intimately connected to the well-being of the whole, and that we can talk together and work together in ways that will see us through these rapids to the kind of civilization we've always dreamed of.  It will take a lot of work, but it's in the evolutionary cards.  The wind is at our backs, and we just have to open up our evolutionary sails together.