[The following article is from Chapter One of my latest book – The Great Growing Up]
Most people have experienced at least one transcendent moment, perhaps even more than just one; a time when life was so precious, so filled with wonder and awe, the experience was indescribable. While ineffable, the experience can be recalled and relived in the privacy of our own memories. It may have been walking in the woods, during the birth of a baby, being in a state of meditation or some other altered state, or hanging out with a special group of friends where one really feels extraordinarily safe and secure. It was probably quite palpable at the time, like a dizziness or a unique lightness or weightlessness. Perhaps it was a feeling of being connected to everything!
Most people have had one of these highly-personal peak experiences. Few of us talk about them, however, because we find them difficult to articulate.
Through the ages, people have yearned for a connection with something beyond themselves, something called many different names, taking many different shapes. Throughout human existence there has been this quest. It is part of being alive. Let’s call this our spiritual dimension.
Meanwhile, we live in a material world where we have physical needs. These needs call for our attention, sometimes more strongly than the spiritual and usually with greater immediacy, yet this material dimension cannot be substituted for the spiritual.
We have two dimensions as human beings: physical beings living in a material world while yearning for greater connection with our spiritual sides. Both dimensions reside within us, one very obvious and one not so conspicuous, one quite visible and tangible and the other invisible and intangible. In fact, just to make it more challenging, the latter is also ineffable. We have trouble verbalizing the spiritual but nonetheless seek it out.
It is interesting how we have dealt with these two dimensions of being human throughout our time on Earth. On occasion, there have been episodes where mystics and philosophers have seen the possibility of integrating these two dimensions and ending this schism of Self. I believe the founders of the United States saw this possibility.
But it has been more popular to pit these two parts against each other, as though one is better, one is worse. In the extreme, this leads us either to some sort of fundamental religious stance and a disowning of the material or to fundamental materialism with a disowning of the spiritual. One or the other, but not both. This is an all-or-none position. Both are radical fundamentalism in action. Either point-of-view is like standing on one foot; forcing us to spend an inordinate amount of lot of time and energy struggling to maintain our balance.
Most human beings have done some version of this compartmentalization – although not to such extremes. Some may switch from one to the other. This can show up as a business person fixated on the endless accumulation of material wealth while mildly professing to believe in some religion. It can also show up as a radical environmental activist who owns almost nothing material – a minimalist in the extreme.
While these various ways of compartmentalizing these two dimensions of human existence may be popular, they are artificial. Both insert a boundary between the spiritual and the material dimensions. This boundary is artificial. We made it up. Or, better stated, our minds made it up.
Why have we done this? Why do we insist on creating a divide between the two? It is largely because it is more convenient for our thinking to do so. It is easier to comprehend. Does it make better sense to our rational minds if they are separated? Never mind they were never meant to be separated; never mind they are both part of the human experience; never mind it is unnatural to subdivide these two parts of our essential beingness. We do it because it appears to make “sense.” Yet it doesn’t! Look at the world and it is obvious that this artificial boundary is bogus. Yet we persist in reinforcing it through adamant attachment to our thoughts, those sacred core beliefs that will surely lead us to extinction unless we take another path, transform our thinking, and re-integrate ourselves into wholeness.
So forget what I said a few paragraphs ago about balancing on one foot. I lied. It is time to stand on both feet!
This stand is what this book is about. It is about awakening latent potentialities in the human race, unleashing our social potential as thoughtful and soulful beings. This stand is about ending the lies we tell ourselves, dispelling the myths that keep us prisoners of our circumstances and prevent us from seeking a higher destiny for humankind.
People are stronger together than they are separately. We are also much wiser together. We are at a stage in evolution where we need each other to get past this plateau in our development, where we can break loose and reach our true potential as human beings. Our diversity is our strength. It will allow us to transcend our limitations, both those external to us and those we harbor within. With six and a half billion of us we have a hell of an opportunity! Why bother trying to be like the other person? Let’s become fully alive individually, uniquely ourselves at full power, and together create this new possibility.