Thursday, November 3, 2011

Surviving the Flood

If you're not overwhelmed these days, you're not paying attention. Sure, every moment is not a crisis, but tsunamis of information, innovation and interconnectivity are inundating every aspect of life. All things, from food, shelter and clothing to personal relationships, politics, economics, science, entertainment and art, are being dragged by tidal shifts into unknown forms and functions. The big waves are swamping the gridworks of concepts and beliefs that have defined us and our world for thousands of years. Our references points and coordinates for navigating the world are dissolving before our eyes. Even when we accept that this is a time of unprecedented change, the transformations keep coming so quickly and relentlessly that it's easy to feel we're drowning. The bad news is we are.

The good news is that drowning in the flood is an archetypal pattern of wisdom. Whether we like it or not, guard against it or not, our frameworks of dwelling on earth cannot withstand the forces of revitalization that sweep away the old to make way for the new. With all the talk of attuning ourselves to the earth, we ignore nature's essential pattern of renewal and sustainability—to continue, life devours the structures it creates. From starfish to stars, from homelands to homes, every form that is made is overwhelmed by forces that unmake it, opening the way to new life.

In the midst of the flood, we believe it's the end when it is actually somewhere in the unending middle. As we call for change and extol transformation, it's helpful to remember this. On the way to new doings, life will carrying us through our undoing. As natural as it is for the tides to rise and overwhelm us, it is just as natural for them to recede and reveal our new forms and patterns for living. So, let's face it, the floods of change will keep coming. The question is, as the Persian poet Hafez asked, will you go kicking and screaming or go dressed for dancing?

Learn more about The Flood and other structures of knowledge in my new book 24 PATTERNS OF WISDOM: Navigating the Challenges and Awakenings of the Human Journey, click here

Photograph: K.M. Chaudary/AP Illustration: Anthony Lawlor

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