Some 400 years ago, Michel de Montaigne wrote, ‘My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.’
He was one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance.
Yes, luckily for us, many of the circumstances we dread and lose sleep over never come to pass. But it’s true that, separately and together, we are currently experiencing unusual times.
Times of crises and times of opportunity.
Times that call for a willingness to re-evaluate our needs and our beliefs.
The needs we harbour and the beliefs we hold as individuals within a greater collective.
J.K. Rowling, in her 2008 Harvard Commencement address, said, ‘We do not need magic to change the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already; we have the power to imagine better.’
Clarity of thought, calm courage and perseverance are the keys.
Ah! Courage! That’s one essential C word!
So, dear Reader, together and separately, let’s imagine easy it could be to dream and enact the changes we feel should happen within.
And let’s watch them ripple outward.
Why is it that when I think of ‘courage’, thoughts return me to our most ancient ancestors, the Homo Sapiens?
Not sure but, now that they have found a place on this page, let’s be curious.
Early human males were predatory and territorial.
They had to be.
They had to protect their tribe and all that belonged to it.
That included the females and their offspring, humans and animals alike.
Vulnerable, they all were.
Together, they were more resilient.
Early human females were nurturing.
Of course, they had to be as the survival, and the power of their tribe depended on birthing and growing healthy lives.
They were mostly confined to their caves when not searching for food and shelter.
Beyond that, their activities complemented those of the males.
Children probably shared the same duties until they reached puberty.
In terms of dynamics, that’s not very different from how life was up to the 1950s.
Up to the 1960s.
Up to the 1970s.
Many women stayed home to tend to their children, and many still stitched clothes back then, too.
Having said that, there had been a brief period during WWII when women had more diverse roles beyond that of homemakers because the menfolk were away at war. We all know the Rosy-the riveter phenomenon.
We also know how society strove to return to the pre-war status quo.
So, women had to fight with their thoughts, and their words and their political actions to maintain the new freedoms the World War ii crisis had afforded them.
One for all.
All for one.
Such was the intention of the first wave of feminists.
And, now, though girls and women are ‘free’ to earn a living, the mixed bag of workplace and home inequities is still consequential.
Reality check: the more men and women adapt to the flow of ‘progress’, the more the river bed remains the same.
Perhaps it is so because, if it weren’t for the now-needed contributions women make to their joint households, many men would prefer to have ‘their’ women stay at home – as they did in ancient times.
Ironically, the C-19 pandemic encourages more men and women in ‘non-essential’ jobs to work from home.
Not just now but into the future.
So, once the pay scales are matched, and once the ‘domestic’ responsibilities are shared, honest progress will have been made.
Theoretically, culture should always be evolving.
Within some contexts, culture is a form of resistance.
Instead, it seems that what we call ‘culture’ is merely an adaptation of westernised ‘progress’.
Susceptible to disease, injury, and human and animal predators, our early ancestors managed to thrive in a mostly hostile environment.
Provided they didn’t die as infants, didn’t incur life-threatening wounds or unavoidable, debilitating illnesses, males and females were highly adaptive.
Life expectancy was about half of ours, but they were emotionally strong.
Modern medicine wants to cure all our ailments but it, like everything and everyone else, fails to access the bigger picture made by a holistic understanding of how our organs and our energy systems work together – or block each other.
Reality check: modern medicine heals us in a hit-and-miss way.
Though it often keeps us alive longer than otherwise, but never past our karmic deadline, we know how depleting a chemically-induced extension of life is for so many of us.
So, the sicker or the older we get, the more we gasp for life like fish tossed in buckets gasps for air.
Homo Sapiens knew better than to inflict trauma on themselves and on those of their tribe.
They needed each other’s strength, cooperation, resilience and intelligence to survive.
Maybe, too, they didn’t personalise ‘life’ as much as we do today.
Either way, our modern sense of allegiance to our tribe is subject to it marching to the tune of our needs and expectations.
Reality check: it seems there is a power shift between the Collective and the Individual in much of modern society.
It would be tempting to add … ‘In the west, particularly’, but that shift seems quite global.
Back in ancient times, a club to the head was an efficient way to kill human or beast.
These days, though seldom applied to beasts, when applied to men, women and children, blunt force trauma is still is the most common – and discreet – way to kill.
Serious question: is it possible that the modern mindset of ‘Me [and my views/needs] First’ was the #1 motivation of tribal beings aeons ago?
Femicide, murder of a female committed most often by a male relative or ‘person known to the victim’, still exists.
But now, as neutral observers, we know there are many laws in most countries intended to prevent such gruesomeness.
Heads up: laws do not change the thoughts and actions of those who bear animus towards any individual, group of people, or animals.
Laws outlined on paper only deter those who are either too meek to ‘get blood on their hands’ or those who have an active conscience – those who, unexpectedly, sense their soul’s whisper and heed its counsel.
It really does.
Of course, it does.
Serious question: has our modern mindset evolved or has it simply adapted to tools and requirements of progress?
Reality check: presumably, the thoughts of our early ancestors were focused on each of the moments underfoot – not on the future beyond food to hunt, grow or store for the next season.
Sure, in times of scarcity or uncertainty, envy and murder were par for the course, then, too.
Then, it was a matter of survival.
More serious questions: when it comes to resilience, aren’t the illnesses that plague the world today like diabetes, cancer and anxiety, eating and mood disorders mostly avoidable?
Aren’t they mostly the cumulative by-products of revving toxic thoughts that dictate a compensatory choice of mostly unhealthy food and drink?
Though the intention of our unsolicited and repetitive thoughts is to push us to problem-solve as in ancient times, haven’t our thoughts become the root cause of our physical and mental unwellness … in modern times?
Another serious question: why is it that modern humans of all ages lack the resilience in the face of real or imagined dangers that Homo Sapiens had … a million years ago?
As an aside, we, modern humans, kill ourselves at an ever-growing rate.
We don’t like our selves much.
We don’t like many of the feelings we harbour.
We make our selves sick.
More and more young people than in any previous generations are feeling ‘in a hole’. More alone, more helpless and depressed than ever, they take their own lives.
Reality check: despite our utter vulnerability, we, too, are adaptive.
We adapt to all manner of trends and fads.
Over the past 200 years, the tastebuds of Homo Modernus have adapted to all that profit-seeking industries have put on grocery store shelves before those shelves expanded to supermarket size.
The flip side of that ‘easier’ or ‘easy-living’ is that, while our minds have adapted well to spending most of our time seated or lying down, we have lost strength.
We have lost flexibility of mind and body.
Our bodies are aching.
Time will tell, but millions in the current younger generations will likely suffer from hearing loss generally associated with ageing.
Surely, guessing that the relentless sound, often booming from earbuds, will accelerate deterioration of our ear canals and the auditory cortex is a no-brainer.
Bottom line: progress, as we have welcomed it into our daily lives, does not serve us all that well.
Heads up: what is now considered global, westernised culture seems to be more a form of colonisation passively accepted by peoples worldwide than an expression of our authenticity as individuals within the most remarkable collective planet Earth has ever hosted.
Rare are the little crannies where their inhabitants can clamour, ‘These are my roots. These are my traditions. These are my boundaries. This is who we are. This is who I am. Together and separately, we are … THAT.’
On second thoughts, do we ever choose to adapt to changes dictated to us or do we drift into what seems to be a daily destiny, like leaves bobbing along on the back of a little brook – or getting stuck between rocks, tree roots and debris?
When our sensitivities override unconditional love, if only for those already karmically positioned in our clans – as our families – how do we exert the power of peace and empathy already within each of us?
How do we imagine better when social correctness is also not on tap; when we allow our inherent robustness to feel compromised daily in many ways?
When, historical finds confirm that warfare is an intrinsic part of being human?
That it is a fundamental part of our humanity?
Serious answer: we don’t look back.
We don’t anticipate future thoughts either from the other or from our selves.
We are simply aware of our thoughts.
And we activate those that are best suited for a heart-based coherence.
In the moment we are infinite energy compressed inside a finite body.
We remember words of the Sanskrit words ‘So hum’, meaning, “The energy of the universe is in me.
I am That.”
And we know this is true.
We can just be.
Dear Reader, ‘Yes!
We CAN do ‘just’ do that.
And ‘just’ be.