Two years or so ago, I noted that the pervasive word in the news was “catastrophe.” Nowadays, I am observing the proliferation of “dystopia,” that is, the antithesis of “utopia.” That hardly appears to represent beneficial global progress, eh? Widespread recognition of dysfunction seems to rule.
While certainly no one is commenting on a cheerful state of environmental, political, economic, and social affairs with these descriptions, I am observing a (potentially positive) shift in the state of (personal and global) reality. In many respects, recognition of dysfunction is a “good” thing, and also in many respects, the identification of dystopia IS progressive.
Recognizing deep dysfunction is part of an evolutionary and transitional phase in the perception of reality. For both individuals and planetary systems.
Interested in what can happen after (the idea of) utopia is lost? Then please read on …
The perception of dysfunction
Let me begin with this perspective: I observe the widespread perception of dystopia as a starting point of evolution and potential elevation — not a planetary dead end.
The recognition of serious dysfunction is usually essential to initiate transformation. Transformation rarely arises from contentment. Rather, it is born from the failure of the status quo to create what was desired, hoped for, or promised. On all scales.
That being said, the pathway of transformation is not neatly mapped or the destination assured after describing the problem(s). Deep and lasting change is generally not stumbled upon or produced by erratic effort. Rather, the best outcomes are envisioned, intended, and (methodically) created. There’s no inherent large-scale guarantee of what will come from this current planetary transition. Conscious choices and action matter, both individually and collectively.
This seems obvious, but many appear comfortable or resigned to stop at statements, social media posts, protests, complaints, and accusations. Unfortunately, while these provide short-term emotional satisfaction, it is a creative dead end to just talk about personal and cultural dysfunction and disorder. Bursts of blame and anger have never built a business, country, family, marriage, building, product, or anything healthy, lasting, and substantive.
Social movements can move lots of energy, but movement does not equate to creation. In fact, movement can simply become a self-reinforcing cycle without progress. That kind of “movement” — either personal or cultural — can lead to consumption, destruction, dissipation, and distraction. To become productive, that energy in motion must become hitched to intention, tangible vision, concrete changes, and consistent creative effort.
In other words, expanded awareness is necessary and excellent. But only the first step. Constructive action is essential to manifest a beneficial outcome.
I cannot think of any better motivation than this recognition. Your life, your future, your world are dependent upon the time, energy, commitment, and consciousness that you bring to the table and meaningfully act upon.
Awakenings and transitions
Now back to the “benefits” of widely perceived dystopia, and how I see that this pervasive dissatisfaction (personal, national, planetary) can become powerful and empowering.
The perception of dystopia did not invent any of the perceived problems it evokes. Rather, disillusionment is like removing the wrapping from a present and finding something gross rather than something beautiful, pure, beneficial, or wholesome inside. Unwrapping a box of poop instead of finding a box of candy.
In its awakening and self-reflection, the world is in the process of unwrapping the (thinly to thickly) concealed ugliness of centuries and millennia. The persecuted, oppressed, marginalized, and suppressed are being revealed, emboldened, and seen. That process is messy. People respond in different ways. Anger, denial, shock, horror, disappointment, sense of loss, displacement, to name a few.
Part of the difficulty of encountering this process of (personal and planetary) awakening is that many expectations of the unfolding have tended to be a bit superficial or like a fairy tale — a bit of drama, but quickly finished up with a happy ending. The bad guys will earnestly give up power and put down their weapons, and poof, peace and good stuff will appear across the land.
Awakenings and transitions rarely unfold like a fairy tale, personally or planetarily. We don’t get to leave the theater after two hours and just have a nice dinner. It can take months and years for people to even agree that a change is needed or occurring. Resistance to uncomfortable, unpleasant, difficult, and challenging circumstances is the psycho-social norm. Most only get to clarity, acceptance, or constructive action after some significant wrestling and re-evaluation at the deepest level. Some simply refuse to contemplate change, and instead clutch onto beliefs, traditions, and expectations (from long ago) without much reflection on the contemporary world.
I am a veteran of many awakenings and transitions, on many scales. From the big picture of other times, places, and planetary realities, this one is proceeding much better than many others. At least for the planetary reality manifestation in which you are currently reading this article. Of course, our planetary evolution and state of affairs certainly could be better, no doubt about that.
The empowering side of dysfunction
I would like to return to a statement above: conscious choices and action matter. Unfortunately, the ability to make choices seems diminished or lost when the scale of perceived dysfunction becomes larger. It is easy to get disoriented, depressed, or feel hopeless. There are many enticements to go down that road, and fellow commiserators to join you.
To put it bluntly, that inner orientation (and community) are pretty much an assured pathway to stagnation and/or manifesting non-elevating outcomes for your life and the world. Of possible future realities, you will be headed for the sucky ones. (In another article, I describe the “seeding” of self-generated realities; how to grow/create something beautiful … or awful.)
Essentially, every individual is at a very potent, and also rather simple, crossroads. Stagnation, indifference, depression, and hopelessness are pretty much guaranteed disaster. This direction is one available set of choices for the mind, body, heart, and soul. You can’t deny it. Some will take it. But you don’t have to.
If you take the other pathway — deepening awakening, expanding awareness, cultivating inner peace, greater multi-dimensional recognition — your creations are much more likely to be beneficial, uplifting, and empowering. Additionally, your life is likely to involve more effort, with more day to day challenges. Oftentimes, rewards will come to fruition in the future. Deep and expansive endeavors are not synonymous with instant gratification.
The latter observation probably should not be new to anyone. After all, a child is not raised in a couple weeks. A successful business is not built in a couple months. Most serious life endeavors unfold on the scale of decade(s). Yet people seem to forget the long-term dedication also needed for inner work, spiritual transformation, and a meaningful life.
By extending that observation, you can also envision how long it can take for collective and cultural change to fully express itself. If you want to be part of serious change, on any scale, it is best to be prepared and participatory for the long haul.
Unfortunately, the longevity of genuine change runs somewhat counter to the pseudo-reality generated by the lifespan of a social media post or an issue on the front page of a newspaper. You can seem to participate by partaking in these, but you are actually largely disconnected from the tangible process of enduring social, economic, political, cultural/institutional/legal, and spiritual transformation. I consider this is a key point when deciding how to allocate your time and energy. In another article, I discuss how reflection upon the actual outcomes of your efforts is key to (inner and outer) evolution.
Embracing, elevating, and creating your reality
With this awareness, I hope you can orient yourself in a more focused, constructive, and emotionally balanced way to what is unfolding in your own life and world around you. This is a BIG planetary reality shift in progress. You wouldn’t think that your child’s life is going to be wrecked by a difficult semester of math class, or rough ride through middle school. Likewise, each awful news story, election result, statistic, or even series of events is not a harbinger of doom.
It is possible to see deeply and widely, and still embrace life with wholehearted intentions of elevation and beneficial creation — for yourself, and for everyone around you. As I pointed out above, the alternative orientation won’t be taking you somewhere very good.
Specifically, I suggest that a more whole and balanced view is to see the discordant events of the world (and your life) as symptoms of stress and transition, not incurable disease. There is no healthy reason to respond to the challenges of the planet as a terminal diagnosis. Like a doctor, you cannot personally expect to treat and cure every diseased person in the world. You wake up each day and do your best, with your best, for whomever comes your way, within your area of skill and impact. That’s a great day.
In this way, you can be assured that the world will transform (in real ways) within you, and around you. Other people in other places may make different choices. It is honorable and empowering to allow them to do so. That being said, some of the consequences of their choices may affect you.
However, you also have considerable influence over how or whether you receive those consequences in your life by virtue of your own awareness and choices. Once again, anger, resignation, or blame will not mitigate impacts or improve your life. But constructive responses will mitigate and buffer your circumstances, especially when you are pro-active instead of reactive. A lot of surprises occur when you are not paying attention or being avoidant.
The observation in the previous sentence brings us full circle. The identification of dystopia — recognition of deep dysfunction — IS the process of paying attention. Finally. It took awhile to get to this state of affairs, and this place of putting so much into plain view. After you see clearly, the compelling question becomes: what will you do with that awareness?
(P.S. A small reflection of present and future realities occurred to me … While writing this article on a Sunday afternoon, I purchased three sets of orchids on eBay. One is blooming size and has a bud. One is a large, hardy seedling that should flower in two years or so. One is a group of very small, hard to grow seedlings that mature very slowly; they can take a decade to bloom. If all goes well, the latter will be the best (and rarest) by far. They also will require the most time, effort, and risk. In another reality, I heard that there was a big football game today. Didn’t notice it here.)