Imagining that how we’re currently living might not yet be the perfect realisation of our finest ideals, how are we to live through the process of unpicking and weaving things back together more perfectly? If, in almost every area of life, we’ve been getting things wrong to a greater or lesser extent – the consequences working themselves out through the lives surrounding ours – it’s seeming quite a daunting prospect.
Ideally, I suppose, the ideas upon which civilisation was founded would be perfect enough to evolve seamlessly alongside the lives of its people: thinking that was precise yet flexible enough to match all our needs, lead in good directions and provide us with the tools to confidently navigate moments of transition. As if people could’ve had the foresight and understanding to see exactly what was needed.
That kind of perfection being far from commonplace, however, wasn’t it fairly likely we’d need to live through painful moments of course-correction? Times when everything we’d accepted, believed, trusted in and built our expectations upon would somehow have to be dismantled, reworked and re-established in new form. Disconcerting moments of unravelling; rethinking; conceding error; finding better paths.
If the thoughts of the past were essentially these visions, growing out of hard-fought philosophical battles, that came to inspire people with the idea of what’s possible – picking people up with this hope for the future their lives could construct – what’s it like to fall out of the crest of those waves and realise our efforts hadn’t quite got us there? Is it that the ideas were wrong, the effort not enough, or the reality not as we thought?
Presumably there’d be anger, frustration, thoughts of betrayal or being let down. Grief at the lost dream and years spent crafting something that turned out to have cracks, divisions and counter-forces we never imagined would be there. Almost this mourning over what we thought we had falling away – the vision we had in mind perhaps fading apart to reveal the reality of where we stand.
Looking at all that’s around us, though – the consumerism, waste and careless attitudes – maybe it’s simply a bubble that had to burst and fall away? Much as we might’ve sought our sense of self-worth, identity, expression, belonging or happiness within it all, if it’s not a sustainable way of living alongside one another on a finite planet then maybe something had to give?
If our lives were built around mistaken ways of valuing ourselves and the world – ways of being so unhealthy they threaten to tear apart our natural environment as well as the bonds tethering us to community – might it not be better to have things unravel? Some form of conscious breakdown perhaps being wiser, in the long run, than the chronic management of something unworkable.
Thinking of life as a path of progress, don’t we need to truly see where we stand, what we were aiming for and how well we’ve been managing to work towards realising that inspiring vision for the future?
Notes and References:
World, heading for a breakdown?
Times of revelation
Bringing things into awareness
Desire to retreat, need to engage
Where’s the reset button & can we press it?
How fast can it all unravel?
Thought, knowledge & coherent vision