In considering this image for contemplation, the theme that first came to mind was “immensity.” However, in keeping with my propensity to trace subject matter back to its origins, I observed that every human being and before that, critters with eyes who ever lived, has seen skies like this. Curious to know when an atmosphere developed on the early Earth, I turned to my science database and found that it occurred about three billion years ago. While there, I came across a statement by cosmologist Brian Swimme that made me decide instead to reflect on the theme of “emergence.” He wrote—
The universe is not a place, it’s a story or an irreversible sequence of emergent events.
It’s an ongoing creative event.
The universe as a whole, and each being within it, is permeated with the power of emergence.
Brian Swimme, Cosmologist
As a consequence of this perspective, he said the challenge for each of us is to find our personal story within the great “epic of being—the universe story.” This struck a cord because one of the dominant reminders of the past year has been the realization that our personal realities are a construct, that we are the authors of our experience, particularly in how we respond to what’s happening around us, and also in the choices we make in terms of exposure to the realities of others. The first couple of months in the new year are an especially appropriate time to reconstruct and recognize what’s authentic and core to our being, and then to re-write the story that emerges from it.
Within the image of the clouds, on the left-hand side, a tiny jet-trail brings to mind an image of the Earth and its biosphere as an incubator wherein each life that emerges creates and contributes an individual story to the greater stories of community, nation, species, planet and universe. I highly recommend The Universe Story, which Brian Swimme coauthored with one of the great ecological minds of our time, Fr. Thomas Berry.
If the individual stories of human beings going back 40,000 years ago were represented by blips of light, and the intensity of each was determined by its contribution to the whole, an animated video of human evolution would begin with dim flickers in Africa that accelerate, spread, and burst into a globe of bright, pulsating light—brighter than what we see in night images of the planet taken from space. A large contributor to that light is innovation.
In whole-systems science and positive-change theory, innovators are sometimes referred to as “emergents.” These individuals literally emerge from within the status quo but are not satisfied with it. Having experienced the dysfunction of no longer workable ideas, emergents dream of better ways to live and work. And as soon as possible they adopt them. They write a new story for themselves because they want their presence and actions to matter beyond a paycheck, status or notoriety. They are their own people, authentic to the core, the modern-day equivalents of the “rugged individuals” who settled the American West.
Among them today are spiritually oriented people and social engineers, agents of positive change and social development. In business and industry they’re working on alternatives to carbon-based energy, sustainable ecology, responsible forest management, animal and watershed conservation, health promotion, nutrition, applications of nanotechnology, energy-efficient transportation, and the exploration and commercialization of space. These and others like them are more commonly recognized as visionaries, authors, life-coaches, globally-consciousness individuals, motivational speakers and teachers who champion positive improvements in every field. They’re easy to identify because they live principled lives and walk their talk; they put Integrity over fame and financial gain.
Less dramatic, but equally deserving of the label emergent, are family members and neighbors, everyday people who are quietly living moral and ethical lives, people actively looking for ways to work more creatively, smarter and kinder with consideration for all and love of the planet. They do a good job and take pride in it, no matter how menial the work may seem to others. They’ve opted out of popular culture, preferring the more quiet and substantive values of personal enrichment, fulfillment and service.
Because the contributions of emergents have survival value for the planet and all its inhabitants, I see them as paving the way toward a positive and more sustainable future. Many of them were either the founders of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) or are current leaders in them. They deserve to be acknowledged, encouraged, and supported—by all of us, including the mass media.
After a talk where I profiled some emergents and what they are doing, a woman commented that she felt inadequate compared to them. “It’s just not in me to do that kind of thing.” My response was to say we can all identify someone whose work we admire and support them however we can. Whatever it is, no matter how small it seems, even just praying or sending a blessing, we’re attaching our story to their story. In truth, it’s a contribution to Akashic Record, the universal library of consciousness where every thought and act has been and is recorded— and available to be accessed.
Change the story and you change perception; change perception and you change the world.
Jean Houston, Author, advocate of human potential
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