Page 12 - The.Ascent.of.Humanity
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life is more than Just This cannot be suppressed, not forever.

I share with dreamers, Utopians, and teenagers an unreasonable intui- 

tion of a magnificent potential, that life and the world can be more than

we have made of them.

What error, then, what delusion has led us to accept the lesser lives

and the lesser world we find ourselves in today? What has rendered us 

helpless to resist the ugliness, pollution, injustice, and downright horror 

that has risen to engulf the planet in the last few centuries? What calam- 

ity has so resigned us to it, that we call this the human condition? Those 

moments of love, freedom, serenity, play—what power has made us be- 

lieve these are but respites from real life?

Inspired by such moments, I have spent the last ten years trying to 

understand what keeps us—and what keeps me—from the better world 

that our hearts tell us must exist. To my endless amazement, I keep dis- 

covering a common root underneath all the diverse crises of the modern 

age. Underlying the vast swath of ruin our civilization has carved is not 

human nature, but the opposite: human nature denied. This denial of 

human nature rests in turn upon an illusion, a misconception of self and 

world. We have defined ourselves as other than what we are, as discrete 

subjects separate from each other and separate from the world around 

us. In a way this is good news. In this book I will describe the profound 

changes that will flow, and are already flowing, from the reconception of 

the self that is underway. The bad news is that our present conception of 

self is so deeply woven into our civilization—into our technology and 

culture—that its abandonment can only come with the collapse of much 

that is familiar. This is what the present convergence of crises portends.

Everything I wrote in the preceding paragraph about our civilization 

also applies to each of us individually. Saints and mystics have tried for 

thousands of years to teach us how we are trapped in a delusion about 

who we are. This delusion inevitably brings about suffering, and eventu- 

ally a crisis that can only be resolved through a collapse, a surrender, and 

an opening to a state of being beyond previous self-limitation. You are 

not, they tell us, a “skin-encapsulated ego”, and lasting happiness can 

never result from pursuing that ego’s agenda. These spiritual teachings 

have helped me realize, at least part way, my intuitions of what work, 

love, human relationship, and health can be. They are not the main sub- 

ject of this book, however, nor do I claim to exemplify them in my own 

life. Nonetheless, the shift in our collective self-conception is intimately 

related to a parallel shift in our individual self-conception. In other

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