In a universe where human progress continues to lay the foundation for new understandings of reality and being, we are called to wrestle with how the moments we inhabit misalign with the nature of the universe. To claim that we exist in an age of crisis requires that we separate the immediate present from the rest of human history, which in some form or another has always been a struggle of overcoming challenges. Where present threats differ from those of the past is the scope and scale at which they threaten us. The momentum of crisis in the immediate present threatens both the individual and the collective with degrees of devastation best described by the apocalyptic predictions of spiritual philosophies long past. The age of crisis is not an inevitability, but when examined through the lens of our present trajectory, it is the path of least resistance. Overcoming it requires a realignment of human meaning and value in accordance with the single truth that dramatically contrasts our present narratives. We turn our focus onto what is, not what can be.
Throughout history, humanity has endured crises; however, our present moment is different. In past eras, we grappled with unexpected threats, immense in their disruptiveness and beyond our understanding. Plagues, volcanic eruptions, droughts, floods, and more all violently erupted, leaving us no wiser in the process. For most of our existence, the human species has been defined by challenges of vitality, grit, and survival in a comparably harsh and low-technology universe. For many today this is still the case. Past time experiences required reducing the whole human to a part human to meet the needs of the collective within the moment. That people do things they do not want to do is unsurprising—survival always supersedes the journey toward individual actualization. Now we find ourselves in the midst of an information revolution, where individual capacity and imagination are exponentially expanding in parallel with our collective knowledge and power. An era of connectivity is awakening us to the injustices of global organization that deny abundance to the many and benefit the few. Now we inhabit a moment where the demands for divisible humanity are no longer necessary. Through a reimagination of individual and global organization, we can develop systems that support the whole individual and in doing so align ourselves with the single truth.
I label our circumstances an age of crisis because it is not one specific happening but rather a culmination of failures that will propel our species into an era of darkness. All around us, we witness the decay of social, economic, and legal technologies that are inadequate to meet the needs of the moment. They reinforce past visions of the good that conflict with the rapidly evolving consciousness of both individual and collective humanity. These antiquated systems throughout the world define and facilitate interactions among people, organizations, and governments in ways that paralyze our ability to act. The systems themselves are furthering the crisis, which is why there is no hope of self-actualizing in the age of crisis by operating within them. What separates this moment from others is that we can clearly articulate that it no longer needs to be this way. We now possess the ability to redirect our focus, energy, and resources in coordinated, cooperative efforts that could radically realign our trajectory. If only we had the will. It is no small claim to label the moments we inhabit an age of crisis, but as we will explore, it is the most appropriate language we can use to describe the happenings on the horizon.
It is difficult to internalize the depth of the crisis on our doorstep because willful ignorance has become the most natural course of action for anyone seeking sanity within our shared time experience. We have come of age in a media environment where the highest priority is and always has been capital generation. The result has been the dulling of our humanity through a constant bombardment of hyper-sensationalized content. We were born into this world of greed, injustice, and violence, where the architects of these systems have infiltrated political leadership at all levels to stifle dissent. It is a world order we had no say in crafting, one that actively expands the crisis we seek to overcome.
In undertaking the practice and process of self-actualization in the age of crisis, we should expect resistance from those seeking to maintain it—for example, groups believing that the death and destitution of the vast majority of humanity is a small price to pay for the maintenance of personal power structures. It is a view of great separation, directly contrasting our understanding of oneness and the relational universe. To make matters worse, decades of propaganda ensure that some of the most fervent opposition to transformative action comes from those who would benefit most from it. Beyond the threat of physical death and violence, we suffer from a more prevalent erosion of meaning. It is a time experience of great consequence, one where radically different trajectories may take form depending on the decisions we make today. Self-actualization is a process of connecting the dots between individual and system to develop a bigger vision of the self. To do that, we must come to terms with our existing institutions and behaviors driving the crisis.
Some may dismiss the age of crisis as fantasy. It is a common claim that there is no better time to be alive in human history than the immediate present. Opportunities for innovation are rampant, and experimental culture and practice are taking hold in advanced nations around the world. Critics might cite the fact that extreme poverty has decreased steadily over the past few decades, dropping by over 30 percent since 1981.1 Unfortunately, the numbers don’t tell the whole truth, as the majority of reduction is isolated in countries such as India and China, which have undergone rapid industrialization. Data projections now suggest that the global poorest will stagnate at the bottom over the coming decade. The majority of the world’s poorest today live in economies that are not growing.* For example, the GDP of Madagascar has not increased over the past twenty years, and extreme poverty has grown at a 1:1 ratio with total population. Half a billion people face the prospect of remaining stuck in extreme poverty indefinitely under our present frameworks, including lack of stable access to food and water. For individuals journeying a path of material security and creative pursuits, the argument that it is the best time to be alive holds some weight. The networking of our universe brings opportunities for connection, collaboration, and learning previously unimaginable, empowering people to generate value and wealth within society in ways that are meaningful and gratifying to the individual participants. For those who find themselves within these time experiences, pathways to individual actualization are open in various directions.
What proponents of this narrative fail to consider is how even those maximizing benefit from the present organization still fail to unleash their fullest potential. Succeeding in systems that limit others may indicate individual ingenuity, but it does not align with the wholeness of human experience. There is no doubt that there are plenty of people around the world whose lives were better off in the past. Imagine a person who was living on shaky financial ground before the pandemic whose financial situation could now only be labeled as dire. What might a child whose entire life has taken place under the thumb of proxy wars in Syria have to say about now being the best time to ever live? What of the Palestinian child whose ancestral land was taken and home bulldozed without representation or compensation of any kind? Or the Ukrainian child whose mother and father are dead after a relentless assault on civilian housing stemming from global geopolitical conflicts—oligarchs fighting oligarchs? We cannot express the greatness of the immediate present without also recognizing the horrors; both form a single state of being within the moment. These event chains shape individual access and agency within the world to such a degree that they alter the fundamental experience of being. For many, the proactive diminishment of humanity is alive and well.
To say we live at the pinnacle of human experience is accurate, but it only seeks to distract us when shared in the context of dismissing the crisis. The ever-increasing wealth gap is directly correlated to rising mental and physical health problems in countries with extreme inequity such as the United States.2 Believing that now is the best time to ever be alive is highly egocentric, specifically to the opportunities we believe are available to us. When examined through the lens of the totality of experience in the moment, it is a denial of greater humanity for many struggling around the world. We cover our eyes and plug our ears so that we might not feel as guilty about how the same systems that elevate us project misery upon others. Embracing our oneness with the relational universe is the process of confronting that human experience can simultaneously exist in an era of extreme opportunity and crisis; the two concepts are not mutually exclusive. However, subscribing solely to the former misaligns the individual with the single truth and attempts to separate them from their connection to the relational universe. Overcoming the age of crisis requires a radical realignment of our beliefs, and that begins with having the courage to confront our circumstances for what they are. We must reject any platitudes that distance us from the reality of our circumstances so that we might lessen the burden upon our individual egos.
The specific challenges we collectively face in the age of crisis are vast, numerous, and complex. Many blueprints exist today for policies, plans, and investments that could redirect our course. Yet none are taking hold as we draw closer to the event horizon. The challenge that humanity must overcome is not one of information, intelligence, or even structural imagination. Self-actualizing in the age of crisis is a struggle for meaning. We all have our own reasons for wanting to avoid or accelerate the crisis. Whether the individual is concerned with their own life, the lives of their children and loved ones, or the unknown number of voiceless individuals yet to be born, the crisis brings misery without discrimination. As we’ll explore throughout the chapter, if we continue our present trajectory, the near future is a grim reality for many. Fortunately for humanity, we have been here before. Throughout history, great paradigm shifts have redefined human meaning and values to meet the needs of the moment. The age of crisis is an extreme threat, but if we equip ourselves with the knowledge of the single truth, we can approach the challenge without fear.
Our focus in exploring crisis centers around how our present circumstances and direction conflict with our alignment with the single truth. We observe the moment to ground ourselves in the scope of challenges we face, always considering how the systems surrounding us have shaped our ability to think and react to the very issues that threaten our existence. The age of crisis is occurring both within and outside of us, but our understanding of the relational universe helps clarify that they are the same happening. By aligning our beliefs and actions with the nature of the universe, we can create real and lasting change within ourselves and others.