“As this planetary crisis invades our individual lives, unavoidably, neither the personal nor the collective misconception of who we are will remain tenable”
-Charles Eisenstein, from Ascent of Humanity
The state of humanity is at a crossroads between a dying culture of civilization and a new way of living in the world — a way of living that in symbiosis, in synchronicity with the Earth. Everything that had come about throughout the history of civilization — the way humans have existed, populated the planet, used its resources, fought wars of conquest, and most especially, defined its existence — is at a crossroads as well. How we will define our existence will be re-examined once the human race passes through the Transition into a sustainable world.
Along with the cultures and societies that will be born from this transformation, there remains a need to re-define existence. This is because there will be a rebirth of knowledge, spirituality, and connection to the planet once held sacred by our ancestors and indigenous cultures around the world. But, it’s also because we’ll take with us an understanding of the world and the cosmos developed during the long history of civilization.
It will be a new Renaissance.
Death and rebirth
Today, a new definition of existence is emerging — one that is beginning to develop out of the decline, and self-destruction of the industrialized world. A new Renaissance is forming.
There’s a growing revolution in human thought that’s beginning to let go of that which the existentialist school of the past had thought of as irrational and absurd. People are finding a life of meaning as they see the failure of what has driven society for so long, and recognize the planet facing the brink of collapse. They realize that the pain, suffering, and misery of the long history of humanity had been part of the sickness that is now fading away.
This new view of existence will be a merger of our entire past. We will live connected to the planet, in every sense of the word, that even our indigenous cultures would understand. But we will have also mastered the scientific understanding of what makes the world and the cosmos work. Thus, along with this rebirth of being has come a “New Existentialism,” guiding us towards our future through the Transition.
The old school of existentialism was formed out of a rebellion against classical philosophy as well as the fact that the scientific revolution, the Renaissance, and the Age of Reason had taken away from humanity a purpose of existence and a life of meaning, once God had been removed.
Life itself became absurd, and as Albert Camus had mused, it was just a meaningless climb toward mortality, where only death became what was real about life. However, it was the entire history of thought that had lead up to this rebellion in philosophy. And, it was this exact history that was parallel to the anguish suffered by humanity captive to the culture of civilization. Therefore, all of it was born, and could only be born from it.
Fyodor Dostoevsky protested with his “underground man” that humanity couldn’t find a Utopia through the intellectual virtues boasted by modern thought, nor could our needs ever be satisfied through technological progress, seeing human existence as being destined to remain irrational and man as uncontrollable and uncooperative.
Camus saw the “death” of God as demonstrating that life had no meaning, rendering it absurd, as meaningless as Sisyphus painfully carrying his stone up the mountain.
Ayn Rand carried the same opinion of life as meaningless and absurd, but not without “meaning,” but without Laissez-faire Capitalism and objectifying the world, making the self the primary focus of existence.
The new existentialism
But, the culture that had produced these rebellions in thought is dying. And if humanity is to continue on through the Transition, the New Existentialism must take the reigns of epistemology and assure us that we can lay down our stones, guiding us toward a life of meaning. These new thinkers must inspire us to feed off our love and courage to pass through the Transition.
We live at the precipice of what could be a new era in human existence and understanding, or we could allow for our extinction. But, we will only see the other side of the Transition if we are given a reason, a purpose to get there. It is the New Existentialists who are showing us the way over the mountain of pain, leading us to the green valleys of meaning, where humanity will finally come home.
–Chris Weller, Transition Voice