Excerpts from Beyond Perception
The complexity of our situation as we begin the twenty-first century boggles even the most informed and educated among us. It seems that all any one of us can do is pick one small part of the problem and spend our lives working to make it better. All these individual efforts can certainly accumulate into a grand movement, and this may in fact be the way we finally find our way out of this mess. Yet this approach leaves many of us feeling hopeless, inadequate, and powerless.
This book is not going to offer some miracle cure, be cheerfully optimistic, or predict an apocalypse. It merely begins with the suggestion that behind each one of the unthinkable threats facing us today is one very simple cause. And if we truly understand that cause, a way out of our situation will open like clouds parting to reveal the clear blue sky.
An old proverb goes something like this:
It is not the mountain ahead that wears you down, but the grain of sand in your shoe.
If we are honest with ourselves right now, the mountains ahead of us do seem impossible to cross, and our chances of making it through this next period of human history make even the optimists among us hesitate. Yet the very problem may be that we are focusing on the mountains, instead of looking in our shoe.
The grain of sand in our shoe that is wearing us down is simply that we seem to lack the capacity for contentment. While our brains have a remarkable ability to process information, and this enables us to manipulate the world around us in astounding ways, few of us are really satisfied with life. Indeed, it seems that the more we have the more we want. We are caught in a perpetually repeating cycle, chasing one thing after another, only to find that this one does not solve our problem either.
While the immediacy of our problems beg for action, it may be wiser now to take a moment to look for the real source of our discomfort and anxiety. Until we understand what is causing us to feel afraid and dissatisfied we may never find a lasting solution.
The simple common ingredient underlying each one of these impossible situations – the proverbial grain of sand in our shoe – lies in our basic human nature. Our primary way of approaching the world is from a place of scarcity and defensiveness. These basic impulses were programmed into us when we had to defend ourselves against saber tooth tigers and our day to day life was full of danger and uncertainty.
And now, instead of protecting us, our conditioned reflexes are making the world increasingly unstable and unsafe for us to live in. These involuntary defenses are no longer serving us and have themselves become the source of the problem. Yet even if we understand that our defensive impulses are hurting us, we do not seem to be able to stop ourselves from reacting to the world around us out of fear.