It is a lot closer than it seems. On a superficial level, it might look like the world situation is worsening in every way. And through 2023 it will probably continue to do so. War, poverty, inequality, ecological breakdown, crime, sickness, addiction, and other forms of misery will not subside, not yet, not outwardly. They may even grow— like a soap bubble, expanding in volume even as its membrane thins. Then one day it pops, and a tiny drop of soapy water falls to the ground. So big a structure from such little substance.
The core of the old story is hollowing out. The most fervent ideologues of power harbor secret doubts. The jailers yearn for liberation. The wealthy seek relief from their poverty. The powerful cry for deliverance from their helplessness. The comfortable sabotage their orderly arrangements. The warlike and violent pray secretly for their fear to lift. The void beneath the power, the wealth, the control, the comfort grows intolerable.
Cracks spread through the superstructure. Truths long denied seep out through the cracks. Contradictions erupt through the broken crust. People stop believing the stories that held the world in place. They just repeat the rituals, go through the motions, and enact the habits of a past that is less and less aligned with their consciousness.
I was speaking with my 18-year-old son this evening. “My friends don’t really believe in the holidays anymore,” he said. “Christmas, Thanksgiving… no one cares about them.” He is witnessing the culmination of something I’ve observed throughout my lifetime. What were once sacred celebrations full of religious import became mere performances for the children. The mythology behind them has crumbled, leaving behind cartoons like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Philip continued, “The problem is that nothing has taken their place. There aren’t any new holidays.”
No holy days. What is holy, is holy in context. The holy weaves integral golden threads through the brocade of society, tying together its myths, its sense of itself, its cosmology, its history, and its story-of-the-people. That brocade is in tatters. Even the successor to the Christian holy day of Christmas—the orgiastic ritual of consumption with its frenzy of shopping, piles of presents on the altar of the Christmas tree—succumbs to cynicism, feigned jolliness atop the universal recognition that it doesn’t mean much anymore.
I welcome the cynicism. True, the cynical rarely act to change anything. Nor, however, do they strive very hard to preserve the reality that they no longer believe in. That makes the existing reality fragile, like that soap bubble.
Cynicism is also a defensive shield against disappointment and betrayal. Better not to believe in humanity or a better future, lest that hope be betrayed again. Yes, again—all of us were born with a biologically encoded Great Expectation which the modern world falls far short of. Yet that expectation never truly dies. It can go dormant for years, for decades, but its ember stays alive at the center of the cold ash of innumerable disappointments. Today many of us are gently brushing away the ash and blowing on the coal within. It bursts back into flame. It is the flame of hope—not the false hope of wishful thinking and ignorance of reality, but the true hope that is a premonition of an authentic possibility, a possibility we have agency in creating.
That is what I mean by the phrase, the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.
That future is growing already within the hollow core of the old world. It is a future for humanity collectively, and it is a future for each of us individually, and for every level of society between and outside those poles: intimate relations, community relations, political relations, ecological relations. The work before us is to weave a new brocade, but not of whole cloth. We weave it from the tatters of the old. Nothing and no one is thrown away.
Part of the new story we are entering is a new and ancient sense of what is sacred; it is from that knowledge that new holidays will emerge, new traditions, new ceremonies, authentic celebrations.
In the transition process that is reaching a new phase in 2023, there are two basic kinds of work we may to do serve it, and each of the two has an inner and an outer expression. The first is to dismantle the structures, habits, beliefs, and powers of the old story (I call it the Story of Separation). The second is to grow the structures of the new story, the Story of Interbeing.
In the last couple years I have done more of the first than is usual for me. I felt like it was what I was supposed to do at the time. This year I am shifting more toward the second. I plan to pull back from analyzing current events, although I may still reference them. I will focus more on tending the ember of the next story, sweeping the ash, kindling the flame. Because, I feel that we have tipped past the point of no return on the macro level. The world—its defining myths, narratives, and structures—will fall apart without my help.
We as a society are irrevocably entering what I like to call the space between stories. Of course, many of us have presaged this development as sense and meaning, story and structure, have broken down in our own lives. Now it is entering an accelerated phase collectively. That calls me to work on a different level than before. You will see the difference in the themes of my writing and speaking.
I know also that many people are feeling the same as I am, and will join me in this mode of work. (Some, of course, have been working there already.) My intention is to bring forth information, stories, and connections that solidify our presence in the Story of Interbeing, so that together we form a stable core around which a more beautiful world can coalesce. Ultimately, this work feeds into the first task I mentioned above, the warrior’s task, as well. Why? Because causality does not operate as we have been told. I will elaborate on that further this year. Creative powers, with love at their core, are becoming available to us that make many of the old conversations obsolete. How do we become host to such powers? I will write about that next year too.
The year 2023 will be a year of enlightenment. More and more, we will feel lightness. We have passed already through the darkest hour. The outward structures of misery yet remain, in society, in our selves, but a new self-world-story has formed within both. The shell of the old, though cracking, will probably stay intact for a few more years, but its demise is unstoppable now if only we stop holding it together.
P.S. The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible is the title of my 2013 book, which seems more relevant now than ever.
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Yes, yes, yes, Charles. It’s all hollowing out. I feel that really acutely in contemplating what iChristmas is all about for my son, aged seven. He sees right through all of the trappings, thankfully. And what he expects, almost demands of me, is for something more sacred. Something divine and real. He has mostly enjoyed our small rituals, our offerings to nature and community. He has been especially interested in giving and being in service, rather than receiving. In fact he is quite bewildered by the gifts he receives. He has wholeheartedly confirmed to me what I’ve felt and known all along, this is all crumbling - the consumerist idea of Christmas - I’ve been keenly aware of that since my childhood. And now I see it.
All of my inherited celebrations seem hollow, I’m rebuilding something from the ashes. I’ve been picking around in the debris for a while. Even New Year seems meaningless, although I’ve been contemplating on the old traditions of new year : cleaning your house out of all the clutter and unnecessary baggage, welcoming in community, and in Scotland making sure the1st ‘footer’ (1st person to enter your home in the New Year) brings symbols of abundance and health. We can also learn from the old rituals, they hold meaning.
I’m glad to hear the young adults are seeing through the veneer and the tinsel. And that you bring this to light.
Thank you for these reflections, as usual I resonate with your thoughts and I’m grateful for your ability to convey them in a lovely way 🙏🙏
What a gorgeous way to usher in the new year, Charles. Reminds me of one of my favorite pieces by you:
• “Time to Push” (https://charleseisenstein.substack.com/p/time-to-push)
I know you have nuanced views on forgiveness, amnesty, and justice as well as the role (or lack thereof) of planning in the crimes against humanity that have been committed in the name of COVID. I would be curious to hear your thoughts on the poem I just published:
• “Mistakes Were NOT Made: An Anthem for Justice” (https://margaretannaalice.substack.com/p/mistakes-were-not-made-an-anthem)
It appears to have struck a chord with many readers, who resonate with the call for accountability.